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This is my Nation


 India now cannot be soft on terrorism in any way                                            

Having failed in his previous attempt to arm-twist New Delhi into acceding to his demands, the Chief Minister was planning another endeavour: he was to lead a delegation of Tamil Nadu parliamentarians to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Singh, ostensibly to tell him that he was not doing enough for the Tamil community in the north of Sri Lanka.

Last week wouldn’t have been particularly auspicious for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or its chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran, even though he was ‘celebrating’ his birthday.

Pooneryn, Muhamalai and Mankulam have already come under the control of the armed forces and the government was hinting that the capture of Kilinochchi was imminent. Prabhakaran’s own ‘Heroes’ Day’ speech was a reflection of the circumstances he and his organisation found themselves in. The only silver lining for the LTTE was a resurgence of support from Tamil Nadu.
  
The South Indian state, home to sixty six millions Tamils, had previously led the campaign against military operations in the north of Sri Lanka. Although most politicians from across the Palk Straits were careful not to openly canvass the cause of the LTTE which, officially is a banned terrorist organisation in India, they were equally keen to take up cudgels on what they claimed was the harassment of civilians in the theatre of conflict.

This cry for support gathered momentum several weeks ago, with the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Muthuvelu Karunanidhi stating that if New Delhi does not intervene in the issue, the support of his legislators for the ruling Congress (I) party would need to be reviewed. In fact, the MPs threatened to resign if their call was not heeded.

Indian intervention came but not in the form demanded by Karunanidhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress (I)’s de-facto leader Sonia Gandhi deftly defused the crisis by entertaining Sri Lanka’s special envoy and presidential sibling Basil Rajapaksa and negotiating the issue of food aid to internally displaced persons in the north of Sri Lanka.

The underlying message was clear: while India understood and sympathised with the plight of the civilians in the north of Sri Lanka, it did not wish to burn its fingers again by intervening and interfering in Sri Lanka’s conflict even if Tamil Nadu was flexing its’ political muscles and threatening to bring down the fragile coalition of Indian Premier Singh.

The crisis appeared to have abated but the issue flared up again over the past few weeks. Chief Minister Karunanidhi was playing his own political game in Tamil Nadu and was himself feeling the pressure from the pro-Tamil lobby urging him to take a more populist stand that would ensure the survival of his Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

Having failed in his previous attempt to arm-twist New Delhi into acceding to his demands, the Chief Minister was planning another endeavour: he was to lead a delegation of Tamil Nadu parliamentarians to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Singh, ostensibly to tell him that he was not doing enough for the Tamil community in the north of Sri Lanka.

Whether this was merely a publicity gimmick for Karunanidhi or whether the Chief Minister really meant business is arguable - he has even less to gain if he allows the coalition of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to fall.

However, the events of a few days ago will now ensure that Karunanidhi won’t gain anything more than mileage from the media by meeting Singh-and even that would be doubtful if, in fact, the meeting does take place. The ultimate loser of all this is of course, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The terrorist attacks on Mumbai have focussed the attention of the entire world on India, especially since the attackers appear to have chosen locations and individuals in such a manner that foreign nationals were the preferred target. The countries to which these nationals belong are horrified and are watching developments in New Delhi very keenly.

As such, India and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have but one option: to condemn the terrorist attacks and take to task the perpetrators wherever and whenever possible. They cannot be seen to be soft on terrorism in any way.

Against such a backdrop, it would be unimaginable for Prime Minister Singh to go out on a limb and support any kind of intervention in Sri Lanka where the LTTE is battling government forces.

The LTTE, after all, is responsible for the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and an attempt to intervene in Sri Lanka in any manner at this juncture would be political suicide for Singh.

The maximum the Indian premier could do in the current circumstances is to call upon Sri Lanka to ensure the safety of the civilians in conflict-ridden areas and this he has already done. Also, Indian food aid is in the process of being delivered, significantly handed over for distribution in the presence of government officials.

Tiger Chief Velupillai Prabhakaran now obviously recognises the strategic value of India for his cause-although he blundered irrevocably in ordering Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination-and this is reflected in his Heroes’ Day Speech. But beseech as he may to New Delhi, the Indian central government can now ill-afford to support him.

It remains to be seen how Tamil Nadu’s chief minister responds to this challenge. Karunanidhi may be eighty-four years old but there is no doubt that he wants to hold on to the reins of power, mostly to ensure a line of succession to a family member. He would now be compelled to re-visit the Sri Lankan issue in an entirely different light.

Colombo will be watching these developments with much interest. But, it should not let its guard down: this would be a good opportunity as any to demonstrate to the world that it is alive to the concerns of the civilians in the Wanni and have acted in a reasonable manner to ensure their safety and comfort.

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