Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2857

Karunanidhi, Vaiko want India to become "peace facilitator" in Lanka amidst concerns over 'peace perfidy vs peace dividend'

By M Rama Rao, India Editor, Asian Tribune, New Delhi

New Delhi, 21 April ( Sri Lanka's ethnic issue is going to dominate the political discourse in Tamil Nadu once again. Interestingly, this new phase comes at a time when the Rajapakse government has mounted a campaign to woo Indian tourists to the island, projecting the ‘Ramayana’ related sites as the biggest attraction.

Major Indian TV channels like Aaj Tak and Zee have been showing interview and research based programmes on Sri Lanka's ‘Ramayana’ angle. The Indian tourism trade is quick to pick up the refrain and is targeting the government officials availing leave travel concession facility and newly married on their honeymoon. Low air fares offered by Sri Lankan airways from Trivandrum and Cochin to Colombo have become an added attraction.

Trade analysts don't see think ethnic violence in Sri Lanka would come in the way of 'Ramayana tourism'. "We in India also have terrorist violence in Kashmir and Assam. Have tourists coming to Goa and Bangalore stopped coming", a travel trade veteran asks.

Karunanidhi, the atheist may be amused but the reality is ‘Ramayana’ tourism has got a fillip after the DMK patriarch made 'light' of Ram during the Ram Sethu controversy. 'Which engineering college Ram went', he reportedly asked when the Hindu fundamentalists objected to construction of Sethu Samudram project that would result in destruction of Ram Sethu (also known as Adam's Bridge) near Rameswaram.

Karunanidhi Case

Reflecting a change of heart Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi is suggesting these days that India organize negotiations between the warring parties in Sri Lanka to bring peace to the island. This is the view that is being propagated relentlessly by Vaiko, the unabashedly pro-LTTE nation.

"To bring about peace in Sri Lanka, the Union government should come forward to organize useful negotiations so that a proper political solution is thrashed out," he said in an interview to The Times of India, which is now published from Chennai.

Two decades back, Karunanidhi, with his sympathies firmly in favour of Tigers, was against Indian peace keeping role in Sri Lanka. He used his leverage on Delhi to force then Prime Minister VP Singh (DMK was a constituent of the ruling National Front government of the day) to withdraw the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF).

And when the IPKF returned home, Karunanidhi refused to go to the Chennai port to receive them despite a personal request from V P Singh. During this period, in 1989 to be precise, Karunanidhi, as chief minister, negotiated with the LTTE on behalf of the Delhi.

Vaiko Refrain

Vaiko, who heads a break away DMK party, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) is no less a champion of the new refrain – India be the peace broker. He met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here soon after he returned from Oslo where he attended a conference on 'Peace and Reconciliation in South Asia'.

News about the conference got good coverage in the Tamil press though Delhi media generally ignored the meet held under the auspices of the International Association for Human Values. Prominent speakers, the delegate from Lanka opposition UNP including, at the Oslo deliberations did not hide their pro- Tiger leanings. Nod did they hide their opposition to the military offensive against Wanni.

Vaiko made three requests to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. One mounts diplomatic pressure on Colombo to find a workable solution to fulfil the aspirations of Lankan Tamils. Second as a pre-requisite for the peace effort, Colombo's military offensive should be stopped. Third and most important, Delhi should not supply any arms to Rajapakse government.

A report on the Singh- Vaiko meeting in The Hindu quoted the Prime Minister as saying: "We are not supplying arms to Sri Lanka. I will discuss the matter with the Foreign Minister [Pranab Mukherjee] and see what best can be done."

Vaiko presented a memorandum to Dr Singh giving his take on human rights violations in Sri Lanka. "I draw your kind attention to the most painful scenario of gross violation of human rights subjecting the Tamils to indescribable hardship and misery. There have been indiscriminate killings, abductions and disappearance of Tamils. The innocent Tamil youth, who are not engaged in armed struggle, are also not spared. They are abducted by armed forces and thereafter [there is] no further news about them. It is feared that they are murdered", Vaiko said in his memo according to The Hindu on Friday, April 18.

Indian foreign office has repeatedly stated that there could be no military solution to the lanka ethic problem. This view was conveyed to the Oslo returned Vaiko as well. Since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber in 1991, India has been adopting hands off approach to Sri Lanka issue though this public stance has not come in the way of Delhi remaining in the loop.

Priyanka Pitch

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has met the lone surviving member of the LTTE squad that had assassinated her father Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperambudur on a May night 17 years ago. The meeting took place at the Vellore jail in March. It came to light as the Times of India scooped 'the news' to 'reward a flying start to its Chennai edition.

Priyanka enjoys the highest security cover on par with her mother, Sonia Gandhi, brother Rahul Gandhi and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Security clears her every step. So much so, her meeting with Nalini Sriharan could not have been materialized with clearance at the highest level and coordination set in motion at the top. There is no need for any conjectures as both Priyanka and Rahul have publicly confirmed the Vellore meeting and said they don't believe in hatred. Priyanka, now a mother of two – a son and a daughter, also said that she had been ruminating on the issue and wanted to meet Nalini for several months. Nalini on her pat has been in correspondence with the Gandhis, sending them periodical message and getting prompt replies of goodwill. In fact, Nalini has avoided going to the gallows only after Sonia Gandhi picked up her clemency petition and spoke to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

These developments give the lie to the oft repeated theory that with the Gandhis in drivers's seat, the present government in Delhi will not like to do any thing with Sri Lankan ethnic imbroglio. It doesn't directly offer a clue to the official thinking though. Clemency for Nalini doesn't translate into sympathy much less friendship with Prabhakaran for the Gandhis.

Peace Perfidy – Peace Dividend

Delhi always advocated dialogue as an effective means for finding solutions to any naughty issue. It has put this approach to practice in the north east of the country, often from a position of strength, to varying degrees of success.

Historically and internationally, insurgent groups are known to favour talks whenever the going becomes tough. And they are also known to activate their over ground sympathizers to the new refrain even as they prefer to use the breather for regrouping and rearming. The turn of events on the Wanni theatre show that the LTTE and its elusive chief Prabhakaran are given to peace bout as a short term strategy. Unless the practitioners of gun culture realize dangers of peace perfidy and accept the give and take mantra for political solutions, peace dividend will remain elusive.

-Asian Tribune -

Share this