The Tamil Nadu play

Wednesday, 27 March 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Even though the second resolution passed on the Sri Lankan Government at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is fast fading into memory, troublesome Tamil Nadu is stepping up its offensive in a test of wills that will likely trouble the island for several months to come.

Close on the heels of two Buddhist monks being attacked in South India along with 16 tourists, Tamil Nadu politicians have launched offensive after offensive against the Sri Lankan Government. The most startling was the decision by DMK Head M. Karunanidhi to leave the ruling party and demand that a separate resolution on Sri Lanka be brought at the Indian Parliament or even the UNHRC.

The irate politician demanded that the alleged killing of civilians during the last phase of the war be termed “genocide” and urged an investigation that the Sri Lankan Government has been battling tooth and nail against for years. Even though the clear vested interests of the Indian Government means that they will not back an international probe, the pressure that they have been placed under ahead of elections early next year has made Colombo extra vigilant. Undeterred by the fact that most Indian political parties were uninterested in a strong resolution, Tamil Nadu has launched a fresh frontal attack against almost anything that has a deep association with its neighbour. Predictably this included the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that has already come as a bone of contention, with Canada lobbying for Sri Lanka to be placed on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), an event that could result in Sri Lanka losing the opportunity to host it. Karunanidhi is now demanding that New Delhi join Canada and Britain in boycotting CHOGM if Sri Lanka does not show substantial improvement in its reconciliation measures. Not to be outdone, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has called on the Indian Central Government to initiate diplomatic steps to withdraw the 1974 agreement ceding the Katchatheevu islet to Sri Lanka. She has also insisted that if the centre does not comply, her Government will initiate the proceedings. Subsequently she had written to the Prime Minister stating categorically that the eight Sri Lankan cricketers in the Indian Premier League will not be allowed to play matches held in Chennai.

Caught in the whirlwind, the Chennai Super Kings is set to drop Sri Lankan recruits Nuwan Kulasekara and Akila Dhananjaya for the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League, starting on 3 April. It is being seen as a compromise formula to appease the Tamil Nadu Government. Most worryingly, the rhetoric by the Tamil Nadu Government could have serious economic repercussions. India is Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner of nearly US$ 5 billion and plans to double the volume by 2015. As much as 40% of this trade is funnelled via Tamil Nadu and spiralling political issues could have serious economic results on both countries. Therefore, it is essential that politics be separated from larger economic issues.  In addition, some level of interaction has to take place between Colombo and Tamil Nadu. Even though this is unlikely given the rigid stance taken by both parties, it is possible to counter this by involving the Indian Central Government and providing New Delhi with genuine evidence that Sri Lanka is serious about addressing the most serious of the allegation against the country.  However, these would involve many sensitive points such as credible investigations into war crimes allegations, probes into abductions and promoting judicial independence and media freedom – issues that Colombo is reluctant to deal with, ensuring that the stalemate will continue.