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Bridge over the Palk Strait

The DMK’s politics of sabre-rattling against the Lankan government has run its course.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2012 21:21 IST

Being in the political doghouse clearly does not sit well with the DMK given its recent fiery denunciations of the visit of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa to India. But, it is in somewhat less elevated company than it was once used to, that of the rabble-rousing MDMK leader Vaiko. Their common grouse is that Mr Rajapaksa has made little recompense to Sri Lanka’s Tamils after a sustained army campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) killed thousands of both militants and innocent people in the island nation. Now, there is no doubt that several unpardonable atrocities were committed in the prosecution of that campaign, which many termed a war by the government against its own people. And certainly, much more needs to be done to ensure that Tamil refugees are rehabilitated. A victorious Sri Lankan government has gone slow on many counts of restitution for the Tamils. But, as India has maintained all along, this is an internal problem though we can nudge the process along through diplomatic channels.

Mr Rajapaksa’s visit, originally to inaugurate a Buddhist university in Sanchi, now has an official element with him meeting with the top Indian leadership. It is passing strange that the DMK is being more loyal than the king when the Sri Lankan Tamils themselves have not sought its help. There have been stray instances of people in Tamil Nadu protesting rather violently, but by and large, with the defeat of the LTTE, the issue no longer invokes much emotion among the people. However, it is a convenient stick to beat the Central government with for parties like the DMK. In the first place, external affairs is a central subject so there is not much a party in a state can do to alter the course of events in that field. Second, ever so often India grumbles about the Lankans getting too close to China which has been only too glad to lend a helping hand. India cannot have it both ways, it cannot at once want Sri Lanka to be considered in its sphere of influence while at the same time not being welcoming to its head of State.

This sort of chauvinistic politics as played out by the DMK has run its course. The government has rightly taken little notice of this sabre-rattling from Chennai. The red carpet welcome for Mr Rajapaksa is also clearly aimed at mollifying him after India voted against his country in the UN. We don’t live in a particularly hospitable neighbourhood. The Sri Lankans at least pay lip service to a special relationship with India. We should build on this and, while raising legitimate concerns, not be held hostage to internal politics.