By Bharat Bhushan
Indian disappointment with Sri Lanka’s refusal to undertake genuine reconciliation with its Tamil population ought to have been apparent to Colombo for some time now. It must have been brought home forcefully with the visit of an all-party delegation of Indian parliamentarians to Sri Lanka last week.
Although India supported the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam it was wrong to presume that it would turn a blind eye to Colombo’s indifference towards resolving the Tamil question since the war ended three years ago.
Its error should have been apparent to Colombo when Delhi voted for the resolution in the UN Human Rights Council castigating Sri Lanka for the abuses committed by its armed forces against the Tamil militants during the three decades of war.
The parliamentarian delegation, the first high level one from India after the UN vote, was led by opposition leader Sushma Swaraj.
While MPs from the Tamil parties DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and the AIADMK (All India Anna DMK) had withdrawn from it, the other members – including some Tamil speaking MPs – were also of two minds because of aggressive statements on the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu state by a Sri Lankan minister virtually on the eve of the visit.
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Despite the situation not being politically propitious, the delegation still went ahead.
Sushma Swaraj made only one public statement at the end of the visit.
She urged Colombo to “reach a genuine reconciliation” based on “a meaningful devolution of powers which takes into account the legitimate needs of the Tamil people for equality, dignity, justice and self-respect”.
The opposition leader spoke in the same voice as the government of India – suggesting that there was weariness across the political class in India with Colombo’s reluctance to devolve power to Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority.
The shift in India’s position towards Sri Lanka as manifested in the UN Human Rights Council vote has been ascribed to several factors.