Thursday, 16 October 2008

Don’t get involved with this Tiger

It was quite distressing to read about the Prime Minister giving in to pressure from the DMK and making a statement calling for a negotiated political settlement in Sri Lanka and the need to respect the human rights of minorities, particularly Tamil minorities in Sri Lanka.

This came after an all-party meeting in Tamil Nadu where a resolution was passed giving the Centre a two week ultimatum to the Centre to stop the war against Tamils in Sri Lanka, failing which all 39 MPs from the state would resign from Parliament. DMK supreme Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi has already sent in her resignation to her father.

This is utterly ridiculous. Sri Lanka, these Tamil MPs need to be told, is not an Indian state that can be pulled up by the Centre. Even within India, the federal structure puts limits on what the Centre can do. Sri Lanka is another country altogether. The Indian government cannot do anything that will impinge on its sovereignty.

The government is treading on extremely dangerous grounds here. It is nobody’s case that human rights in Sri Lanka should be given the complete go by. Remember, however, that the country facing a separatist movement, which it is trying to address through a mix of political and military means. Remember also that the violence is not one-sided. The Tamil terror groups also have the blood of thousands on their hands.

India, coping with its own problems, cannot get involved in this. If it does, then it will have no right to get worked up every time Pakistan makes a similar charge about India in the context of Kashmir. Indians cannot get all hot and bothered when other countries ask us about Muslims killed in riots or attacks on Christians. India’s Tamil politicians will probably argue that the two cases are not similar, that what is happening in Lanka is far more serious than what is happening in India. But that is all a matter of perception.

We have already paid a heavy price for our involvement in Sri Lanka – Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by Tamil militants. It is surprising that a government run by a party headed by his widow should go soft on Tamil terror.

More than that, the principle of respecting another country’s sovereignty has to be respected.

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