BY H.L.D. MAHINDAPALA
In a lofty speech delivered via video to the 75th General Assembly of UN (September 2020) – the first of its kind initiated in the wake of the pandemic — Prime Minister Narendra Modi took great pains to explain a range of issues from India’s “Neighbourhood First Policy” to the new dimensions of the Indo-Pacific region.
Among the achievements he highlighted was this unusual factor peculiar to India only: “In the same period (i.e. within 4-5 years),” he said “600 million people have been freed from open defecation. “This was not an easy task. But India has achieved it,” he said with pride.
The entire SAARC neighbourhood joins India in celebrating this achievement. But what baffles the SAARC partners in the region is why India continues to defecate in the neighbourhood so openly and unashamedly?
The biggest shock of being a SAARCian is that no one ever knows when India would decide to defecate either in your front yard or backyard. There isn’t a single SAARCian that is not working ceaselessly to keep their patch free from India faeces. India’s “do-as-I-say-and-not do-as-I-do policy” has been a fundamental flaw in India’s foreign policy.
The failure of SAARC to progress as a regional bloc – the only regional bloc to stagnate so far — is due solely to India’s pursuit of self-interest at the expense of its neighbours. If there is a problem in SAARC you can be sure that India is somewhere in it. And yet the Prime Minister boasted in the same speech, “We have always worked for the interests of humankind and not driven by our own self-interests.”
The Gandhi-Nehruvian idealism that inspired the Non-Alignment Movement went out with India defecating in and around its neighbourhood. Cleaning up India was long overdue and Modi deserves credit for achieving this Herculean task. Which reminds me of the cynical story that circulated after the visit of Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier, to India in 1960.
An eye-sore to Khrushchev, the story went, was the Indians defecating in public and on one of his long train rides he chided Nehru for letting his people dirty both sides of the railway track. Nehru’s pride was wounded and he remembered it well and on his return visit to USSR (as Russia was known then) he was out to get even with his counterpart. He thought he found one at last in one of his long train rides across Siberia when he saw in the open distance, a squatting man defecating.
He quickly summoned Khrushchev and pointed to the ugly scene which, naturally angered Khrushchev. Immediately, he pulled the chain and stopped the train and got his NKVD to bring the culprit before him. It was Nehru who was chagrined again because they discovered that the defecator was none other than India’s ambassador to Moscow!
Well, SAARCians are well aware that the South Bloc in Delhi is a factory that produces these incontinent specimens who should not have been let out of Indian toilets. J. N. Dixit, the noted “Mr. Fix-it” who was sent by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, to execute her excremental mission in Sri Lanka, was full of regret later when he realised, rather late, that it was India’s biggest mistake.
The entire mission was undertaken on the assumption that India could fix the domestic problem of Sri Lanka by using its superior military, political and Big Brother muscles. In the end it was driven away by the very forces that welcomed them as their saviours. And the LTTE boasted that they had beaten the fourth largest Army in the world.
Losing its grip
Each defeat diminishes India’s stature as a reliable guide, partner and leader in the global competition for power and influence. India’s rivals are asserting and making their presence felt with more credible and viable use of power. In short, India is losing its grip in the neighbourhood – let alone the Indian Ocean Rim – by the day, to its powerful rival China.
India is drifting away from its neighbourhood – its nearest and vital mates needed for its defence – to depend on distant power blocs like the QUAD. Consequently, India is forced to rely on the Pacific “friends” with a common interest in containing China, which questions the validity of India’s “Neighbourhood First Policy”. And the more it alienates its neighbours the more it is compelled to rely on LOCs and LACs.
How many frontiers must it maintain just to survive in the neighbourhood, dissipating its military energies on mini-wars and skirmishes from time to time, sometimes going to the brink? Is India going to live on tenterhooks for the rest of its life by hanging on to controversial legacies and self-serving interventions?
India of course rushes into places where angels fear to tread (e.g. Sri Lanka) believing that it is a problem-solver. But the records show that she ends up as a problem-exacerbator, not knowing how to get out of it without exiting in body bags.
Bite more than it can chew
Invariably, India’s foreign forays boomerang on her blinkered bureaucrats in the South Bloc. India has this penchant also to bite more than what it can chew. And, in the process, she gets choked. That is what happened to her in Sri Lanka. Had India allowed the Sri Lankan forces to finish off the LTTE in the Vadamarachchi operation in the 70s the needless internal war would not have dragged on till 2009. It could have been nipped in the bud. But Big Brother India had to come in and worsen the situation for all concerned – mostly to India.
Had India allowed Sri Lanka to solve its problems in their way India could have saved face without having to experience the humiliation of its forces being driven out with their tails between their legs.
India’s latest diplomatic thrust at the UNHRC against Sri Lanka is typical of India’s duplicitous diplomacy. It is the absolute lack of moral finesse that makes India a despicable figure in the eyes of those who know India’s role in sabotaging and destabilising her neighbour and friend for thousands of years. It is the nearness that makes India both a friend and an enemy.
“As a neighbour with thousands of years of relations with Sri Lanka, we cannot remain untouched by developments in that country and will continue to remain engaged in this matter,” said Dilip Sinha, India’s High Commissioner in Geneva in 2013. In other words, India is saying that it will not let Sri Lanka be independent and handle its domestic affairs or foreign affairs according to its national interests.
India gave a new meaning to “Neighbourhood First Policy” by imposing Article 370 and wiping out the independent status of Kashmir violating international agreements and UN resolutions and absorbing the Muslim state into Indian Hindustan. India would not have hesitated by now to make Sri Lanka its 29th state if it had the power to do so.
The “Neighbourhood First Policy” is a rather belated approach to mend broken fences. But India can’t live up to its own commitments. India’s lobbying against Sri Lanka in Geneva, roping in Nepal, is not the best way to pursue policy that gives priority and confidence to the neighbourhood. Pakistan and Bangladesh, the two big neighbours, were not with India.
Isn’t this another sign that meddlesome and interventionist India cannot coexist with its neighbours? Of course, the Modi government was under pressure in Tamil Nadu to prove that they are with the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Selling Sri Lanka is another way of winning votes in the Tamil Nadu election due on April 6.
Modi is boasting that he is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Jaffna. He is also claiming blood relationship with the Tamils by referring to them as his “brothers and sisters”. No doubt, this is electoral rhetoric. That is for domestic consumption. But the consequences of this rhetoric go beyond the borders to impact on Indo-Sri Lanka relations.
India is literally pushing Sri Lanka into the arms of China – the last thing that both sides wish to happen. Both sides are sensitive to the possibility of Sri Lanka, swinging away from India. India is openly wooing the Tamils partly to keep the pot boiling for it to intervene and partly to keep them as the Fifth Column to provoke and pressure the GOSL. Indian diplomats on the ground are stirring the pot, playing ball with the Tamil parties.
Playing with fire
Driven by Indian funds, patronage and interventionist policies, the local Tamil parties too are only too happy to go along with Indian manoeuvres. In doing this India is playing with fire again. Playing with divisive politics is a risky gamble. Foreign powers tend to join with the locals to exploit divisions to their advantage. But it doesn’t go according to plan in the best of cases. Vietnam for the USA and Sri Lanka for Indians prove that it can go the other way.
India finds “Tamil aspirations” a good excuse to intervene. So it should not be surprised to find the Sri Lankan “aspirations” too compelling the Sri Lankan policymakers to seek their comfort/security zones abroad. So far, India’s handling of “Tamil aspirations” has not satisfied the Tamil aspirants.
Velupillai Prabhakaran went against India because he felt that India was pushing its own neo-colonial program more than that of the Tamils. Right now India has moved into the UNHRC to push its neo-colonial interventions. Apart from power politics, what makes the Indian adventure in Geneva so obnoxious is its blatant lies and immorality.
Of course, India makes a big issue of trying to present its role as neutral middle-man guaranteeing territorial integrity to Sri Lanka and in the same breath guaranteeing “Tamil aspirations” which it says is in the interest of Sri Lanka. In other words, India will follow the policy of rocking the cradle and pinching the baby. But the sudden and arbitrary application of Article 370 to Kashmir – a kind of final solution to the vexed issue since Pandit Nehru created it at Independence – proves that India is not shy of redrawing the political maps according to its whims and fancies. India is provocative. It is aggressive. And threatening regional peace and stability with each big move.
A counterweight is needed to balance India’s arrogant approach to its neighbours. If an alternative counterweight is not forthcoming, perhaps, an alliance of non-Indians in the region to lock in India – if achievable — would be the answer to put India in its place.
In other words, somebody must stop India running wild. Take the case of Sri Lanka. India exploited the simmering internal stirrings in its very early stages to recruit derelict Tamil youth to be India’s covert arm to destabilise Sri Lanka. It provided training, finance, military equipment, political patronage, diplomatic cover, the use of its territory to export terrorism to its thousand-year-old friend and neighbour. Eventually it forced its way into Sri Lanka on the promise of solving the problem.
When the Tamils realised that the Indians had come in to exploit them they turned against the IPKF. In response the IPKF sprayed bullets indiscriminately targeting civilians. The Indians committed the most heinous war crime by raiding the Jaffna Hospital and slaughtering doctors, surgeons, nurses and patients and all others who stood in the way. And it is this India – this hypocritical India – that is asking Sri Lanka to give justice, dignity, equality and peace for Jaffna Tamils in Geneva.
Three parties engaged directly in finding a military solution and all the human rights issues arose from the military engagements of the three forces: 1. The quasi-Tamil state of the LTTE which came out of the declaration of war by the Tamil leadership at Vadukoddai urging the Tamil youth to take up the gun in pursuit of establishing a Tamil state. (2) the democratically elected state of Sri Lanka which fought to defeat the Tamil Pol Pot and liberate the Tamils from Tamil tyranny and 3. The state of India which intervened militarily to impose its will assuming its power to find a solution. All parties violated human rights and committed war crimes.
The UN Resolutions repeatedly refer to violations of human rights by the GOSL and the LTTE but never by the state of India. Why? In their reports to UNHRC all the High Commissioners have been quick to pick on the GOSL. But not a single report has ever dared to raise the violations of the Indian forces in Sri Lanka. Why? Are they above the law? Or are the High Commissioner, as usual playing the hidden games of exempting the powerful and flaying only the powerless – and that too on flimsy excuses compared to what India had done to Sri Lanka from the beginning?
The scale of India’s criminality in creating, promoting, financing, legitimising the killing machine of its agents in Jaffna is unforgivable. India has no moral leg to stand on and accuse Sri Lanka of anything after what it has done to its thousand-year neighbour and friend. On the contrary, India should have accepted guilt for paving the path to crimes that killed innocent lives in Sri Lanka and legally forced to pay compensation to the victims.
Apart from kick-starting the Tamil killing machine and exporting it to Sri Lanka, it is India’s direct military intervention that prolonged the war leading to thousands of deaths and violations of human rights. After that, after committing those inhuman crimes what right has India to pontificate to Sri Lanka on dignity, peace and justice? After promising to restore peace and reconciliation India departed disgracefully, leaving Sri Lanka in bloody shambles.
Not only India, the entire Core Group led by the UK and the West should hang their heads in shame for hiding the facts that undermine the veracity and the validity of their fake resolution against Sri Lanka. Their secret files contain the truth and they will not reveal them because it blasts their accusations to smithereens.
Lord Naseby’s revelations knock the bottom out of the Resolution that was sponsored by the Core Group. His tireless efforts to dig up the truth and expose the concocted resolution, full of inaccuracies, exaggerations, distortions and denials confirm that UN and its agencies are manipulated by mendacious agents who have the least respect for basic and decent values needed for delivery of justice. Michelle Bachelet has not failed to imitate Colin Powell with deadly accuracy. Both should be awarded honorary degrees for deliberately lying to mislead and deceive the public.
Reading Lord Nasby’s account of what happened in Geneva one is forced to conclude that the whole episode was a farce enacted by liars, hypocrites, conspirators and plain criminals presenting themselves as human rights activists. It was the UK that Chaired the Core Group and the evidence was with Lord Ahamad, the Minister for Human Rights, who had “purposely and consciously withheld “robust evidence” of utmost importance being sent to the UNHR…. He should have sent them unredacted to create an informed Report. The action is made even worse by the UK Chairing the Core Group and is absolutely reprehensible. It is unforgivable and is a black day for my UK Government,” said Lord Naseby.
He said, “I find it unacceptable that the senior UK Minister responsible for Human rights policy should state that the UNHRC did not ask for these Dispatches. The Minister knew how crucial the contents of these Dispatches are to the truth.” One of the objectives of the UNHRC resolution is to find evidence of the human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Shouldn’t the UN begin with the office of the UK Minister for Human Rights and then with Ms. Bachelet’s office? In failing to obtain the necessary information before presenting her report to UNHRC isn’t she guilty of criminal neglect of duty?
The emerging evidence is exposing the calculated manipulation that had operated, with the hidden plotters in the NGOs and officials in key places hiding evidence, concocting evidence and distorting realities on the ground. For instance, the UN produces accusations against Sri Lanka with evidence from nameless, faceless accusers who will remain anonymous for the next thirty years. And Sri Lanka is forced to face the consequences of mysterious evidence kept hidden in the UN archives.
India which was a prime conspirator in financing and honing the Tamil killing machine turns up at UNHRC as a pious preacher of humane values and lobbies against its victim demanding justice. The UK which presides over the Core Group hides the evidence that goes against its own resolution.
Ms. Bachelet who is the Chief Officer responsible for coordinating and presenting the evidence for the Resolution goes along with the lies, deception and the conspiracy to indict Sri Lanka. Put together all this adds to one big calculated move to indict Sri Lanka no matter what the truth is. What chance had Sri Lanka against such massive plotters?