Assertive Indian foreign policy needed!

| by Rajasingham Jayadevan

( June 9, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) A fine toothcomb is not needed to understand President Mahinda Rajapakse's psyche on the resolution to the historical conflict with the Tamils.

His two prong strategy to the issue gives a very clear message. Some say it is his split approach to respond to the two distinct audiences dissimilarly. The first is his belligerent portrayal to the local audience and then the much desperate appeal to the outside world. The million dollar question is, is it really a cat and mouse game or a genuine offer to the world to help him overcome his own difficulties at home?

If the government of Sri Lanka plays its historical deceptive games to undermine any Indian efforts, India must go further to muster the international support to hold a free and fair referendum for the Tamils to consider a federal solution either to stay with Sri Lanka or to join India as its 30th federal state.

Is his uncompromising stance indoors is to belittle the international community to buy time to extricate himself from the barrage of issues fraught upon him is a matter to be answered by the international community. The judgement day is not far away as to whether the global village or the village in the globe, will succeed.

Within the borders of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse portrays him as a hard-line leader who will ensure to repudiate any claim of empowerment of Tamils. He has further strengthened the government machinery with his hard-nosed stand that has transformed the whole body politics of governance which has now circumstantially and viciously ensnaring him personally, thus preventing him from even mentioning about devolvement of powers locally.

He is entrapped. For him it is a life and death situation. One must analyse whether he is authoritative enough to exercise the absolute powers vested upon him under the constitution. Unfortunately, he is not. He is in fact enslaved by his own over blown rightwing machinery to take a definitive stand on the issue. An established, reprehensible, anti-Tamil and anti-minorities government mechanism have been further strengthened during his presidency and the situation has made him a symbolic authoritarian leader who is unable to extricate himself from the snare that threatens his own survival.

It is his brother Gotabaya Rajapakse who is moving the dice all the time and acting as the powerful President from the shadows. He has strengthened his hold to such an extent that President Mahinda Rajapakse is unable to sideline him. Shadow President Gotabaya Rajapakse has consolidated his powerbase with the defeat of the LTTE and has further strengthened his influence with the extremist Buddhist hierarchy by radicalising them further. He controls the defence forces and the saffron robed brigades of the Malwatte Asgirya Buddhist chapters. Gotabaya has, at his disposal, the powerful state defence machinery and the monks brigades to cause havoc if the President or anyone concede devolution of powers to the Tamils.

The President also evidently gambles that any international effort must out-beat the radicalised monk brigade that has the outright backing of the military.

The President is unable to deal with the unruly Buddhist clergy brigades patronised by his brother even through legislative provisions to tame and confine them to their religious monasteries. The government proscribed over 425 dead, dying and the retired LTTE activists internationally at a stroke but there is no will to deal with saffron robed brigades in the same scale. A simple statutory provision to isolate the saffron clad from entering politics without the robes would be the biggest forward step to put the country in the right path. The President is curtailed by his own stigmatised political position – a position that is the only hope for his political survival.

President Mahinda Rajapakse’s predicament is no different to the final years of Pirabakaran as the very machinery Pirabakaran founded put him on the sidelines in the bunkers to be portrayed as a figurehead. This was also the fate of Manmohan Singh when he was overwhelmingly shadowed by the noxious anti-Tamil Sonia Gandhi. Both Pirabakaran and Manmohan Singh are the victims of their own failures and their end has still not steered the momentum to settle the crisis in Sri Lanka but sentiments are pitching for the emergence of a new era.

President Mahinda’s predicament is such that he has out-rightly portrayed to the world a posture to resolve the conflict through meaningful devolution. His repeated statements to India of devolving power beyond the 13th amendment and confirming that to the UN Secretary General must be taken seriously. It may be an effort to liberate himself from his own local entrapment. The turn of events have changed with the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and in his first bilateral meeting the newly elected Prime Minister has demanded the President to translate his offer of going beyond the 13th amendment to the constitution into practical reality.

The indecisive outgoing government of Manmohan Singh that defined its foreign policy on the emotions of the Shadow Prime Minister Sonia Gandhi failed to understand the desperate President Mahinda Rajapakse. Her subdued non interventionist, non assertive anti-Tamil political stance was aimed to cause havoc on the Tamils for the death of Rajiv Gandhi in the hands of the LTTE. This empowered Sri Lanka to go on to commit heinous crimes against the Tamil civilian population. India’s post war effort of reconstruction and redevelopment is synonym to providing guns to the killer and sending the ambulance to the victims of the gun.

The tragic Indian foreign policy that has reached the malignant state needs to be revamped to an assertive one to deal with Sri Lanka with due authority.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s counterclaim of 13th Amendment plus to the President of Sri Lanka must be seen as his assertive stance to start the process with Sri Lanka. President Mahinda Rajapakse has so far done everything to undermine the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement signed in 1987 and further gone on to malign the 13th amendment by refusing to honestly implement it. India’s assertive re-engagement must restore what was achieved in 1987 and strengthen it further to ensure 13th amendment is implemented without the overwhelming influence of the impeding provisions of the concurrent list. India must negotiate to trim down the concurrent list to energise the provincial governance.

If the government of Sri Lanka plays its historical deceptive games to undermine any Indian efforts, India must go further to muster the international support to hold a free and fair referendum for the Tamils to consider a federal solution either to stay with Sri Lanka or to join India as its 30th federal state. Such merger will make the 30th state of India an inspirational one that will help India’s regional authority in a wider sense and for the Tamils an environment to grow as a secure and rich federal state of India.

The restless governance of Sri Lanka must be brought to a halt once and for all.

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