India: No Aliens Under Our Beds

Among the biggest political delusions we have laboured for long is the 'foreign hand'

by Ramachandra Guha

(August 11, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Every time there is a walkout in the Lok Sabha, or a range of full-throated voices seek to drown out a member's intervention, men my age write editorials on how this theatre of rowdyism and the absurd was once a forum for serious debate and discussion. This is only in part nostalgia; it is also in part founded on fact. For at least half its life, the Indian Parliament was a place characterised by intellectual sophistication and moral seriousness and, lest we forget, humour. The speeches of such men as Ram Manohar Lohia, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Harindranath Chattopadhyay (among others) were suffused with satirical wit.

My favourite example of parliamentary humour, however, was a placard that sometime in the early 1970s was hung over the capacious form of the architect-turned-politician Piloo Mody. It bore the words: 'I AM A CIA AGENT'.

Mody represented the Swatantra Party in the Lok Sabha. Founded in 1959 by C. Rajagopalachari, the party promoted liberal ideals and a free-market economy. The prime minister of the time, Jawaharlal Nehru, saw Rajaji's Swatantra Party as a reactionary right-wing formation opposed to his own progressive socialism. As he once joked about his old comrade-turned-adversary: "He likes the Old Testament. I like the New Testament." Through the 1960s, however, the Swatantra Party grew in influence. It was the second largest party in the fourth Lok Sabha, where its sharp-tongued leader, Minoo Masani, harassed and harried the prime minister—who now was not Nehru but his daughter Indira Gandhi.

Mrs Gandhi's response to the Swatantra challenge was to insinuate that its members and leaders were not true patriots. She spoke darkly of how a 'foreign hand' was allegedly destabilising India. Her acolytes were more explicit—Swatantra, they claimed, was being funded by America and Americans. It was in response to such ridiculous accusations that Piloo Mody entered Parliament with that placard around his neck.

In 1974-75, Jayaprakash Narayan, the veteran Gandhian, led a countrywide movement opposing Mrs Gandhi's regime. The prime minister's response was to characterise her critics as agents of Western nations. In June 1975, she imposed a state of Emergency, which lasted a year and a half. Before, during, and after the Emergency, Mrs Gandhi claimed that while she represented the national interest, her critics and opponents acted at the behest of foreign powers. In May 1980, she told a South African journalist of Indian extraction that "it is no coincidence that the same groups who opposed Mahatma Gandhi and my father Jawaharlal Nehru in their lifetime attack me now. They consist of Hindu and Muslim fanatics and communalists, groups who come from old feudal interests, and elements that are sympathetic to foreign ideologies, whether of laissez faire or extreme leftism.... Those who are against self-reliance, or secularism or socialism, find some reason or other to malign me".

While it was the Congress which formally brought the 'foreign hand' into political discourse, in later decades that trope has been appropriated by other parties. The Sangh parivar was always suspicious of what it saw as the dangerous influence of a decadent western culture. (Among the artefacts of that culture that attracted the particular ire of M.S. Golwalkar, the long-time sarsanghchalak of the RSS, were the English language and the game of cricket.) Through the first three decades of independence, the political influence of the Hindu right was minimal. But as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gathered strength and came to power, first in some states and then at the Centre, the protection of Indian tradition and thought from an allegedly contaminating western influence became a major concern of its ideologues.Liberal intellectuals in particular were demonised for being in thrall to the unholy trinity of Marx, Mill and Macaulay.

In 1996 the Miss World contest was held in my hometown, Bangalore. I opposed it, for aesthetic reasons. For it was held in the Chinnaswamy Stadium, my favourite cricket ground, whose turf, made holy by the likes of G.R. Vishwanath and B.S. Chandrasekhar, was now being trodden upon by cricket-illiterate young women from (mostly) cricket-illiterate countries. On the other hand, my fellow townsmen opposed it for weightier reasons. Some said it degraded the ideals of Indian womanhood; others that it was a malign conspiracy promoted by multinational companies. And so the activists of the BJP and the CPI(M) walked side by side (if not actually arm-in-arm) to protest against the event.

The demonisation of the West is ubiquitous in the Hindu right-wing as well as the Marxist Left. The Hindu Right chooses to speak principally in cultural terms; it professes to be concerned, above all, with 'the colonisation of the mind'. The Marxist Left couches its arguments in the language of economics: it seeks to protect India and Indians from the exploitative greed of western companies and western governments. But their arguments criss-cross; the Left does sometimes take recourse to cultural arguments, while the Right does not entirely neglect economics. There are statements issued by the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch that could have come straight from the pages of People's Democracy.

At any rate, the thinkers and activists of the Hindu Right and the Communist Left are united in thinking that the bulk of India's problems were created or caused by the West. Their arguments are hypocritical and disingenuous. Historians have authoritatively demonstrated that the organisational models of the RSS lie in European youth organisations that flourished between the two World Wars. And we all know that the Sangh parivar is financially sustained by the fruits of the American economy. As for the Left, their political models too are wholly western—Marx and Engels and Lenin were as European as they come. Besides, their political practice has often been tailored to the needs of foreign (if not necessarily western) powers such the former Soviet Union and the current People's Republic of China.

These arguments are also un-Indian, for the founders of Indian nationalism were open to western influences and ideas. Men such as Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar were internationalists, not xenophobes. Tagore put it best: the idea of India, he once said, was against the separation of this land from any other in the world. (It may be interesting to speculate that it may be because of their own marginal contribution to the Indian national movement that the Hindutvawadis and the Communists are obliged now to speak the language of the hyper-patriot.)

Finally, the arguments are also factually incorrect. Indian culture, whether patrician or plebeian, has not been swamped or extinguished by goods and ideas from the West. Indian classical music is now more popular than it was before liberalisation. The arrival of kfc has been contemporaneous with a rise in demand for tandoori chicken.

At first glance, the economic xenophobes may have a better case. The influence of foreign trade and foreign aid is rising. The Indian people are now more vulnerable to shocks in the world economy. However, the vast bulk of domestic production remains in Indian hands. And we liberalised out of our own accord, so that Indians could take advantage of the wider world (as many Indian companies and individuals have already done).If we want the boom, we must also take the bust.

My own view is that 95 per cent of what is wrong with India is the fault of Indians. India is a free country, and a democracy. We elect our leaders, and they function in office as they, or we, choose. Contrary to what some people think, our ministers do not act at the behest of the United States. To be sure, their actions are sometimes misguided or even mala fide. But they are their own. For instance, we should admit that it is the malfunctioning of public institutions, not the malign influence of the World Bank, that is responsible for the agrarian crisis. Likewise, the faults with our educational system, or the health sector, or the law courts were created principally by Indians. And they will be, or will not be, remedied by Indians.

To look for the foreign hand under every bed is only to escape responsibility for our own actions. I, however, realise that for having written what I have written, I run the risk of being labelled a CIA agent.
(Ramachandra Guha is the author of India after Gandhi.)
- Sri Lanka Guardian

Full Report on MR’s Recent Visits in Beijing

(August 11, Beijing, Sri Lanka Guardian) President Mahinda Rajapaksa who arrived in Beijing to attend the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games 2008, was given a rare opportunity to meet with President Hu Jintao on 7th August. During the bilateral meeting President Rajapaksa thanked China for the excellent arrangements that have been made for the Games and expressed the hope that it would be a resounding success.

President conveyed his sympathies on the recent earthquake that hit Western China and recalled the outpouring of the Chinese generosity during the aftermath of the Tsunami disaster in December 2004. In reviewing bilateral relations, President Rajapaksa reiterated the close political, economic and cultural relations with China and Sri Lanka’s upholding of the “One China policy” and thanked Chinese leaders for the support and assistance extended at all times for economic development.

President Hu, on behalf of the Chinese Government and the people of China warmly welcomed the Sri Lanka President for the ceremonial opening of the Games. He extended his warm appreciation to the people of Sri Lanka for the solidarity extended towards the Chinese people during the time of the Sichuan earthquake and for the humanitarian assistance rendered. He thanked President Rajapaksa for his intended visit to the Province of Sichuan to convey his personal sympathies to the people in the quake hit area. In acknowledging the briefing given by President Rajapaksa on the current developments in Sri Lanka, President Hu pledged China’s steadfast commitment and support for Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Both Presidents exchanged views on the steadily expanding bilateral relations and partnership between the two countries and recalled the fruitful discussions they had during the Boao Forum in April this year. The President apprised the Chinese President on the ongoing Chinese funded development projects in Sri Lanka and expressed satisfaction over the progress of these projects. He also sought the support for new projects including the development of Hambantota Port, the second phase of the Puttalam Coal Power and the Colombo – Katunayake Expressway projects.

Describing Sri Lanka – China relations as a role model for two countries of different sizes and political ideologies, President Hu agreed to further support the upliftment of the socio-economic standards of the people of Sri Lanka well as extending assistance for new development projects. He also acknowledged the growing mutual political trust and close support extended by both countries in international and regional affairs.

He observed that bilateral trade relations between the two countries were improving and agreed to consider favourably President Rajapaksa’s request for further reduction of tariffs for Sri Lanka exports under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement negotiations ( APTA). It was noted that after a lapse of 8 years the Sri Lanka – China Joint Commission was held in May 2008. The Chinese President agreed to consider the request made by Sri Lanka President to increase the number of scholarships extended to Sri Lanka students.

In his capacity as Chair of the SAARC, President Rajapaksa briefed President Hu on the outcome of the recently concluded SAARC Summit, particularly in the context of a joint approach in combating terrorism, maximizing energy and water resources, food security, poverty alleviation in addition to several other key issues concerning the region. President Hu congratulated the Sri Lanka President on the successful conclusion of the 15th SAARC Summit and appreciated the role played by SAARC in sustaining development in the region. He expressed the desire by China to strengthen the dialogue with SAARC countries based on a co-operative partnership and a win – win situation.

In conclusion President Hu emphasized that Sri Lanka - China relations have been sustained over the years based on “5 principles of peaceful co-existence” featuring sincere mutual help and long term friendship

President Rajapaksa renewed the invitation extended to President Hu to visit Sri Lanka particularly in the context of observing personally the key development projects undertaken with Chinese funding. Chinese president acknowledged the need for a visit at a mutually convenient time.

The Sri Lankan delegation to these meetings included Dr P B Jayasundera Secretary Finance, Ambassador Karunatilaka Amunugama, Mr Gamini Senerath Additional Secretary to the President, Mr Sajin de Vass Gunawardena Coordinating Secretary to the President, and Embassy officials.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

It’s all about the name…..

by The Nightwatchman

(August 11, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) We Sri Lankans love to drop names…. We want to drop names like it is going to out fashion tomorrow. I know Him, He was in my class, we went Uni together, we are at that club, my friend, ‘the rich’ guy, ah, you know him, he is the friend of my uncles neighbor whose dog was killed by so and so’s black Mercedes….. you know what I mean.

However at the same time we are really good at name calling too. Sinhalese call Tamils names, Tamils call Sinhalese names, we both call Muslims names, all three of us call Burghers names…Not sure what the Burghers call all of us anymore as many are in Australia now and if they do call us names back, I am sure it must be very bad, and will have an Oz accent to it. Insults always feel horrible when said in an Aussie accent, I always thought.

What is in a name? Do we check to see who the person behind that name? Will we remember that name long after we meet that person? The last 30 years of this country’s sordid history we heard many names. We used many names to describe many people. We were called many names. I am called a racist, just because I love my country and I speak on behalf of her and refuse to abandon her for greener pastures. I am called a Frog in a Well because I refuse to lie my way in to the UK/Canada and work 18 hours a day to make ends meet. Well, this frog has DSL and a Core2Duo. I love my well. I can reach outside the well 24/7 and not have to work 18 hour shifts in bitter winters. If patriotism and the love for ones country is rewarded by the label, ‘Racist’, please shout my name from the roof tops!! I am racist and proud of it!

Since 2 months ago, my commute to work takes me past the SL War memorial on the Parliament grounds. This is for me now has become hallow ground. Up to that point I scoffed at parliament grounds as an obscene patch of grass overlooking the Diyawanna oya. Where fat people walk to lose weight, men come to pick up walking women, women come to pick up walking men, where kids play cricket, where cops ask for bribes from couples inside cars, where all kinds of nonsense happens on any given day. But now I don’t see all that. All I see is several rows of granite with names on it. Thousands upon thousands of them. Each etch on that stone wall has a name, that name was a person, a father, a brother, a friend, a cousin, a husband, a lover and a son. For me that constitutes the real cost of our war. As far as bills go, that’s the mother of all bills. And what an immense bills that is. I don’t think we can ever settle that bill. We will carry the debt longer than we can even imagine. Long after the smoke and the dust settle that single patch of land will remind us for generations what it cost us to keep our country safe and in one piece. One day I hope that our children will walk along those walls and look in awe at the names etched in stone. That they will look and realize the price a whole generation paid so that they can live free and live under one flag.

So I wonder again…what is in a name?

Captain S. Aladeniya , Corporal Gamini Kularatne, Second Lieutenant K. W. T. Nissanka, Warrant Officer 2nd Class H.B. Pasan Gunasekera, Colonel A.F. Lafir, Lance Corporal W.I.M. Seneviratne, Lieutenant-Commander Jude Lakmal Wijethunge. These 7 names have one thing on common. They all have the name PWV (Parama Weera Vibhushanaya) at the end of their given name. They have another thing in common, they are all dead. Dead! Never to walk among the living, never to hold a hand, never to watch their kids grow, never to be at home on a weekend, never to visit friends and family, never to laugh, never to grow old, like the rest of us living. Their names are also on that granite wall. Amongst the thousands of other names that this war in the name of ‘minority rights’ and ‘separate homeland’ put on that wall.

The United States Armed Forces’ equivalent of the PWV is the Congressional Medal of Honor, the ultimate in all US Military decorations. It’s not easy to get one. The US names its navy ships and combat vessels after their Medal of Honor recipients. That is how important a name is. A name defines us. We are remembered by our name. That is why we have to remember their names.

I know for one thing, even if I live to be 100 years, I will never live my life the way those names spent their last moments on earth. I am not that privileged. I am not that brave. I am not that self sacrificing. I will never run towards the enemy with two primed grenades in my hands knowing for certain my destiny is 5 seconds away.

That’s why my name is not worthy to be on that wall.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

(August 11, Marnnar, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lanka Navy has made arrangement to hand over two Indian Fishing Trawlers, which were apprehended while poaching in Sri Lankan waters, to the Indian authorities.

Sri Lanka Navy’s patrol craft had detected two suspicious vessels in the seas off Mullaithivu on the 09th August around 0930 hrs. Vigilant naval personnel had carried out a thorough search on suspicion and had found two GPSs (Global Positioning Systems), two echo sounders and two mobile phones on board. The two Indian fishing trawlers bearing the registration numbers TN/06/MFB/44 and TN/06/MFB/886 had a five-member Indian fishermen crew in each vessel.

Sri Lanka Navy, as a gesture of goodwill, has made arrangement with the High Commission of India in Sri Lanka, to repatriate the ten Indian fishermen along with the two vessels.

Sri Lanka Navy, while effectively countering the terrorists’ sea-borne threats, exercises maximum precaution not to let the straying Indian fishermen and their fishing vessels be caught in the crossfire when the LTTE terrorists are targeted and dealt with.

Sri Lanka Navy renders assistance whenever Indian fishermen are in distress in the Sri Lanka waters. Many Indian fishermen have expressed their gratitude to the Sri Lanka Navy for treating them humanely and for its efforts of expediting the legal formalities involved in the process of their repatriation.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

15 LTTE cadres killed in Kilali fighting

(August 11, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are facing increased pressure from the army as Wanni is now surrounded by 6 SLA divisions. Of these 57, 58, 59 and 61 divisions have seen the bulk of the action and have made much progress in the past several months. Although not given much publicity, small squads from the 53 and 55 divisions of the army have been launching attacks on LTTE defenses in Muhamalai, Kilali and Nagarkovil on a daily basis, in an attempt to prevent the LTTE from launching a massive attack on Jaffna peninsula.

On yesterday (10th) dawn, units from the army's 53 division stormed the LTTE FDL in Kiali, killing at least 15 LTTE cadres and overrunning several bunkers in the process. SLA units returned to their original position after razing the captured bunkers to the ground. Military Intelligence has warned of a possible LTTE thrust upwards as the pressure on LTTE strongholds such as Mullaithiv and Kilinochchi is increased. LTTE has a 1000 strong troop concentration in Mahamalai/Nagarkovil/Kilali axis, majority of them being experienced and battled hardened cadres. DN.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

Buddhist Chavinism

by K.Mylvaganam

(LTTE's Perspective)

(August 11, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) I am certain that most of the readers would have read the following somewhere and sometime.

“When they came on the Jews I didn’t do anything as I was not a Jew.
When they came on the Communists I didn’t do anything as I was not a communist.
When they came on the Trade Unionists I didn’t do anything as I was not a Trade Unionist.
When they came on to Me there was no one left to do anything.”

This is what is exactly happening in Sri Lanka. When the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists took on the Muslims in 1915 killing several innocent Muslims in the South, the Hindus and the Christians did not go to their assistance, because they were not Muslims.

This is being repeated today. The Tamils are being targeted and the Muslims and the Sinhalese Christians in general are doing nothing about it. If and when the Tamils are annihilated these communal, racial and blood thirsty Buddhist chauvinists are sure to set upon the Muslims; and that would be a piece of cake for the Sinhala regime and its forces. Once they have done away with the Muslims they will turn their guns towards all the Christians even though they may be Sinhalese. The entire ambition of the Buddhist chauvinists is to make Sri Lanka a Sinhala Buddhist state.

If we look back we will see there has been no Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu as a President or as a Prime minister in the history of Sri Lanka. Starting from D.S.Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake, S.W.R.D.Banadaranayake, W.Dhahanayake, Sir John Kotalawela, Srimavo Bandaranayake, J.R.Jeyawaradena, R.Premadasa, , Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunga, Ranil Wickremasinghe, Mahinda Rajapaksha and the present prime minister Ratnasri Wickremanayake all are Sinhala Buddhists. Even the party leaders of all the major Sinhala parties are Buddhists.

But it is worth to note that a good number of the above mentioned state heads had been Christians before they entered politics. They converted themselves as Buddhists to reach the top position in Sri Lanka. What does this show? It means that none of them would have attained that position had he or she remained as a Christian. In other words there is no place in Sri Lanka for anyone who is not a Buddhist to become the head of the state. If we were to look over the Palk Straight one will note that races are not discriminated while selecting the heads of the state. The first President of India in 1947 was Rajagopalachariyar who was a Tamil. The present Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a Panjabi, who is not even a Hindu. Readers may remember that it was a Punjabi who sho and killed one of the most loved and respected Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The last President Abdul Kalam Assad was a Muslim. Will Sri Lanka learn from it neighbours. No; Sri Lanka is not there to learn but will happily teach to the rest of the world on Democracy and Human Rights etc.

A recent incident that took place in Thalahana, Malabe should be an eye opener to the Muslims and Christians. There is a Church on Araliya Place in Thalahana, Malabe called the Calvary Church. Thalahana is a small village. About 75 Christians in and around Thalahana congregated on a Sunday (06 07.2008) morning at 9.00 a.m. They came to attend the services as they usually do on Sundays. It was a peaceful and pleasant morning. People were waiting to listen to the day’s sermon by their priest Pastor Roshan Andriezen. The service commenced at 9.00 and the people were glued to the utterances of the Pastor.

Suddenly there was a big commotion at the front entrance of the Church. They couldn’t believe their eyes, when hell broke loose on the Church premises. A violent mob led by four Buddhist Monks created havoc on the scene. The Monks ordered the service to be stopped immediately and called for the Pastor. Pastor Roshan immediately came forward and went outside the Church to talk to the mischief makers. A few elderly Christians also followed the Pastor. Women and children were crying out of fear. They remained inside the Church on the request of the Pastor. The Buddhist Monks charged that the Pastor was involved in “forced conversion” of the Buddhists in the area. The Pastor denied the charges saying no forced conversion was being done. But the unruly mob didn’t want to hear him out. Instead they set upon him and on those around him. His nose was broken, his right eye was hurt and his back was severely beaten. They brutally manhandled even the Pastor’s father John Andriezen and his brother Rohan Andriezen. They took a heavy wooden piece from the pulpit and started hitting with it. Obscene language was free flow from the mob without paying heed to that it was a religious surrounding that they were in.

The Pastor for all these did not loose his calm. He tried to say that there are laws in the country to protect the rights of the people and they could frame charges if any law has been violated. To this the Monks retorted saying “it is we who make the laws and it is we who will break them.” These were confirmed by the Calvary Church Headquarters in Mirihana.

They broke the furniture, the building, the glasses, the lamps, and the roof. Later went on a rampage destroying all that were there. The vehicles that were there too were vandalized. It was the law of the jungle that prevailed there. The Pastor and a few others were taken to the hospital.

The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has begun to form a purely Muslim army in the East. It has several motives behind it. The main motive is to bring up a divide between the Muslims and the Tamils in the East. The other is to have a check on Katuna/Pillaiyan group sp that they do not become too unwieldy and take control of the Eastern province. The other dirty mentality is set the Muslims against the Tamils so that they can kill each other thus both the parties will always remain weak for the Sinhalese army to take on them one by one when the time comes.

But the Tamils and the Muslims have lived sandwiched with each other for several centuries. Therefore the leaders among the Tamils and Muslims should come together and work out the means for both the communities to live side by side quite amicably as they have always done in the past and not fall a prey to the Buddhist Sinhala conspiracy.

What can be done? Nothing. Of course one could go to the police station and make a complain. Then they will be asked to wait. How long? No body knows. The complaint will be written in Sinhalese irrespective of whether the complainant knows Sinhalese or not. But he has to sign that document without knowing what the contents were. Then what happens? Now comes the interesting part. Nothing. Yes nothing happens. But if it becomes such a big issue to attract international attention; then our government will appoint a commission to investigate. Then what happens. The same old stock answer - “NOTHING.”

Therefore now it is up to the Muslim and Christian leaders to come together and find out as to how they are going to meet the inevitable peril that they will have to face in the future.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

- The Sudar Oli Editorial

(August 11, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Vanni faces threats pf aggression. There have been aerial bombings, shell and multi barrel attacks causing deaths and injuries to people and destruction to property. Having kept the A9 route closed, Colombo has commenced military operations resulting in displacement and human tragedy that is indescribable. On top of all that, these operations are carried out in the name of humanitarianism.

Colombo strives to subdue Vanni through a two pronged attack in both the economic front and the war front. The atrocities committed in Vanni are not given due publicity. The displaced people live under trees without food to eat, water to drink and a place to lie down. The displaced are without the basic facilities including health.

The Catholic Church has expressed its grief over this tragedy in Vanni. Tamils are shocked. The government has revealed its real intentions and nature by these ongoing military operations. The government stands exposed.

Meanwhile, the calculated silence of the international community over the human tragedy in Vanni is a matter of great disappointment and frustration to the Tamil people all over the world. The insensitivity of the IC over these inhuman acts perturbs the Tamil people.
It is time to the IC to act fast!

(An English translation of the Editorial in The Sudar Oli, a Tamil daily, based in Colombo)
- Sri Lanka Guardian

Tamil Nadu,The Indian Model & Devolution

by Dayan Jayatilleka

(August 11, Geneva, Sri Lanka Guardian) The devolution debate has been sharpened by the highly interesting and significant results of the public opinion poll recently conducted in Tamil Nadu, with regard to Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue and its internal arrangements.

The poll has had the effect of strengthening both pro and anti-devolution camps in their chosen opinions.

I suggest that a realist reading should result in a more nuanced approach to devolution, which escapes the trap of overreaction in either direction, namely allergic rejection and imitative appeasement.

With or without the new data from Tamil Nadu, the debate on devolution in Sri Lanka reveals roughly seven and possibly eight points of view or “lines”. These are:

Zero or small unit devolution: Abolition of the 13th amendment and Provincial Councils, replacement with District level devolution, if at all.

13th amendment Minus or Provincial Councils Lite: Retention of Provincial Councils, but deduction or non-implementation of even those powers granted by the 13th amendment.

13th amendment Classic: The full and speediest possible implementation of the existing

13th amendment, meaning the full devolution of those powers already granted by the 13th amendment.

13th amendment Plus: the enhancement of the powers of the 13th amendment by relocating or partially redistributing the powers of the Concurrent list. This position subdivides between those who are willing to risk a constitutional amendment and those who seek only that which is possible without one.

The Indian model: quasi-federalism; powers no less than those of an Indian state.
Full or classic federalism.

ISGA/Confederation of two states.

No ethnic based federalism or two unit model; a radical reform of the state, citizenship and identity, reflecting hybridity, secularism and pluralism.

Positions 1-7 are present to varying degrees in the political domain, national and international (including the twin Diasporas) while the last arises from within the civil society intelligentsia (Prof Nira Wickremesingha in Open Democracy).

While administrative decentralisation is needed for purposes of development, devolution or transfer of some measure of power from centre to second order units at the periphery, is needed as a bridge between the North and South, the Tamils and the Sinhalese.

Therefore any and all devolution proposals must pass the test of enjoying the support of some segment of both communities. It must at the least, be at the interface of the two “sets”, namely Sinhala and Tamil opinion.

No sustainable solution can be unilaterally imposed upon either the Sinhalese or the Tamils.

Positions 1 & 2 (abolish or weaken Provincial Councils) have no takers outside the Sinhala community, and therefore fails the test of acceptability by at least some Tamils.

The international and regional blowback of any such move (which would have many powerful opponents and no supporters whatsoever outside the island), would be disastrous for our military efforts and our overall stability and security.

Similarly, Positions 6 and 7 (federalism, con-federalism) have no takers among the Sinhalese, going by public opinion polls, the results of which, ranging from the 1997 polling by Research International Pvt Ltd, up to today’s CPA polls, have been remarkably consistent.

Position 5 that of Indian model quasi federalism, enjoys, according to the CPA (and much to its regret) 5% support among the majority Sinhala community— that’s 5% of 74%. No mainstream political party or candidate in a competitive electoral democracy (and that includes Senator Obama) would treat as anything other than radioactive, a position that was so hopelessly unpopular. And yet, otherwise sensible Tamil politicians expect the two main Southern parties to agree on this. If there were any such possibility, President Kumaratunga’s 1995and 1997 “union of regions” packages, or her admirable August 2000 draft Constitution would have obtained bipartisan support, instead of suffering the highly visible fates they did.

The new argument, basing itself on the Ananda Vikatan opinion poll, is that Sri Lanka can best protect itself from pro-Tamil Eelam sentiment by adopting the Indian model of quasi-federalism.

This argument runs up against several counter-considerations.

Firstly, by the same logic, Cuba can best protect itself from the extreme anti-Cuban Revolution sentiments of Florida—and by extension Washington DC, since Florida has a significant influence on American elections-- by adopting an economic and political model such as that which prevails in the USA. Any self –respecting Cuban, and there is an island full of them, would reject that argument with the contempt it deserves.

Secondly, by what logic do 50 million ethnic Tamils in Tamil Nadu and a tiny fraction of that number in Sri Lanka require the same quantum and therefore model of devolution?

Thirdly, by what measure is the opinion of the citizens of Tamil Nadu of greater validity with regard to the internal arrangements of Sri Lanka, than those of over 95 % of Sinhalese citizens of this country, comprising 74% of the population, who oppose Indian model quasi-federalism?

Fourthly, this pro-Tamil separatist opinion in Tamil Nadu is a news flash? It would not have been so to generations of Sinhalese going back millennia, into antiquity. The anti-Sri Lankan and anti-Sinhala sentiment in Tamil Nadu represents an existential threat of long historical duration, which we must permanently protect ourselves against.

The new polling data must neither be ignored and brushed aside as irrelevant, nor appeased by mimicry of models.

Many Tamil politicians and liberal commentators forget Sri Lanka’s bitter experience with the Vardharajaperumal administration (from which I had resigned a year before, alarmed at the trends behind the scene), which made an Unilateral Declaration of Independence but could not be instantly dissolved by the Government without first bringing amending legislation which made that possible.

What is needed by way of response is neither a model that is so tightly closed and claustrophobic that it generates irredentist sentiment, nor one that is so carelessly open that it permits irredentism.

This brings us to positions 3, 4 and 8. The last is probably the most attractive but seems unrealistic at the moment. The lamentable fate of the Equal Rights Bill presented by President Kumaratunga in 2000, withdrawn in the face of agitation by alumni of certain leading (boys and girls) schools in Colombo and the JVP run Inter University Students and Bhikku Federations, shows how far we are from that level of enlightened consciousness. As Mr Anandasangaree correctly reminds us, the easy abolition of Section 29, the anti-discrimination clause of the Soulbury Constitution, gives the minorities no reason to trust a solution devoid of political space and some measure of self governance.

That leaves Positions 3 and 4: 13th amendment Classic and 13th amendment Plus.

Position 3 and possibly 4 are the only ones with significant support from the Sinhala public and some support from some Tamils (both North and East). Thus 13th amendment Classic passes the test. (Arguably, so does 4, but this is a stretch).

Most recently at the SAARC summit, President Rajapakse has rightly re-iterated his government’s commitment to Position 3, “the comprehensive implementation of the 13th amendment”, drawing attention to the Eastern process with its elected Chief Minister and expressing his belief that the Northern Province will similarly possess a Chief Minister. Given that the Sri Lankan armed forces have gained the strategic initiative and are on the strategic offensive, this is a prospect for the foreseeable future. In his remarks the President also left room for submissions by the APRC.

Recent retrospectives surrounding the Karadzic trial regarding the events in former Yugoslavia recall the disaster of the holding of a referendum in Bosnia in 1992, with the Serbs abstaining and the Bosnian Muslims voting in favour. This was the schism that resulted in civil war. Bosnia shows the absolute imperative on avoiding a referendum in an ethnically or ethno-religiously polarised society, and therefore the imperative of avoiding any proposals that require a referendum.

This is why the only man with a roadmap, Douglas Devananda, has embraced President Rajapakse’s “comprehensive implementation of the 13th amendment” as the only feasible start, while placing the 13th amendment Plus, and even consideration of the Indian model, as subsequent stages of political evolution. Between the various stages of his gradualist formula lie periods of the broadening of consensus and the building up of trust between the communities over time and through practical experience.

(These are the personal views of the writer).
- Sri Lanka Guardian

McCain the Antichrist?

by Robert Dreyfuss

(August 11, Washington, Sri Lanka Guardian) Biblical scholars in Colorado Springs have uncovered startling evidence that Senator John McCain may be the Antichrist. Their conclusions, while highly controversial, may have a dramatic impact on the 2008 elections, since many Bible-believing Christians have already expressed doubts about McCain’s fealty to Christianity.

The analysis was conducted by the respected True Bible Society, and it will be published next month in the End Times Journal.

The analysis was especially ironic, given that it came out just one day after McCain was accused of subtly hinting that Barack Obama could be the Antichrist. McCain ran a commercial depicting Obama as “The One,” giving rise to charges that he was sending a subliminal messages to anti-Obama Christians.

“What started us looking at this issue is the fact that Senator McCain has declared his intention to maintain US forces in Iraq for a hundred years,” said David Jenkins, a leading Biblical scholar. “That means that McCain wants to control Babylon for at least a century.” According to many scholars of the Book of Revelation, the Antichrist will try to rebuild the ancient city of Babylon in order to use it as a springboard for an international effort at world domination. Ultimately, the Antichrist will marshal forces from Babylon to spark a showdown with Christian and Jewish-led forces in the battle of Armageddon.

“We believe that the End Times is near, based on the pattern of wars, earthquakes. and other strange phenomena we’ve been witnessing since the start of the New Millennium,” said Jenkins. “Given that it may be imminent, the person who controls Babylon must be the Antichrist.” Until 2003, many Christians believed that Saddam Hussein might be the Antichrist, since he started excavations to restore Babylon in the mid 1970s. But Hussein’s death meant that the Antichrist is someone else. Since Obama wants to get out of Iraq, he can’t be the Antichrist either, concluded Jenkins.

Jenkins said his teams suspicions were further heightened when genealogical research showed that McCain’s great-grandfather was actually not John McCain, but John Mihai. Mihai is an ancient Romanian name, and according to Bible-believing Christians, the Antichrist is likely to be a Romanian. “What clinched it for us was that the name Mihai means ‘who is like the Lord,’” said Jenkins. “As far as we’re concerned, that was enough. It means that McCain might easily pretend to be the Redeemer.”

McCain’s geniality and folksiness are consistent with his being the Antichrist, Jenkins said. “Many people think that the Antichrist will be a evil-seeming leader, but in fact the Bible tells us that he will be charming.”

So far the McCain campaign has refused to comment on Jenkins’ study.

Robert Dreyfuss, a Nation contributing editor, is an investigative journalist in Alexandria, Virginia, specializing in politics and national security. He is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam and is a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, The American Prospect, and Mother Jones.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

The Scope of Sri Lankan Conscience & Responsibility

Full text of the letter from a Canadian to Sri Lankan Consul General Bandula Jayasekara follows;

by Roy Ratnavel

(August 11, Toronto, Sri Lanka Guardian) One is entitled to their opinion, but not to change the facts. It is not worth my time to dispute the poisonous, libellous and convulsive content of your letter [National Post, July 11, 2008]. I’m not surprised that The National Post published a letter so studded with factual inaccuracies, but I am surprised that the slanderous contribution was actually made it to print without being checked for quality.

You know you're not a world class author when your work is accepted by the usual gang of idiots. I had wrongly assumed that the letter page is a forum for those who have something constructive to add, not an outlet for derision and snarky behaviour. Nevertheless, you should be congratulated for exposing yourself for your ability to employ despicable tactics, and your penchant for sophomoric rhetoric to score points in the war against Tamils.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointing you as Consul General to Canada brought to mind the quote from 16th-century Dutch humanist Erasmus - In regione caecorum rex est luscus: In the country of blind, the one-eyed man is king. The cold and awkward letter is yet another sign of your unyielding dorkiness and robotic tendencies. Contrary to your claim, you are the paid iconoclast who regularly skewers phonies of the left and right, in order to confuse the Western politicians who’ve wrapped themselves in rhetoric since September 11th.

Your letters really gone downhill and have, basically, turned into a hypocritical, nebulous, flaw riddled dung-pile. I am sure that's the best compliment your have received in years! Your letter is not germane to the central issue and achieved little or nothing of note, but I am sure greatly enjoyed an orgy of self-congratulation inside your cozy camp. The letter is most dishonest, and highly selective in its outrage with most egregious errors. Against this backdrop, I figured I would be remiss if I didn't write you a hard-hitting rebuttal. It would be a good start, at least.

I am always amazed by the blurred lines, or put another way, incestuous relationship, that exists between a foreign surreptitious government like Sri Lanka, and a private media in Canada. I'm not sure how free a society is when political affiliations are treated as an "essential qualification" in determining who gets to lead the story of the day. But I digress.

It is sad to see you have been reduced to publishing in some of the intellectually weakest of the right-wing propaganda publications. It is even sadder to see this grotesque, almost baroque, letter carom from one extravagant argument to another, miring itself in a series of gross fallacies and elementary errors in logic. The trouble with this sort of bunkum is that unless it is refuted, after awhile people will become acquiesce in carrying out unjust commands and abetting evil designs of Sri Lanka. That’s already started; with columnists bearing IQ’s no higher than their body temperature expressing “outrage” and passing obtuse comments at Tamil freedom struggle, to which you are no exception.

First of all, let us all agree that, with the possible exceptions of Christ and the Buddha, all humans, even your current thug President, are made of mortal flesh, hence fallible. To contend or suggest otherwise is, at best, poor history. The problem with your letter is that it presents a Jackson Pollock portrait: lots of paint but no clear picture. As always your contemptuous words, positively reeks of falsehood. Your lies are so palpable to take one's breath away.
Left without protection or a recognized status, the Tamils assembled, organized and resisted, first peacefully, then by armed insurrection. In the post 9/11 era, freedom struggle of such minorities has become the favourite whipping-boy for both politicians and the thug regimes around the world. In this regard, collectively the Tamils are the scapegoat of choice for the nefarious regime of Sri Lanka.

Twenty-five years after the grim July of 1983, your country’s racial politics and policy contributed to substantial mistrust – apart from many Sri Lankan Consul Generals bileful rhetoric and similar ‘straw dog’ arguments over this same period have served to destroy Tamils collective trust toward Sri Lanka.

In continuing to make such arguments, you are practising what libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick referred to as the “time-slice” theory of justice. That is, you are applying principles of justice only to the current state of affairs and not to history, and doing a disservice to those principles your country claims to profess. You are like a child who concludes that his father is in error because he doesn't understand his reasoning.

Your diatribe against ‘everything Tamil’ is shockingly myopic. In your letter you offer self-contradictory depiction as a legitimate cause for war and castigate the Tamils in Canada of lacking grace and claim that they will carry AK-47 tomorrow. It is not ironic to see comments such as this coming from representative of a country which is both a rogue and a failed state. It behooves you to know that Sri Lanka, which was positioned 25th among the most failed states during the last two years, ranked this year as the 20th in the Failed States Index (FSI) – a marvellous achievement indeed.

If they gave out Olympic medals for poor governance, Sri Lanka would take the gold, silver and bronze. Even though your country is falling apart, and has rollerbladed into chaos with no elbow-pads and helmet you'd never have known it from your posh office in Toronto. If it weren't so serious and tragic, it might be amusing that since the beginning of its independence from the British in 1948, the hawkish leaders of Sri Lanka made a disastrous mess from which no easy escape beckons.

Situation of the Tamils in Sri Lanka is a gruesome tragedy. In this regard, from Tamils’ prospective Sri Lanka is neither a country nor a regime that can be trusted. Your country's record is one of unblemished brutality and carnage. Your offer of sarong and a shirt for pinstriped suit to rebuild Sri Lanka is not that enticing for most Tamils until you put an end to the horrible human tragedy that has engulfed this once peaceful nation.

The suffering of Tamils is in line with millions of other persecuted minorities who fear for their lives worldwide. Sri Lanka’s strategy is to literally terrorize the Tamil society in Sri Lanka and abroad, and its leaders into a fearful and subordinate state of mind. One cannot ever forget Sri Lanka’s painful, inhumane and terroristic practise of dispatching thugs and criminal mobs to kill scores of innocent Tamil women, men and children in July of 1983. I must admit that in all my years, I had never come across anyone like you. I feel as though I have encountered evil incarnate. The fact that you are knowingly presiding over the death and destruction of innocent Tamils matters to you not one whit.

Finally, freedom struggle of Tamils is a unique case. Any people who have suffered oppression as the Kosovars did deserve to be free. The recent independence of Kosovo is, an injustice redressed and a victory for the free world. Tamil’s freedom, therefore, is long overdue. Persecution the Tamils endure Sri Lanka concern us Canadians. For, as the historical record makes clear, while the Tamils are utterly hopeless at any form of ethnic cleansing, it is something at which the Sri Lankan government, alas, has always excelled. The splattered blood from the Tamil victims will stain our proud Canadian flag forever if our government has any part in logistic or tacit support of Sri Lankan tyranny.

General Douglas MacArthur once lamented "Moral courage is the courage of one's convictions, the courage to see things through. The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It's the age-old struggle – the roar of the crowd on one side and the voice of your conscience on the other." What one ought to do is to live up to broadly defined human ‘conscience and responsibility.’ Through this law, guides all of human life and activities which immeasurably differs from all animals. As we witnessed in Sri Lanka, the threat to human survival comes from lack of both – ‘conscience and responsibility.’ It appears from your letter the concepts of such basic human traits are foreign to you. However, to us Canadians it is at the bottom of our tradition of democracy. Our ‘conscience’ tells us that we are ‘responsible’ to one another to ensure that the democratic process works; if it does not work, that means that not enough of us are involved. To that end, we will not rest.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

Pakistan Showdown: No Threat to Musharraf

by Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal

(August 11, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) As the show-down in the parliament on 11 August is around, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who has been meeting legal advisers to plan his next moves, said he is sure that government’s move to impeach him or force him to quit would fail. Supporters of Musharraf, including the former ruling PML-Q party, have vowed to oppose moves to impeach him in parliament. PML-Q says it is confident it can deny the governing coalition the two-thirds majority it needs in both houses of parliament.

Ruling parties say Musharraf is incompetent and standing in the way of democracy, while the president had expressed his dissatisfaction over the economic progress of the country and policies of the ruling dispensation. He has yet to respond to the allegation about his incompetence. The president has apparently been exploring both his legal options and his chances to manipulate members of parliament, where the numbers appear to be loaded against him. Meanwhile, the US says it is an internal matter for Pakistan.

To observers in Pakistan, Musharraf might appear to be a worried man, as indicated by his decision to put off a visit to the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing twice in as many days, but, however, he is as busy as ever with his official responsibilities and is least disturbed about the development and his present position, but it could be that he is weighing the fallout of the impeachment move. The media in Pakistan are quoting sources close to the president as saying he, if necessary, will contest the charges in parliament.

Musharraf was elected president for a five-year term last October in a controversial parliamentary vote. He is still thought to have heavy influence over the military and its reaction will remain crucial. The president retains the power to dissolve parliament, but most analysts believe he is unlikely to do this. An impeachment would take Pakistani politics into new territory, since no Pakistani leader has faced it before. Coalition leaders insist they have the numbers in parliament. Musharraf took power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and gave up control of the army last year. His allies were routed in elections in February.

Generally, Musharraf himself has been keeping a low profile, but PML-Q leaders have not. Mushahid Hussain, general secretary of the PML-Q, said: “I personally oppose the president's power to sack the parliament and the government and believe it should be scrapped, but I also oppose the president's impeachment." Another party leader, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, said the ruling alliance had "made a hasty decision and they will be trapped in their own game". Tariq Azim, who served as information minister under Musharraf, called the impeachment move a "sure recipe for disaster".

"We are going to oppose it. It is a half-baked effort".

Pakistan's governing alliance leaders Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of PML-N addressed a packed news conference in Islamabad. Both Sharif and Zardari have vowed to try to restore judges sacked under emergency rule. "The coalition believes it is imperative to move for impeachment against Gen Musharraf," said Zardari, the widower of assassinated former PM Benazir Bhutto. PML-N leader Sharif said: "Pakistan cannot afford to see democracy derailed." The leaders also promised to restore judges sacked under Musharraf's emergency rule last November once impeachment was successful. How to proceed on that issue has caused deep divisions between the two coalition parties since they swept elections in February.

Although people in general are concerned now about price rise and food shortage and not at all worried about the restoration of judges and removal of Musharraf, Sharif, who wants to take revenge on Musharraf for sacking him in 1999, has taken it as a prestige issue. Zardari is keen to take the ruling coalition including the PMLN on board and hence he also supports Sharif’s agenda. However, Zardari is not for ousting Musharraf.

(The Writer is a research scholar, School of International Studies, Delhi )
- Sri Lanka Guardian

As Kashmir boils, it’s time to be firm, fair, consistent

by Vikram Sood

(August 11, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Amid all the anger and violence that we have seen in Srinagar and then in Jammu, most of us have forgotten the genesis of the problem. There is something quite mysterious about the entire ugliness. On the one hand, it appears strange that the PDP ministers of law and forests had piloted the proposal for the transfer of land and it was the PDP that pulled out of the government, then used the militants and the Hurriyat to raise the temperature in the Kashmir Valley. On the other hand, it is not too strange if one remembers that this is just another case of opportunistic politics.

A few months just short of the October elections, the PDP needed some excuse to dump the government and challenge its main rival, the National Conference. The Hurriyat, which was becoming irrelevant, needed something to regain lost ground. This was at a time when its chief mentor, Pakistan, was temporarily distracted and had little time for the likes of Mirwaiz Farooq and Syed Gilani. Thus, the Amarnath shrine board issue was a heaven-sent opportunity for the PDP and the Hurriyat. Or, if one wants to give Mufti extra credit, then this was a highly Machiavellian move where he got his own ministers to pilot the proposal, using the governor’s desire for this allocation, and then walked out, pretending horror. The Hurriyat used a very willing PDP to recreate scenes that were a rerun of 1990 in the aftermath of the Rubaiyya Sayeed kidnapping case. So with our clumsy handling of the situation, along with clever management of the media by the militants and pronouncements by the bleeding hearts, we ended up shooting ourselves in the foot.

The PDP’s so-called high moral ground was that the construction would damage the ecology and demographic changes would follow. The PDP has never shed any tears for the way the beautiful Dal Lake, the Wullar, the Nagin and so many other water bodies have all shrunk through a combination of official greed and public neglect. What has the PDP done about them? The PDP did not protest when the railways extended into the Valley, destroying forests and using land. Forest land has been used to construct power projects and set up telecom towers. It is also known that Kashmiri terrorists and their friends have denuded the magnificent deodar forests and used the money for themselves and to fund the movement.

As for fears about demographic change, this is equally laughable. Baltal is under snow for eight months in a year and it is inhospitable even for the nomadic Bakarwals. No one lives there permanently, certainly not the yatris, who are Hindus primarily, but obviously the twist is to give this a communal overtone. In an amazing show of convenient amnesia and duplicity, the likes of Mirwaiz were mouthing grave concern about demographic changes. He of course forgot that 500,000 Kashmiri pandits have become refugees in their own country. What has the Mirwaiz done to bring them back?

The role of the Congress-led government has been difficult to understand. Obviously somewhere in their calculation there must be the hope that this transfer of land short of elections would fetch them some seats from Jammu. Policies based on hope and not on reality have a tendency to rebound. The point is: did the state government act on its own, in a vacuum? Did it consult the security agencies about the likely repercussions before taking the decision? Did the government act regardless of the advice? Or was the advice in agreement with the government’s desires? Did the government have any assessment that the reactions in Srinagar would be ugly, and that Jammu would follow? Did the government think this through? A yes or no to any of these questions would give a different complexion to the entire episode.

The action in the Valley is not about demography or ecology. It is about the convergence of interests between the PDP, the terrorists and the Hurriyat. It is about hitting at Kashmiriyat. Fortunately, the reaction in Jammu is not communal; reports even till today say that all communities in Jammu are protesting jointly. They are simply tired of the appeasement that goes on in Srinagar in the name of magnanimity. They have also seen the benefits of the politics of violent protest. Baltal was simply the last straw.

Magnanimity as state policy is a function of strength and victory; otherwise it is appeasement. And periodic appeasement, as in 1989 and now, will only lead to increased terrorism. When we think we are magnanimous by letting Syed Ali Shah Gilani talk secession and not lock him up, we are actually practising appeasement.. When we let Yasin Malik roam around freely after he and his henchmen murdered six Indian Air Force personnel, we are not magnanimous; we are again practising appeasement. And appeasement only breeds delinquency.

This means that this policy must stop. If a decision had been taken to hand over the land by one governor, even if wrong, we should have had the courage and tenacity to abide with it. The first requirement today is to defuse the situation, and for this the PDP and the Hurriyat are not the best-equipped groups. The battle for hearts and minds will not be won by the bullet alone, but by being firm, fair and consistent. It will also require continued psy-war, to counter the terrorists’ propaganda and which will increase along with violence in the months ahead. Pakistan simply cannot allow free and fair elections which would make the Hurriyat and all the other outfits it has nurtured for so long become irrelevant. Whatever be the level of its preoccupation on its western border, Pakistan has neither the courage nor the vision to change its policy on Kashmir.

( Vikram Sood is a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency )
- Sri Lanka Guardian

A 'Primary Role' for India?

“Across the table, yes, the TNA has to decide if it is going to lay down pre-conditions for talks with the Sri Lankan Government, or for the Indian facilitation. The TNA and the LTTE part, other issues and other stake-holders are also involved before any decision could be taken on India playing any role on peace-making in Sri Lanka.”

by N. Sathiyamoorthy

(August 11, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) "India's role (in Sri Lanka) is primary, and India should play that role," reports quoting Tamil Nationalist Alliance (TNA) leader R Sampanthan have said. "Colombo has never come up with a political solution that could pose a 'political challenge' to the LTTE. If that comes up they cannot say no," he is believed to have said further, after talks with visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit in Colombo.

For India to play any role, leave alone a 'primary role', New Delhi should be convinced of the desire of all stakeholders to the 'ethnic issue' wanting it so. Past experience has left a bad taste in India as a whole. This has got reflected in the attitude of the average Tamil and the approach of every major political entity even in Tamil Nadu in recent decades.

Campaigns to the contrary, the Tamil polity and society in Sri Lanka need to understand, could produce political ripples in India for a time but do not going to change the ground situation in Sri Lanka. There has to be either a change of ground situation, or a change of heart on the part of the LTTE – or, both, if India or any other nation or group has to play the peace facilitator's role in Sri Lanka, one way or the other. If such were the case, the TNA would not require anyone from outside, but could don the role itself.

The LTTE leadership is wanted in India, for facing trial in the 'Rajiv Gandhi assassination case'. Both the LTTE and the LTTE-sympathetic TNA have also run down the India-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987, on which the Thirteenth Amendment and the Provincial Councils Act in Sri Lanka are based. The latter provided for the merger of the North and the East.

Having rejected the Agreement outright at one stage, the TNA now wants a part of it. The part pertains to the merger of the North and the East. However, the TNA is silent on the clause for the LTTE to lay down arms before merger. The Provincial Councils Act too had this clause. While striking down the merger, citing what would pass for technical reasons, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court made a pointed reference to the implementation of the clause.

The Sri Lankan Government is not talking about re-merger. If anything, it has often declared that it would be ready to talk to the LTTE if the latter laid down arms. Whether re-merger could form a part of the agenda is a question that the LTTE and the TNA should ask themselves.

As is known, 'merger' under the Provincial Councils Act had to clear a referendum in the East. Doubts thus persisted even at the outset about a uniform support for the merger in the East. It would be more so today, when the Province has been de-merged and has an elected Government.

Apart from the Sinhalese, there is now a section of the 'ruling Tamils' in the East, who may have different views on the merger/re-merger issue. The Muslim community in the East, which is as divided politically as their Tamil brethren, may hold the key. The TNA needs to strategise for facing a referendum if it wants the de-merger/re-merger issue put back on the table. After all, a solution of the kind cannot be allowed to reopen a festering wound.

The TNA has also to be clear in its mind on what kind of 'political solution' it has in mind. It cannot stop with charging Colombo with not coming up with anything – even if the journalistic euphemism in this context referred only to the incumbent Rajapaksa dispensation.

Differences might have surfaced – justified or otherwise – but the India-Sri Lanka Agreement, piloted by UNP President J R Jayewardene, and the 'Chandrika Package' from a rival SLFP Government were in fact efforts by Colombo to end the political stalemate. Both the LTTE and the TNA (or the latter's TULF predecessor as it stood at the time) chaffed at both, just as the much-needed 'Sinhala consensus' too eluded them both.

Later, when the cease-fire agreement (CFA) became a reality, and Sri Lanka had a period of peace and relative prosperity, it was the LTTE that derailed the process. It was true that the predecessor Government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe did not respond in any clear way to the controversial ISGA proposals of the LTTE. That did not mean that the LTTE should have begun taking it out on the successor regime of President Rajapaksa – that too after 'facilitating' his election by enforcing a boycott of the polls by the Tamil community.

Granting that other stakeholders have no problem about India playing a 'primary role', it may now be time for the TNA to decide where it stood vis a vis the LTTE, the Tamil polity, the Sri Lankan Government, and of course, India, too. It is not that it needs to snap the umbilical cord linking to the LTTE, but it needs to decide for itself if it can for a change influence the LTTE on matters of politics, as it would like the rest of the world to believe.Having found a suitable answer for the question, the TNA may then have to find its real place in the scheme of things evolving in the Tamil polity in Sri Lanka – particularly if does not want to be left behind from emerging situations. It has already happened in the East, and is threatening to happen in the North as well – if and when the Government, for instance, decided to conduct popular elections of some kind, with or without an earlier end to the ethnic war in the Province as a whole.

Across the table, yes, the TNA has to decide if it is going to lay down pre-conditions for talks with the Sri Lankan Government, or for the Indian facilitation. The TNA and the LTTE part, other issues and other stake-holders are also involved before any decision could be taken on India playing any role on peace-making in Sri Lanka.

Yet, none can wish away the Indian concerns, flowing from a variety of contexts. It is these concerns that are at the bottom of the Indian interest in the affairs of Sri Lanka. It is also these concerns – including issues of Sri Lankan sovereignty on the one hand, and of the ethnic strife, on the other --- that keep pulling India in, as the key third-nation player in the Sri Lankan context. Some of it would still remain long after the ethnic conflict had been resolved to the satisfaction of all stake-holders from within Sri Lanka.

India may be in the thick of events in Sri Lanka, but is not a part of them. For India to play a greater role than already in seeking to resolve the 'ethnic issue', the TNA delegation – the TNA-LTTE combine would have to display a greater change of attitude and approach. After all, the last time round when India got involved, it was the LTTE and the pre-TNA TULF that had problems with the '87 Agreement. Having said that India could not sign the Agreement for them, they would need to revisit the past and review their own position, if Indian diplomacy would have to have lasting sanctity.

Against this, the Sri Lankan Government of the day had adopted the Agreement, and passed the required domestic laws for implementation. The incumbent has now removed the political anomaly that had impeded the emergence of a 'Sinhala consensus'. After all, the SLFP was opposed to the Agreement, and even the later-day Chandrika Package side-stepped the issue by tending to offer more. It is another matter that the LTTE-TNA rejected it, too.

In a way, if the TNA, and the LTTE too, could come around and acknowledge the India-Sri Lanka Agreement as such, then there would be no need for India to play a role, leave alone a 'primary role'. There would of course be a need for updating the Agreement clauses to reflect the larger and present-day sentiments and thinking, and for coming up with facilitating pieces of legislation.

For this to happen, the TNA would have to talk to the Sri Lankan Government, and with all other stakeholders inside the country, APRC or no APRC. And as Minister Laksman Yapa Abeywardene is believed to have said, LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran could well become the Chief Minister, though only of the de-merged North.

That could well be for starters, as starters go. Maybe, there is still scope for re-negotiating a 'Tamil Province', within the APRC or outside it, if only the LTTE and the TNA read the writing on the wall.. This is particularly so, after the LTTE lost the military might to keep the two Provinces together, and is not seen as being able to retrieve the lost ground, or retaining what it is now left with – and literally so.

( The writer is the Director of the Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), the Indian policy think-tank headquartered in New Delhi.)
- Sri Lanka Guardian

The Karuna Syndrome

by S.L.Gunasekara

(August 11, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Once upon a time, not so many years ago, Muralitharan Vinayagamoorthy alias Karuna was not only a self confessed member of the LTTE and the undisputed leader of that gang of terrorists in the East, but also their principal `killing machine’ who led most of their major campaigns to the great detriment of our Republic. That, however was only until the 2nd/3rd March 2004 when he, together with his followers who included Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan, [the present elected Chief Minister of the Eastern Province] broke away from the LTTE because of the discrimination constantly practiced by Prabhakaran against the Eastern Tamils in favour of the Northern Tamils, and became the sworn enemy of his former comrades in treason and genocide.

Karuna having been the undisputed leader of the LTTE terrorists in the East, he, together with those under his command must necessarily take responsibility for the horrendous crimes against humanity committed by the LTTE in that Province which, by comparison, make the two horrible crimes presently being investigated by the Commission of Inquiry, namely, the murders of 5 youth in Trincomalee and 17 in Muttur, fade into relative insignificance.

These crimes committed in the East include the murders of about 678 helpless Sinhalese and Muslim policemen who had laid down arms and surrendered to the LTTE at Thirukkovil, Batticaloa and Trincomalee; the murders of about 140 devout Muslims praying in the Meera Jumma and Husseiniya Mosques at Kathankudy; 127 Muslim civilians while sleeping in their homes at Saddam Hussein Village, Poovaikadu and Kalavaichanai at Eravur; 30 Pupil Buddhist Monks and 4 civilian laymen while traveling in a Bus at Arantalawa; 62 Muslim civilians at Nintavur and 40 at Akkarapattu, 57 Sinhalese civilians while sleeping in their huts at Gonagala, another 25 at Bogamuyaya and another 42 Sinhalese at Galwaraya [also called Kallarawa]; and 25 Sinhalese civilian bus travelers at Pottuvil and another 25 at Pulmoddai. Apart from these ghastly murders they committed countless murders of members of the three services.

Despite the indescribably horrendous nature of these crimes and their total repugnance to all known concepts of “International Humanitarian Law”, no foreign countries or so called `Peace Activists’ saw fit to demand that Karuna and his followers [now Karuna, Pillaiyan and their followers] be disarmed. No purported shock and horror even remotely resembling that displayed by them in respect of the above-mentioned Trincomalee and Muttur Murders were displayed by them in respect of these crimes of mind-boggling proportions.

Today, things are different. Since breaking ranks with the LTTE, the followers of Karuna/Pillaiyan [called the TMVP for convenience] do not engage in genocidal attacks on Sinhalese or Muslims; they do not murder members of our Armed Forces or Police. However, they have turned their guns on the excrescence called the LTTE, and it is alleged [probably with considerable truth] that they continue to extort money from, abduct and kidnap civilians as they did while they were part and parcel of the LTTE.

It was only after these TMVP cadres ceased their genocidal attacks on civilians and on our Armed Forces and Police, and turned their guns on the LTTE, that various foreigners, so called `Peace Activists’ and even the UNP demanded that they be disarmed !! To this cacophony of treacherous voices was added that of the LTTE with a similar demand!What is even more significant is that none of the self appointed guardians of International Humanitarian Law whether local or foreign ever demanded the disarming of the LTTE though they continue to launch genocidal attacks on Sinhalese and Muslim civilians; murder our troops; train youth of both genders to commit suicide by strapping explosives to their persons and exploding them so as to murder selected persons and any others who happen to be in the vicinity; and not only abduct and kidnap civilians but also use kidnapped children and other children duped into joining them as cannon fodder, thereby destroying future generations and the continued existence of the Tamil race in Sri Lanka.

It would thus appear that these purported `do gooders’:-

n have no objection to the LTTE remaining armed and see no reason why they should be disarmed;

n had no objection to Karuna and his followers being armed and saw no reason why they should be disarmed so long as they were part and parcel of the LTTE and committed mass murders, extortion, kidnapping and abduction at the behest of the LTTE;

n but see every reason why Karuna and his followers [now the TMVP] should be disarmed because they have stopped committing such crimes on behalf of the LTTE and have turned their guns on the LTTE and hence contributed to the restoration of peace !

The reader will, no doubt, draw his own conclusions from these indisputable facts.

Notwithstanding what I have said above, I do not, for a moment contend that the TMVP should be permitted to remain armed as a permanent measure. The Rule of Law, the maintenance of which is a sine qua non for good governance demands loud and clear that only the armed forces and the police force of the state should bear arms.

In an `ideal situation’, both the LTTE and the TMVP should have been disarmed. The situation that prevails, however, is anything but ideal. The Republic is, on the one hand engaged in a `battle to the finish’ with the LTTE and, has, on the other hand to contend with the presence in the Eastern Province and parts of the North Central Province, of the illegally armed TMVP.

The TMVP, however, has proven its hostility to the LTTE [I will not go so far as to say loyalty to the Republic] by turning its guns on the LTTE, and assisting our Forces to cleanse the East of the polluting presence of the LTTE. Its current activities too do not, at least at present, indicate that it poses or will pose a threat to the Republic as the LTTE does, and has always done. In these circumstances, reason and commonsense demand that our forces should complete the job at hand, namely, annihilating the LTTE with all its resources without diluting that effort by diverting any of its resources to disarming the TMVP – for if they do not complete that `job at hand’, the damage to the Republic and the avoidable loss of life, limb and property will be incalculable.

The TMVP itself claims a purported `right’ to remain armed on the basis that they need arms to protect themselves against the LTTE. The periodic murders of members of the TMVP by the LTTE add credence, though not legality to that claim. The TMVP has also, at various times undertaken to surrender arms once the LTTE is defeated and disarmed. Thus, after the defeat of the LTTE, the TMVP will have no ground or basis whatsoever, on which to claim a right to carry arms, and if they do not surrender them, our forces which will then not have to contend with the LTTE would be totally justified in disarming the TMVP – indeed it would be their duty to do so.

Of all the medley of anti-national voices demanding the disarming of the TMVP, the strangest is that of the UNP – for it was the UNP which, by the disastrous Ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE agreed to disarm all Tamil `paramilitary groups’ – [i.e. those former terrorist groups who were then fighting the LTTE] and permitted the LTTE to continue to possess arms ammunition, explosives and military equipment to their hearts content. In doing so, the UNP committed the manifest outrage of agreeing to disarm our `friends’ while permitting the enemy to remain armed. Many of our `friends’ who were so disarmed paid with their lives for that act of perfidy of the UNP.

In committing this act of perfidy, the UNP was only being `consistent’ in their `policy’ of pandering to the LTTE. Can we ever forget the disastrous period of President Premadasa’s purported `peace talks’ with the LTTE in 1990 ? Then, the LTTE was given a licence to remain armed, re-arm [indeed the Premadasa Government gifted arms to the LTTE with the tax-payers’ money as the Wickremesinghe Government gifted them with sophisticated Radio Transmitting Equipment] to kill, kidnap and abduct whom they liked and to extort money from helpless citizens to replenish their `war chest’ with absolute `impunity. At the same time, that Government engaged in a relentless military campaign together with various `para-military’ groups such as PRAA, to annihilate the JVP and murdered any Sinhalese youth found in possession of even a locally manufactured fire-arm [a `Galkatas’] while the LTTE terrorists were permitted to carry and even use automatics !!!

No doubt, two `wrongs’ do not make a `right’. However, the `wrong’ of not disarming the TMVP is in no way comparable to the those treacherous `wrongs’ committed by the Premadasa and Wickremesinghe Governments. The TMVP does not appear to pose or to be likely to pose a threat to the Republic, while the LTTE always posed and continues to pose such a threat.

Permitting the TMVP to remain armed is a practical necessity in order to eliminate the LTTE while permitting the LTTE to remain armed only strengthened the LTTE and increased the threat to the Republic.

How, in these circumstances does the UNP have the gall to demand the disarming of the TMVP? Has it forgotten its recent malodorous past so soon ? Or is it so totally without shame as to make a `street-walker’ seem a `vestal virgin’ ?
- Sri Lanka Guardian

15-th SAARC Summit: Leave "terrorism" plank!

Colombo to change the SAARC perspective

(This is a comprehensive report of the 15 SAARC Summit in Colombo and it throws some light on the issues and challenges facing the forum and offers some suggestions to improve the functioning of the SAARC.)

by Dr Abdul Ruff in New Delhi To Sri Lanka Guardian

(August 11, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Eight SAARC nations, namely Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, India and Maldives met in Colombo on 2-3 August essentially to discuss issues including trade imbalance, poverty, food crisis, price-rise, climate change and terrorism. Rising tensions in Kashmir, deadly bombs blistering through Indian cities with Indian media-cum-intelligence speculation that Muslim “militants” are behind the series of blasts, issues of nuclear power and prestige, these, rather than poverty alleviation of a third of the world's population who call this region their home, will most likely dominate the talks even as the summit winds down today. Its non cooperation is best reflected by the fact that intra-regional trade of SAARC is still said to be only approximately 5.5% of the total trade of the member countries. In negotiations it is more a focus on the differences rather than the similarities that hold sway.

While discussing “terrorism” the leaders always skip the major component of terrorism, the state terrorism. Unfortunately, the issue of so-called “terrorism” has been haunting the SAARC, rather than any joint economic enterprises. India, the major player in the region with its new economic muscle got out of the public sector sales, has been using the SAARC to strengthen its hold over Kashmir and to warn the freedom seeking Kashmiris and hence "terrorism" has remained the focus of its addresses. That seems to be the crux of the weakening scenario in the South Asian region. Invariably acts of terrorism take place on thieve of international summits and SAARC is no exception. That India remains focused on anti-Pakistanism and anti-Kashmiris is not news for the world. It is because India occupies its neighbor Kashmir that terrorism is sustained and promoted by New Delhi to gain sympathy form the US-led West. India also is always talking about combating the menace of "terrorism" but the facts are not unknown to SAARC.

Terrorism in Kashmir is the creation of New Delhi strategists to suppress the freedom movement and secret grave-yards characterize Indian democracy and neo-Gandhian approach to settling crises. New Delhi believes it should control the Kashmiris seeking their sovereignty back from occupier India with an iron hand which India has successfully done so far. India slams Pakistan as a routine matter to evade any serious business in SAARC.

Violence has always been on the top of the agenda of SAARC summits. A declaration was made in 1987 at the Kathmandu summit due to the increase in sectarian violence in Sri Lanka and the rise of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.

The myriad problems of SAARC countries cannot be solved through a one-off resolution on terrorism. Security, prosperity and economic integration can only be achieved by the strength of equality, unity, fraternity and soft borders. Due to these opposing forces, Saarc has failed to achieve its objectives of integrating the region as an economic, social, cultural and scientific entity. This is highly evident when it comes to the free movement of peoples across the region. There are visa restrictions, mostly for visitors traveling from Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh to India.

Challenges for SAARC

A productive and fruitful 15th SAARC summit was concluded at the BMICH in Colombo with high focus laid on taking collective action to confront Food and Energy Hikes in the region as well as the scourge of terrorism. Food and energy security, terrorism, climate change, water, poverty alleviation get top billing. SAARC has to concentrate on food security, climate conditioning and diseases and also focus on improving the socioeconomic condition of 1.5 billion people in the region. Apart from food, fuel and trade issues, critical issue of climate change, water resources, transport, social issues, terrorism, women empowerment and cooperation in science and technology dominated the summit talks.

The Colombo Declaration on the basis of ‘Partnership for Growth for Our People’ was also considered and adopted. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who emphasized on the need for a common SAARC currency, underscored the prime importance of economic and commercial cooperation in the region. Outlining the global ramifications of reduced food availability in turn leading to high prices, and increasing energy costs, if not addressed to, he said, would reverse the progress and the development achieved by the respective governments. He stressed for developing alternative and renewable sources of energy including hydro-power, solar, wind and bio, and making the necessary reforms in increasing energy efficiency, transferring technology and in energy trading, asides conserving conventional sources of energy. Rajapaksa stressed the importance of implementing the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) in both letter and in spirit, accompanied by the resolution of the non-tariff barriers within the region, which result in the dilution of the benefits derived. The Energy Ministers of the SAARC countries are due to meet in Colombo next year to pursue them further.

The Host Rajapaksa welcomed the Observers namely the People’s Republic of China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mauritius, the United States of America, Australia, Myanmar and the EU and appreciated their participation in the Summit. They approved the guidelines for cooperation and looked forward to working with them in the common pursuit of the partnership for growth for our people. They will make every possible effort to make SAARC function effectively and efficiently for the overall benefit of the region.

All leaders spoke at the summit calling for concerted efforts by all members to bring about changes in the region, while discussing the issues facing each country, but very little was said about clear ways to achieve the collective effort. India and Afghanistan dwelt upon “terrorism” as if SAACK is meant only to kill the Muslims and other who seek equality and genuine rights.

Bangladesh Foreign Adviser Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhruy remarked that the recent price-hike of food globally has reminded us of urgent need to address the situation comprehensively. The food crisis has affected the poorest segment of the society. Food security would constitute an important area of our collective endeavors. He said that SAARC Food Bank need to be made operational immediately to give a human face to the organization's work. Bangladesh seeks another Green Revolution based on technology and innovative techniques.

Critical Issues

1. Kashmir

Tensions between Pakistan and India - SAARC’s biggest and most powerful members and Sri Lanka's two largest neighbors- have also been exacerbated by continued hostilities in the disputed border area of Kashmir. India has accused Pakistan of violating a ceasefire accord in Kashmir, and troops from both sides traded gunfire recently, India was keen to keep terrorism on the top of the agenda. If the Kabul bomb that ripped through the Indian Embassy prompted Indian National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan to immediately point fingers at Pakistan's Spy Agency ISI, calling it an 'Agency of Evil that must be destroyed,' India's covert Research and Analysis Wing has been viewed with no less animosity in many parts of the region. Pakistan did not want to make Sri Lanka a playground for regional issues. India, which also supplies arms, reacts with anger over Pakistan's continuous military support for Sri Lanka's war.

India derives, rather extracts, a lot of sadistic pleasure in blaming Pakistan and Kashmir for its own makings and for nothing. Indian occupation of Jammu Kashmir is the base cause for the regional tensions. The SAARC region has one of the highest number of people living under the poverty line. And India has made SAARC one of the weakest forums in the world. One is entitled to suspect that it is the very nature of this region's people and its selfish leaders that often make it so.

Illegal occupation of Kashmir by India and the mistrust between India and Pakistan, the two strongest members, have seriously harmed the efficacy and effectiveness of SAARC as a well-knit economic organization. India should consider surrendering sovereignty back to the struggling and dying Kashmiris and that Kashmir should join SAARC as a full member.

2. Poverty reduction

The SAARC was established with the aim of promoting the welfare of the people of the region through accelerated economic growth, social progress and cultural development. It has been pursuing collaboration in the area of agriculture and rural development, health and population activities, women, youth and children, education and environment among others. In this way, the objectives of the SAARC are to promote the welfare of the people of this region through the fulfillment of the SAARC Development Goals (SDG).

The South Asian region has enormous development potential. Yet, in many ways, its ability to address the problem of poverty has been limited. Creating opportunities to reduce poverty is a key issue. It has been recognized that without sustainable growth, we would be following a road that leads to the redistribution of poverty.

SAARC efforts, therefore, should be aimed at broadening and deepening the development process in ways that enlarge the basis of achieving a high rate of economic growth with a combination of mutually reinforcing factors.

The poor in our region not only have few income opportunities, they also lack access to basic human needs such as education, health, clean drinking water, sanitation and a clean environment. Limited access to these facilities limits their ability to secure gainful employment, and earn a respectable social status.

The problem tends to worsen when institutions of governance tend to ignore the true dimensions of poverty, and in the process do very little to address the issue.

The most important target of this development framework is to reduce the percentage of the population living below the food poverty line by one half by 2015 as set out by the Millennium Development Goals.

This can be accomplished through increased economic opportunities for the poor, implementation of policies regarding their empowerment, improved access to physical and social assets and social safety nets for those who are too weak to participate in the market-based growth process.

However, there is no massive awareness about the SDGs even among the conscious segment of the society. The lack of awareness about regional and global goals is also because of the failure of the policymakers and officials to use the media as a tool.

It demands that a new approach in development be adopted. Furthermore, a renewed commitment for a collective approach would be a driving force for this. The leaders who have gathered in Colombo this week should make firm commitments for the fruitful and timely achievements of the main over-arching goal of poverty alleviation.

The agreements & communiqué

The Heads of State, Foreign Ministers of the respective countries reached consensus on several issues; a) Charter of SAARC Development Fund (SDF) b) Agreement on the Establishment of South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO); SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and the Protocol on Accession of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). SAARC underscored the importance of combating global terrorism, a menace particularly rampant in the region which if not eradicated, would affect the region’s stability and security. The members have ensured the signature at this summit of the Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, condemned all forms of terrorist violence, and emphasized that our States should firmly cooperate, especially through the exchange of information on terrorism and organized crime. As a far-sighted SAARC project to unite the youth of the region, they have directed the South Asian University to commence its first session in 2010.

They also agreed to host the 16th Summit meeting of the SAARC Heads of State in the Maldives in 2009.

The two-day 15th SAARC Summit Sunday adopted a 41-point Colombo Declaration articulating commitments of the South Asian leaders to implement the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) in its letter and spirit through issuing directives for removing trade barriers and giving special consideration to LDCs in the bloc. In the communiqué the SAARC leaders recognized the need to continue to address the major barriers hindering effective trade liberalization in the region, which include sensitive lists of items and Non-Trade Barriers (NTBs). The declaration focused on collective regional efforts in core areas of food, energy security, trade, combating terrorism, climate change, connectivity, terrorism, partnership for growth for the peoples of the region, environment, water resources, poverty alleviation, SDF, transport, ICT Development, SAFTA and Trade Facilitation and SAARC Social Charter.

The member-states want that the SAARC Food Bank be urgently operationalized, the SAARC Agriculture Perspective 2020 drawn up early and forge greater cooperation with the international community to ensure food availability and nutrition security in South Asia.

The declaration stressed to make effort to move towards a uniform applicable low tariff for international direct-dial calls within the region; fast-tracking projects for improving intra-regional connectivity and facilitating economic, social and people-to-people contact. The South Asian heads of state or government resolved to work together on environment and climate change to prevent and address the threats to the livelihood of the peoples and to provide access to remedies when these rights are violated. They would also find an equitable distribution of responsibilities and rights among member-states and emphasized the role of cultural connectivity in bringing the peoples of South Asia closer, while reinforcing and projecting a distinct South Asian identity. They directed that the Agenda for Culture be implemented in full.

In view of the emerging global situation of reduced food availability and worldwide rise in food prices, we direct that an Extra-ordinary Meeting of the Agriculture Ministers of the SAARC Member States be convened in New Delhi, India in November 2008, to evolve and implement a people-centered short to medium term regional strategy and collaborative projects that would, among others, lead to:

• Increase in food production;
• Investment in agriculture and agro-based industries;
• Agriculture research and prevention of soil health degradation;
• Development and sharing of agricultural technologies;
• Sharing of best practices in procurement and distribution; and
• Management of the climatic and disease-related risks in agriculture.

The net result of the summit was an agreement on a Partnership for Growth for the Peoples of South Asia, Regional cooperation Energy, Environment, Water Resources, Poverty Alleviation, SAARC Development Fund (SDF), Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Development, Science and Technology, Tourism, SAARC Social Charter, Culture, SAFTA and Trade Facilitation, Trade in Services, Women and Children, Education and Combating Terrorism. The leaders endorsed the Colombo Declaration of the fifteenth SAARC Summit.

The leaders renewed their resolve for collective regional efforts to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development which would promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and improve their quality of life and thereby contribute to peace, stability, amity and progress in the region.

The four agreements that got the seal of approval of the South Asian countries, as representatives from the observer-states looked over, are the Charter of SAARC Development Fund, agreement on the Establishment of South Asian Regional Standard Organization (SARSO), SAARC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and Protocol on Accession of Afghanistan to South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement.

Appreciating the signing of the SAARC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters at the 15th summit today, they urged early ratification and implementation of the new common instrument of fight.

The heads of state or government renewed their resolve for collective regional efforts to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development which would promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and improve their quality of life and thereby contribute to peace, stability, amity and progress in the region.

They directed the SAFTA committee of experts to expeditiously resolve the issue of non-tariff and para-tariff measures to facilitate and enhance trade under the free-trading regime stipulated in the now-dormant SAFTA.

On combat against terrorism, the SAARC leaders expressed deep concern over the "serious threat posed by terrorism to the peace, stability and security of the region".
They emphasized the need for strongest possible cooperation in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime amongst the relevant agencies of the member-states, especially in the area of information exchange.


On energy front, the heads of state or government stressed the urgent need for developing the regional hydro potential, grid connectivity and gas pipelines.
They noted that the possibility of evolving an appropriate regional inter-governmental framework may be explored to facilitate such an endeavor.


On poverty alleviation, the declaration emphasized undertaking sustained efforts, including developing and implementing regional and sub-regional projects towards the attainment of SAARC Development Goals (SDGs). It was stated that the decision by the Ministers on Poverty Alleviation to obtain an inter-governmental midterm review of the attainment of the SDGs to be completed by 2009. The SAARC leaders welcomed Nepal's offer to host next Ministerial Meeting on poverty alleviation.

They expressed satisfaction at the signing of the SAARC Development Fund and also the launch and identification of the projects on women empowerment, maternal and child health and teacher training under the social window of SDF. They accepted with appreciation Bhutan's offer to set up SDF Secretariat in Thimpu. Acknowledging the significant steps taken to alleviate poverty in the region, the heads of state or government resolved to combat poverty by all available means, especially through people's empowerment.

On transport sector, expressing satisfaction at the progress through the meetings of the Ministers of Transport, the SAARC leaders reiterated the critical importance of an efficient multimodal transport system in the region for integration and for sustaining the region's economic growth and competitiveness. They urged early implementation in a gradual and phased manner of the proposals of the SAARC Regional Multimodal Transport Study (SRMTS) and took note of the progress made in the consideration of the draft of Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA).


The leaders also emphasized the need for assessing and managing its risks and impacts. In this regard, they called for an in-depth study on "Climate Justice".
The declaration carries concern at the human loss suffered through natural disaster in the region and stress on the need for the timely provision of relief in humanitarian emergencies. They directed creating a Natural Disaster Rapid Response Mechanism to adopt a coordinated and planned approach to meet such emergencies under the aegis of the SAARC Disaster Management Centre.

They expressed deep concern over global climate change and its impact on the lives and livelihoods in the region while expressed satisfaction at the adoption of SAARC Action Plan and Dhaka Declaration on Climate Change by the SAARC Environment Ministers at the SAARC Ministerial Meeting in the Bangladesh capital on July 3, 2008.
On water resources, the SAARC leaders directed initiation of process of capacity building and encouragement of research, combining conservation practices such as rainwater harvesting, and river- basin management to ensure sustainability of water resources in South Asia.

Expressing deep concern at the looming global water crisis, they recognized that South Asia must be at the forefront of bringing a new focus to the conservation of water resources.

Some Observations: Irrelevance of SAARC?

Leaders from eight South Asian nations – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – have outlined an ambitious set of goals for the 15th Saarc summit, which include poverty alleviation, ensuring food security, tackling energy shortfalls and fighting terrorism. There is skepticism that Saarc with varies voices can tackle such a to-do list. Saarc is notorious for issuing declarations full of rhetoric while there is little implementation of these directives. The grouping was formed to foster economic development in the region but old rivalries among members have blocked progress for the group.

SAARC, now at 23 years of age, could not yet create any significant impact in the minds of the people as an organization contributing towards the welfare of one fifth of the total population of the world. During this long time, the delay in implementation of decisions featured as unfortunate bottleneck and red tape emerged as a major impediment.

South Asian nations waste huge resources on military equipment and upgradation on a regular basis, while India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka spend about 20 % of their scarce resources that could have been used for poverty reduction, health care including diseases eradication. In fact in the name of defense every country is cheating their own voters and swindles their money on bribery and commissions. One wonders why India is so weapon thirsty and amazes such huge piles of arms arsenals, when a good majority of people are under poverty line, malnourished and sick. .

According to the World Bank, South Asia is the poorest, the most illiterate, the most malnourished, the least gender sensitive and the most deprived region of the world. It contains about 22 percent of the world’s total population. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s poor live in this region. More than three quarters of South Asia’s 1.5 billion people earn less than two dollars a day. Almost all the countries of this region are facing similar problems like poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, diseases, income inequality, low productivity and dependence on agricultural sector. Thus the socio-economic condition of this region as a whole is in shambles. In order to deal with all such challenges it was in 1985 that Saarc was formed. But as a whole it has failed miserably to make any significant headway pertaining to the development of the region. The reasons are many. Political reasons are especially the most notable hurdle in making this South Asian body stronger. There are more intra-state and inter-state conflicts in South Asia as compared to any other regional bloc in the world

Deep-seated hostility between India and Pakistan has paralyzed key economic pacts, including the setting up of a free trade area. But with Pakistan’s new trade policy, according to which Pakistan would allow a greater range of imports from India, including diesel, it is hoped that the South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta) agreement would be followed in letter and spirit. By expanding trade links with India, Pakistan has moved forward towards implementing Safta. The Saarc countries should not forget that economic ties are the strongest in today’s world.

India still refuses to involve the freedom fighting groups in peace talks fearing embarrassment on its part to account for genocides, destructions and secret grave-yards in Kashmir. India arrogance is causing problems. Manmohan Singh in his previous meetings with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, had sought to push the peace process even though other experiments like the joint mechanism on “terrorism” have predictably failed, because Kashmiris were never involved in the talks, no the issue of freedom was on their agenda. Granting sovereignty back to Kashmiris by India alone will pave the right path for regional normalcy and peace.

Tensions are now rising again due to an attack on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan last month that New Delhi blames on “elements” in Pakistan and a clash between Indian and Pakistani forces along the LoC. Pakistan has denied allegations its spies helped bomb the Indian embassy in Afghanistan, and there have been renewed border tensions over Kashmir. The row threatened to overshadow the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (Saarc) summit in Colombo. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry issued another denial, describing the claims as "total rubbish". In the backdrop of the US-India Nuke deal the concerns have not only strained Pakistan-US relations but fueled tension between Pakistan and India. The one way to overcome the political differences would be to boost trade between the Saarc countries.

Since the establishment of SAARC, more often than not the nations fail to reach a consensus on many issues and most agreements are signed on a bilateral basis. Many observers have also pointed out that the rivalry between India and Pakistan and the longstanding dispute over Kashmir casts a shadow over the camaraderie and effectiveness of the entire exercise.

In the Dhaka Declaration in December 1985, the Heads of State or Government present conceded that these countries of South Asia were faced with the formidable challenges posed by stark poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment and teeming population and sharing an imperialistic past. They concurred that regional cooperation provided a logical response to these problems. But even today these countries along with its newest member Afghanistan are far from having realized their goal. Many say it's the summit of eight leaders of the region only makes for a nice photo opportunity, nothing else.

So-called terrorism has to be checked not by counter –terrorism but with measures that address the genuine concerns of those who take extreme steps as the only option open to them. However, the Convention for Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters would provide a broad framework for the SAARC member countries to mutually cooperate and assist in the investigation and prosecution of crime and extremism, including state terrorism. However all unnecessary caution has to be observed when determining the crime and just don’t leave the matters to the security services alone.

The speculations are rife regarding writing off the SAAC as an effective regional forum to augment the harnessing human natural resources for the furtherance of regional uplift. Like NAM and other organizations that have almost died down owing to the pressures for the time, SAARC is also being written off by the leaders themselves who want to protect their resources from being used for collective good.

The two-day 15th SAARC Summit concluded on August 03 with the adoption of Colombo declaration on food security and the signing of four agreements on cooperation in core areas under the graduating South Asian grouping. The Lankan President announced that the next SAARC Summit would be held in Male, the capital of the Maldives, in 2009. Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, delivering vote of thanks in the closing session, said, "I am looking forward to welcoming all in Male at 16th SAARC Summit in 2009." Sri Lanka will host the third Meeting of SAARC Energy Ministers in Colombo in 2009.

Sri Lanka, the current chair of SAARC, has earnestly voiced concerns to strengthen the forum to serve the region collectively. A lot is expected of Colombo now. The SAARC Development Goals in conjunction with the Millennium Development Goals would serve as a general backdrop for providing opportunities for poverty reduction in the region. The SAARC Development Goals are a step in the right direction.

Regional tensions in South Asia are the creation of India by militarizing Jammu Kashmir annexed by it in 1947. Sustained genocides on a regular basis and other criminal activities by state agencies have harmed not only Kashmiri lives, but also vitiated the atmosphere in the region. It is, therefore, certain that peace could be regained in the region when India withdraws its terror forces form Jammu Kashmir and surrender sovergnty back to the struggling Kashmiris. The ball is clearly on Indian courts.

(The Writer is a researcher in International Affairs, South Asia )
- Sri Lanka Guardian