02 April 2013

Let’s call the Tamil Nadu bluff

Poor Manmohan Singh.  It looks like nothing he does (or does not do) wins him applause from Tamil Nadu.  Whether or not the Indian Prime Minister is concerned about the growing Chinese footprint in Sri Lanka, he will be (as he as) harassed to the point of tears by the likes of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and ex-Chief Minister (and Chief Minister aspirant) respectively. 

The virulent and irrational sentiments expressed by these Tamil Nadu politicians don’t really ruffle any feathers here in Sri Lanka. In fact the aforementioned two are trustworthy suppliers for those who pen funny captions.  The latest is a cartoon doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter where the Indian Cricket Board is urged to include a ‘tournament clause’ prohibiting Lasith Malinga from yorking Murali Vijay ‘because it might hurt Tamil sentiments’. 
Earlier, the Board submitted to pressure from this racist and xenophobic leaders by determining that Sri Lankan crickets taking part in the Indian Premier League tournament will not play in Tamil Nadu.  Sri Lanka pilgrims including both the clergy and lay persons, government officials, business persons and tourists have been targeted and attacked on numerous occasions in that state, which was also used as an operational base by the LTTE terrorists, who also enjoyed the largess of successive Indian governments by way of training, funds and weapons. 

Now, these eccentric politicians demand that India pass a resolution against Sri Lanka in the Parliament.  They urge Delhi to declare that Sri Lanka is not a friendly country.  For now, Delhi has resisted, but one cannot tell when electoral prerogatives pertaining to coalition needs make the Government do a re-think on this issue. 
The argument can be made that India has never been Sri Lanka’s friend.  There is very little left for Delhi (never mind Tamil Nadu) to do by way of affirming the fact, and we are not talking about its anti-Sri Lanka position in Geneva.  But there are things that Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi can insist that Delhi do immediately.

First of all, they can insist that Manmohan Singh issue a directive prohibiting Indians from making use of dual-citizenship facilities proposed by the Sri Lankan Government.   Not because this would allow all kinds of racketeers and terrorist-lovers from South India from setting up base here, altering ethnic composition leading to further wrecking of the reconciliation process, fermenting insurgency and robbing Sri Lankans of jobs (as is alleged in Divulapitiya where an Indian company robs groundwater and has reneged on pledges to employ over a 1000 locals in favor of Indians because ‘there’s a language problem’) and such; because Sri Lanka ‘is a bad place’ and Sri Lankans, especially Sinhalese are ‘bad people’.
Secondly, then can insist that India withdraws from bidding for oil exploration in Sri Lankan waters: ‘Sri Lanka is bad, Sri Lankans are bad and we don’t even want their oil!’  Thirdly, they must prevail upon Delhi to get its spotlessly clean hands off the dirty thing called ‘Sampur’.  Fourthly India should give up the oil tanks: ‘we shall have no truck with Sri Lanka, in whatever form, in whatever deal, whatever business’.  Fifthly, they can tell Delhi to issue a travel advisory stopping Indians from visiting Sri Lanka, whether for business or pleasure.  Sixth, they can ask Delhi to demand that Indian companies (for example Airtel) to cease operations in Sri Lanka: ‘Sri Lanka won’t see another Mahendra Jeep or Maruti Car and they will have to develop their own pharmaceutical industry but who cares?’  Sixthly, IOC can close shop: ‘Let Ceypetco run the petrol sheds!’  The oil tanks must be abandoned forthwith, they can add.

It is unlikely that Delhi will do anything of the kind and not just because of China.  On the other hand, because of China, India will want to retain at least a toe-hold in a country that already has a huge Chinese footprint.  Perhaps it is time for Sri Lanka to call the Tamil Nadu bluff, i.e. preempt Tamil Nadu and save Manmohan Singh the blushes by facilitating all of the above. 
Let’s face it.  The question is not whether or not India should consider Sri Lanka a friend but whether we should or should not calling a spade a spade and call India what it is: Sri Lanka’s No 1 Enemy.  We can of course be nice and be photo-op ‘friends’ as is customary in the doctrine of ‘maintaining appearances’, but do what is best in our interest.  After all, there’s little to lose after all that India has done to cross off the ‘friendly’ adjective in the notion ‘Indo-Lanka relations’.  Now that would really stump Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi.  Nothing trips trippers than the truth and these two have happily tripped along for far too long.