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Echo Chamber Symphonies

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    Echo chamber symphonies

    August 28, 2014

    With repeated reassurances by side players in the international arena, it is no wonder the Government was

    surprised by the TNAs visit to New Delhi and its audience with the Indian Premier

    The TNA delegation with Prime Minister Modi at his office in New Delhi

    Subramanian Swamy

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    Subramanian Swamy is the new celebrity in Sri Lanka.In the capital, he travels in tinted jeeps with a security detail, presumably because he has been a

    vocal critic of the LTTE. Swamy is mobbed by reporters eager to hear his views on IndoLanka

    relations and the Tamil issue. !e is afforded lengthy television and print interviews, in which

    he never minces his words. !e is vociferously antiTamil "adu and Tamil diaspora, purports to

    be an e#pert on the "arendra $odi %overnment&s positions on the Sri Lankan issue and using

    silky tones, criticises the Tamil "ational 'lliance and its continuing struggle for ma#imumdevolution and a permanent political solution to the ethnic issue. "aturally, everything he says

    is music to the Sri Lankan %overnment&s ears.

    The election of (haratha )anatha *arty +()* strongman "arendra $odi in India was met with

    jubilation in %overnment circles in -olombo. The ()* was so antithetical to the -ongress *arty

    in ideology and policy that the ajapaksa %overnment believed its relations with India /

    faltering over the past few years under the $anmohan Singh administration / would finally

    turn a corner. It was perhaps prematurely concluded that the $odi %overnment&s heartbeat

    would resonate with the ajapaksa administration in -olombo0 The former %ujarat -hief

    $inister was not only a strong nationalist, but a political leader who pri1ed development and

    economic growth above all else.2or nearly 34 years, the ajapaksa administration had been dealing with the Sonia %andhiled

    -ongress *arty as it navigated the crucial relationship with "ew 5elhi. The relationship had

    been fruitful at first. The %andhi family&s personal tragedy at the hands of LTTE brutality

    ensured the -ongress would strongly back the %overnment&s military push to defeat the Tigers.

    It was postwar that all the trouble started.

    Hope of repair

    's the years progressed, -ongress *arty leaders grew increasingly frustrated

    with -olombo&s intransigence on the issue of devolution for the Tamil people,a key understanding upon which "ew 5elhi cleared the way for the ajapaksa

    'dministration to finish the war in 6447. ' series of broken promises to

    -ongress $inisters and *rime $inister $anmohan Singh himself on the

    devolution issues, created a chasm between the two %overnments. The Sri

    Lankan %overnment had suffered a major loss of credibility with -ongress*arty seniors. Then, when it felt betrayed by "ew 5elhi&s positions at the 8"

    !uman ights -ouncil where India voted for the 8S sponsored resolutions on

    Sri Lanka for two consecutive years, the ajapaksa 'dministration stopped

    playing nice. The relationship was at an alltime low earlier this year, but one

    of the -ongress regime&s final acts was to abstain on the most serious 8"resolution on Sri Lanka yet, adopted in %eneva in $arch this year. Theabstention repaired a little damage, but it was the advent of $odi that the

    %overnment believed would bring the real change in policy towards Sri Lanka.

    The toughtalking %ujarati politician proved the regime wrong at the very outset, when he

    reinforced the former Indian %overnment&s call for a political solution that went beyond the

    devolution offered in the 39th 'mendment. *resident $ahinda ajapaksa&s first bilateral

    meeting with the new Indian *remier did not go the %overnment&s way. *rime $inister $odi is

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    reported to have brought the conversation back to the :uestion ofdevolution when the Sri Lankan delegation was wa#ing elo:uent

    about reconstruction efforts and infrastructure development in

    the wartorn "orthern *rovince. ;hen the official *residential

    statement failed to make mention of the talks between the two

    leaders on the 39th 'mendment and a political solution, Indian

    2oreign Secretary Sujatha Singh repaired the omission byhighlighting the contours of that discussion to the press corps in

    "ew 5elhi. (y all accounts, it was an unhappy airplane ride

    back to -olombo from "ew 5elhi for the Sri Lankan delegation

    following the Indian swearing in ceremony in $ay.

    Persisting hope

    (ut in spite of the early disappointment, the %overnment

    persisted in believing it had turned a page with "ew 5elhi.

    epeatedly and using the strangest e#cuses, *resident ajapaksareleased batches of Indian fishermen detained in Sri Lanka for

    poaching. India&s consistent repudiation of the 8" investigation

    into allegations of war crimes committed in Sri Lanka, bolstered

    hopes that the new regime in India would be a staunch supporter

    of the ruling administration in -olombo. hetoric by Indian

    politicians like Swamy, who the Sri Lankan %overnment has

    been cultivating for years, actively reinforced these notions.

    In -olombo, Swamy has become an unofficial spokesperson of

    sorts for the ()* led alliance, even though the former Indian Lok

    Sabha $* has only been a member of the ruling alliance since6439. !e +$odi will be very choosy, and we are

    also now in the process of rebuilding our relations with Sri

    Lanka. Things won&t be the same as the last time when the T"'

    met the prime minister / at the time they met him when they felt

    like doing so,? Swamy scoffed in the interview with a local

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    weekend newspaper during the 5efence Seminar.

    Misleading statements

    The 5efence Seminar concluded on 64 'ugust. The same day, news broke that the T"' would

    travel to "ew 5elhi on Thursday +63 for meetings with top Indian %overnment officials. '

    meeting with *rime $inister $odi was also on the agenda. The T"' visit was being scheduledover a period of time, but e#act dates were left ambiguous by both the Tamil *arty and the

    Indian mission in -olombo until the very last minute.

    Indian diplomats both in -olombo and $E' officials in "ew 5elhi are reportedly irked by thetenor and content of Swamy&s repeated statements in -olombo, in which he appears to be

    articulating Indian %overnment policy. The timing of the T"' visit, while accidental, e#posed

    Swamy&s actual position within the Indian %overnment, since he appears to have had not the

    slightest inkling of the $odi regime&s true plans with regard to its engagement on the Sri

    Lankan Tamil issue.

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    Sinha would have been recalled to "ew 5elhi for consultations prior to the meetings with theT"', to brief Indian officials on the current situation on the ground in -olombo.

    The $odi %overnment&s decision to grant the T"' delegation an appointment, second only to

    the bilateral with *resident ajapaksa which was the new Indian *remier&s only interaction

    with Sri Lankan %overnment representatives thus far, may imply that the same level of

    engagement with the T"' as a major stakeholder in the search for a political solution in Sri

    Lanka, will continue.Thirdly, T"' Leader Sampanthan who is still in Tamil "adu visiting family, held a press

    briefing in the ()* office in -hennai yesterday.

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    has a price, that everyone is pliable and can be won over with platitudes, vacations and royaltreatment in -olombo, are the %overnment&s preferred weapons of war in its international

    battles. "ew faces are things to rejoice over, for they afford new opportunities to engage with

    the same old arguments about Sri Lanka&s postwar successes. The tactics have replaced

    credible efforts to engage with the international community. !onesty and credibility in its

    dealings with international partners, as opposed to increasing belligerence and targeted personal

    attacks from -olombo would work miracles that multimillion dollar * deals cannot.Subramanian Swamy, in one of his televised interviews while in -olombo, told a local channel

    that the 8" investigation would be of no more conse:uence to Sri Lanka than a swarm of

    pesky mos:uitoes. >Simply swat them away,? he advised the %overnment. If there is any lesson

    the %overnment has to learn from the coup that was pulled off by the T"' last week, it is the

    danger of lending too much credence to his claims.

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