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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

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GENEVA, MORNINGS AFTER: A NECESSARY RETHINK

The week we lost at Geneva was the week the rest of the world was asking uncomfortable questions on the 10th anniversary of the western invasion of Iraq. And Kashmir was on lockdown as the population protested Indian atrocities there, including killings and rape.

Native Americans

It was not only Western channels like CNN and BBC but also most of their serious newspapers that were questioning the Iraq war last week. 10 years ago, the US was still in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and considered the world’s sole superpower. In the Iraq invasion, the US returned to its role as a guntoting Wild West sheriff. The decision to invade Iraq was thus taken on fictitious claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction WMD and despite widespread global protest. This was reminiscent of the US’s earlier falsehood as it went to war against Vietnam (which the US lost) by creating a completely fictitious incident in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Saddam Hussein was no saint but what replaced him in Iraq through the US invasion was a disaster. The facts are plain. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have being killed, possibly one million. Iraq society is now in utter disarray and its infrastructure destroyed. Massive bombs are going off regularly. Large chunks of its oil resources and other war-booty handed over to corrupt American and Iraqi politicians. And the influence in Iraq of Iran, the West’s bogeyman, has increased enormously through Iraq’s majority Shia population.

International Criminal Court

Bled by imperial overstretch including in Afghanistan, the US and UK are suffering from financial overreach and are in debt, kept afloat by others, particularly China. Iraq was the end of America’s unipolar moment. In the coming decades, we are transiting to an Asian future and we have to grit our teeth and wait for a few years – a blip in a country with 2500 years of written history. This is a contrast to the 250 years of the US – built on genocidal elimination of the then Native American population and replacing it with European whites.

With this past and present baggage, Donahoe the US ambassador to the Geneva event had the gall to say that the resolution against Sri Lanka was one of “peace and reconciliation” and that it wanted “meaningful steps toward truth and accountability”. We should note that this declining US bully, widely accused of war crimes does not accept the International Criminal Court. To get at the US’s past and present massive war crimes, just Google “US war crimes” and see the Wikipedia entry.

There were no protests in Tamil Nadu and in India generally on the LTTE massacres. This lack of qualms extended to Sonia Gandhi whose husband Rajiv was assassinated by the LTTE. According to the Indian government-appointed Jain Commission on the killing, the DMK had been involved in the plot to kill Rajiv Gandhi. Significantly, there were no posters on the Rajiv death in the Tamil Nadu protests. In the protests in Tamil Nadu, the most blatant misinformation was a picture of an LTTE atrocity on a Sinhala majority village being carried by protesters as being done on Tamils by our Army. Similarly, an Al Jazeera coverage of alleged Sri Lanka atrocities on Tamils had a film-clip of bones being uncovered by a forensic team.

Military intervention

This clip was actually from the recent digging up of bones of suspected JVPers killed in Matale. This misinformation was very much in the tradition of the book once published by the TULF in whose politbureau was Neelan Thiruchelvam of the ICES. This book claimed that Sinhalese eat meat of butchered Tamils. The ICES at one time had functioned almost as a branch of the Federal Party and its later director, an ethnic foreign Tamil, was deported for advocating military intervention in Sri Lanka.

Rajiv Gandhi

Saddam Hussein

Just before the end of the war, two Indian “academics” both of South Indian extraction appeared in international channels and wanted the anti-LTTE war stopped. One was Sahadevan from the key JNU University, a strong contrast to his earlier JNU predecessor Urmila Phadnis, a friend of Sri Lanka. The other speaker was from India’s main defence think tank, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). An interesting contrast to our own unthinking intellectual apparatus was that shortly before; Sahadevan had been an invitee to Colombo University as a guest lecturer. Although the founder of IDSA Air Commodore Jasjit Singh was sympathetic to Sri Lanka, the current head was recently invited to our Kadiragamar Centre only to preach to us on the 13th amendment. The current IDSA website has an article on why India should vote against Sri Lanka in Geneva. These calamities within our alleged think tanks are not surprising. Not so long ago, key lecturers in the then Kotalawela Defence Academy were those very foreign funded NGO hacks working against our sovereignty.

Western puppets

It was the UNP government of JR which was first humiliated by India, due it is said, to JR being perceived as a US puppet against then pro-Soviet India. But JR was far more an astute politician than his nephew Ranil Wickremasinghe, the current UNP leader. Western puppets were at one time strongmen but a symptom perhaps of the West’s decline is that their perceived agent in Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe works more like their male call girl. We require a strong opposition in the country. But with a whining weakling like Ranil, ever so ready to go against Sri Lanka, this seems a distant dream.

In 1987 JR had to succumb to Indian gun boats and overflying bombers and sign the colonial 13th Amendment, prepared for him by the Indians. The leading newspaper in the US the New York Times then editorialized about “Mr. Gandhi’s.... big-stick diplomacy in Sri Lanka”. Another leading American newspaper the Wall Street Journal editorialized that India was like “A rogue elephant trampling upon its neighbours”. The London Evening Standard said “India ... is the colonial power in the region today. If the Indian navy had shut off the Palk Strait Tiger reinforcements and supplies, if in fact Mr. Gandhi had behaved with that rigour he demanded from Britain in our treatment of the Sikhs, the terrorists would have been defeated by now”.

US invasion of Iraq marked 10th anniversary on March 20, 2013

Last month the New York Times NYT in two articles written on the Geneva meeting by an Indian noted that in fact the US Geneva resolution “would be impeding progress rather than facilitating it.” The news report also recalled the experience of Jaffna citizens on the IPKF which we should note was called by Tamils “the Indian People Killing Force”. The NYT writer said Jaffna citizens were still recalling summary executions by the IPKF. Now advocating Sri Lanka follow a faulty Geneva resolution, this regional bully has yet to implement the UN resolutions passed over 60 years ago, calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir. This week, even the docile Chief Minister of Kashmir was complaining in the Indian Parliament about unending atrocities including rape. Apart from Kashmir, we should remember that New Delhi is today the rape capital of the world. A woman is raped every few minutes in India - a strong contrast to China. If you want to know more about this “democratic” India, see the UTube video “India Untouched: Research Documentary”.

Anti-Muslim protests

The Business Standard of India commented “In Sri Lanka, India has lost the plot to China”. It added “If there was a guidebook on ‘How to sour relations with neighbours and lose whatever little influence you have”, India is playing it out to perfection in Sri Lanka, yielding ground progressively to China. China was quietly savouring a moment of diplomatic triumph.”

Indicative of this changing geopolitics in the world was that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was one of the five foreign leaders that the new Chinese President Xi Jinping first telephoned. On his first foreign visit namely to Russia, Xi also emphasized a need to “oppose interference in the internal affairs of other countries,” a contrast to the big bullies India and US.

The other countries that supported us in Geneva included Muslim Pakistan. And earlier, the Muslim leaders of Qatar and Iran had been received very warmly in Sri Lanka. In this background, it remained very puzzling how a few weeks before the Geneva vote, anti-Muslim sentiment was being heated up. Maldivians who speak a Sinhala derived dialect and consider themselves close to us have been also targeted. A news item reported the President saying “Muslim countries supported us, however,

certain elements here attempted to deny this support” .The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), with 57 member countries, expressed its concerns about the safety of Muslims in Sri Lanka. If India was trying to lose our friendship to China, some of us were trying much harder to lose Muslim friends.

Some wondered whether there were unseen foreign hands behind the anti-Muslim protests, and Sunday newspapers hinted about a Norwegian connection. Decades ago, before Norway started interfering in Sri Lanka, I had strong Norwegian academic links. And during the last few days I was now asked about an alleged Norwegian connection to anti-Muslim events.

The seeming link was in the form of the Norwegian funded Worldview Foundation headed by Arne Piertoff and its “YA TV” which during the war took anti-Sri Lanka positions. Piertoff himself had been once quoted in the Norwegian press as saying that he was as popular in Sri Lanka as the Buddha and Karl Marx! The allegations of the Norwegian connection were that one of the lay persons associated with the anti-Muslim events had been with this organisation and that the protesting monks were simply pawns. Who knows? Maybe it was only simply a lack of foreign policy awareness.

Buddhist culture

As the world shifts towards Asia, we should reach out not only towards China and Pakistan but further afield. But within India itself, there are many groups we could align with, including in Tamil Nadu itself. Hardly anybody in Sri Lanka knows that the original roots of the DMK and Tamil chauvinist policies were an organisation created over 110 years ago in South India for the Indian downtrodden by our Anagarika Dharmapala.

In addition in many Indian states, there are buttons we should have played. Our Buddhist background could be used in India, especially towards Dalits - a quarter of India’s population. The Dalit leader Ambedkar denounced Hinduism and became a Buddhist together with hundreds of thousands of the Indian downtrodden. States with Buddhist inspired groups and leaders like Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh; Nitish Kumar in Bihar; the new Buddhists in Maharashtra and new upper-class Indians who increasingly find Buddhist culture attractive could be our natural allies.

You should not ask our Foreign Service about this soft power usage or the Kotalawela Defence University KDU. Whereas in an Indian SAARC meeting, I was given a plenary on Buddhist soft power, my parallel paper at a KDU conference was included together with one on growing vegetables! And the KDU reviewer who had looked at my paper evidently had no idea of soft power (in use at least for 20 years in international relations discussions). S/he asked in effect what it was. We must reboot ourselves and put our thinking caps. We have much to do to put our intellectual order and the country straight. At very many levels, we are an imperfect society.

 

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