Indian communists: India must end support for genocide in Sri Lanka and the elite coup in Nepal
By Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation
May 11, 2009 -- A shameful spectacle of opportunism is being played out in Indian politics even as Sri Lanka is waging a chilling ``final solution'' to its Tamil national question. In the name of a war to eliminate the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Mahinda Rajapakse's regime in Sri Lanka is waging war on the Tamil people. Independent observers, international rights groups and even journalists have been prohibited from covering the reality of the war. Conservative estimates, trickling through, put civilian deaths at a minimum of 5000, including at least 500 children, since January. At least 100,000 civilians are estimated wounded. The Sri Lankan army is using cluster bombs and chemical warfare in blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions. Tens of thousands of innocent Tamils are caught up in the war zone, starved of food, water and medicine. Some 100,000 others, fleeing in desperation are being rounded up behind barbed wire fences in ``camps'', where by all accounts they will be kept under detention for three years. Sri Lankan journalists questioning their government's brutal policy have been silenced by assassination and arrest. International journalists reporting on the detention camps for Tamil civilians have been detained and deported.
Herding the Tamil population into detention camps after slaughtering thousands cannot end the question of Tamil nationality in Sri Lanka. It cannot wipe out the fact that it was bloody pogroms in the 1980s that catapulted the Tamil protests against systematic discrimination into a full-blown insurgency. The Sri Lankan government is trying to justify its massacre in the name of fighting the LTTE. But there can be no getting away from the fact that it is the Sri Lankan government's brutal suppression of the right to self-determination of its Tamil population that is the biggest obstacle to peace.
The Sri Lankan army's gains are largely due to aid from imperialist powers. Israel has supplied Kfir jets to the Sri Lankan air force, which has used them to bomb Tamil areas. India's role is the most dubious. The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and its constituents like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), under pressure from emotions running high in Tamilnadu, have taken the posture of pressurising the Sri Lankan government to call a ceasefire. Opposition parties like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu, seeking to reap a rich harvest of votes from the resentment, have suddenly woken to the need for a ``Tamil Eelam'' or separate Tamil state for Sri Lankan Tamils. DMK leader and Tamilnadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi went on a ``fast'' for a few hours, and claimed that Sri Lanka had in fact called a ceasefire as a result.
The facts are otherwise: Sri Lanka, far from calling a ceasefire, has merely promised to avoid the use of ``heavy artillery'' as far as possible –- but has made it clear that the war will continue. The promise, in any case, carries little weight -– coming as it does from a regime that has had no compunctions about using even chemical weapons against civilians, and that is in any case planning to treat all surviving Tamil civilians as potential terrorists.
The reality behind the Indian government's rhetoric of concern for Tamil civilians is exposed when one looks at a shockingly candid statement by the Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in parliament on October 23, 2008: “We have a very comprehensive relationship with Sri Lanka. In our anxiety to protect the civilians, we should not forget the strategic importance of this island to India's interests... especially in view of attempts by countries like Pakistan and China to gain a strategic foothold in the island nation... Colombo had been told that India would `look after your security requirements, provided you do not look around'. We cannot have a playground of international players in our backyard..."
While the Indian government has consistently denied providing military support to the Sri Lankan army, one wonders what shape the promise of “looking after security requirements” of Sri Lanka has actually taken.
The Congress party and UPA government have also been suggesting that the ongoing war on Tamils is just punishment for Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. How can Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka be held responsible for that assassination? The Congress party and the Indian state cannot deny the fact that the assassination was a fallout of the disastrously opportunist Indian policy of first extending support to the Tamil insurgency, and then sending in Indian ``peacekeeping'' forces to help crush the militancy. J.N. Dixit, who was national security adviser to the Indian prime minister in 2004-05, and was Indian high commissioner in Sri Lanka between 1985-89, has candidly admitted that “Tamil militancy received (India's) support ... as a response to (Sri Lanka's)…concrete and expanded military and intelligence cooperation with the United States, Israel and Pakistan”, justifying this and the volte face of sending in the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) on the grounds that “inter-state relations are not governed by the logic of morality. They were and they remain an amoral phenomenon..." It is shameful that a government and a party that has in such an ``amoral'' way played with the lives of millions of Tamil people, is today trying to offer the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi as ``moral'' justification for the bloody end-game being played out against innocent civilians in Sri Lanka today.
The silence of the international community and the complicity of India on the ongoing slaughter and repression in Sri Lanka deserves the highest condemnation. It is urgent that democratic forces in India and the international community demand prosecution of the highest functionaries of the Sri Lankan state and the Government of the countries that supplied these bombs for commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
[This article first appeared in the May 5-11, 2009, edition of the CPI (ML) Liberation's ML Update.]
Indian foreign policy and immediate neighbours
May 18, 2009 -- As the curtain comes down on the mega-show of parliamentary elections in the "world's largest democracy", nobody knows which particular combination of parties will finally make it to the seat of power through what type of realignments and murky post-poll deals. What is almost certain, however, is that the people of India will refuse to give a clear mandate to any of the existing alliances, thereby expressing themselves clearly against the basic policy frameworks of successive governments and current frontrunners in parliamentary power politics. So whichever section of the ruling elite may ultimately form the government, democratic and progressive forces will have to continue and further intensify the struggle for a paradigm shift in policies; for example in the way we handle our relations with other countries, our immediate neighbours in particular.
New Delhi's antipathy to the Sri Lankan Tamils who are being slaughtered by the hundreds and thousands is fully consistent with its role in the island nation since 1980s. It is well known that at one time India had extended support to the Tamil insurgency, and then sent a ``peace-keeping force'' that engaged in series of war crimes including the Operation Pawan and the Jaffna teaching hospital massacre. And today India's diplomatic initiatives actually boil down to keeping the Sri Lankan government in humour while simultaneously pretending to try and restrain the inhuman military offensive launched by the latter. If the former motive is guided by an urge to maintain and strengthen its influence in what it considers to be a traditional backyard, the second concern is dictated by the compulsion of wooing Tamil parties and voters ahead of Lok Sabha polls. Such dualism and dishonesty must end now. The government of India must exert maximum possible pressure on the government of Sri Lanka to ensure that the United Nations Security Council resolution asking both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to cease hostilities and allow international aid agencies to enter the war zone is implemented forthwith and the process of a dignified political solution is started, better late than never.
Where India extends covert support to the repressive national-chauvinist government in its southern neighbour, in the north too it has chosen to side with the regressive forces bent on stalling the process of progressive change. It denies any involvement in the the crisis in Nepal, but defends the actions of the Nepal president as head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. But the constitution does not allow him to use that authority against the advice of a lawfully constituted government because parliament is sovereign. (Just imagine what type of constitutional crisis India would find itself in if Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, who was unjustly sacked as navy chief by the Vajpayee government in 1998, had been reinstated by President K.R. Narayanan!) The Indian authorities know all this well enough, but they cannot digest the prospect of the Maoists, who control 40 per cent of the parliament's seats, getting stronger and more coherent. So they threw a spanner in the wheel of progress.
Earlier, during Nepal's Jan Andolan II uprising in April 2006, India sent Karan Singh to Kathmandu hoping against hope to somehow save the monarchy. Later it interfered on all sorts of issues ranging from appointment of a head priest in a major temple to the Nepali government contemplating a treaty of friendship with Beijing. And now, again, it has destroyed the prospects of long-term democratic stability in the Himalayan republic for the short-term goal of undermining the Maoists, in the process isolating itself from the people and the government in that country.
India is well aware how in Pakistan and Bangladesh the political dominance of the military over civil authorities has permanently damaged the democratic institutions in these countries. As comrade Prachanda said in an interview published in The Hindu on May 11, on this score his party wished to learn from the experience of India, not Pakistan, and expected that the former would take a consistent position in favour of civilian supremacy because of its own traditions and because it had supported the struggle for democracy in Nepal. In the event, he was badly let down.
Equally shortsighted is India's attitude to the trouble-torn country on its western border. As previously pointed out in this column, by unilaterally withdrawing from the composite dialogue, and by refusing to resume it despite repeated requests from Islamabad, New Delhi has unwittingly served to further complicate the situation in the subcontinent. With the Pakistan government engaged in a bloody offensive -- including strafing by warplanes and heavy artillery -- against the Pakistani Taliban militia in the North West Frontier Province and still facing a two-week ultimatum from the US, it is urgent that negotiations are resumed and all outstanding issues are settled without the intervention of the world policeman.
India's home minister of the outgoing government has said India is caught in a ``ring of fire''. But there is no denying that in most cases India itself, in its quest for strategic influence over smaller neighbours, stoked the flames. Now it is time for the people of India to force the next government to get rid of all this baggage of the past and work up a just, forward-looking and pro-people foreign policy that would help ensure peace, stability and friendship in South Asia.
[From ML Update, May 12-18, 2009.]