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AIADMK clean sweep may boost India's Lanka policy

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

The BJP must be relieved that its Tamil Nadu allies and the DMK have been rendered irrelevant by the AIADMK's bagging 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Had the DMK or the BJP's allies, such as Vaiko's MDMK, made gains, the new government would have been hamstrung in dealing with the security challenges posed by the revival of Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka and the refugees flowing into Tamil Nadu.

When it comes to Sri Lankan Tamils, parties in Tamil Nadu tend to be driven by ethnic sentiment, and are heedless of national security concerns and strategic considerations. The problem is compounded with every Dravidian party being involved in the game of one-upmanship: each party is out to prove that it is a superior champion of the Tamil cause. The AIADMK is, relatively, less jingoistic than other Tamil parties.

Although under MGR, the AIADMK was the biggest patron of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), after the debacle of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka, the AIADMK has been more mindful of national considerations. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was uncompromisingly opposed to the LTTE while, at the same time, batting for the rights and aspirations of Sri Lankan Tamils.

Despite the compulsions generated by the competitive posturing of other Dravidian parties, the AIADMK has been more in step with New Delhi, especially in steps taken against Sri Lankan Tamil terrorist groups. The smaller Tamil parties, such as the MDMK of Vaiko, the PMK-led by Dr S Ramadoss and the DMDK of actor Vijayakant, which are allied to the BJP, were even more strident than the Dravidian majors, namely, the AIADMK and DMK.

After failing to ally with the AIADMK or DMK, when the BJP had to settle for an alliance with smaller Dravidian parties, it was all too aware that these parties could be troublesome when it came to dealing with Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Tamil separatist outfits. Reconciling the shrill demands of these parties with national security concerns and maintaining friendly relations with an important, strategic neighbour like Sri Lanka would have been problematic.

For any government at the Centre to adopt the hard line advocated by these parties against Sri Lanka and Sinhalese nationals would have alienated the island republic further and deepend discord. The Congress party, particularly Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was unduly swayed by the extreme demands of Tamil parties in relation to Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Tamils. Whether it was on the US-sponsored resolutions in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) or not attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, Singh was unduly swayed by the DMK and other Dravidian parties.

These parties campaigned for sanctions against Sri Lanka and wanted to isolate the Rajapaksa regime for alleged war crimes in the last stages of the Tamil-Sinhala conflict. Jayalalithaa's government went overboard on more than one occasion by forcing the Centre to expel Sri Lankan defence personnel who were in India for training. There were attacks on Sinhala tourists and Buddhist pilgrims calculated to vitiate India-Sri Lanka relations, including between people of the two countries.

Given this backdrop of Sri Lanka being projected as an "enemy" country by some Tamil parties, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has good reasons to welcome India's election results, particularly the rout of the anti-Sri Lanka parties in Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK would have to defer to the new government in its Sri Lanka policy if only to benefit from its sweeping win and avoid a Centre-state conflict.

The election outcome is a positive for India-Sri Lanka relations and the new government would do well to seize the moment.

The author is an independent political and foreign affairs commentator

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