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Politics versus policy

india Updated: Oct 17, 2008 23:55 IST

Hindustan Times
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A gaggle of political parties in Tamil Nadu, their sights fixed on the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, cannot be allowed to decide India’s foreign policy towards Sri Lanka. But that’s what seems to be happening.

With the DMK boss M Karunanidhi insisting that India get Colombo to halt military operations against the LTTE, the latter can once again afford to laugh. Given that the DMK and other Tamil Nadu parties constitute a significant chunk of support to the Manmohan Singh Government, the Centre is using all the right words to try and to placate them.

For four years, Karunanidhi and his allied parties were comfortable with the Manmohan Singh approach — providing limited military assistance to Colombo, while stressing time and again that Tamil civilians should be protected and that there was no military solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka.

What has changed suddenly? “The DMK is desperate. It is clutching at the Lanka issue in a bid to garner votes,” one Union Minister, who preferred anonymity, told HT.

“We should not antagonise Sri Lanka. Instead, we should engage with them constructively,” Col. R. Hariharan (retd), former chief of intelligence for the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF), deployed in Sri Lanka from 1987-1990, said on telephone from Chennai.

It should not be forgotten that the LTTE is banned in India. It was banned in 1992 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.

Let’s also remember that the LTTE was trained by the Indian Army in the 1980s. It used that training to kill some 1,300 of our soldiers when the IPKF was deployed in Lanka

Those who have suddenly developed extreme concern for Sri Lankan Tamilians should also spare a thought for the Sinhalese civilians and Tamil politicians assassinated by the Tigers over the years.

No doubt Tamils in Sri Lanka must have equal rights. But the LTTE is not the agency which can achieve this goal. It has demonstrated time and again a preference for a military option as opposed to a negotiated solution.