India has announced that Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh will not grace Sri Lanka`s 60th Independence Day celebrations on Feb. 04. `Scheduling difficulties` and the Prime Minister`s health have been given as the reasons. However, it is being speculated in the diplomatic circles, as we reported yesterday, that the Indian government`s decision could have something to do with issues like the delay on the part of the Sri Lankan government to propose a political solution to the conflict.
Dr. Singh is greatly admired by the people of this country and they would have loved to see him here. (They also adore former President Abdul Kalam and it is unfortunate that India failed to retain the Singh-Kalam combination!) But, if the great man cannot come for whatever reason, so be it! Life must go on. Sri Lanka will have to look for someone else to grace the occasion.
Why do we always fall over ourselves to have foreign dignitaries at our celebrations as chief guests or guests of honour? We can always have for that purpose enough and more Sri Lankans who have done this country proud, can`t we? So, why not invite a religious leader, a physician, an engineer, a scientist, a thinker, a teacher, an artiste, a social worker, a writer, a poet, an entrepreneur, a sportsperson or any other distinguished Sri Lankan as chief guest at the Independence Day celebrations?
Come to think of it, did Sri Lanka really gain independence in 1948? If so, how come some foreign envoys are behaving as if they were viceroys in Colombo? They are nibbling away at this country`s sovereignty. We have some of them disparaging Sri Lanka at every turn and telling it what to do and how to do it.
Put any bloke behind a counter, as Albert Camus said, and he begins to put on airs and graces in no time. So do the foreign diplomats in this country put behind lecterns by NGO and political lackeys licking their boots, lured by a bone or two or a glass of foreign liquor at cocktail parties and/or funds for their bogus projects. They get too big for their diplomatic boots in no time. Ironically, a wag says, most of them are not even heard of in their own countries and nonentities in their respective foreign offices! (A few years ago, a senior journalist of this newspaper was surprised when a Norwegian he met on his way to Norway didn`t know who Solheim was!)
Sri Lanka has come to such a pass that it cannot at least dump a moribund ceasefire agreement which guarantees the freedom of withdrawal, without being criticised by foreign powers for its decision. The US says it is troubled by the government`s decision to abrogate the CFA. Strangely, the US was not troubled by the world opinion which was manifestly against its decision to invade Iraq on the false pretext of looking for WMDs? It doesn`t give two hoots about the concerns of the world over its decision to ready for war against Iran? It is also not troubled by the disastrous consequences of its war on terror that has, inter alia, sent the world oil prices soaring and landed the weak economies in the soup? And why is it that the US, which seems to be enamoured of CFAs, didn`t accept bin Laden`s truce offer and the White House boasted that the best way to deal with terrorists was to put them out of business? The LTTE is proscribed as a terrorist outfit in the US, isn`t it?
Yes, a cessation of hostilities is salutary and the conflict must be resolved politically. But, of what use is a mummified truce violated umpteen times and abused by one party to further its interests? What did the US do to help salvage the tattered ceasefire? The US is behaving like a person who is weeping at his grandma`s funeral, hugging her lifeless body, having done nothing to help her when she was critically ill and pleading for help. The US policy towards Sri Lanka`s conflict has been `a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma`?something that Churchill said of Russia.
India, too, has expressed a similar view, urging Sri Lanka to prevent escalation of the conflict and adopt a political solution. What about the solution that India forced down Sri Lanka`s throat in 1987?the Provincial Council system? At that time, India was occupying a part of this country in all but name and the Tigers were eating out of its hand. Does India want her solution fully implemented or some other remedy found? India`s gobbledygook defies comprehension.
It is time India, which has, to its credit, consistently rejected Eelam, stopped running with Sri Lanka and hunting with the international community. It must tell Sri Lanka what to do with its brainchild (the Provincial Councils). The present Sri Lankan government is doing exactly what the Indian government was doing in the late 1980s?battling the LTTE in a bid to defang it and prepare the ground for a political solution. India must say unequivocally whether it wouldn`t object if Sri Lanka were to adopt federalism that goes beyond the Indian devolution model, which is quasi-federal in nature. Or, in other words, does India want Sri Lanka to dump the Provincial Councils and give in to pressure from the US etc. to offer a federal solution.
India stands to gain from Sri Lanka`s war against terrorism. It was not for nothing that India once tried to eliminate its Frankenstein`s monster. Hanuman, according to legend, destroyed Lanka millennia ago by setting it ablaze with its burning tail. Today, the Tigers are capable of doing that to India, given the dormant secessionist tendencies in Tamil Nadu, where the LTTE has become a source of inspiration to the lunatic fringe as well as some prominent politicians in the democratic mainstream.
So, India must stand up and be counted for its own sake!