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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2488

The Indian factor in Sri Lankan politics. Why should we woo India so much?

By Sudath Gunasekara -. Writing from USA

The Indian factor in recent Sri Lankan politics has become extremely critical and now it has grown beyond all proportions. It is definitely important and useful too to maintain cordial diplomatic relations with our neighbor India. There is no doubt about it. But this should never be done at the expense of our independence and sovereignty and self - respect. In contemporary Sri Lankan politics wooing and begging India in domestic politics despite all the unfriendly moves she has taken particularly in the past and the arrogant and undiplomatic attitude she continue to display appears to have come to stay permanently as a fashion. So much so, most Sri Lankans have begun to wonder whether this country has already got reduced to the level of another regional state of the Sub-continent.

Although India is our big neighbor, politically we are two different independent and sovereign countries. In this context the difference is only a matter of geographical size. Size does not matter when it comes to independence of sovereign states. What really matters is their independence. But unfortunately our successive governments, especially since 1956 appear to have given disproportionate and undue importance to the role of India in domestic politics of Sri Lanka. Having cordial relations with our neighbor is one thing but to behave like a naive and timid lamb before India, "I think is ridiculous and disgraceful to our independence and sovereignty. It was Rudyard Kipling who once said," Oh 'East is East, and West is west, and never the twain shall meet. "Similarly we must remember, "India is India but Sri Lanka is Sri Lanka and never the two shall meet”.

In addition to the legend that Vijaya found the Sinhala Nation in the 6th century BC, that has established the most solid foundation for Indo - Sri Lankan relations, it is also true that we have been immensely influenced by its culture and religion. Buddhism among all other things was the greatest gift we have received from her.

Nevertheless the political relationships between the two countries, particularly South India, through out history had been one of constant strife arising from conflicts of interests. The first recorded event was the Rama invasion in the prehistoric period and second, the arrival of Vijaya in the 6th century BC. This was followed by a long chain of destructive invasions, beginning with Sena Guttika and Elara (2"' century BC) culminating in the 12th century Kalinga Maga Chola devastation which completely routed the Dry Zone civilization and destroyed the Sri Lanka State, from which situation we have not been able to fully recover up to date as a vibrant and powerful nation as it had been in the past.

The next group of Indians who came to Sri Lanka was not invaders. Instead they were brought as indentured labour by the British to work on plantations opened up in the central hills in our motherland. They started to come in 1830s and this time they came in tens of thousands. Although most of them have now got Sri Lankan citizenship they still consider India as their motherland.

Had our leaders used their head and demanded the British that they return us vacant possession of our motherland they took over in 1815 or at least followed a policy similar to what Burma did at independence by asking the Indians to either get fully Burmanized, if they want to stay in Burma, or go back to India if they do not want to do so. But unfortunately we did not have statesmen of that stature and vision or a single patriotic Civil Servant of wisdom, to advice the rulers to take such far-reaching patriotic measures.

The so-called Liberating Tamil Tigers of dreamland of ‘Eelam’ (LTTE) belong to those South Indian Tamils who migrated from South India from time to time under different circumstances either as invaders, mercenaries, illicit immigrants or traders. Historically they were not accepted as a segment of the people of this country until 13th century.

Although they lived in isolated pockets along the coast in the north and the east they were never permanent settlers inside the country. All authentic evidence has firmly established that this country had been the Land of the Sinhalese at least from the 6th century BC.

The LTTE is a group of savage fascist rather Nazis Sri Lankan Tamil terrorists who are engaged in an armed struggle against the legally elected government of the country. Therefore it is purely an internal problem of the Sri Lankan government. As such neither India nor any other country has any business to interfere with our domestic politics. Any such interference has to be condemned outright as a blatant violation of accepted international law. It also constitutes an unethical and illegal interference with internal matters of a sovereign nation.

But ironically India today appears to think that it has a god given right to interfere with Sri Lankan internal politics. They appear to think that this is a vassal nindagamaof theirs.

Under Indira’s regime India trained LTTE terrorists within the Indian soils to wage war against the Sri Lankan government. It funded them in millions and billions, dropped dhal to Jaffna, got the old JR to subscribe to the 13th amendment to the constitution under duress and finally laid the foundation for dividing this country by joining the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. We still remember how arrogantly the Indian Ambassador Dixit was throwing his weight about those days as if he was the viceroy of the Regional State of India, reducing old JR to the level of a helpless hostage.

Greatly disturbed by the events that were taking place at that time, I wrote a letter to Rajiv Gandhi the then Indian Prime Minster on 4th July 1985 stating as to why he should not support the LTE. I quote below few sections from that letter to show our readers how relevant were, what I said 21 years ago. This letter was signed by the then Mahanayaka Thero of Asgiriya Chapter the Most Venerable Palipana Chandananda Thero for diplomatic reasons. But unfortunately, apart from responding positively to the content of that letter of the Prelate, we did not get even an acknowledgment.

The LTTE is a fascist terrorist outfit of misguided Sri Lankan Tamils comprising a fraction of the Tamil population who have taken to arms against the legally elected government of Sri Lanka with the object of establishing an State of Eelam, in the North and East of Sri Lanka covering 1/3 the total land area and 2/3 the coastal belt of the Island, that belonged to the Sinhala Kingdom from the beginning of history, extending from Puttalam in the west through Jaffa Trincomalee - Batticaloa to Kataragama in the deep South East. This they have named as the Traditional Home Land of their imaginary Eelam (that included South India as well in the distant past). Thereafter they plan to extend it to cover the whole Island. It is a foregone conclusion that there was never a Tamil Kingdom in Sri Lanka either in Jaffna or anywhere else in known history (except for the four year period of patricide Sankili the usurper from1556 - 1560 AD).

Having established Eelam in Sri Lanka they expect to extend it to cover whole of India and then to Mauritius, Maldives, parts of East Africa, Malaysia and finally to Fiji Islands to from their lost world Federation of Tamil Eeelam which they claim to be the first civilization on earth from where all the old world civilization like Syrian, Assyrian, Mesopotamian and Mohenjodaro - Harappa emerged.

Hon. Prime Minister, you may see this as daydreaming by a group of Tamils but the vicious thinking behind that dream should not be underestimated and ignored as a fairy tale. We Sri Lankans who know these vicious and ruthless terrorists murderers, the carriers of the Chola emblem, and their mind better than all the Indians do, are convinced that they will collaborate with you only to achieve their objectives. The day they complete their objective or the day you say no, they will definitely turn around you. Also you should not forget the fact that today they are the worst and the most dangerous terrorist outfit in the whole world claiming the largest number of trained suicide bombers. Perhaps they are the most savage and dangerous fascist/Nazis gang known to us since Hitler's and Nazis regimes. They have very close connections practically with all the terrorists the world over like the Naxalites, PLO, IRA, Libyans, Hamas, and Al Kaida.

The first step of their attack on India will begin with the unilateral declaration of Eeelam in the North and the East of Sri Lanka. After completing the capture of the Sri Lankan State next they will invade South India and thereafter the whole of India.

Hon. Prime Minster, yesterday it was a Sheik fanatic who brutally gunned down your beloved mother. Tomorrow could not it be a Tamil Terrorist suicide bomber of Tamil Eelam who will gun you down as a mark of gratitude for all the help you have so generously and lavishly lent them. So even if you are not seriously concerned about the future of an independent Sri Lanka and decides not to help the government of Sri Lanka to overcome this terrorist menace, at least in your own interest and the interest of India, we request you to take the following steps very early.

1. Stop all assistance to this terrorist group and ban its operation within the Indian soils.

2. Direct the State of Tamil Nadu to stop all such assistance to LTTE.

3. Leave us alone so that we will deal with them the same way we have done for the past 2,200 years.

4. Please stop entertaining Sri Lankan Tamils on Indian soils and tell them that they are not your concern any longer as they belong to Sri Lanka and they should therefore settle their problems with the government of the country where they live in future.

In the event of you and your government failing to listen and comply with this just and fair request we make on behalf of all Sri Lankans, we would like to remind you that one day you would be the first Indian target of these brutal killers. Thereafter you and your mother will go down in history as the Indian leaders of the 20th century who destroyed the 2500 year old, proud Sinhala Buddhist civilization of this Island nation and will be held responsible for all the crimes committed by these Nazi/fascist Eelam killers thereafter. We are also aware of the antagonism you harbour against the present government of Sri Lanka, which is more a personal issue. It is something that does not fall within the limits of statesmanship and honourable diplomacy. It actually transcends beyond all of them. But the course of action you are currently following, we warn you, will finally end up in cutting your own nose to respite your face.

It may also be noted that the present crisis in Sri Lanka is not a conflict between the Tamils and the Sinhalese or Sinhala-Buddhist and Tamil Hindu as world media has highlighted. As I see it, it is an outcome of an externally manipulated international conspiracy by the Catholic Church to divide and destabilize the state of Sri Lanka. For example, the architect of this separatist movement, the late S.J.V. Chelvanayagam himself, was a born Christian who migrated to this country from Malaysia at the age of 11 years.

Contrary to the generally held notion that the Sinhala majority is against the Tamils, it is unfortunate that your government does not realize that the LTTE is the biggest enemy of the Hindu Tamil people. They are only a group of savage murderers who have taken to arms to eliminate everyone including even those Tamils who hold different views. The devastation they have done over the past years and continuing to do even now against the country in general and Tamils in particular in the north and east of Sri Lanka is enough testimony to prove this argument.

Talking about much publicized discrimination against Tamils it must be clearly stated that today there is no minority in the whole, world who enjoy better privileges than the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Freedom of movement, living, working, education, and freedom of expression are all guaranteed. They hold the highest position both in the public and private sector. Posts like the IGP, Chief Justice, and Attorney General had been and are being held by Tamils. More than half the Tamil population lives outside the north and the east among the Sinhalese without any problem. They intermarry, dine and wine together and work together with the Sinhalese. No one is subjected to any disability on the ground that he is a Tamil or a Muslim. Here all are equal before the law. If there are any restrictions on movement of people etc, they are taken for the general security of the country and such restrictions that apply to every one irrespective of whether they are Tamils or Sinhalese. If not for the terrorist activities of these terrorists the need for such restrictions would not have been there at all.

Hon Prime Minster, lastly, we may also mention that we are the disciples of Gautama Buddha, the greatest human being born to this world and the unparallel champion of non-violence. This is the land of the Buddha. We have offered it to him thrice and he has sanctified it with his visits, sacred relicts and objects. This is also the land where, he has declared that his doctrine will last for the next 5,000 years. Therefore although we are a small country as compared with yours, it may be reminded that any one and every one who try to destroy this Dharmadveepa, the land of the Buddha - or its people- will finally have to pay their toll with dividends by the operation of the miraculous powers of that great Dhamma.

Therefore we strongly appeal to you to desist all anti Sri Lankan moves and at least not to interfere with our internal affairs. In the event you decides not to extend a friendly hand to the government of Sri Lanka for reasons best known to you and your government, we wish and hope that wise council will prevail over you and sanity and statesmanship will prevail over parochial domestic and regional politics and finally the actions you take at this crucial hour of the history of this country will enable Sri Lankans to admire you in the years to come along with that list of illustrious sons of Bharathdesh like Lord Buddha, Asoka the Great, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru your own Grand father.

Of course all these appeals fell on his deaf ears and Rajiv never paid any heed to our requests or the warning made against possible threat to even against his own life. The whole world now knows what happened to Rajiv in 1991.Even the present governments of India; I must say are not genuine on this issue they also continue to walk blindly on the same disastrous rope. They have their own hidden and hypocritical agenda of domestic and regional politics. Tamil Nadu elections for them are more important than the future of Sri Lanka. This is understandable.

The Indian interest in Sri Lankan politics I think arises from three things. Firstly it is Indian domestic politics, the Tamilnadu issue. Secondly, it is a game of geopolitics their attempt to establish as the regional political power. The importance of Sri Lankan situation in Indian politics emerges from the presence of a sizable Tamil population in Sri Lanka who is of south Indian origin and who have their right leg there. India unfortunately treats the Tamils of this country as people of Indian origin, not realizing the fact that if we accept the Vijayan legend, even Sinhalese are also of Indian origin. It may be that there is no substantial Sinhala population unlike the Tamils in India that counts in current Indian politics. Nevertheless, what India should understand at least now is that this is a domestic problem of Sri Lanka and therefore India should not interfere with the present crisis and add fuel to fire. Instead what they should do at this critical hour is to help the Sri Lanka government to overcome the LTTE problem as it poses a greater threat to India than even Sri Lanka in the long run. India also should not treat us as a dependency or just another regional state of the subcontinent.

Indian interfering with our domestic politics and continued harassment on the pretext that there are people of Indian origin living here in fact tantamount to an invasion of the Sri Lainka soils. As much as Britain has no right to interfere with domestic politics of America or Australia alleging that people of British origin are living in those countries, India also has no legal or moral right to finger in to our internal matters. If India is not prepared to accept this position and continues to exert undue influence and harass us, then we should treat India as an enemy rather than a friend and turn to other friendly countries for help in this hour of need. India should never be a party to this issue even we go for negotiations for the simple reason that India has a vested interest in a section of the population in Sri Lanka as she has amply demonstrated, As such she can never be impartial. Her personal interests always stand above our interests or interests common to South East Asia. The Jayantha Dhanapala issue is a very good example for this attitude of the Indian politics. Also look at their constant cry asking us to do that and not to do that, for example the de-merger of the east and the north.

Under these circumstances why should we continue to woo India so much for advice and help when it is more than clear that she will never come to our rescue and she is persistently supporting the Tamil Tigers' cause in this country. The more we look for their help the more arrogant and aggressive they will behave. Why should we beg so much when we know that they always continue to play a double game, which is always detrimental to the independence and the sovereignty of this country? Instead what the government of Sri Lanka should do is to seek assistance from friendly countries particularly Pakistan and China and put an end to this terrorist menace to bring back sanity and make this country once again a peaceful place where every one can live peacefully and happily. India should also remember that Sri Lanka is the only friendly country she has on her periphery at the moment.

Sudath Gunasekara - Former Secretary to Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike and President Mahanuwara Senior Citizens Movement. He submitted this article for publication in the ‘Asian Tribune.’

- Asian Tribune -

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