Posted: 02 August 2014 at 3:59pm | IP Logged
Jayalalithaa demanded an apology only and that's what she got from Sri Lanka so that's where the matter should ideally end. In her letter to Modi, she did NOT ask for an embargo or anything along those lines. Politicians stretching the issue are doing so because the country involved is Sri Lanka and not because they are concerned about dignity. When Maureen Chao, a US diplomat, called Tamilians "dark and dirty", she got away with an apology. No one asked for imposition of economic sanctions and more.
If the article was posted on a different forum, the issue wouldn't have escalated to present heights. Although it was on a ministry website, there's no denying that there was a disclaimer stating that opinions presented are views of the author and not of the Sri Lankan government. Shenali D Waduge, who is a journalist, published the article on an Opinion Page and wasn't representing the Ministry. Tomorrow, you and I as journalists can post something equally derogatory about Rajapakse on an Opinion Page of an Indian Ministry website. That doesn't make the Indian government responsible for our views. Sri Lanka should have been wiser and taken down the post before being pressed knowing how things can be perceived and distorted.
Calling a Prime Minister a cunning fox and an old witch is as bad as the love letter incident. Both concern a woman's dignity.
Kachchatheevu didn't belong India in its entirety in the first place (edited to add since 1921/1685/1855/1622/any other date - debatable) as it 'belonged' to both Sri Lanka and India under the British/Portuguese/Dutch rule (debatable) so there's no question of 'getting it back'. By the same logic that claims Kachchatheevu, even parts of mainland Sri Lanka belong(ed) to India so do we now revive the past and demand secession of Sri Lanka? The Indian Government in 1974, under Indira Gandhi, officially handed over Kachchatheevu to Sri Lanka with certain vague conditions (such as fishermen can fish, rest and dry nets but also get arrested). The 1976 agreement, which supersedes the 1974 agreement, took away traditional fishing rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in the Kachchatheevu waters. However harsh and unjust international treaties might be, they have legal sanctity and can't be repudiated by successor governments. India cannot unilaterally repudiate the agreement as that would create a whole set of worse problems. Karunanidhi, the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, should have raised his voice which he didn't.
Sri Lankan government is legally right in arresting Tamil Nadu fishermen who trespass Sri Lankan waters for fishing purpose and deprive its fishermen of their fishing rights and livelihood. The Indian government does the same to trespassers (including Sri Lankans). Jayalalithaa herself initially used the term 'stray' to describe Tamil Nadu fishermen activities but later on dropped the word from her statements. Problems arise when the Sri Lankan military indiscriminately shoots people and harasses/arrests those resting and drying their nets (debatable). From their point of view, they are protecting their country from another civil war which justifies the act for them, especially since India trained, armed and sponsored Tamil rebel groups and Jayalalithaa et al voiced their support for Eelam - a direct attack on another country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Indians view the issue differently. Besides, Jayalalithaa is wrong in assuming that retrieval of Kachchatheevu (if possible at all) will resolve the issue completely. Tamil Nadu fishermen do stray deep into Sri Lankan waters and will continue to face the threat of being shot down. Her demand for retrieval because Indian fishermen are starving to death is a projection of her inability to reinvigorate fisheries. This is a problem faced by many Indian states but that doesn't mean we go around grabbing land from neighbouring countries and make them starve. The GOI is supposed to provide fishermen with GPS to prevent straying which it hasn't been doing that well either and obviously,not all fishermen are bonafide.
Most importantly, any petition filed in the Supreme Court is futile. The court can only judge on legality or illegality of the 'cession'. The Judiciary is expected to refrain from interfering in foreign policy matters and its decisions aren't legally binding on Sri Lanka so it is up to Sri Lanka whether to cede or not. There's no question of invalidating the 2 two treaties - First, because records published by the US department of State say that ratification has been done - Second, because even if ratification hasn't been done, the International Court of Justice clarified that non-compliance with a ratification requirement does not invalidate a treaty and Third, because of abandonment of claim by India for so many years. So instead, Jayalalitha and India should focus on other solutions like making the Indian Coast Guard more efficient, follow up on released fishermen who had strayed deep and adoption of 'lease in perpetuity' formula. If Sri Lanka continues to violate resting and drying net rights (which are debatable), India would have to go to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea but even then the matter could get entangled with power politics.
Edited by lalalee - 03 August 2014 at 4:37am