The US used to earn plaudits from every Sri Lankan who abhorred terrorism, for its unequivocal condemnation of that dreadful evil. Its ban on the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organisation and moral support extended to Sri Lanka`s war on terror came as a blessing. America had, everybody thought, realised the danger terrorism posed to not only civilians but also one of Asia`s maturing democracies that needed support and protection.
But, alas, when it became patently evident that the LTTE had fought its way into a cul-de-sac and was doomed, America`s policy towards Sri Lanka`s terrorism underwent a sea change much to the disappointment of the terror affected public here wishing for an end to the scourge. Suddenly, the US grew hostile towards this country so did its allies though it was widely believed that the crusaders against global terror look forward to the decimation of the so-called world`s most ruthless terrorist group at the hands of a small nation.
Frantic efforts by the US and the EU to stop Lanka`s war even after the troops had crossed the point of no return made one wonder whether those democracies had mistaken Prabhakaran, the homicidal maniac trapped in the Vanni awaiting death, for someone like Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela! Thus, together the West pushed a desperate Sri Lanka into a situation where it had no alternative but to turn to even the enemies of the West for help to sustain its war effort. Sri Lanka fought like a badger being pursued by hunters and hounds as John Clare said in his famous poem, The Badger : When badgers fight, then everyone`s a foe. The West`s witch hunt against Sri Lanka continued even after the war. It was accused of war crimes without credible evidence and the US stooped to the level of blocking an IMF standby facility for it.
About six months on, the US Senate seems to have softened its stand on Sri Lanka, if what has been leaked to the press of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report to be released next week is any indication. Yesterday we reported quoting a New York Times news item that the report in question advocated a `less confrontational approach` in dealing with Sri Lanka described as `too important a country to be isolated from the west`.
The Senate report is said to have urged the US to `re-evaluate its relationship with Sri Lanka to reflect new political and economic realities`. The timing of the Senate report`s release is of crucial importance as the Obama administration is at present preparing to announce its new policy on Sri Lanka.
It is not only the US that needs to re-evaluate its Sri Lanka policy but also the entire West engaged in a diplomatic badger hunt with heavy ambassadorial mastiffs clapped and urged to join the fray. There is no reason why they should think in terms of regime changes and economic strangulation in dealing with this poor nation.
The following sections of the US Senate report quoted in NYT report are quite interesting: `Sri Lanka is located at the nexus of crucial maritime trading routes in the Indian Ocean connecting Europe and the Middle East to China and the rest of Asia....The United States, India and China all share an interest in deterring terrorist activity and curbing piracy that could disrupt maritime trade.`
Somalian pirates have graduated from an irritant to a major threat in the Indian Ocean over the years. Similarly, all vital sea routes around Sri Lanka would have become vulnerable if the LTTE`s naval wing, Sea Tigers, had not been effectively neutralised. Of Sri Lanka`s three armed forces, the first to finish its job was the Navy. Although Prabhakaran boasted that his final battle for Eelam would be fought in the sea, months before the conclusion of the war, the Sea Tigers had been decimated and a joke doing the rounds was that the Sea Tiger chief Soosai was riding a bicycle for want of a boat! Among the civilian vessels the LTTE attacked and/or captured were many Indian fishing craft and two Chinese trawlers.
The crude air wing of the LTTE, which became the first terrorist group in the world to acquire a conventional air capability and to conduct a string of successful sorties sent shockwaves not only here but also across India, which had to adopt extraordinary security measures to protect its nuclear facilities in the southern region against a possible terrorist air raid. Besides, the Indian police state that the narcotics distribution network in the region with some of its tentacles spreading to Europe and North America is in total disarray following the decapitation of the LTTE.
The whole world has stood to gain from the LTTE`s defeat. Sri Lanka has blown a myth about terrorism sky high it has demonstrated that terrorists are not invincible however elusive they may be and they could be beaten at their own game and sent out of business once and for all. The west ought to grant that Sri Lanka`s successful war has given an enormous boost to the morale of other nations battling terrorism.
The reward Sri Lanka deserves from the West for its outstanding contribution to the civilised world`s war against terrorism is certainly not a witch hunt coupled with sinister attempts to make its economy scream and manipulate its internal politics notwithstanding the risk of creating another Afghanistan in South Asia or a Haiti south of India but some tangible assistance for rebuilding and development in the post-war period.
We earnestly hope that the Obama administration will heed the Senate report and act accordingly.