India has violated Sri Lanka's sovereignty to 'help' Tamils!
India has blockaded Nepal to 'teach Kathmandu a lesson'!
India votes with OIC countries; OIC countries votes against India!
It was the summer of 1987 and passions were running high in Tamil Nadu over the Sri Lankan Government’s decision to impose a blockade on Jaffna peninsula, which was the stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Colombo believed that it could force a breach between the Tamils of Jaffna and the LTTE by using coercive, non-military measures like an economic blockade: Starving masses would any day settle for food over homeland.
It didn’t quite work that way. The LTTE was in those days a fearsome fighting force and the civilian patrons of the Tigers were sufficiently impressed by V Prabhakaran’s machismo to begin believing in the balderdash about how Tamils constitute a separate nation and should not hesitate to pay any price for a Tamil Eelam. The LTTE demanded that the people of Jaffna should simply grin and bear the hunger and hardship caused by the blockade; the masses had no option but to concur.
Soon, the Tamils in India were seething with anger, as were their leaders with both AIADMK and DMK trying to outdo each other in ‘standing by’ their brethren in Jaffna. They demanded immediate intervention by India to ‘liberate’ Jaffna from the ‘clutches’ of Colombo. Rajiv Gandhi, who was then Prime Minister, was not particularly bothered about the deprivations forced on Jaffna’s Tamils by the blockade, but he was in a rage: How could Colombo thumb its nose at New Delhi in so blatant a manner in the middle of peace negotiations?
It was not possible to send an Indian armada across the Palk Strait, but Rajiv Gandhi did what he (or his advisers) thought was the next best thing: Indian planes were despatched to drop food packets over Jaffna. Six AN-32 aircraft made repeated sorties from Chennai to Jaffna, dropped food packets, and returned to base. Ostensibly, New Delhi was determined to showcase its human face in the neighbourhood. Of course, it’s another story that the same Rajiv Gandhi had ordered a virtual economic blockade of Nepal by closing all except one border crossing with Nepal to force Kathmandu to fall in line with New Delhi.
On spotting the AN-32 over Jaffna, it was Colombo’s turn to feel outraged: Its airspace had been violated with impunity by India. Nor were the Tamils of Jaffna pleased. This was no aid but mere scoring of political points. The subsequent India-Sri Lanka Accord and the disastrous Indian peace-keeping expedition are now footnotes of history.
Years later, Pakistan decided to repeat that act of Indian belligerence, albeit with a twist. It encouraged various Government-sponsored pro-azadi organisations based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to organise a long march to Srinagar. The idea was to create a spectacle of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children rushing through the Line of Control, leaving Indian security forces nonplussed: They couldn’t possibly shoot at civilians in such large numbers. Mediapersons from around the world gathered for the event as PV Narasimha Rao went into a tizzy, desperately trying to ward off a showdown. In the end, Mr Nawaz Sharif panicked (some say after a harsh telephone call from the White House prompted by Rao pleading with the Americans) and the Pakistani Rangers didn’t allow the ‘freedom marchers’ to proceed beyond Muzaffarabad.
The point is that India is the last country which should feel compelled to criticise Israel’s use of force to prevent the so-called ‘Freedom Flotilla’ led by a Turkish ship from breaching the naval blockade of Gaza. Having violated a similar blockade in another country and paid a terrible price for that folly, and also having enforced a pernicious blockade on Nepal which caused enormous and lasting damage to bilateral relations, and, last but not least, having scurried to the Americans for their help to stall a ‘Freedom March’ from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to Srinagar, it ill behoves us to issue a denunciatory statement even before the full facts of what happened on the sea off the coast of Gaza were known. Had those who drafted the statement admonishing India bothered to watch the videotapes of the Israeli raid on the flotilla, they would have desisted from formally issuing it.
[Text of statement on 'incident involving boats carrying supplies for Gaza' issued by Ministry of External Affairs on May 31, 2010:
India deplores the tragic loss of life and the reports of killings and injuries to people on the boats carrying supplies for Gaza. There can be no justification for such indiscriminate use of force, which we condemn. We extend our sympathies to the families of the dead and wounded. It is our firm conviction that lasting peace and security in the region can be achieved only through peaceful dialogue and not through use of force.
It is amazing that we have not yet learned a lesson from voting blindly with the block of Organisation of Islamic Conference countries at all international and multilateral fora every time they have chosen to denounce Israel. This has not fetched India any benefits, diplomatic or otherwise. Nor has it stopped the OIC from adopting anti-India resolutions and repudiating India’s sovereign right over Jammu & Kashmir.
We can vote against Iran at the IAEA to please America (it would have been an entirely defensible and justifiable decision had New Delhi voted against Tehran on its own and not at Washington’s behest) but we can’t refuse to vote against Israel bearing in mind our national interest? Must we forget that Israel came to India’s help at a moment of national crisis when we urgently needed battlefield hardware during the Kargil incursion by Pakistani soldiers? More importantly, must we remain captive to vacuous political posturing of the past when it was fashionable to align with the Arabs against the Jewish state?
By rushing into criticising Israel, we may think we have scored brownie points with Turkey, which has recalled its Ambassador to Tel Aviv and threatened to snap six decades of diplomatic relations, but such expectations are entirely misplaced. The Islamist AKP regime in Ankara has made it abundantly clear that its sympathies lie with Islamabad and not New Delhi on a host of issues, especially the future role of Pakistan and India in Afghanistan; that it will facilitate Tehran’s bomb-in-the-basement programme through subterfuge and sleight of hand and, that it sees itself as the new centre of Islamic politics and Islamist revanchism.
If anything, India looks as silly as Nicaragua and South Africa — the first is trying to rediscover Left radicalism in a world that cruelly mocks at the Left; the second is blessed with a succession of Muslim Deputy Foreign Ministers who abuse Israel to satiate their lust for anti-Semitism. As if that were not enough, we have been bracketed with China which amazingly lectured Israel on the need to be mindful about safeguarding human rights. We could, of course, compare our hypocrisy with that of Britain which earlier this year expelled an Israeli diplomat over the targeted killing of a Hamas terrorist in Dubai. Few know that sanctimonious Britain provides caring shelter to Islamists wanted for horrible crimes around the world.
[This appeared as my weekly column Coffee Break in The Pioneer on June 6, 2010.]