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Foreign policy captive to domestic compulsions


RANJIT BHUSHAN | New Delhi, March 9, 2013 13:39
Tags : Indian neighbourhood | Lankan Tamils | UNSC resolution | Lankan war crimes | Pakistan |

There is substance in the matter that India's domestic political compulsions become a mill round its neck when conducting foreign policy in its immediate neighbourhood. Needless to say, the immediate environs constitute the single-most important and challenging aspect of national diplomacy, and it is here that India is demonstrating yet again that it has to hold too many crosses.
Indian diplomacy – among the most understaffed in the world – have the job of firefighting almost on a non-stop basis. And unlike some other countries, the first step towards achieving that goal is to begin by managing your domestic contradictions, which are quite a few and pretty intractable.
South Block mandarins are working overtime to get into place an Indian response to a US-circulated draft resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in Geneva against Sri Lanka which militates against India's consistent stand of non-interference in the affairs of other countries. In the context of Sri Lanka - since the sordid days of IPKP - India has kept a hands off policy on what it considers Colombo's internal affairs. But keeping in mind India’s civilisational ethos, if interference was bad, non-interference could be worse.
New Delhi’s major obstacle in formulating a clear cut Sri Lanka policy is dictated by the response of politicians from Tamil Nadu and if there is one sentiment shared in equal measure by chief minister J Jayalalithaa and archrival K Karunanidhi, it is love for the Tamil eelam. There is currently a competition raging in Chennai between the two as to who issues a tougher statement against the Sri Lankan government. Both parties have handed out ultimatums to New Delhi: in no case should India be seen to be prevaricating on the subject of genocide by the Lankan army in the final assault leading up to the near-decimation of the LTTE, including the capture and killing of its supremo Prabhakaran and now after the revelations in the British media, about his son.
That has tied New Delhi’s hands like few things in the context of the draft scheduled to be introduced on March 21. Traditionally, India has had problems with country-specific resolutions even though it had voted against Lanka last year.

The high commissioner for human rights has demanded an ``independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.’’
India has nonetheless backed the UNHCR as far as promises made by President Mahindra Rajpaksha to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about devolution of powers to Tamils in Sri Lanka is concerned. But clearly a lot of tight rope walking needs to be done to satisfy the demands of those wanting military action against Sri Lanka and the imperatives of securing India’s interests in south Asia.
Similarly, India is seen to be prevaricating on signing the Teesta water sharing agreement with Bangladesh – something which would go a long way in salvaging the political positioning of its strongest ally Sheikh Hasina Wajed and her Awami League government, currently under a seige by Jamaat e Islami-led civil disobedience movement in her country.
In this case, who is throwing the spanner in the works? West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of course, who has expressed serious reservations about signing the accord with Bangladesh as long as she is in power. While central government ministers like Jairam Ramesh have been trying to salvage the situation by talking to her and taking her on board, the last word on it subject has not yet been spoken despite assurances by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that the Teesta accord is about to be turned into reality.
With Pakistan as the background, it is important that there be policies in place which keep this difficult balancing act going. It is a fine balance but has the potential to be scuttled by any hard-headed chief minister of the Indian union.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Sunday Indian)
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Posted By: Fiza | Bangalore | March 14th 2013 | 13:03
I follow your blogs regularly. You write on interesting issues.

Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017