Tamil Nadu politics threatens to shrink Centres options while damaging the cause parties claim to promote
The ethnic dimension of the civil war in Sri Lanka and its aftermath have constantly inflamed politics in Tamil Nadu. It is not surprising,therefore,that political parties in the state have seized the draft resolution sought to be moved by the US on the subject at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council this week. Further protests are being planned,and the DMK has threatened to walk out of the UPA coalition if New Delhi does not exert pressure to include stronger condemnation of Colombos conduct during the final phase of the Sri Lankan armys operation against the LTTE. Predictably,for reasons of government stability as well as the need to temper sentiments for the conduct of prudent and productive foreign policy,senior ministers of the UPA have been tasked with pacifying the DMK patriarch.
The Centre must broadbase its outreach beyond the political leadership in Tamil Nadu. It needs to be more articulate in explaining to the people why the competitive mobilisation by political groups in the state is so dangerous not just for Indias national interest in securing beneficial change in its neighbouring country but also for bringing about ethnic reconciliation and justice within Sri Lanka. Indias policy towards the ethnic conflict has been very nuanced,and the government needs to explain why this is so in arenas far more public than emergency meets with party chieftains. For,it can be nobodys case that post-war reconciliation and reconstruction are proceeding satisfactorily apace in Sri Lanka. The leadership there has not eschewed the temptation to sound triumphant or made the necessary distinction between the vanquished LTTE militants and the innocent people they had forced into their ranks.
The challenge for Delhi is to enable inclusive democracy in Sri Lanka something all political parties in Tamil Nadu surely desire in a manner that does not reinforce the current polarisation and mistrust. This is what renders the AIADMK-led state governments and the DMKs populist rhetoric so irresponsible. It shrinks the space available for India to work with the political spectrum in Sri Lanka for effective reconciliation and reconstruction. The Centre needs to make this point,and be seen to be making it.