I had initially intended to continue with trying to show how we can get the nastier elements in the West off our backs, by working in terms of the ideals the nicer ones I think genuinely uphold. Instead of allowing them to be coopted by the nasties, we should try to get them on board to pursue a rights based agenda for our own people. As it stands, rights are used by those who are ruthless in pursuing their own political agendas to excuse continuing interference based on neither principles nor consistency.
I was diverted however by a letter sent to the Secretary of Defence and then widely circulated by someone in Canada who did much for Sri Lanka when efforts were being made to rescue the Tigers from the consequences of their own intransigence. I was dubious however about what he now has written to the Secretary, since he thinks the Secretary should not be surprised that India has not supported us recently in Geneva.
He claims that India has consistently opposed Sri Lanka, and adduces several instances in which India worked against us. Most of these relate to the early eighties, and then he adds the recent votes at the UN Human Rights Council.
Though, given the writer’s record, I believe he should be taken seriously, I fear that these arguments are misplaced. The concentration on two particular periods, with insufficient appreciation of the support India gave us at all other stages, made me feel that we are not making enough effort to understand cause and effect.
I will look later at the reasons India voted against us in 2012 and 2013. I believe they were wrong to do this, and I have said as much, to the Indian Minister of External Affairs, and to the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo. But while what happened is much to be regretted, we need also to try to understand the reasons for the vote. This is the more important in that, as late as February 2012, they had assured us that they would support us.
What went wrong this time will need careful assessment. What went wrong in the eighties however is quite simple to understand, and we must recognize that the provocation was on our side. Though I am sorry that India reacted in the way it did, and I have said so in discussions both here and in Delhi, their determination to defend themselves against external attacks is quite understandable.
Incidentally, when I said this at one of the leading Indian think tanks, a serviceman who was doing research there, challenged my point that what they did was wrong, and said it was quite justifiable. The diplomat who was his director then said very simply that, while what happened was understandable, it was not justifiable. Given what India itself suffered from the terrorists it had supported, his position I think represents the Indian realization that you cannot play with fire. I can only hope that the Americans who supported the Taleban, and also Chechynyan terrorists, will understand this too, and refrain from endangering the rest of the world as well as themselves.
With regard to India and Sri Lanka in the eighties, the problem was that J R Jayewardene decided to get involved in the Cold War with a vengeance. It is now forgotten how he rejected the Indian bid to use the oil tanks in Trincomalee, even though it was clearly the best from our point of view when tenders were called, and instead tried to hand them over to a firm about which the Indians were understandably suspicious. We have also forgotten how he handed over an area far too near to India to the Americans to be used by the Voice of America.
We have forgotten now how dangerous such operations were thought to be in Cold War days. We have also forgotten how America viewed India with suspicion in those days, as being an ally of the Soviets. While I would hesitate to affirm that they actually encouraged training of terrorists against India, I have no doubt that they did not mind at all if General Zia ul Haq diverted funds meant for the training of Afghan terrorists to Kashmiri groups as well as those responsible for terrorist attacks in Delhi and Mumbai. After all, when Bill Clinton responded to the attack on the USS Cole by bombing Taleban terrorist training camps, those who were killed were Kashmiris.
India then deciding to play that sort of game, when we had started it by trying to ally ourselves exclusively with the West, in contravention of our traditional foreign policy, should not cause us undue grief. Though I believe they too now regret preventing us from destroying the LTTE in 1987, we must recognize that, following the Indo-Lankan Accord, they supported us solidly, all the way until 2012, as indeed the letter to the Secretary of Defence indicates.
The Annexe to the Accord, in which Jayewardene repudiated his earlier Cold War adventurism, makes clear what the Indian motivation was. After that they were more anxious than we were to get rid of the Tigers, and we must recognize our own folly in indulging the Tigers excessively over the next decade and more. This does not mean that we should not have tried to negotiate, but we were far too gullible generally, and made concessions that made the Tigers think getting everything they wanted would be a simple matter.
It is these aspects of history that we must dwell on in working out how we can improve relations with India. I still find it difficult to understand how we have destroyed relations so foolishly, given the solid support they gave us to destroy the Tigers and also to overcome challenges by the West in Geneva during the war period. But it is not too late to repair the situation, if we only had the will.