by A. Jathindra யதீந்திரா, Samakalam, August 9, 2021 [translated by the author]
There is talk of a need for a foreign policy for Eelam Tamils. To the extent that things are usually talked about in our environment, those things are not looked at deeply. That is, how can we make the things we present possible? If possible, how? No one goes into such questions. It all ends up being a mind-boggling pasture. Because of this, most things are simply read and passed on.
External Affairs – From this, we it relates to outsiders. Basically, foreign policy is about countries. Not related to political parties, groups and movements. Foreign policy is a guide for a country (government) to interact with other countries in order to protect its interests. It is also said to be ‘out of doors.’ A state without a foreign policy, has been compared to a ship in the deep sea without any knowledge of directions. A country needs a firm foreign policy, and Diplomacy is an act based on a country’s foreign policy. Diplomacy is the knowledge and action of a country to move forward on the basis of its foreign policy. But a country’s foreign policy is not something that develops overnight. The foreign policy of a country is related to the long history of that country. This may change according to the global political climate. But whatever changes occur, the basis of those changes is the same, which is, the interests of nations.
Against this background, we need to ask ourselves some basic questions. Eelam Tamil politics has a history of almost seventy years. Has there been a foreign policy tradition among Eelam Tamils during this period? When the L.T.T.E. was managed a de facto state based in Kilinochchi, did they have a foreign policy? If so, what is that foreign policy? None of those seeking to discuss foreign policy today is looking at issues from these fundamental questions. This is a mistake.
The Tamil Federal Party was formed in 1949 lead by. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam He was involved in Tamil politics from 1949 to 1976. If the period of Chelvanayakam is the first part of the Tamil national uprising, the period of Prabhakaran is the second part. Did Chelvanayakam have a foreign policy vision? Was there at least an understanding of geopolitics?
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who seized power in 1956, demanded the removal of the British Naval Base in Trincomalee and the Katunayake Air Force Base in 1957. Britain removed the bases on that basis.
This was a significant foreign policy victory of Bandaranaike. During this time, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru campaigned for the removal of British military bases in Asia. In support of Nehru’s policy, Bandaranaike ordered to withdrew British troops from Sri Lanka. Selvanayagam, the leader of the Tamil people, criticized and opposed Bandaranaike’s actions. Bandaranaike removed British bases based on his non-alignment policy. At that time, India supported Bandaranaike’s move. But Celvanayagam had taken a pro-Britiain stance. As an argument, what is the benefit to the Tamil people of taking the side of Britain? But Chelvanayakam had never thought of a geopolitical concern. At least he did not have such a view. If so, he would have acted in support of Nehru’s position. Chelvanayakam had thought solely on the basis of the intention of opposing Bandaranaike. This is an excellent example of the geopolitical understanding of Tamil leaders.
In a nutshell, the Tamil political activities from 1949 to 1976 can be defined as attempts to gain power within Sri Lanka. The 1976 Vaddukoddai Resolution for a separate state and the subsequent general election in 1977 marked beginning of the second chapter in the Tamil national political uprising. At this point, real Tamil leaders should have thought about the foreign policy approach. In 1971, with the intervention of India, a new country called Bangladesh dawned. This issue must have had a great deal of influence on the ideology of the leadership up to that point. Because, following this, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam formed the Tamil United Liberation Liberational Front (TULF) and campaigned for a idea of separate state. Even here, Tamil moderate leaders could not understand geopolitical reality and slipped.
Tamil leaders could not understand that the situation in Pakistan was different from the situation in Sri Lanka. Even in this place, According to India, Pakistan is a historical enemy. The situation is remining still. In 1965, war broke out between the two countries. Following this, the historical enmity intensified and burned. It was against this backdrop that India supported the East Pakistan insurgency aimed at weakening Pakistan. But Sri Lanka is not the enemy of India. India still does not have such a view. In such an environment, on what basis can India adopt a two-pronged struggle against Sri Lanka?
The view that India would support a separate state was rooted among the leaders of the armed movements. But following the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord, that hope was dashed. But the L.T.T.E. continued to struggle, believing that only the movement could achieve a separate state without India’s support. That struggle ended in 2009. Now the third chapter followed this in Tamil politics. But this third chapter leaves an uncertain future in front of the Tamils.
Twelve years after the end of the war, there is no clear map of the way forward. It is in this context that some have taken up the argument that Tamils need a foreign policy. Some even argue that Tamils are unable to move forward because of the lack of such a thing. It is not wrong to think or talk about a foreign policy stance for Tamils. It is necessary, but it requires a clear vision and work on how to draw it up.
Earlier this year, the US-based Diaspora organization, United States Action Group (USTAG) invited me to speak on foreign policy at their annual strategic session. I reiterate here the point made there. The foreign policy position(s) for Eelam Tamils is directly related to the region in which their habitat is located. If we think on this basis, what was real yesterday is still real today. India is a major power (Big Brother) in the South Asian region. Eelam Tamils will never have politics except for India. If the Eelam Tamils feel they need a politics that avoids India, there is only one way. That is, the complete dissolution of the Tamils into Sinhala majoritarian nationalism.
While India is inevitable, Eelam Tamil leaders can only think about their foreign policy with India in mind. A fundamental point must also be considered when thinking about foreign policy. That is, a clear idea of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy approach is needed. Sri Lanka’s foreign policy approach has previously been one of non-alignment. JR Jayewardene, who came to power in 1977, had taken a pro-Western stance. As a result, India’s intervention took place. The current government is also seeking to uphold Bandaranaike’s ‘philosophy of naturalism.’ Incumbent President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is also talking about a neutral foreign policy, to be in a relationship with everyone by putting forward the interests of Sri Lanka. Their position is not to antagonize anyone. It remains to be seen whether they can continue to travel.
When Sri Lanka seeks to do business with such a policy stance, can Eelam Tamils do business with the same neutral policy or ‘do not take side’ policy? Will Tamils make a profit from such a business? Should be. If this is the case, then the foreign policy for Tamils (if such a policy is necessary) can only be pro-Indian – pro-American (pro-Western). Eelam Tamils cannot do business in the world with a neutral or impartial policy stance because foreign policy is basically a political business for the benefit of nations. A country can pursue a policy of neutrality, but it cannot be adopted by the leadership of a stateless, affected population because all conversations about modern foreign policy are country-based. Opportunities for non-state actors are very rare. Beyond this, if Eelam Tamils need a foreign policy, it can undoubtedly be a pro-Indian and pro-US stance.