“Stance on Sri Lanka a blunder” but not for the reasons prompting the writer’s view
Policy, especially “ Foreign Policy”, of any Democracy is inherently a dynamic entity. To be meaningful it has to render for change and yes, should be opportunistic but not unprincipled, just to mention important attributes totally from a lay perspective.
“If our foreign policy towards Sri Lanka should be based on the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu today, then sentiments in West Bengal should dictate our foreign policy towards Bangladesh tomorrow, and those in UP and Bihar should determine what we do with Nepal day after”, says the writer, an erstwhile Foreign Secretary. Respecting sentiments of sections of the population is part and parcel of a Democratic Establishment. It has to find ways and means of doing just that or abandon ship, to be taken over by democratic forces rising up to the challenge.
Indian foreign policy during the past quarter century, as known to laymen observers, has been opportunistic but not principled. Propping up Mujibur Rahman in Bangladesh, a separate Nation carved out of Pakistan was opportunistic but not principled. It was blatant interference and assault on another sovereign Nation. In the 21st century, the very same Indian Establishment would appear to decry appropriate intervention in Sri Lanka, conveniently invoking ‘principle’. Such is the ephemeral quality of “foreign policy”.
In the context of Sri Lanka and the US sponsored Resolution, though it may be assumed that each and every member country had no doubts as to the need to censure Rajapakse’s Government for what it did to its own Tamil citizens, all the members of the UNHRC took positions based on their individual relationship with the United States. Those generally opposed to the US voted against the Resolution and those who condone US foreign policy, in general, voted for the Resolution whilst some choosing to remain neutral, abstained. India which should have been proactive was neither opportunistic nor principled. The opportunity of revising its foreign policy, respecting strong sentiments of one of its important States, Tamilnadu, was missed. Whether it tried and missed due to US’ insistence to save the Rakapakse regime or whether no efforts were made is not known. However, there has been an attempt to give the impression that it tried. This, of course, in a half- hearted attempt to respond to Tamilnadu developments..
The Writer, while generally enumerating umpteen other factors determining foreign policy has glaringly glossed over the ‘ personal culpability’ factor that could override as in the case of Sri Lanka. Desisting from naming them, some officials high up in the hierarchy could be most easily implicated by Rajapakse for complicity in the Sri Lankan war crimes and crimes against humanity. Are these personages of any high human order to blissfully ignore this aspect while there are legitimate compulsions to change or modify foreign policy. Of course not. Eelam Tamils, I am sure, could have progressed already in strides in the matter of ensuring justice for the Eelam Tamils who were subject to crimes of various descriptions, not excluding Genocide.