Posted on 22-10-2009
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Few people shed tears for Velupillai Prabhakaran when the LTTE chief was killed this past May as Sri Lanka brought its 25 year civil war to a victorious close.  However, in the flush of victory the Sri Lankan government used security concerns to put over 200,000 Tamil civilians in internment camps.  Five months later the humanitarian catastrophe shows no signs of drawing to a close.

It was discrimination against the Tamil minority culminating in the notorious Black July pogrom in 1983 triggered the civil war.  With the Tamil minority able to draw the support from their ethnic kin in the neighboring Indian state of Tamil Nadu (it was these political pressures that prompted India to arm the Tamil groups after Black July) and the vocal Tamil diaspora, Sri Lanka cannot just wish away the problem.  Lingering Indian resentment against the LTTE (particularly in the ruling Congress party for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991) muted India’s response to the final push by the Sri Lankan army this summer.  But the misery of the Tamils in their internment camps will eventually force India to join the vociferous protests currently being spearheaded by the European Union.  Sri Lanka will be then forced into reliance on support from China and the company of dubious partners like Pakistan, Iran and Venezuela.  While jingoism may dictate such a course, in the long run governing a state with an embittered minority able to draw on foreign support is not a workable strategy.  Sri Lanka should not squander the opportunity to reset its relations with its Tamil minority that the destruction of the LTTE provided.

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