Sri Lanka vote has hurt India’s credibility
Posted on March 28th, 2012

G Parthasarathy Courtesy: Daily Pioneer (India) March 28, 2012

Wars and conflicts are almost inevitably bloody and marked by huge civilian casualties which the Americans describe as “collateral damage”. 

Estimates of the number of Iraqis killed after the American invasion of Iraq, avowedly in order to rid the country of nuclear weapons which never existed, vary from 66,081 (according to WikiLeaks cables) and 601,000 (according to an international study).  In Afghanistan, the number of civilian deaths caused by US military actions is estimated to be between 9,415 and 29,007.

All this is apart from documented instances of torture of Iraqis and Afghans in the custody of British and American forces. The estimates of Libyan civilians killed in the Anglo-French bombing of their country have not yet been published. During Sri Lanka’s 30-year civil war, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed. These included 27,639 LTTE cadre, 23,327 Sri Lankan soldiers and 1,155 Indian soldiers.

As the civil war drew to an end and the LTTE leaders, including V Prabhakaran, were cornered into a continually shrinking perimeter, they surrounded themselves with civilians to act as a human shield to enable them to stage a getaway, as they had done when they were surrounded by the Indian Peace-Keeping Force in Jaffna and Vavuniya between 1987 and 1989.  While himself a skilful military tactician, Prabhakaran had a track record of sacrificing others when seeking his own escape.

According to UN estimates, around 6,500 civilians lost their lives and 14,500 were injured in this bloody last phase of the conflict. There is no doubt that there would have been instances of targeted killings of civilians by the Sri Lankan Army as they closed in on Prabhakaran. But can the LTTE leaders escape blame for sticking to their time-bound practice of using a human shield when surrounded?

Given America’s own experiences of “ƒ”¹…”collateral damage’ during wars it has waged, one was rather surprised that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose to suddenly turn her focus on alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka when American involvement on this issue had been low-key in the past. The US, in fact, materially and militarily assisted the Sri Lankan Government during the civil war.

Some of my American friends tell me that while the professionals in the US State Department did not particularly relish an effort to target a small Island democracy, the EU the British Government persuaded the Secretary of State to move against Sri Lanka. Sadly, in today’s world inconsequential European busybodies like Norway seek to assume airs of moral superiority by sermonising others, forgetting that the Western world itself has much to answer for in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Even an ordinary Indian with a moderate understanding of international affairs recognises the realities of Western double standards in the name of human rights. And successive Governments in India have recognised that they should not make common cause with the West when such double standards are practised on issues of “ƒ”¹…”human rights’ and so-called “ƒ”¹…”war crimes’.

It is now obvious that the UPA Government got itself into a position of acting against the country’s national interests because of its fears of the DMK withdrawing support if the Congress did not fall in line with the demands of its alliance partner. Many would agree that this fear was misplaced as the DMK is shrewd enough to recognise that without influence in New Delhi, it would land in deeper trouble in Tamil Nadu.

Moreover, no attempt was made to reach out to public opinion across the country, particularly in Tamil Nadu, to explain that it would be counter-productive to offend the Government in Colombo which, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh affirmed recently, had been more than helpful in channelling substantial assistance from India for the rehabilitation of Tamil civilians displaced by the civil war.

India’s claims that it had helped in “introducing a measure of balance in the language of the resolution” of the UN Human Rights Council adopted in Geneva will cut no ice in Colombo, or indeed across our entire neighbourhood. Just for the record, no other country in our neighbourhood supported the resolution targeting a small, democratic and friendly neighbour of ours. To our east, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and the Philippines voted against the US-drafted resolution while Malaysia abstained. To our west Maldives, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, voted in support of Sri Lanka.

Snide comments are now being made that Sri Lanka had to be sacrificed to for us to propitiate the Americans, who are displeased with our policies on the nuclear liability bill, defence purchases and on issues before the UN Security Council.

Sadly, the Opposition BJP discarded the wisdom shown in the Vajpayee years on relations with our neighbours and joined the populist chorus to target a friendly neighbouring country.

Sri Lanka has to be persuaded to fulfil commitments it has made for devolution of powers to the Tamils and the recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission on its Army’s wartime excesses by imaginative diplomacy and not by rhetoric and discriminatory targeting.

10 Responses to “Sri Lanka vote has hurt India’s credibility”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Very wise comments.

    “Just for the record, no other country in our neighbourhood supported the resolution targeting a small, democratic and friendly neighbour of ours. To our east, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and the Philippines voted against the US-drafted resolution while Malaysia abstained. To our west Maldives, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, voted in support of Sri Lanka.”

    Snide comments are now being made that Sri Lanka had to be sacrificed to for us to propitiate the Americans, who are displeased with our policies on the nuclear liability bill, defence purchases and on issues before the UN Security Council.

    We knew it! India is sold out to the Americans.

  2. vyasan Says:

    I, as a SriLankan Tamil and one have observed the Sri Lankan Tamil problem as well as the international involvment/connections to the Lankan issue, fully agree with what Mr. Parthasarathy stated about the blunder India made at Geneva. However, what he has not mentioned about is that the war might not have taken place at all if India had not created, nurtured and let loose the Tamil militancy during late the 70’s to early 80’s. India failed miserably in her attempt to bring Sri Lanka under her influence when western powers hijacked the Tamil militancy, especially the LTTE from India’s hold and used them against Indian interest. Well, after all we know that western currency has more value than the eastern currency!

  3. A. Sooriarachi Says:

    Thank you Mr Parthasarathi for the frank analysis of India’s predicament. Today India is being led down the garden path by the US/EU/UK coalition. They did this to Gadhafi and finally brutally killed him to silence him from divulging the secrets he knew about the Western leaders. To achieve this gruesome result, the West, along with the so called peace promoter Norway, destroyed Libya by relentlessly bombing for over six months and killing a countless number of civilians. Probably this is not on the card for India, but India must especially be beware of former colonial powers now economically struggling and trying to regain control over former colonies rich in natural resources, such as Libya, Iraq, Afganistan etc.
    Sri Lanka needs the support of all its neighbours including India and China for future progress. Sri Lanka has trusted long standing friends in Maldives, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China etc. India needs to act to regain this trust and make life easy for all the people in the region. India must also admit that the SriLankan Tamils are enjoying much better benefits than the Tamilnadu Tamils, and are living as equals, receiving a free education, health facilities and food subsidies, just like the other communities, now that the terrorists are no more and the Trilingual policy is implemented across the nation.

  4. AnuD Says:

    If India’s major concern were China’s String of Pearl along the Indian Ocean, that is a very stupid argument.

  5. Dham Says:

    Mr Parthasarathi says,

    “There is no doubt that there would have been instances of targeted killings of civilians by the Sri Lankan Army as they closed in on Prabhakaran. ”

    And our people say “thank you Mr Parthasarathi “. And Lorezo says “wise comments”
    I cannot belive my eys. Is Sooriarachchi ex LTTE member ?
    Is Lorenzo an Indian ?

  6. Lorenzo Says:

    Dham,

    FYI, let me copy and past the wise comments AGAIN!!

    “Just for the record, no other country in our neighbourhood supported the resolution targeting a small, democratic and friendly neighbour of ours. To our east, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and the Philippines voted against the US-drafted resolution while Malaysia abstained. To our west Maldives, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, voted in support of Sri Lanka.”

    Snide comments are now being made that Sri Lanka had to be sacrificed to for us to propitiate the Americans, who are displeased with our policies on the nuclear liability bill, defence purchases and on issues before the UN Security Council.”

    BTW I’m no Indian. Sooriarachchi cannot possibly be an ex LTTE member!

  7. Naram Says:

    Well informed Mr Parathasothy must be well aware of the both Indian interventions on Sri Lanka in the IPKF days and similar US / NATO interventions on various guises in Korea, Vietnam, Kambodia, Chile, Panama, Haiti, Congo, Yugoslavia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Afganisthan Libya on and on to bring humanitarian relief or more to assure continued supply of raw materials for US business interests.

    Once upon a time India was te founder member of the Non Aligned Nations, professing ‘Pancha Sila’.

    Those days are gone; India is doing her best to sing former colonial masters voice. Is this widely accepted by the body politic of India – if so Sri Lanka has another mountain to climb to win over the man in the street in the reasonably literate, vocal, opinionated parts of Indian public.

    We have to be mindful that it is highly unlikely that the DMK view of the world will be acceptable in Bangaluru, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Gujerat or West Bengal and any concession COngress Party yields to Tamil Nadu will meet with a chorus of opposition from the rest if they are informed of facts.

  8. nandimitra Says:

    It is time SL responds to the hegamony of the neighbouring countries of India by India at the behest of the white nations. It is time to have a new organisation to coordinate development and defence with out India in South Asia. For starters Indian businesses must be chased out of SL by the locals

  9. Dham Says:

    Lorenzo,
    I said I cannot believ my eys !

    The statement you copied may be wise but read it as a whole inlcuding the statement
    “There is no doubt that there would have been instances of targeted killings of civilians by the Sri Lankan Army as they closed in on Prabhakaran. ”
    How can we thank this Parasarathi after that statement. What a fool he is ( to me) ? To you he is wise .
    No. SLA never carried out “targetted killings”, I know that. Accidents out of anger are not targeted killings this fool should know. I am very angry at this statement and I don’t have to read his “wise” words.

  10. Dham Says:

    Lorenzo,
    I am waiting for the answer. Don’t just vote -1 and shut off !

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