| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( March 5, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, always had a soft corner in his heart for Mahinda, at least until his commitment to 13 Plus took a sour turn, much to India's anxiety and later disappointment with the recurring blow-hot blow-cold attitude adopted by him towards its implementation.

India's South Block mandarins were frequently reined in by Singh when they were trying to push through their self-opinionated policies on Sri Lanka. Clearly, it was Singh who held back the hands of South Block wallahs with regard to the Indian policy towards Lankan war against terrorists, which could otherwise have caused much consternation here, if they were given free reign. Singh felt giving more and more time and space to Mahinda to fulfil his commitment with regard to 13 Plus was the correct choice on his part and did so to the full.

What Mahinda would have meant from this short statement could be that he is very much aware of India's ground situation with its national election just round the corner and that whatever position India takes at the current UNHRC session he would understand it in its correct perspective. When meeting Singh at this stage Mahinda has, to depend on only one positive achievement to show for his commitments; that is of successfully holding Northern Provincial Council election. But, he has badly failed in promised devolution and also replacement of the Northern Province Governor.
But, regrettably for him, Mahinda kept on procrastinating action on the matter to such an extent that India's disillusionment grew increasingly with the passage of time, by years no less, after the conclusion of the war. Their frustration came to a head when Mahinda's attempt to tinker with the original 13A itself. That paved the way for the end of trust and confidence Singh had reposed in Mahinda. It could have helped launch the gossip about the exclamation attributed to Singh that 'I trusted him (Mahinda) too much.'

Since then Mahinda did not get any opportunity to meet Singh again, even though he tried hard to ensure Singh's attendance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM); he failed in that too, to his consternation. For the first time since Singh's change of attitude towards Mahinda, they were going to meet again at BIMSTEC conference in Myanmar.

Biswal's role in South Block

Their latest meeting came at a time when the US is pushing hard to get a third resolution against Sri Lanka passed at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Interestingly, coinciding with Singh and Mahinda's meeting at BIMSTEC, US State Department Assistant Secretary, Nisha Biswal, was scheduled to meet with India's South Block mandarins. These crucial meetings among several connected parties cannot be dismissed as mere coincidence. When Biswal last visited Sri Lanka, the general feeling among the foreign affairs cognoscenti was that she would directly visit India afterwards. But, she went directly to Britain from here. Biswal's latest visit to India's South Block presumably should have one specific reason; that is to make them aware of the contents of the US resolution tabled at the UNHRC. Mahinda and Singh were also to be discussing more or less the same subject at their meeting on the sidelines of BIMSTEC.

In this potpourri of events, one thing stands out with reasonable certainty; that is Mahinda was expected to appeal to Singh's goodwill to get the US to tone down the harshness of its resolution, as he did last time.

Mahinda, before leaving for SIMSTEC, had a press conference with foreign correspondents. At this meeting he extended his hand of friendship to India in a morale boosting friendly exercise. He said, "I don't know, but we are aware that the Indians are going to face an election just a month after the March session. The Indian political leaders have to consider their own future and take into account the mood of the electorate. We understand them."

What Mahinda would have meant from this short statement could be that he is very much aware of India's ground situation with its national election just round the corner and that whatever position India takes at the current UNHRC session he would understand it in its correct perspective. When meeting Singh at this stage Mahinda has, to depend on only one positive achievement to show for his commitments; that is of successfully holding Northern Provincial Council election. But, he has badly failed in promised devolution and also replacement of the Northern Province Governor.

Singh tied down by elections

At their meeting, Singh was sure to ask Mahinda, if he understood the political pulse of India at this election year as he had told foreign correspondents, why he would hesitate to implement 13A in full and also not replace the Governor as requested by the Chief Minister.

Singh would be fully justified if he were to ask those questions from Mahinda. His electoral fortunes in Tamil Nadu crashed to its lowest depth since he gave all out support to Mahinda to win the war. Now Jayalalithaa has created a serious political crisis by her decision to release Rajiv's murderers from prison. It has now become a constitutional crisis with serious ramifications touching on even the devolution of judicial power between Centre and States.

India had surely paid a heavy price for supporting Mahinda to the hilt. If not for Singh's and India's fullest cooperation, Mahinda would today be spending a quiet retired life at his Medamulana lairs, not at Temple Trees as country's President.

Singh's government is at the end of the line, going by the readings of all forecasts, prophesies and speculations. In facing this stark reality, Singh has only two choices; either to use his influence on the US to take the sting out of the Geneva resolution to help Mahinda or let the resolution run its course and let Mahinda face the music. If he will prefer the first of the two choices, he would certainly lose Tamil Nadu and if he sticks with the second choice he will get another chance to mend fences with it and get much needed help at the next election. If Singh helps Mahinda in any way at the UNHRC he will earn the wrath of the Tamil Nadu electorate.

In 2005, when Mahinda won the Presidential election and went to meet Singh in India he had his both legs tied up with iron weights, so to speak; Norway peace process and Tiger war machine. Singh released him from all those bonds. Now, when Singh met Mahinda, he was hobbling on one leg with the other tied down by Tamil Nadu politics. It was Mahinda's duty to relieve him from his bonds as Singh did to him when he badly needed India's help.

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