Category: South Asia

DMK blinks on Sri Lankan Tamils, LTTE

Signalling the end of a major crisis that threatened the continuance of the United Progressive Alliance government, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi assured External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee that he would not precipitate any crisis over the issue of a ceasefire in the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict, even as the island nation assured India that the safety of Tamils in that country was being taken care of.

via The Hindu : Front Page : As DMK relents, crisis for Centre ends

So, what happened? The Indian government reacted to Tamil MPs’ ultimatums and issued a statement expressing “concern”. The Sri Lankan government responded by issuing a statement “reassuring” that Tamils would be taken care of. In the end, nothing appears to have changed, except the rather subtle new perception that there could be an increased Indian involvement in possible negotiations.

We shall see, having been here before.

Sri Lankan Government registers all Tamils

The Americans put all citizens of Japanese origin into camps for the duration of the World War. Did you know that?’She did not say anything.‘What if we place all Tamil citizens in camps for a period of one year,’ I asked. ‘We’d use that year to flush out and kill all the rebels hiding in the Wanni. You can’t blow up our cities when your bombers are not allowed free access to economic and civilian targets, pretending to be innocents.’‘That idea is barbaric. It is only a short step from there to the gas chambers,’ she said furiously and then brightened. ‘But I like the idea. When you start on it, the whole world will condemn you…. It will help our cause in other ways as well. We’ll have plenty of new recruits and funding from our expatriate community will increase immediately.’‘Oh, I understand that the idea is impractical but we don’t have many options.’”So goes the dialogue between Captain Wasantha Ratnayaka, the Sinhalese officer in the Sri Lanka Army, and Kamala Velaithan, a female cadre of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who pretends to be an informer of the diabolical plans of the Tigers, in the much-acclaimed novel of the late Nihal de Silva titled The Road from Elephant Pass.On September 21, the Sri Lankan government almost made real this surreal scenario with its diktat that all citizens from the five districts of the LTTE-dominated North who have been living in and around Colombo (Western Province) for the past five years “re-register” themselves with the police.The professed logic of the government, or to be precise the Defence Ministry, was almost on the lines narrated by Captain Ratnayaka in the novel but with a twist. While the officer-character portrayed in the novel concurs with the illogic of its logic, the collective wisdom of the Sri Lankan establishment did not betray signs of any such reasoning. Even assuming it did, the drumbeats of war have numbed its senses to such an extent that Colombo has stopped bothering about the repercussions of its actions.The latest move by the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime is astonishing to say the least as just over a year ago the government was condemned from within and without for a similar action. Besides, it comes at a juncture when the armed forces have driven the LTTE into wilderness in its own heartland and the entire world is lined up behind the government in its war.

Profiling problem

More on the Sri Lankan government’s astonishingly appalling treatment of Tamils. Clearly, they do not view Tamils as equal citizens of Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese state bears equal responsibility for Sri Lanka’s problems. I do not know what this sudden increase in pressure from India will do. There is some indication that the Sri Lankan government is paying attention.

A day after India officially communicated to Colombo the need for a peacefully negotiated political settlement to the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa telephoned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday to give an assurance that all necessary measures were being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of Tamils in the island nation.

Very empty and meaningless words. My question is, who will speak for the Tamils in a negotiated settlement. Are there any credible voices for peace on either side of the conflict?

Tamil MPs play hardball for LTTE

Members of Parliament from Tamil Nadu will have to resign if the Centre does not come forward to ensure a ceasefire in Sri Lanka within two weeks, according to a resolution adopted at an all-party meet chaired by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi on Tuesday.

Asked if this meant Ministers in the Union Cabinet and MPs in the Rajya Sabha would resign in the event of the ceasefire not happening in two weeks, Mr. Karunanidhi told The Hindu that he meant that all MPs would tender their resignation. “Ministers are MPs first, are they not?” he asked.

via The Hindu : Front Page : T.N. MPs to quit if Centre fails to ensure ceasefire

As Malini Parthasarathy points out in her editorial, this sudden increase in rhetoric coming from the DMK and other Tamil parties seems to coincide with an apparent impending military breakthrough by the Sri Lankan army. Why apparent? Because the only sources of news are the SL army and the LTTE, and neither, are, shall we say, neutral! Overt support for the LTTE has been absent since the late ’80s and especially since Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, so the timing most definitely reeks of LTTE’s covert influence on the Tamil parties in Tamil Nadu. This would be a good time for the LTTE to get some breathing room and regroup.

The Central government would become a minority if this threat was carried out. Which is why the Sri Lankan envoy was summoned and India’s “concerns” were addressed, whatever that means.

I think that the LTTE is a band of ruthless terrorists who should disappear from the face of this Earth. They have systematically eradicated moderate Tamils in their bid to be the only Tamil voice. Additionally, they have killed many civilians, Tamil, Sinhalese and Indian over the course of their bloody insurgency. The Sri Lankan army and polity, of course, are guilty of mass genocide and human rights themselves. But, they have the power of the nation state behind them and smell a final victory. I don’t seem them stopping now.

How is this going to end? Not very well for the central government, who will lose quite a bit of support after only recently surviving a confidence vote. Not too well for the millions of civilians caught in the conflict, who will bear the brunt of increasing desperation on both sides of the war. Will the LTTE ask for a negotiated ceasefire if things get too hot for them? Probably. Will the Tamils of Northern Sri Lanka ever get the autonomy they so deserve? Not if the Sri Lankan government sees itself as being in a position of strength. So, why was this war fought? I don’t know. But, I don’t believe in war, so there…

As a great believer in the educational power of fiction, I heartily recommend Love Marriage, a story set in the Sri Lankan tamil community, tells the history from the tamil side. You can read a Q&A with the author at the always excellent Sepia Mutiny.

Zardari calls J&K militants terrorists

Declaring that India is not a “threat” to his country, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has described the militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir as “terrorists,” the first such admission by any top Pakistani leader.

“India has never been a threat to Pakistan. I, for one, and our democratic government is not scared of Indian influence abroad,” Mr. Zardari told Wall Street Journal in an interview.

He spoke of the militant groups operating in Kashmir as “terrorists,” the paper said, noting that former President Pervez Musharraf would more likely have called them “freedom fighters.”

Indicating a major shift in Pakistan’s well-known position, Mr. Zardari had, as chief of the Pakistan People’s Party, said in March that the ties between the two countries should not be held “hostage” to the Kashmir issue, which should be left for future generations to decide, raising hackles at home

via The Hindu : Front Page : Zardari calls J&K militants terrorists.

Apparently, “our terrorists” ≠ “your freedom fighters” any more. I am not sure it changes the equation much in Kashmir, which, last I checked, was still burning.

Predictably, Mr. Zardari is getting a lot of guff about his statements and his foreign minister has already walked them back. He is more used to being a monarch maker who works in the background, put a microphone on him and his gaffes are McCainesque.

Pakistan troops 'repel US raid'

Pakistani troops have fired at two US helicopters forcing them back into Afghanistan, local Pakistani intelligence officials say.The helicopters flew into the tribal North Waziristan region from Afghanistan’s Khost province at around midnight, the reports say.

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Pakistan troops ‘repel US raid’

What the hell is the US doing starting another war? Don’t they have other things to worry about?

Tariq Ali: Has the U.S. Invasion of Pakistan Begun?

The decision to make public a presidential order of last July authorizing American strikes inside Pakistan without seeking the approval of the Pakistani government ends a long debate within, and on the periphery of, the Bush administration. Senator Barack Obama, aware of this ongoing debate during his own long battle with Hillary Clinton, tried to outflank her by supporting a policy of U.S. strikes into Pakistan. Senator John McCain and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin have now echoed this view and so it has become, by consensus, official U.S. policy.Its effects on Pakistan could be catastrophic, creating a severe crisis within the army and in the country at large. The overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are opposed to the U.S. presence in the region, viewing it as the most serious threat to peace.

Tomgram: Tariq Ali, Has the U.S. Invasion of Pakistan Begun?

This part of the world could see even more escalation in violence and death. Imagine the terror in the population as unmanned drones routinely fly over and drop bombs from the sky. The US government created this problem in the 1980s when fighting its proxy cold war. It decided that communism was a big enough threat to justify the arming of religious fundamentalists. We still continue to pay the price.

When will this colonialist meddling end? If the last 100+ years have shown us anything, Western forces cannot control this region by force, yet they keep trying, keep killing people and keep the flames alive.

Unfortunately, the women and children of this area just don’t have good alternatives. They either get oppressed by their moronic fundamentalist men or get western bombs hurled from the sky at them. Would 20 years of peace, under even fundamentalist conditions, provide enough stability to make incremental change possible? I don’t know, but I do know that unmanned “drones” dropping bombs from the sky will not bring peace.

20 killed as 5 bomb explosions rock Delhi

Twenty people were killed and about 100 injured in a series of five bomb explosions that rocked busy marketplaces in the Capital on Saturday.The first explosion took place at Karol Bagh at 6.10 p.m.; two bombs were triggered at Connaught Place; and two more in the bustling M-Block market of Greater Kailash.

The Hindu : Front Page : 20 killed as 5 bomb explosions rock Delhi

What is India going to do about this problem? The terrorists know exactly what they are doing. They want to polarize the Indian population and start a scorched earth Hindu-Muslim conflict. I don’t see that happening as of yet, but a country can only take so much. The current government does not have enough intelligence to stop the attacks. They react by arresting a person or two, but I think there are many more cells in the country. The inability of the central govrernment to make any major breakthroughs is only going to lead to more deaths.

The BJP is saying that it warned the Central government recently that SIMI was planning attacks in Delhi. I guess I could have warned the Central government that terrorists are going to strike every major city in the country on an ongoing basis. The BJP of course claims that the congress is “soft on terror” (sounds familiar). They have not said what they would do differently, except have more draconian preventive arrests, which given the lack of intelligence would be mostly pointless.

Pakistan helped Kabul terrorist act on Indian Embassy

American intelligence agencies have concluded that members of Pakistan’s powerful spy service helped plan the deadly July 7 bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to United States government officials.The conclusion was based on intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the attack, the officials said, providing the clearest evidence to date that Pakistani intelligence officers are actively undermining American efforts to combat militants in the region.

Pakistanis Aided Attack in Kabul, U.S. Officials Say – NYTimes.com

Not terribly surprising, but it’s the first time they’ve actually been caught on tape helping terrorists. Countries have been invaded on far flimsier pretexts. Luckily, no Americans were harmed in the filming of this movie. So the ISI will just get a slap on the wrist. Of course, as you read the rest of the article, you find out that the mastermind of these attacks, just like most of the other senior militants, was funded and trained by the CIA in the 1980s. So, what good will come out of further American meddling is at this point in time, uncertain.