Focusing on the centre and not
Anybody familiar with the political compulsions
impacting the state of Tamil Nadu would understand why it has to
keep the 'Lankan issue' alive. In Tamil Nadu it is parochial,
identity-based politics that dominate. Those with even a nodding
acquaintance with the politics of this state would know that no
government there could survive undisturbed for long without it
playing what has come to be known as the ethnic 'card'. That is,
the Tamil majority is the state government's support base and
this constituency would need to be continually placated by the
ruling party or coalition for the purpose of political survival.
So, it should not come as a surprise if both DMK and AIDMK-
led governments depend heavily on the 'Lankan issue' for the
mobilization of local support and for its perpetuation. The
'cause of the Lankan Tamils', thus, assumes tremendous
importance for the ruling party or coalition in Tamil Nadu, and
the recent resolution moved against Sri Lanka in the Tamil Nadu
assembly by the AIADMK administration must be viewed in this
light as a power consolidation ploy by the state government.
Thus, the Sri Lankan government is right in emphasizing that
what is of greater importance for it in this context is the
policy position of the central government of India and not that
of the Tamil Nadu state government.
This is as it should be because it is the central government
of India which frames and implements the Indian state's
international and regional policies. Hence, the Lankan state's
dealings on the so-called Tamil issue would be entirely with the
Indian centre. In other words, it is the centre's policy
perspectives on Sri Lankan issues which matter.
We do not have reason to believe that the Indian centre would
dilute in any way the cordiality and goodwill which have
characterized Indo-Lanka ties over issues seen as emerging from
Sri Lanka's humanitarian operation. The joint Indo-Lanka
declaration which emerged from External Affairs Minister Prof,
G.L. Peiris' most recent visit to India puts the record straight
on the commonalities between the two countries and on the policy
perspectives which would be determining inter-state ties.
One thing that we could be certain of is that India would not
be acting in a manner which would compromise Sri Lanka's best
interests. State governments may be under pressure from their
local constituencies to adopt this or that policy posture but it
is the policy of the centre which constitutes national policy on
any question and it is the latter which matters in the conduct
of inter-state relations. The centre would need to take a broad
overview on matters relating to it and a close neighbour and it
is this perspective which the observer must consider to be of
the utmost importance in this context.
It should be clear that the Indian state is not intent on
being at cross-purposes with Sri Lanka on issues pertaining to
the latter's conflict. India was not only one of the earliest
countries to ban the LTTE, but also proved to be of crucial
importance in crippling the LTTE's war machine in the latter
stages of the conflict. It was firmly established that India was
with Sri Lanka in cornering and crushing LTTE terror. Therefore,
there has been and will be a great deal of commonality between
the countries on the need of saying 'no' to terror.
Since the ending of the conflict, India has been of immense
assistance to Sri Lanka in the reconstruction and rejuvenation
of the North and in the rendering of humanitarian assistance to
our IDPs. Thus, there is no questioning the abundance of
goodwill which has been flowing to Sri Lanka from India.
Indo-Lanka relations could not be better and the rumblings from
Tamil Nadu should not be considered to be of pivotal importance
in the shaping of India's policy towards Sri Lanka.
Moreover, Sri Lanka has pledged to go beyond the 13th
amendment in dealing with the conflict and this is a matter of
some satisfaction. The most encouraging thing about such pledges
is that the Lankan state is remaining committed to power
devolution as an answer to our conflict. That is, the Lankan
state is remaining committed to a political solution. Thus have
war mongerism and triumphalism been showed the door. These
positions, would, no doubt, lead to cordial exchanges between
the Lankan state and the currently visiting high-powered Indian
state delegation and conduce to even more cordial inter-state
Therefore, the forging and implementation of foreign policy
are extremely complex matters which cannot be viewed from
populist perspectives. In the crafting of foreign policy, a
state is usually guided by its national interest and this would
prompt it to base its actions on its long term interests and not
on what it sees as short term gains.