Tamilnadu factor in India ’s foreign policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Dec 10 15:56:18 UTC 2008

LTTE, Tamils and Sri Lanka :

Tamilnadu factor in India's foreign policy

Dr. Ms. Santishree D. Pandit,

The pangs of proximity have its spill over effects on foreign policy.
Tamils have been a very strong linguistic group that have depended
identity based preferential politics. Their loyalty to language has
literally bordered on fanaticism that now several political parties
and the Tamil film personalities of Kollywood have refused to see the
difference between the deadliest terrorist group the LTTE and the
Tamil people.

The present resignations of Tamilnadu MPs is nothing but a ploy to
save the LTTE, which is fighting with its back to the wall as the Sri
Lankan Forces have entered the LTTE heartland, Kilinochchi. There must
be a line that must be drawn between two sovereign countries, between
LTTE a terrorist group and common Tamils, as well as the limits of
linguistic fanaticism acceptable when Tamils do it but Marathis cannot
do it for they cannot. The Government of India due to the pressures of
coalition politics is refusing to take a strong stand on terrorism or
linguistic identity politics at the same time is wary of antagonising
the only friendly neighbour we have in South Asia as well as burnt our
fingers with the IPKF experience and the Rajiv murder.


It is time that the Union Government made it clear that India's
foreign policy to Sri Lanka would be on the basis of our Security and
national interests. Terrorists are terrorists whether they are Islamic
or Tamil. Ethnic identity cannot make their acts of violence to be
condoned. In the past India made the mistake of supporting the Tamil
militant groups like the LTTE, to have a foothold in Sri Lanka and
serve India's Munroe doctrine known as the "Indira Doctrine".

This doctrine was enunciated in 1983, the year of the worst
Sinhala-Tamil riots. The doctrine looks upon India's Security as
co-terminus with the region. That region is from Afghanistan to
Myanmar and the Indian Ocean. Any interference in the region is seen
as a threat to India's Security. The Sri Lankan state has been
battling with Tamil terrorism since the 1970s. In the 1980s with
Indian help to the militants it worsened, then India tried to broker a
deal in 1987 with the Tamil terrorist groups and the Sri Lankan state
known as the Indo-Sri Lankan treaty. But this did not work as the LTTE
refused to lay down arms and India pledged to protect the integrity
and sovereignty of Sri Lanka. Hence India did not accept the idea of
separate state of Eelam.

This will affect India's position vis-a-vis separatists in Kashmir. It
was unfortunate that the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Forces) had to
return without achieving much but rather the reverse. We made both the
Sinhala Buddhists as well as the Tamil militants, whom we aided with
men, material and arms hate India. The watershed was the assassination
of Rajiv Gandhi on 21 May 1991 by the LTTE as they feared his return
to power in the elections. Rajiv Gandhi was shocked by the double
speak and diabolic game played by the LTTE, that he refused trust
these militant groups. It is no secret that several Tamil political
parties were in league, especially the present ruling party the DMK.
They allowed the dry run of Rajiv Gandhi assassination as well as
allowed the killing of KS Padmanabha by the LTTE.

The then DIG, Police Dorai, had to commit suicide as oral instructions
were given to him not to arrest the LTTE cadre that carried out the
assassination. Many believe that the top DMK leadership was in the
know of the plan to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi.

Hence the pursuit of power should not change these facts. The LTTE
should be crushed if we are serious in rooting out terrorism. Rajiv
Gandhi did the same thing in violating the Sri Lankan space and made
the Indian Air Force to save the LTTE when they were surrounded by the
Sri Lankan Armed Forces. This proved a costly mistake for India and
the same group used the Tamil civilian population as it front and
saved itself. This is what they are doing again. India cannot have a
hypocritical policy of your terrorists and our freedom fighters. This
will become a dangerous argument.

The LTTE has killed the highest number leaders including Rajiv Gandhi
and there is no repentance from them or from the Tamil political
parties who are the allies of the Congress at the Centre and the
State. It has the best record better than Al-Queda at eliminating the
top Sinhala leadership. For us it is just one, whereas for the
Sinhalese it has several. Anton Balasingham, just before his death
called the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi a strategic mistake as they
lost the support of the Indian state for sanctuary, men, material and

Ever since the first attack on Tamils by Sinhala activists in 1983,
the ethnic issue has resonated in the state's politics. Till 1990,
both the Centre and the state were helping forces like the LTTE with
arms and aid. But the gruesome murder of former Prime Minister Rajiv
Gandhi by LTTE suicide bomber shut all doors of sympathy both for the
LTTE and the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Of late the LTTE is desperately
seeking support from India and the Indian Tamils. India will have to
take a tough stand on LTTE. Peace has evaded the Tamils for more than
two decades, partly due to the LTTE tactics of peace time to stock up
arms. The pessimist side of this is that the Tamil civilian population
are caught between the allegedly racist Sri Lankan army and a dreaded
terrorist organization, which uses them as human shields. As the Sri
Lankan army has put a siege on Killinochchi, where LTTE supreme hides,
the issue has become a hot potato.

Linguistic blackmail
The resignation of the Members of Parliament tendering their
resignation is nothing but drama and unconstitutional. These MPs who
have sworn by the Indian Constitution, how could they ask for the
Union Government to intervene. Sri Lanka is a sovereign independent
state. How can we interfere when they have after more than two decades
been able to come close to crushing the deadliest terrorist group. Do
we know that the LTTE plays by the "politics of cannibalism"? That is
they kill anyone who opposes them or is seen as a threat to the
supreme leaders Vellupillai Prabhakaran. Where was Vaiko screaming
when the LTTE killed the top leadership of the moderate Tamil party
TULF? So LTTE is not fighting for the Tamils of Sri Lanka and it does
not want democracy but a dictatorship of the LTTE. It has killed so
many Tamils who dared to oppose the LTTE as well. Now the Tamil
parties want to bail out the LTTE. Their rationale, Tamils killing
Sinhalese is fine, but the reverse is genocide.

The complex and emotive issue of the Tamils and the LTTE had an all
party meeting in Tamilnadu on October 14 held in Chennai decided
unanimously to issue an ultimatum to the Central Government to "stop
the massacre of innocent Tamils in Sri Lanka and bring its Government
to the negotiating table" with the much feared LTTE within two weeks,
failing which members of Parliament elected from Tamilnadu will
resign. Vaiko of the MDMK threatened to organize youth from all over
India to fight alongside the LTTE. He also demanded that the Indian
embassy in Sri Lanka should be withdrawn as a pressure tactic.

The Tamil film industry is a partisan animal. What was the necessity
for them to march to Rameshwaram. Do they want to threaten the Sri
Lankans that Tamils will cross over? This is the fear that the Sinhala
Buddhists always had and that is why they never considered themselves
as a majority. They feel like the sub continental minority and the
Tamils as the sub continental majority. This is a warning to India's
policy of equal treatment of all linguistic groups as well as
terrorism from across the border, Pakistan.

Double standards
There are two double standards that the present Union Government is
practising. One, we have been complaining about Pakistan training the
Islamic Jihadi terrorism. Tomorrow if Pakistan MPs resign and want
Pakistan army to intervene in Kashmir, will we accept this? There is
also a coalition and survival seems utmost like for both the
governments. In India, the DMK and its allies has 40 seats, so accept
their linguistic fanaticism which is using the issue of Tamil genocide
to save the LTTE and give it enough respite to recoup and realign.
India cannot have this double policy and the Union Government should
have the courage to tell her allies in Tamilnadu that India will not
help terrorists, rather will help the Sri Lankan government to crush
this ruthless terrorist group.

Within India, the union Government has permitted rather encouraged
preferential politics for certain linguistic groups. One such group is
the Tamils, who have opposed Hindi as the official language of the
country. This is from 1937 and several of these Tamil leaders have
gone to jail and called for secession in the name of a separate
"Dravidaistan" even before Jinnah's two nation theory. It was not
until 1962 that the DMK accepted the Constitution. There were several
anti-Hindi riots and violence in Tamilnadu where only the Central
Government properties were destroyed. The State follows a two language
policy of Tamil and English.

Then may one ask by the same token Raj Thackeray's plea for the
"Marathi Manoos" is seen differently? In what way are the Tamils's
linguistic policies of anti Hindism nationalistic? How could there be
two different policies where a railway minister calls the Thackerays
"mental". One should challenge him to do the same to the Tamil
leadership who are his allies. In Tamilnadu, learning Tamil is
necessary, whereas in Maharashtra, Hindi people impose their language
and look down on the local people, their language and culture. Why not
a two language for Maharashtra, Marathi and English, on the lines of
Tamilnadu? Why cannot Marathi people, culture and language be given
primacy of place like for Tamils and other linguistic groups?

In Parliament, the great Hindi nationalists (imperialists) who advised
how the Maharastrians should love all Indians during the debate on the
MNS attack on Hindi speaking people. Why this nationalism is not
preached to the Tamils in parliament, where these Tamils are
threatening a small friendly neighbour Sri Lanka. Why did the same
great nationalists from the Hindi speaking areas and the Communists
not even bleat like a lamb, where violent and threatening speeches are
even by the Chief Minister of the State?

It is time that Indian policy is driven by certain principles and this
should be equally applied to all linguistic groups, not just to those
who are secessionist. Terrorism of whatever kind Tamil or Jihadi
should be put down with the same iron hand. It cannot dither on your
terrorist, my freedom fighter myth. There is no doubt that the LTTE is
a ruthless terrorist group. Then tomorrow Pakistan has every right to
say that Muslims support these terrorist groups, as they are our
freedom fighters, hence we will have to intervene in India to save
Muslims. Will we accept this position? Hence arrest Vaiko and all his
supporters and if need be dismiss the state government led by the DMK,
a known supporter of the LTTE. Time has come for the Union government
to take a stand and what is surprising that the party at the Centre is
not able to punish the killers of its own leader but is desperate to
hold on to power, even if that means compromising with the killers. If
this Tamil extremism in Tamilnadu is not dealt with strongly, then
terrorist groups from across will call the shots and fundamentally
change Indian politics and policy.

The writer is a Professor, Department of Politics and Public - Administration,

University of Pune-India


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