| by M.G.Devasahayam
Former IAS Officer
( November 24, 2012, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) “Events in Srilanka mark a grave failure of the UN to adequately respond… during the final stages of the conflict and its aftermath, to the detriment of hundreds of thousands of civilians.” So said an internal United Nations report leaked by BBC in mid-November. The Report condemned UN’s failure in its mandate to protect civilians in the last months of Srilanka’s bloody civil war that ended in May 2009. Ironically, it is India that was largely responsible for this failure!
The 26-year war left at least 100,000 people dead. There are still no confirmed figures for tens of thousands of civilian deaths in the last months of battle. An earlier UN investigation said it was possible up to 40,000 people had been killed in the final five months alone. Others suggest the number of deaths could be even higher. The final months of the war saw hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians-330,000, according to the UN Panel of Experts report of 2011-trapped in the territory held by the Tamil Tigers.
The most damning part of the leaked Report is that despite a ‘catastrophic’ situation on the ground, in the capital Colombo many senior UN staff did not perceive the prevention of killing of civilians as their responsibility and there was a sustained and institutionalised reluctance among UN personnel in Srilanka to stand up for the rights of people they were mandated to assist. Obviously UN staff chose to remain silent about war crimes committed by Srilankan military. Can there be a more damning indictment of the top-heavy and money-guzzling UN establishment?
“I fought India’s war”, declared President Mahinda Rajapakse immediately after the war ended. Naturally so and Ambassador MK Bhadrakumar gives the grueling narrative: “As the curtain comes down in and we leave the theatre, the spectacle continues to haunt us. We feel a deep unease and can’t quite figure out the reason. Something rankles somewhere. And then we realise we have blood on our hands….It is the blood of 100,000 Srilankan Tamils who have perished in the unspeakable violence through the past quarter century.”
Continuing the war against Srilankan Tamils, India joined hands with the likes of China, Russia and Pakistan and defeated the Resolution moved by European Nations at UNHRC, Geneva seeking enquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Srilankan military. India’s Ambassador in Geneva himself drafted and tabled a Srilankan self-praising counter-resolution and got it passed by ganging up with several autocratic countries!
India’s anti-Tamil scheming is indeed bizarre. A retired Lieutenant General of the Indian Army was a paid Consultant to the Srilankan military and was advising them on war strategies. His brother, an Indian diplomat and UN Secretary General’s chief of staff was supervising Srilankan operations from Colombo. They worked in tandem, ably aided and abetted from Delhi by the National Security Adviser, Foreign Secretary and a top PMO functionary! India’s Ambassador to Geneva was an add-on. This well oiled Network stretching Colombo-Delhi-Geneva-New York made UN inactive during the last months/days of the war. Rest is history and the leaked UN Report only confirms this!
In the first week of November, Srilanka was hauled up by the International Community at UNHRC during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the island’s human rights record. As follow-up of the western countries-US, UK, France and Germany-effort to get the genocide and war crimes investigated by a neutral international body, countries including Sweden, Austria, Slovakia and Estonia urged Srilanka to sign the Rome Statute of 1998 that had set up the International Criminal Court so that it could investigate the horrendous war crimes. India kept deafeningly silent!
Influential countries like UK, USA and Canada asked for a political solution based on devolution of power to the Tamil-speaking provinces. India kept mumbling about this, but did not join these countries. Taking advantage of India’s impotency, Srilanka government is sitting pretty suppressing all democratic, fundamental and basic rights of its minority citizens.
For public consumption India’s foreign policy mandarins came out with some outlandish reasons to justify India’s Srilanka policy. These included ‘Zero-tolerance’ against terror; National Security; safeguarding geophysical interest in the region; preventing the sowing of the seed of ‘secession’ in Tamil Nadu and expansion of business, trade and commerce in Srilanka.
All these are spin except the last one as is clear from the New Delhi based Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies Report titled “India’s Srilanka Policy-Towards Economic Engagement’ (2008). The Report exposes that India’s ‘conflict resolution drama in Srilanka’ is pure farce and instead of India-Srilanka relationship focused on conflict intervention, India’s foreign policy has pushed economic engagement into the lead role in bilateral relations. The success of this suggests that India has been pushing a policy emphasizing on economic relations and backing away from the highly contentious political issues of conflict-resolution.
Post-war, India is continuing with the same puerile agenda as stated by another Ambassador-G.Parthasarathy (2012): “India’s ties with Srilanka will inevitably be strengthened on the basis of growing and mutually beneficial trade and economic relations. India views Srilanka as a country whose past performance and potential for rapid economic growth make Srilanka a reliable and long term partner for bilateral and regional economic cooperation and integration as well as FDI….” Let democracy, dignity and human rights be damned!
One message is clear. Liberty-driven democracy agenda has been replaced by Greed-driven ‘development’ agenda. This is what governments are doing within India and GoI is pursuing in Srilanka. Hence the simmering cauldron in the island and India’s utter failure in bringing peace!
This is reflected in the sense of betrayal among Srilankan Tamils that India has sold off their self-respect and dignity for a mess of pottage: “Thirty-five years of armed struggle to ‘reestablish the lost sovereignty of the Tamils’ was crushed by the same State with the support of International Community under the pretext of counter-terrorism. After a full circle, Srilankan Tamils are back to square one. They lost hundreds of thousands of people to prove to the world, that the Tamils are striving for their legitimate rights. Despite forced, miserable nomadic life they have repeatedly mandated for self-rule refusing to compromise. For Srilankan Tamils this is an issue of existence or extinction, survival with dignity or servitude as slaves.”
But Delhi has no ears to hear this wail. Prior to the war India could not bring about peace and just solution in Srilanka mainly because of its commercial and trade interests prevailing over democracy agenda and the extreme positions taken by the warring parties. This led to the war. Post-war, India should realize that SL conflict resolution process is about resolving the conflict, which led to the war. The conflict was anterior to the war. The conflict that is sought to be resolved is not the war. In fact, the war itself was an attempt to resolve a conflict, which had not been amenable to resolution by peaceful means. In this sense, war was a part of the conflict resolution process-a war persuades parties to reconsider their earlier positions and hopefully, move them to settle their differences so that peace could be brought about through just means.
At the UPR there was convergence of international opinion on key points-13th Amendment Plus, democratic devolution, power sharing, demilitarization of Tamil areas and penal action for war crimes.
If India is true to its salt, this is the opportunity to grab. India should realize that it is world’s largest democracy wherein human rights, liberty, dignity and freedom matter much more than trade, blood-money and corporate profits and bring about peace in the ‘Teardrop Island’ through an abiding political solution. If not, posterity will never forgive the Delhi minions and their cohorts, who have blood on their hands.