According to the dialogue in a Sri Lankan yarn a deaf man queried from another man who was walking towards the lake “Hey, going for a bath?.” The other man who also happened to be deaf replied “No men, I am just going for a bath” for which the former responded saying “Oh, I thought you are on the way for a bath.”The present dialogue between Sri Lanka and India on the issue of finding a political solution to the Sri Lanka’s ethnic problem seems to be a present day political version of this yarn with India calling for a political solution and Sri Lanka responding positively time and again.
With the escalation of tension in Tamilnadu over the predicaments of the Tamil people in Wanni who are being repeatedly displaced by the onslaught by the security forces against the LTTE, Indian central government has begun to feel the heat. Indian leaders in turn have attempted to put the pressure on the Sri Lankan government calling for a political solution to the ethnic problem.
The Indian National Security Advisor MK Narayanan summoned Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner G G A D Palitha Ganegoda on October 6 and conveyed India’s concerns over the offensive of the security forces in the Tamil areas. India had expressed concern over the difficulties faced by the ordinary Tamil civilians in Wanni and the removal of humanitarian aid groups from the war theatre. Narayanan asserted the urgency of a political solution to the overall problem.
Responding promptly President Mahinda Rajapaksa within days convened an All Party Conference (APC) which really was not to be an all party conference as the main opposition United National Party and the powerful opinion maker, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) refused to participate. Rajapaksa speaking at the “APC” insisted that there is no military solution to a political problem and there should be a political solution to the ethnic problem.
India again wanted to convey the same message, “ you can’t solve the ethnic problem by military means and therefore find a political solution” when Tamilnadu hot up more and more with all main political parties in the state emulating each other in supporting the Sri Lankan Tamils. Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon on October 17 summoned Colombo’s envoy to stress the importance of a “peacefully negotiated political settlement” to the Tamil issue, the Hindu reported. Mr. Menon told Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner C.R. Jayasinghe that India was worried about the course of the conflict.
It was then Sri Lanka’s turn and President Rajapaksa in a telephonic conversation on October 18 had given a detailed account to Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, on painstaking steps taken to avoid civilian casualties and also to maintain essential supplies to war affected areas. As for the repeated request of the Indians to place a political solution to resolve the problem, President Rajapaksa had assured that it would be extended no sooner the LTTE was disarmed. So this goes on.
India’s call for a political solution 21 years after the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord, under which 13th Amendment to the constitution and the Provincial councils Act were introduced raises many a question. So many powers were devolved to the provincial councils under these two legislative pieces and India had to sacrifice around 1700 lives of her soldiers in order to safeguard the accord’s provisions. Also power devolution scheme was not a voluntary choice of Sri Lanka, rather it was not only a choice but also a coercive imposition of India on Sri Lanka.
If India pushes Sri Lanka to find a political solution to the same problem twenty years after the implementation of the provincial council system which was meant to politically solve the island’s ethnic problem, does it mean that India has abandoned her (brain) child? Does India want her neighbourer to grant more powers to the provincial councils? Or does she want Sri Lanka to find some other form of devolution?
Sri Lankan leaders too have forgotten what they were saying very recently in respect of solving the ethnic problem. It was only weeks ago that President Rajapaksa announced that he was going to implement the 13th Amendment to the constitution in full. However military operations eclipsed everything and all forgot the political solution.
Now it was Tamilnadu politicians looking forward to the Lok Sabha election scheduled to be held early next year who have brought the political solution to the fore. All relevant parties have woken up from the hibernation for it all of a sudden.