Sri Lankan politics took a dramatic turn when President Mahinda Rajapaksa took over the administration in 2005.
Since then, he has been both a controversial and a charismatic leader who successfully prosecuted the war against LTTE despite pressure being brought to bear upon him to scuttle the war effort.
There has been a steady escalation of anti-Sri Lanka statements since then especially from Tamil Nadu. This is in the aftermath of the Geneva debacle.
Calls for retrieving Island of Katchchativu
The separatist agenda and the calls for creating a separate state for Tamils are becoming increasingly more aggressive than it had ever been. There have been calls by the ruling State Government legislators to retrieve Katchchativu Island, which had been ceded to Sri Lanka through an agreement.
The Government cannot be oblivious to the fact that forces arrayed against Sri Lanka are very formidable. The latest statement came from former Chief Minister Karunanidhi, who said that “India should prevail upon the United Nations to help carve out a separate Tamil Eelam from Sinhala-dominated Sri Lanka.”
This is an incendiary statement calculated to revive separatist movements across the length and breadth of India. The separatist movements in India seemed to have been in abeyance for some time due to effective counter terrorist actions by the Indian Government.
The Central Government should now be more vigilant as if it lends leverage to pressure from Tamil Nadu political parties over the Sri Lankan ethnic issue, it would have a spill-over effect on other states, thus destabilising federalism in India.
|There have been calls for India to retrieve Katchchativu Island, which had been ceded to Sri Lanka through an agreement
The extreme form of such an exercise would be that forces inimical to Central Government authority could seek covert assistance from China and Pakistan in different forms. It is therefore imperative that the Centre must strengthen the stability of the Union before it embarks upon dictating terms to its neighbours.
Imprudent to expect the Congress Party to stay in power
Karunanidhi seems to have woken up from a long slumber to hit media headlines. Is he not aware of the burning political issues that the Centre is beset with such as in Khalistan, Kashmir, Assam and other states?
It is interesting to note how politicians in Tamil Nadu strike emotional chords for their political survival. The dangerous precedent that Sri Lanka should be mindful of is that as long as the Congress Government stays in power, it can rely on its support, but it is imprudent to expect the Congress Party to form the government after every election.
If Sri Lanka fails in its reconciliation exercise, it would one day have to face a tough administration in Delhi sympathetic towards Tamils in Sri Lanka. Politics, after all, is the art of the possible.
Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue would one day be a bargaining exercise for India’s party coalitions and we have to be very mindful of this real possibility. This could be a political net into which we ourselves would fall if there are no meaningful political reforms where ethnic Tamils could live with dignity. This writer urges a Lebanese type pact with Tamil parties.
Resurgence of Tamil nationalism
Before and the immediate aftermath of the defeat of LTTE, there have been some utterances of Tamil Nadu politicians which caused some pain to the Central Government as there were indications of the resurgence of Tamil nationalism and this would one day spread to a Greater Tamil Nadu with a part of Sri Lanka.
For India, stability of the state of the Union is of utmost importance. It cannot possibly allow resurgence of any separatist ideology in any part of India. Indian secret support to the Sri Lankan Government and its backing for crushing the LTTE is in the long run a great victory not only for Sri Lanka but also for India as President Rajapaksa rightly expressed that he fought India’s Al-Qaeda.
The decimation of the LTTE also paved the way for oil companies to commence exploration work with ease as the security situation been eased to zero level, entailing lower political risk for offshore investments.
Simulating worst case scenarios for Indian Central Government
China is a rising dragon in Asia and its influence is increasingly felt in the region. As far as China is concerned, it has very few internal troubles with separatist agendas, especially in Tibet, but its military might and one-party rule can crush any rebellion within days.
As for India, a rebellion in one part of the Union would spread to other parts and maintaining law and order would be cataclysmic and would result in the breakup of the country. If Tamil Nadu breaks up from the Union, it would be in a position to support the secessionist movement in Sri Lanka morally, politically and militarily.
When the Indian Central Government is in trouble, Sri Lanka cannot expect any assistance from India as it would be concerned with her immediate threat and Sri Lanka will have to rely on China.
Pakistan too would be embroiled in Punjab and Kashmir issues over the unfolding scenario and would not be in a position to intervene in Sri Lanka. China is the only country Sri Lanka could resort to, owing to sore relations with the West and China would fully exploit the situation with ease.
Even the breakup of the Indian Union would entail the US and Europe weighing their strategic options in the region. Newly-Independent Indian States (NIIS) would then provide new markets for the West, but battle for supremacy in the Indian Ocean against all odds.
Sri Lanka could be a battle ground for super powers as we would have to rely on China’s support to curtail any future incursion from Tamil Nadu and the US and West might resist Chinese intervention in the region if we don’t mend fences with the West.
It is high time we revived our lost relations with the West. The Port of Hambantota is already a Chinese strategic asset. It would be interesting to see how India would react to Chinese oil exploration companies meddling in Sri Lankan waters close to the Indian shore when India is in search of oil in South Sudan. Discovery of oil in Sri Lankan waters would further polarise regional politics and re-demarcate the political landscape.
(The writer is a freelance journalist and a Political Lobbying and Government Relations Consultant.)