Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lanka’s Tamil War – Indian Quandary

Times of India reports China’s unequivocal backing to the Sinhalese Lankan government in the war against Tamil Tigers. That has kind of thrown a strategic challenge to India which Indian polity is hardly in the position to accept or to deal with effectively. In given circumstances India is bound to encounter strategic losses in her Lankan Sphere of influence.

Essentially India’s Tamil Quandary is the result of political uncertainty and instability in her Hindi heartland. India is paying the price for unsettled polity in Hindi speaking mainland. What has happened is ever since Indira Gandhi’s disastrous Emergency rule 3 decades back; stable single party Parliament majority has been rare except Rajiv Gandhi’s parliament of 405 Congress MPs immediately after Indira’s killing. This has made ruling coalition at Delhi critically dependent on Southern MPs. Of the lot of Southern MPs, Andhra Pradesh has been with Congress some recent successes of Telagu Desam Party. Karnataka also has been a stable back borough of Congress for long and except for some experimentation with Janata Dal, it is settling now between BJP and Congress. Kerala has been switching between Left and Congress for many decades. This has made dependence on Tamil Nadu MPs reality for both Congress led and BJP led coalitions. None of the coalitions can get absolute majorities based on North, Central and Western states and as a result have to depend precariously what happens to 39 MPs from Tamil Nadu. That has impacted quite negatively for India.

The consequence is the government at Delhi can not have the political strength to take a consistent stand to back Lankan Government and oppose Tamil Tiger Terrorism in absolute terms. Very few democracies and states of any stature with serious ambitions to grow in big leagues show the callous attitudes the way India has tolerated ‘murderers’ of her past PM Rajiv Gandhi. One does not have to be sympathetic to Gandhi family to understand unambiguous policy implications of the murder of Rajiv Gandhi – fight to finish Tamil Terrorism.

Ever since India lost the original Tamil war waged by Rajiv Gandhi’s IPKF and ever since Tamil Tigers killed the Indian PM; India has lost the nerve to fight Tiger Terrorism. Sinhalese Lankans are finishing that job. Instead of backing their efforts in earlier stage, New Delhi always played the politics under the auspices of catering to Tamil Sensitivities. This is because for long New Delhi has never been in the position to afford to loose the support of Tamil MPs who brought over all their parochial considerations in the national policy. That is how India lost her way in the Lanka forests and no wonder now finds in the situation where Chinese dragon is standing in her way while conducting the Indian Ocean policy.

First of all, it is fitting with Chinese to back brutal Lankan efforts to quell any separatist movement. Not that Chinese do not back separatists at other places (what about Kashmir Separatists when they are trouble maker to India?); but their first instinct is to side with the State no matter legitimacy of those fighting or means used by the State to oppress these separatists.

Next, increasing strategic influence in Indian Ocean is the stated goal of China. At least for couple of decades China sees that Oil will be crucial for her economic well being making Indian routes of Oil important to invest now. Further these shipping routes are also important for her growing trades where China imports raw materials and commodities from Africa and exports her manufactured merchandise to that continent.

And then there is pure geo-political rivalry which all gives rise to her so calle’ of ‘string of pearl’ strategy.

Given the predicament of Indian polity, Lankans also must have deduced that it is much better to put their lot with China and might as well cash that in concrete terms. Now that transaction has delivered Lanka in their endeavor to over power Tamil Tigers; there is simply less reason for Lanka to go away from this winning friendship with China. India can not match Chinese ‘cash power’ in near future. So indeed this looks as a hopeless game for India. One would expect more awkward utterances from Indian Foreign Policy Mandarins in days to come because an unstable national government will be lot more dependent on Tamil MPs. So it does seem like a ‘wash’ for India in her Lankan relationship.

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