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Future of Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus – III

By B R Haran

Buddhist-Hindu unity needed to extinguish external forces

Links:  Part One & Part Two

(May 27, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) India’s new External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna cautioned Sri Lanka to begin addressing the root causes of the island’s ethnic conflict: “Addressing the root causes would include political steps towards the effective devolution of power within the Sri Lankan Constitution so that Sri Lankans of all communities, including the Tamils, can feel at home and lead lives of dignity of their own free will.”

Mr Krishna assured Indian help in rehabilitating Tamil civilians displaced by the war. While this stand by the Indian government cannot be faulted, it remains to be seen how it would deal with the present Sri Lankan government which is perceived to be Sinhala-chauvinistic, pro-China and Pak-friendly.

As the LTTE’s defeat has been a big blow to western forces backing the terrorist organisation with a motive to gain entry into the island nation in the garb of charity and human rights, it might try to recuperate with help from the Sri Lankan Diaspora. They may try to thwart India’s attempts to improve relations with Colombo, or to influence the political leadership (headed by a powerful westerner) and achieve its objectives through it. Apart from western forces, two more outside forces, Pakistan and China, could also spoil Indian attempts to move close to Sri Lanka.

It is an open secret that military cooperation between Sri Lanka and Pakistan has grown in recent years. Pakistan’s supply of arms and equipments to Lanka goes back to the 1980. It increased in 2000 when Pakistan supplied Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher System (MBRLS) and other high tech weaponry, including ammunition for artillery, to fight against LTTE’s offensive code-named ‘Operation Ceaseless Waves’ which overran Sri Lanka’s military positions in the north and captured the Elephant Pass Base to enter Jaffna.

During the high-profile visit of President Mahinda Rajapakse to Islamabad in March 2006, Sri Lanka sought heavy military aid and cooperation from Pakistan to eliminate the LTTE. Sri Lankan Army Chief Lt-Gen Fonseka visited Islamabad in May 2008, held detailed talks with his Pakistani counterpart General Kiyani, and finalized a deal worth more than US$200 million for purchase of 22 Al-Khalid tanks, mortar ammunition, grenades and ammunition for artillery and other equipments.

Pakistan reportedly agreed to supply one shipload of wherewithal every ten days to reinforce Sri Lanka’s fight against the LTTE. In January 2009, both governments agreed to enhance military cooperation in areas of training and sharing of intelligence against terrorism. It was widely reported in the Sri Lankan media that pilots from the Pakistan Air Force took part in Sri Lanka’s aerial attacks on LTTE’s military bases and that Pak army officers trained the island’s counter-insurgency forces. (Ref: External Link).

Pakistan is a country which never hesitates to strengthen its military even at the cost of its economy. It would procure equipments, weapons, arms and ammunition even as citizens reeled in poverty without a square meal a day. It utilizes the undue aid and support given by US and China only with a sense of hostility against India. It is quite natural that it maintains a close relationship with China; its help to Sri Lanka has also been under Chinese influence.

Sri Lanka’s relationship with China dates back to the 15th century as evidenced by the travelogues of Chinese travellers Fa-Hien (Faxien) and Hieun Tsang (Xuanzang), who also visited India. It is believed the Sino-Lankan relationship was suspended when the island came under colonial rule. After Independence, Colombo recognized New China in 1950 and the two countries established diplomatic relations and maintained high level contacts.

Chinese government sources say the Sri Lankan Government has always pursued a friendly policy towards China, and rendered strong support for the Taiwan and Tibet questions and human rights issues. The two countries share consensus on many major international issues and enjoy sound cooperation. Sino-Lankan trade relations have been healthy since the fifties when the “Rice for Rubber” agreement was signed in 1952. Sri Lanka continued friendly relations with China despite sanctions imposed by western nations against China. Both countries signed a Joint Communiqué in 1956, Joint Statement in 1957, Agreement on Economic and Technological Cooperation in 1962 and several agreements on economic and technological cooperation between the 1970s and 2000.
(Ref: External Link).

Two years ago, when President Rajapakse visited Beijing, he signed an agreement on the ‘Hambantota Project’ by which Chinese would build a container port, a bunkering system, an oil refinery, an airport and other facilities. Chinese are expected to finance more than 85% of the total estimated cost of US $ 1 billion. The project would be completed within 15 years and the first phase is expected to be finished by 2010. While similar projects like Gwadar in Balochistan province of Pakistan, naval and container port facilities in Chittagong, Bangladesh, radar, refit and refuel facilities in many places in and around Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia, help China consolidate its presence surrounding India. The Hambantona project will help in its strategic presence in the Indian Ocean.
(Ref: External Link).

On 1 March 2007, a gala dinner and a cultural extravaganza were held by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Beijing to celebrate the successful conclusion of the China-Sri Lanka friendship year and the 60th anniversary of the independence of Sri Lanka. The event, named "Sri Lanka - Beyond Your Dreams," drew First Lady of Sri Lanka Shiranthi Rajapaksa, China's Vice-chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress Gu Xiulian, who was also president of the All-China Women's Federation, and some 600 other guests of both countries. (Ref: External Link ).

In another grand reception hosted by the Chinese government in Beijing, Jia Quinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the two governments and peoples always respected and helped each other nurturing a friendship of generations cultivated by personages from different circles of the two nations. President Rajapakse said the bilateral friendship would remain steadfast despite changes and conflicts in the world and the Chinese people would always stand with Sri Lanka as friends and relatives. He added that Sri Lanka was ready to join hands with China to promote their friendly relations up to a higher level.
(Ref: External Link ).

Regarding Beijing’s decision to support the Lankan government in eliminating the LTTE, the Chinese Military News says it helped the island nation earlier in 2008 as well when it sold huge sophisticated weapons to Colombo and gave aid of more than $5 billion. It claims China is the largest donor to Sri Lanka and that the Sri Lankan Air Force is bedecked by the Chinese Jian-7 fighter jets, anti-aircraft guns and JY-11 3D air surveillance radars, which played a major role in getting success against LTTE rebels in recent days. The Chinese Military News confirms China started helping Lankan after Washington stopped sending aid to Colombo for breach of human rights.
(Refer: External Link ).

India has an onerous task of negotiating and convincing Sri Lanka, despite China, Pakistan and Western forces, to ensure a peaceful livelihood and equal rights for Tamil minorities. Will India do it? Unfortunately, the UPA’s performance vis-à-vis China and Pakistan in its previous term (2004-2009) was pathetic and doesn’t instill confidence. Moreover, it has been subservient to western countries which may use their might to achieve their religious agenda in Sri Lanka. The Sinhala government, in its narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness, may either enforce its Sinhala agenda brutally, or allow western forces to wreak havoc in Tamil dominated areas.

Out of the Tamil dominated East and North, the Eastern Province’s Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan has been acting as Rajapakse government’s stooge, like his party colleague and central minister Vinayagamoorthy Muralidharan alias Col. Karuna. As they don’t get along well with each other, these two men might not be effective in helping the Tamil Hindus achieve freedom and equal rights.The Northern Province also needs a Chief Minister and in the race are Samuel Chelvanayakam Chandrahasan, son of Samuel James Velupillai Chelvanayakam, Federal Party stalwart who fled the country in 1984 and did not return; and Anandasangaree, president of TULF, who consistently fought for the Tamil cause democratically and did not flee despite grave threats to his life.

Though both are against the LTTE, Anandasangaree commands more respect and affection from the Tamil community for staying with them and fighting for their rights. He is a Hindu and understands the aspirations of Tamil Hindus, who comprise 85 percent of the community. Yet political analysts feel India may attempt to get Chandrahasan as Chief Minister of the Northern Province as he is a Christian and may be preferred by the ‘Dravidian’ politicians of Tamil Nadu, who do not favour Anandasangaree. It would be better for Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus to choose Anandasangaree as their chief, as he would be a peaceful negotiator with the Sinhalese and would not become a puppet in the hands of the Dravidian-Christian nexus, besides being a senior political expert and sincere guide to Pillaiyan and Karuna (both Hindus).

The Hindu leaders of Tamil Nadu must prevail upon their Buddhist counterparts in Sri Lanka and make them aware of the imminent dangers of allowing western forces into the country in the garb of aid-merchants and NGOs. They should be reminded of the Christianisation of Buddhist countries like South Korea. The Buddhist clergy must be enlightened about the importance of Buddhist-Hindu unity, which would in turn help the easy revival of peaceful co-existence between the communities. This would effectively extinguish the machinations of other forces likely to move through the political leadership in Colombo and New Delhi.

(Concluded)

The author is a senior journalist and lives in Chennai.This article was first published in the Vijayavaani , a opnion forum.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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