01 August 2011

On keeping things in the neighbourhood in South Asia

Nirupama Rao, India’s soon-to-retire Foreign Secretary, when asked about the Channel 4 video purporting to comment on the last days of the LTTE’s military, is reported to have said that Sri Lanka should look at the video carefully.  Well, that’s already been done.  Channel 4’s mal-intent, unprofessionalism and scandalous lack of integrity have been adequately exposed.  The good lady probably knows this. 
On the other hand, she adds a comment: ‘As per the video, there were human right violations during the last few days of the war they were fighting. It cannot be justified any way. But it was a war zone. It should also be taken into consideration that there were tragedies in Sri Lanka.’

Rao doesn’t mention (dare we say ‘she doesn’t dare mention’?) that the only established violation so far are those perpetrated by the LTTE and include hostage taking, shooting dead fleeing civilians and sending children with bombs trapped to their persons to the centres established to receive Tamils entering the Government-controlled areas and blowing them up to deter would-be escapees.  Rao doesn’t mention either that India has a long and continuing ‘tradition’ of violating human rights, for example in Kashmir.  Someone needs to tell her, ‘it cannot be justified in any way’.  
That’s ok.  ‘Par for the course’ from an Indian diplomat, I would say, even one on her way out.  What interested me more was an observation or perhaps a wish that things in the neighbourhood should be kept in the neighbourhood: ‘We must take care of it and have to avoid jumping into conclusions on any third party’s involvement’. 
The logic can be extended.  Sri Lanka can keep things within Sri Lanka.  Tamils and Sinhalese can sort their problems among themselves.  India can negotiate and resolve long-standing grievances of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities with the aggrieved.  Sri Lanka leaves Pakistan alone, Pakistan doesn’t bother Bangladesh, India stops messing with Nepal and Nepal will not interfere with India.  The point is, India played ‘Third Party’ in Sri Lanka, jumping to conclusions and playing a major role in turning a pussy cat into a people-eating Tiger who not only consumed her Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi) but slaughtered thousands upon thousands of Sri Lankans, in particular Tamils, leading to the inevitable denouement we saw on May 19, 2011. 
Still, this neighbourhood watch proposal deserves exploration.  We can be good neighbours with India and indeed the whole region of South Asia can be more fraternal than it has.  Why should we open ourselves to ‘third party involvement’ in our affairs, and in particular the terrorist and terrorizing West led by the USA and UK?  They’ve not done us any favours and even as we speak are killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan not so much to combat terrorism as to maintain a presence in the region to oversee resource extraction of the US $ 1-3 trillion worth of unexplored mineral wealth across the Hindu Kush, in particular uranium, lithium, copper and iron ore.  And that’s a treasure trove that India is keenly aware of and has already moved in to paw with greedy hands.
There’s a need for South Asian countries to cooperate.  It is the mutual suspicions we have about one another that have paved the way for rogue nations like the USA and Britain to massacre our brethren in the name of protecting them.  Much of these suspicions are not without foundation. India did give refuge to, arm, train and fund separatist Tamil terrorists in order to destabilize Sri Lanka.  India continues to renege on UN Resolutions and the Terms of Partition with respect to Kashmir.  Pakistan is accused by India or funding and training the insurgency in that troubled region.  There are realities. 
So when Rao says ‘let’s be good neighbours’ or ‘let’s sort out things among ourselves’ one wonders if she means ‘let India be the ultimate arbiter; let the UN and USA go fly a kite!’  She ought to have spelled it out without leaving room for conjecture.  In the absence of elaboration, one has to revert to history and that doesn’t paint a happy picture of regional solidarity.  Indeed it conjured the image of a regional thug. 
It is not easy for the powerful to show humility or even to acknowledge that all is not well at home.  India has her own problems.  Political and economic both. India is not a sadhu state and Rao hardly a diplomatic Mother Theresa.

South Asia is a region of squabbles and squabbling nations.  Petty animosities and meaningless one-upmanship efforts have opened the door to outsiders.  We are so busy fighting one another or being wary of one another that we don’t have the eyes nor the energy to stop the robber barons. 

No one wants to belittle India, but we can be a decent neighbourhood only if all households have equal say, treat one another as partners and fraternal entities.  There cannot be big brothers in a neighbourhood watch programmes.  There can’t be ‘godfathers’ here.  South Asia cannot be a mafia made of a mafia boss and a bunch of minions dependent on him for security and tidbits.  I am sure Nirupama Rao knows all this. 

We are ready to take her opinion at face value and work towards working out its full potential.  Let’s hope Delhi is ready too. 

[Courtesy Daily News, August 1, 2011]


Anonymous said...

Malinda, ur column is devoid of any meaning, just an incoherent babble of words, an uncontrolled firing of frustration. Your knowledge about India ands what's is happening in kashmir can be best summed up in 1 word - PATHETIC. Kindly stop this diarrheoa of words. But I could understand ur inability to do nothing but wail like an frail, old and badly injured jungle being. Try doing some constructive journalism rather scribbling about with some half baked knowledge. Rgds, ravi
Mail ID: ravi.mda@gmail.com

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Glad you read it through. How about some facts instead of invective? there is 'uncontrolled firing of frustration', 'word diarrhoea' and of course 'incoherent word babble'. mine or yours, though? cheers! :)

Anonymous said...

A well written article Malinda. Facts are well documented (like how India armed a terrorist organizations to destabilize neighboring countries) and there is no need to repeat them. Although some may tend to consider articles without facts as verbiage, what we need in fact are arguments based on those commonly known facts. That is exactly the purpose served by your articles.


fayaz said...

well said malinda....well said indeed. please keep it up !