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he Tamil Googly: PLIANT UPA MAKES A MESS, By Proloy Bagchi, 16 April, 2013 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 16 April 2013

The Tamil Googly


By Proloy Bagchi


News came in the other day that students in Chennai are going to launch protest rallies when the IPL matches take place at the hallowed Chepauk cricket ground of Chennai. They have also decided to persuade the Hyderabad Sunrisers – an IPL team owned by Kalanidhi Maran, brother of erstwhile DMK representative in the Union Government Dayanidhi Maran – to sack Kumar Sangakkara, a Sri Lankan cricketer. Protest rallies are a democratic right but the demand for sacking a player of a team is surely encroachment on the rights of others.


DMK sympathisers of Sri Lankan Tamil’s cause have been encouraged by the BCCI’s prompt acceptance of the request sent to Prime Minister by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister  Jayalalitha not to play Sri Lankan players in IPL matches in Chennai as she could not assure their security. A curious decision as the State Government is duty-bound to provide security to everyone including foreigners and does not have powers to prohibit their entry or, for that matter, exit unless so advised by the Centre.


Constitutionally such a decision has to be that of the Centre. Besides, the illegal ban puts a few franchisees of IPL to disadvantage eliminating from Chennai matches some key Sri Lankan players. Sangakkara himself is a key player, he is the captain to boot of Hyderabad Sunrisers and the team will have to keep him out at Chennai. Likewise, there are other Sri Lankans who have been bought by various teams at great cost but will have to cool their heels away from Chennai.


One presumes that the BCCI was advised by the Centre to do the needful. The simplest solution, however, would have been to take the IPL matches away from Chennai. This would have been to the satisfaction of the Tamil Nadu Government as also the franchisees concerned. It would not have been the first time for the IPL management to have done so. Due to inability of the Government of India to provide adequate security on account of the General elections in 2009 the entire tournament was shifted to South Africa. That was an international shift at a short notice; here it would have meant shifting of only the Chennai matches elsewhere in India.


The competitive politics in Tamil Nadu have already caused embarrassment to India. Under DMK’s threat of desertion from the UPA, the Government voted in the UN Human Rights Council against Sri Lanka souring up relations with its small neighbour, with whom it has had centuries-old ethnic, cultural, political and sporting relationships. Perhaps, the DMK would have parted ways with the UPA anyway and it did so even before the voting in the UNHRC took place. The diplomats were, however, directed to vote in a manner, as senior journalist, Swapan Das Gupta, said, “to impress upon the DMK and the global Tamil Diaspora that India's sympathies lay (strangely) with those who have been trying unceasingly to secure the partition of Sri Lanka... making India a laughing stock in the region”.


The UPA thus sacrificed national interests for observing “coalition dharma”, although the partner for whom the sacrifice was made had already deserted it. It had earlier sacrificed its acknowledged concept of probity and integrity in the Government just for maintaining itself in power. At that time also members of the same political outfit were in the reckoning. 


There was, however, no respite for the UPA; its pummelling continued, this time by the counterpart of the DMK, the ruling AIDMK. Its Chief Minister upped the ante and demanded that India should boycott Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in November in Colombo. And, politicians being what they are, members of every Party joined the chorus in passing of a unanimous resolution in the State Assembly wanting India to stop treating Sri Lanka as a friendly nation, to slap sanctions on it demanding a referendum for Tamil Eelam. Thankfully, the Centre, weak though it is, did not bend and rejected the demands out of hand. 


Cho Ramaswamy, a well-known journalist and editor of Tamil weekly Tughlak feels that Tamil politicians are using Sri Lankan Tamils for their own political gains. According to him, the Tamil question was never an electoral issue in Tamil Nadu. Cho says that the Sri Lankan Tamils have not made any big noise about declaring President Rajapaksa a war criminal and they never used the word genocide, which DMK wanted India to have incorporated in the UNHRC resolution. Further, it is some marginal Tamil parties in the State who have been hammering away at the Tamil issue. Thinking their thunder being stolen away, the major parties got into the act. Finding a weak Centre the two major Tamil parties led by arch political enemies started raising the bids to strengthen their respective support bases.


In a gratuitous article the other day in a prominent newspaper Hardeep Puri, former Permanent India Representative at the UN justified the recent Indian action at the UNHRC. While doing so he seemed to have been oblivious of India’s unbecoming role in fostering terrorism in Sri Lanka that eventually had tragic fallout in the country. The effort at UNHRC that was justified nullified the need of any diplomatic manoeuvres determined, as it was, by regional political pressures. If internal political compulsions become determinants for the conduct of the country’s foreign relations then why have a full-fledged highly qualified diplomatic corps?


This is, however, not the first, nor perhaps the last, instance of States influencing the Centre in conduct of foreign relations, especially with neighbours. Foreign relations are a Central subject and the States, barring consultative or advisory, generally have had no role to play. What one witnessed in respect of signing of Teesta Waters Treaty with Bangladesh and now in regard to the Sri Lankan Tamil question are extraordinary.


The big question is whether Indian federalism was being taken advantage of. But, then India has had a federal structure from the inception of the Republic and the Centre hardly ever faced, i.e. until the UPA came to power, such a situation where it had to tailor and remodel its foreign policy to suit the extravagant demands born out of exigencies of populism of the politicians of a State. There can at best be only two reasons: One, the Government at the Centre is dependent on its allies, howsoever unreasonable and demanding they are, for survival and would not let slip power from its hands whatever might be at stake, including adverse national repercussions. Two, politics in the country has turned so coarse that the nation’s prestige and image mean nothing to the self-serving politicians.


With the Centre so far failing to assert its powers what comes across is an image of the tail wagging the dog and, curiously, the dog wags merrily.---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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