Indian PM must come for CHOGM (The Nation, Sri Lanka)
Sunday, 03 November
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh of India has not yet officially indicated whether or not he will be attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Colombo this month. Although the Oath of Office sworn by the PM and his ministers specifies that they should owe fealty only to the national - as distinct from party - interest, in reality decisions get taken that temporarily boost the fortunes of the ruling party while adversely impacting on public interest.
This is the case with Dr. Manmohan Singh’s participation in the Colombo CHOGM. The state of Tamil Nadu, with its 39 Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) seats, may decide which combination of parties gets to rule India after the 2014 polls. Both the ruling AIADMK as well as the opposition DMK (which is a partner of the Congress Party at the center) are opposed to the PM attending a summit that will be graced by every single Head of Government within the Commonwealth save Canada’s Stephen Harper, who is responding to a small section of his voters angry that their dream of an independent Tamil Eelam carved out of Sri Lanka has been laid to rest in 2009 by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
What NATO has signally failed to achieve in Afghanistan was done by the Sri Lankan military, and in order to cover up their embarrassment at being bested, the member states of NATO are seeking to belittle the 2009 victory by casting doubt on the methods.
Let it be admitted that this columnist is a supporter of US drone strikes on terrorists hiding out in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although George W Bush and Dick Cheney ensured that the US homeland was spared a second strike after 9/11, their tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan were a disaster, encouraging recruitment to Al-Qaeda rather than eliminating that scourge of humanity. Bush and Cheney enabled the leadership of Al-Qaeda to escape unmolested from Afghanistan into Pakistan, and failed to eliminate Osama bin Laden despite their joint show of machismo.
It took Barack Obama to take out bin Laden, and to intensify drone strikes in both Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. These strikes have inflicted collateral damage, and several hundred innocents have been killed along with terrorists. Yet the same world capitals that point a finger at President Rajapaksa and at Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for the death of Velupillai Prabhakaran do not call President Obama a war criminal for having ordered the execution of bin Laden in circumstances where the terrorist was unarmed and with his wives as he was gunned down by heavily armed commandos.
Barack Obama deserves congratulations for both the taking out of Osama as well as for the drone strikes, despite the incidental deaths of innocents. But for him and his NATO partners to hold the Sri Lankan government accountable by standards very different from that they set for themselves is unpardonable, which is why it is good that David Cameron is coming to Colombo.
Of course, these days NATO member-states give repeated lectures on ethics and morality to other countries, the way Jawaharlal Nehru used to in the 1950s.Certainly, Cameron will forget the collateral damage his troops have inflicted in Iraq and Afghanistan or the chaos that Whitehall policy has created in Libya and Syria when he dons the robe of a saint and lectures his Sri Lankan hosts.
India, which has long been at the receiving end of such barns from those experts in double standards of behavior, ought to have stood besides Sri Lanka rather than join hands with the NATO countries in Geneva and elsewhere. The LTTE’s Phase One objective was to secure a Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. Phase Two was to expand the homeland to cover territories in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Hopefully Prime Minister Singh will be true to his oath to the people of India and come to Colombo so that Sri Lanka remains a strategic partner of India in the Indian Ocean Rim.
We need to interlock the west coast of India, the east coast of Africa and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) into a partnership for prosperity. In such an arc, Sri Lanka should participate. Not going to Colombo would be much worse than a mistake for the Prime Minister of India. It would be a disaster.