En­gage­ment, Not Boy­cott, for Lanka

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

It is wel­come that Naren­dra Modi has cho­sen to over­ride the protest from his new­found al­lies in Tamil Nadu, apart from the main Tamil par­ties, to go ahead with his in­vi­ta­tion to Sri Lanka’s Pres­i­dent Mahinda Ra­japaksa to his swear­ing-in cer­e­mony. It is also wel­come that Ra­japaksa has demon­strated his will­ing­ness to re­cip­ro­cate this show of good­will by re­leas­ing fish­er­men from Tamil Nadu, who of­ten stray be­yond In­dia’s own ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters, who had been jailed in Sri Lanka. This show of mu­tual good­will does not sub­sti­tute for sub­stan­tive con­sti­tu­tional re­form in Sri Lanka, to give the coun­try’s be­lea­guered Tamil mi­nor­ity a mod­icum of po­lit­i­cal em­pow­er­ment and agency af­ter a long, bit­ter his­tory of op­pres­sion, re­volt and de­feat. New Delhi has to be guided not so much by the pos­tur­ing and pol­i­tick­ing in Tamil Nadu in the name of Lankan Tamils, but by what will ben­e­fit the Tamil mi­nor­ity of our south­ern neigh­bour. And there is lit­tle gain­say­ing that en­gage­ment with the Ra­japaksa govern­ment is the only way to in­flu­ence that govern­ment’s poli­cies in a man­ner that is favourable to the Tamil mi­nor­ity. In­dia’s role as the largest power of South Asia can­not be lever­aged in any pro­duc­tive fash­ion by New Delhi go­ing into a sulk. At the same time, the Cen­tre can­not af­ford to wish away the re­al­ity that five years af­ter the bru­tal war that wiped out the Lib­er­a­tion Tigers of Tamil Ee­lam and sub­se­quent con­sol­i­da­tion of power by the Ra­japaksa clan, there has been lit­tle sign of Colombo liv­ing up to its prom­ise to de­volve po­lit­i­cal power to the Tamils. Nor can New Delhi ig­nore the im­pact this has on sen­ti­ment in Tamil Nadu. So, once the cer­e­mo­nial bon­homie of the in­au­gu­ra­tion is over, proac­tive mea­sures are in or­der to make Colombo do the right thing by its Tamil mi­nor­ity.

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