The West and its
double standards for terrorism
As Sri Lanka celebrated its 61st anniversary of independence
this week, the Armed Forces were poised to recapture all of the
territory which had previously been under the writ of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
In that sense there is likely to be history in the making in the
days to come but the government will have to overcome a final,
tough hurdle: pressure from the international community that is
issuing periodic calls for a truce in the North.
This appeal has been percolating among the western superpowers
for some time now but last week both the United States and the
United Kingdom in a joint statement called for an end to the
fighting saying it endangered the lives of civilians trapped in
There is no dispute about this but for these two nations to call
for a halt for military offensives, turning a convenient blind
eye to the fact that it is the LTTE that is preventing the free
movement of these civilians is to say the least, ridiculous.
This country, after twenty five years of a bloody and brutal war
for which it paid dearly with lives of many men, women and
children is now on the threshold of eliminating terrorism. Its
fight against terror has been hailed as one of the most
efficient military operations in recent history.
On a global perspective, the world has more or less - barring a
few countries - adopted a policy of zero tolerance against
terrorism, battered as it is by a spate of horrendous terror
attacks that have spanned from New York to Mumbai.
Against such a backdrop the only reasonable response of the
international community to the on-going conflict in the North
should be to encourage the Tigers to surrender. Any other means
of coercion aimed at arm-twisting Colombo into halting its
military operations is to provide the LTTE with another
That is the road the Tigers have travelled many times before.
When the military was on the ascendancy, they have always made
noises about negotiations and ceasefires, the international
community was at hand to apply pressure on Colombo and yet
another round of ‘peace talks’ would begin, only to be abandoned
at the whims and fancies of the LTTE.
What is intriguing is that the present call for a truce in the
North comes from many quarters. While the United States and the
United Kingdom have led the chorus, there have been appeals from
the European Union, the United Nations and even from India.
While we can understand why India is calling for a halt to
military action in the North in the light of its domestic
political implications, we must appreciate the restraint with
which our giant neighbour has acted so far. Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh is walking a political tightrope and doing it
His emissaries to Colombo have indicated that while New Delhi
will continue to publicly express their concerns about the
crisis in the North, their actions will be such that they will
not precipitate any adverse outcomes for the onward march of the
Sri Lankan security forces.
Also, India was quick to condemn the LTTE for not responding to
the 48 hour ‘window’ offered by the Colombo Government to
release civilians. They also pointedly called upon the Tigers to
lay down arms, an appeal that has hitherto fallen on deaf ears.
The same however cannot be said of the other nations and
organisations that are desirous of seeing an end to the conflict
in the North. What is galling is not their lamentations about
the civilians trapped there - which is justified - but their
apathy in not condemning the LTTE for using these innocent
people as human shields.
It is time then to call the bluff of the international
community. It cannot have double standards: one set of policies
and priorities when it is dealing with terrorism in its own
territories and another set of proclamations when it is dealing
with a small nation such as Sri Lanka. And this is indeed what
we have been witnessing over the past few days.
No doubt, loftier pronouncements will emanate from the global
powers that be in the coming weeks over the Sri Lankan conflict.
But the onus will be on the government and President Mahinda
Rajapaksa to tackle such sabre-rattling head on.
So far, what has been this government’s strong point which has
endeared it to the masses despite its many shortcomings is that
it has not buckled under international pressure in it
prosecution of the war against the LTTE.
But, as the Eelam war draw to a predictable closure, there will
be testing times ahead. The Tiger diaspora and its well-oiled
propaganda machine will ensure that misinformation will be fed
to the international media to paint a grim picture of what is
transpiring in the North. And, it will do its utmost to depict
the government in Colombo as the villain of the piece.
The President and his Government will have to be unflinching in
the face of this last ditch attempt to salvage the Tigers so
that they could live to fight another day. This requires much
more than military superiority: excellent diplomatic networking,
saying the right words at the right time and anticipating what
It is more than likely therefore that the end game of the Eelam
war will be as much a diplomatic battle as much as it is a quest
to regain territory and it is a battle Sri Lanka can ill afford