MonitorsPublished on Dec 24, 2010
It definitely was not in the scheme, but the 'Oxford Union episode' involving Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa may have emboldened the demoralised nation's pan-Tamil Diaspora across the West, with its fallout expected to be felt in neighbouring India as well.
Will Sri Lankan Diaspora help revive pan-Tamil politics in India?
< class="heading1">Analysis

It definitely was not in the scheme, but the 'Oxford Union episode' involving Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa may have emboldened the demoralised nation's pan-Tamil Diaspora across the West, with its fallout expected to be felt in neighbouring India as well. It need not necessarily stop with the revival of LTTE linkages to Tamil Nadu, as a recent alert by Indian security agencies had hinted at, but could have come as a welcome dose for peripheral pan-Tamil groups in the country, with Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu due in next year.

The success of the multi-faceted Diaspora's lobbying strengths against President Rajapaksa being invited to address the prestigious Oxford Union can be gauged not merely from the organisers' decision to call off the event after the chief guest had arrived in the UK. More importantly, it had succeeded where other post-war survival attempts like the creation of a 'trans-national government of Tamil Eelam' (TNGTE) with a purported cabinet, parliament and elections, had failed to be inspire enough.

It may thus be a beginning for the Diaspora, particularly those with a pro-LTTE bent, to revive and re-energise their past efforts at lobbying, propaganda and protests, world-wide, without possible hindrance or let-up. It is too early to say if all this would be designed to help in the revival of pan-Tamil militancy centred on Sri Lanka, called by whatever name. If it did succeed ultimately, the origins can be traced not to the demise of the LTTE and Velupillai Prabhakaran, but more immediately to the 'Oxford Union fiasco'.

It is in this background, possibilities of the revival of pan-Tamil politics in India need to be viewed ? and constantly reviewed, as may already be the case. As coincidence would have it, the Oxford Union incident was followed by the release of Tamil film-maker Seeman, a pan-Tamil product of 'Eelam War IV' in India. Leader of the post-war political party,'Naam Tamizhar Katchi' ('We, Tamils'), Seeman was detained under the National Security Act (NSA) after he had made a fiery speech, threatening Sinhalese visiting India.

The Madras High Court freed him on technical grounds, and that was celebration time for various fringe groups gathered around pan-Tamil ideology, triggered mainly by the course that the 'Eelam War-IV' took in neighbouring Sri Lanka. Independent of one another in nomenclature and office-bearers, these organisationsin Tamil Nadu share the same audience and constituency, when it comes to putting up public protests or campaigning in elections.

The last time round, these groups had joined hands to campaign against the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu and the Congress-led ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre, in which the party continues to be a partner. That was in Elections-2009 to the Indian Parliament, the run-up to which coincided day for day with the military campaign in Sri Lanka's ethnic war. It is a travesty to believe that their campaign had contributed to the defeat of some established leaders from the Congress party, but overall, the Congress-DMK combine did much more creditably than the rival alliance led by the AIADMK.

Today, with Assembly elections due by May 2011, Seeman has already fired his first salvo, pointedly criticising DMK's octogenarian Chief Minister M Karunanidhi for what he said as the travails of the Tamil community, both nearer home and afar. He and his comrades in arms have sworn to work for the defeat of the DMK and the Congress, even before the last word had been heard on the continuance of the existing electoral alliance between the two parties. Whether it would automatically translate as support for the AIADMK alliance or any other is unclear as yet, but it needs to be remembered that their vociferous campaign did not alter the fate of parliamentary polls, either, that too fought during the highest point in the 'ethnic war'.

As may be recalled, Eelam War-IV coincided with the revival of HINDRAF movement by Indians based in Malaysia, led mostly by Tamils of Indian origin. If in the past, the Sri Lankan Government had charged individuals in the Indian-Tamil community of South Africa with colluding with the LTTE, Eelam War-IV saw huge crowds gathering in support and sympathy when one-time Sri Lankan Parliament member 'EezhaVendan' went on a fast in protest against the 'end-game atrocities' against the Tamil community in his native land.

It is in this background one needs to view the revival of Diaspora politicking in the West, and their possible influence on the Indian Tamil Diaspora that work and live alongside, in many cities of the world. Domestic issues based on perceptions of wrong-doing to Tamil Nadu, starting with river water issues with neighbouring States and the 'Sethusamudram canal project' too have a dynamics of their own, as has been known for long. It is possible that they may not be able to influence the elections in the coming months as much as the likes of Seeman may wish. However, there is no denying that the myriad pan-Tamil groups in Tamil Nadu may have a cause to hope for now, after the politico-electoral ascendancy of the 'Dravidian movement' in post-Independence India had rendered them mostly irrelevant and peripheral to the contemporary socio-political discourse.

Where does it all add up to? Rather than concluding that Tamil Nadu may provide the base for the revival of pan-Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka, as is often heard in Colombo, the reverse too may be the case, about which Indian security agencies have to be alert. Sure enough, Sri Lankan territory may not be available to Tamil militants of whatever hue in the near future, but should local conditions contribute to such a revival, the tremors could then be felt across the Palk Strait, in India, as well.

The seeds for this could then be traced to continued dissatisfaction and re-born disaffection in the larger Tamil community in Sri Lanka, dissatisfied as they may have been by inadequate rehabilitation and reconstruction measures, and also an uninspiring political solution. Rather, it would boil down to the inability and/or unwillingness of the Sri Lankan State and the Sinhala polity to carry the moderate Tamil polity nearer home with them. In turn, this could feed the hopes and course of sections of the Diaspora, which has not yet reconciled to the exit of LTTE and Prabhakaran. Even among moderate Diaspora groups, there could be a re-thinking on reviving their forgotten political movements from the past. This could sharpen the focus on India in more ways than one.

Tamil Nadu is possibly the only State in India with a multiple history of militancy based on ethnicity, religion ('Coimbatore serial blasts' and the like), caste divisions, ideology (Naxalite movement), and also labour unrests. Barring religious fundamentalists with a militant mind-set, most other groups also draw their ranks from particular and overlapping segments of the society. Despite the gruesome assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (1991) and the 'Coimbatore serial blasts' (1998), the State returned to normality with ease and poise mostly intact.

The prevailing political situation and also the existing political leadership(s) of the time also helped, through inspiration, direction and the very presence. 'Competitive moderation', conditioned by days in governance, did influence opinions and methods, with the result that the multi-dimensional layers of pan-Tamil leadership has produced its own checks and balances. This in turn has ensured that things could still be brought under control after aberrations had embarrassed the State, the people and the political leadership(s).

In a future without such tall leaders, there could be a vacuum, as the existing second-line leadership(s), whether or not distanced from the first electorally, remain discredited in the eyes of the peripheral pan-Tamil polity. This includes the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora, which has its limited influence but unlimited interest in the affairs of the south Indian State. It is this vacuum that they may want 'friends' in India to fill, just as some of them are already seeking to fill the vacancy caused by the exit of Prabhakaran in political terms, if not the LTTE in 'military' terms, overseas to begin with!

The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter

< class="heading1">Country Reports

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US appreciates demining and resettlement

Close on the heels of the controversy over the US criticism of Sri Lankan political and military leaders over the alleged 'war crimes', US Ambassador Patricia Butenis presented five ambulances to Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Chief of Staff Major General DayaRatnayake in support of de-mining operations undertaken by the Army in the North. A US Embassy spokesperson said that the vehicles would ensure that SLA de-mining teams have emergency medical care and transportation at all times.

Speaking at the event, Ambassador Butenis said, "I commend the Government's efforts in resettling most of those who were internally displaced by the fighting. De-mining is an essential element of this resettlement process. The mines have meant that people can't return to their homes, that farmers can't plant and harvest crops, that villagers have to worry about explosives in water wells, and that children can mistake a mine for a toy. Due to the heroic efforts of the Sri Lankan Army and Sri Lankan and international de-mining organisations, large swaths of the North and East are now cleared of mines. However, much work still remains and our continuing support will enable the process to be completed more quickly."
Source: The Island, Colombo, December 24, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to gift military equipment

India is expected to gift some military equipment such as shoulder-fired missiles and radars to Sri Lanka as a goodwill gesture when defence secretary Pradeep Kumar undertakes a two-day visit to Colombo from Monday.

The equipment, part of the assistance provided to Sri Lanka to fight LTTE, is planned to be gifted apparently to demonstrate India's efforts to help build the defence capabilities of the island-nation in the backdrop of Chinese attempts to make inroads there.

India had provided defence hardware including two ground-based radars and a large number of Russian shoulder-fired IGLA ground-to-air missiles to Sri Lanka on a temporary basis, sources said. India had also lent a Coast Guard vessel to Sri Lankan Navy during the ethnic war but it was not clear whether this would also be gifted. Some IAF personnel were also deployed to operate the systems, which were meant only for helping the Sri Lankan armed forces in defending their bases and not for offensive roles, sources said.

Kumar, who will hold talks with his counterpart Gotabhaya Rajapakse, is also likely to discuss the future defence requirements of the Sri Lankan armed forces.
Source: Daily Mirror Online, December 24, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt will not allow FDI to destroy local industry

The country's investments would be done in a way that would not affect the local industries, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksahas said. "Although we want to increase investments, we wont allow it to destroy or damage the local industries, such as self-employment," the minister said at a special discussion on establishing one-million home economic units in the country.

The Minister said that the Government recently rejected an investment to establish a foreign yoghurt manufacturing plant by a reputed foreign investor, in order to protect local, small-scale manufacturers.

At the discussion, which was held at the Presidential Secretariat, the Minister also highlighted the importance of coordination among the related sections of each and every section and ministry, in order to establish one-million home economic units in the country. The main purpose of this was to increase the economic capability of each and every home economic unit in the country, he said.
Source: Daily Mirror, December 24, 2010


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Khaleda Zia's China visit

Begum Khaleda Zia, chairperson of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was in China on a five-day visit at the invitation of the Communist Party of China (CPC). During the visit, Khaleda Zia met many influential leaders, including Chinese Vice-President Xi Jingpin. The Chinese leader described Khaleda Zia as an old and trusted friend.

One of the important aspects of this visit was Begum Khaleda's trip to Tianjin, the fastest growing deep-sea port in Asia. China is in dialogue with Bangladesh to develop a deep-sea port in the country. Terming the trip as a grand success, the BNP claimed that it will strengthen the party's relationship with China.
Source: Sangbad, December 20, 2010; The Daily Star, December 21 and 24, 2010; New Age, December 23, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Military intelligence supported Huji efforts to launch party: Wikileaks

Military intelligence and the Director-General of Forces Intelligence backed Islamist militant group Harkatul Jihad Islami (Huji) to launch a political party while the military backed the caretaker administration that was in power in Bangladesh from 2007-08, according to the US assessment of the time, according to leaked US cables in Wikileaks.

The US Embassy in Dhaka, however, strongly objected to the creation of the political party as it suspected that this might work against the US mission or its interests, and may improve the group's ability to support and carry out terrorist activities, the cables said.

The National Security Intelligence, another elite intelligence agency, however, expressed the fear that such a political party, if it came to power, might free extremists under detention to pursue militant activity under the cover of a moderate front, the document claimed. Bangladesh's Election Commission, however, declined to register the party following widespread criticism at the time.
Source: The Independent, December 24, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India, Russia sign significant agreements

India and Russia concluded 30 agreements during the two-day visit of President Dmitry Medvedev which ended on Wednesday, December 22. The significance of the agreements lies in the consolidation and extension of strategic cooperation in the civil nuclear, defence, hydrocarbons and space sectors.

In Defence, New Delhi and Moscow marked the beginning of their first ever collaboration in producing a next-generation fighter aircraft, with the conclusion of the preliminary design contract agreement.
Source: The Hindu, December 21, 22 & 23, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hillary, Krishna discuss bilateral issues

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna discussed the status of various initiatives announced during President Barack Obama's visit to India in November, and exchanged views on taking them forward.

The two leaders in the telephonic conversation also deliberated upon the current situation in Afghanistan.
Source: The Indian Express, December 23, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Deadlock over JPC continues

The Opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) held a rally in the national capital of Delhi, where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders along with other alliance partners reiterated their demand for for a joint parliamentary committee to probe the '2-G spectrum scam'. BJP's Former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani wanted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to accept the Opposition demand.

The winter session of Parliament had failed to transact any substantial business as the Opposition had stalled the proceedings in the two houses of Parliament over Government's refusal to accept the demand for a JPC. The public posturing assumes greater significance as the all-important Budget session is due to commence in the second half of February, and the deadlock should end in time.
Source: The Hindu, December 23, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gayoom asks Thasmeen to resolve DRP's internal conflicts

In a significant move that may reflect his political concerns, Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) supreme leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has requested leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali to peacefully resolve the internal conflicts in the party.

In a letter expressing "deep concerns" over the conflicts within the party leadership, the former President, who is currently in Malaysia, said members of the party are sharing the conflicts with him via text messages and phone calls. "Therefore in my capacity as the supreme leader of DRP, I request you to work hard to peacefully resolve this issue and to cooperate with me in my efforts towards this goal," he said.

Conflicts arose between leader Thasmeen and deputy leader Umar Naseer, dividing the party into two factions. The party's Disciplinary Committee earlier voted 4-1 in favour of a proposal to dismiss Umar. Stressing that the public is expecting the DRP to come to power again, Gayoom said the party must work together in order to fulfill the people's hope.

"My appeal to you is to strengthen the custom of respecting the party's charter and democratic values in all the institutions of the party. To prioritise the interest of this beloved nation and this beloved party. And all members to work together in one spirit towards a common goal, in order to bring a proud success to DRP in the local council election," Gayoom said. He had earlier expressed displeasure over the decision to sack Nazeer Umar from the party.
Source: Haveeru Online, December 23, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">State Islamic Minister resigns

State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has resigned without assigning any reasons. It is learnt that he was summoned to Home Ministry, accusing him of planning the protest held outside the President's Office by parents of Arabiyya School that turned violent. The resignation of Shaheem, who took office after President Mohamed Nasheed came to power in 2008, comes a week after religious conservative Adhaalath Party announced that it was discussing the actions to take against the Government's policies.

Last week Shaheem led thousands of people who protested against the team of Israeli eye surgeons that visited the Maldives to conduct eye camps at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and in the atolls. Addressing the gathering, Shaheem warned the Government of "direct action" if it continued with its "anti-religious" policies. Shaheem said President Nasheedhad asked him to keep quiet after he spoke against the government's decision to make Dhivehi and Islamic studies optional in higher secondary education grades.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari and State Minister for Home Affairs Sheikh Hussein Rasheed currently represent Adhaalath Party in the government.
Source: Haveeru Online, December 23, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India to resume weapons supply

During the four-day visit to Nepal, Indian Army chief, General V K Singh, has given an assurance on behalf of the Government of India (GoI) to caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and the Defence Minister, Mrs. Vidhya Bhandari, to resume military assistance to the Nepalese Army, if the Government formally sends its request. It is to be noted that the Nepalese Army was the largest recipient of India's military aid prior to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by all political parties in the country.

Gen. Singh was also conferred the honorary rank of General of Nepal Army. The ciprocal tradition dates to 1950, when the similar title was conferred on Indian Army General K M Cariappa. General V. K. Singh also visited the UN peace mission training centre in Kavre.
Source:, December 22, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Trade agreement with China

With a view to enhance trade ties between the two countries, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Confederation of Nepal Industries (CNI) and the China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT). Narendra Basnyat, acting President of the CNI, said that the visit of CCPIT has opened a new avenue of bilateral relations and added to the existing goodwill between Nepal and China.

Highlighting the prospect of Chinese investment in Nepal, Basnyat said, "There are prospects for investment in Nepal for the Chinese side such as hydropower projects, construction, pharmaceuticals, minerals, cement, education and tourism." He called on the Chinese counterparts, especially from the CCPIT, to grab the opportunity.

Speaking on the occasion Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Qiu Guohong, said that the business community and businessmen from both China and Nepal brainstormed solutions to achieve common development to survive the global economic recession last year. Ambassador Qiu Guohong said, "China's policy to offer zero- tariff treatment to Nepalese commodities means that China's market is open to Nepal."

China-Nepal trade volume in the first ten months of this year has exceeded US $ 257 m, registering an increase of 76 percent compared to the same period in the previous year. Similarly, Wan Jifei, Chairman of the CCPTI, leading the 60-member business delegation, said that bilateral economic ties have maintained a momentum in the recent years. He also proposed the idea of establishing Trade Areas and Special Economic Zones for further enhancement of trade relations.
Source: Xinhua, December 21, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament fails to end deadlock

A special session of the Constituent Assembly which doubles as Parliament has failed to forge a consensus between the Maoists and the other Nepalese political parties. Twenty political parties including, the Nepali Congress and the ruling United Marxist-Leninists, have refused to accept the twin proposals put forward by the Maoists.

The latter wants the candidacy of the lone prime ministerial candidate Ram Chandra Paudel of the NC cancelled and the parliamentary regulations for prime ministerial election amended. The special session was called to work for an all-party consensus. However, the political parties do not seem up to it even after the Supreme Court has ruled that members of the Constituent Assembly cannot stay away from voting and would have to register their choice positively in any election for prime minister.
Source:, December 23, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Record Government borrowing leads to tightening of interest rates

The Government's immense need for cash has forced it to borrow an unprecedented Rs.336 billion from the State Bank of Pakistan. To meet the demands of the Government, the bank has had to increase the printing of notes, and analysts are afraid that this can lead to an overwhelming inflation.

The inflation fears have forced the central bank to raise policy interest rate to 14 per cent last month despite disapproval from the business community. The rate of monetary growth from July to December 2010 had reached 6.24 per cent much higher than the 4.61 per cent during the same period last year.

The business community fears that due to the high cost of borrowing, not only will investments and growth slow down, but the resultant printing of notes will also further fuel inflation.
Source: Dawn, December 22, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban commander killed

Taliban commander Asmatullah Bhetani was killed in a gunfight against security forces in South Waziristan on December 7, according to official reports. There had been a reward of 10 million rupees ($120,000) for his arrest. He was killed in Sararogha, a militant stronghold in South Waziristan, where Pakistani troops carried out a major offensive to destroy the Taliban's headquarters last year.

Bhetani had been educated at a madrasa in the north-western town of Dera Ismail Khan, and had proceeded to open his own seminary where he taught. Arrested twice in 2006, he was released after negotiations with tribal leaders, and had come to be known as an important military commander.

In a separate development, 150 Taliban militants attacked five Frontier Corps check-posts in Baidnami, a village near the border with Afghanistan, this past Friday. In this clash in the tribal region of the Mohmand Agency, at least 24 militants and three were killed, reports said.
Source: Dawn, December 24, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Consortium revises offer to secure RekoDiq lease

In order to secure RekoDiq, one of the world's largest copper-cum-gold reserves in Chagai district, a consortium of Chilean and Canadian companies, Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), has made a revised proposal to secure the mining lease and production-sharing agreement with the Provincial Government of Baluchistan.

According to the proposal, TCC has offered to raise $600 million loan to fund the Provincial Government's 25 per cent share of the capital contribution for equity participation at no interest, to start mining development. TCC has added other incentives, such as giving up Balochistan Government's $ 25-m share of the management fee of the project.

Securing the rights to the high-value natural resources in RekoDiq has been highly controversial in the last couple of weeks as many companies, including Chinese, American, and Russian, had expressed an interest. Yet, there remains a legitimate concern that a high-value national resource is not handed over to foreign firms for a negligible return to the Province.
Source: Dawn, December 24, 2010

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
India: Satish Misra;
Nepal: Anjali Sharma;
Pakistan: Anjana Verma;

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.


N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy is a policy analyst and commentator based in Chennai.

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