Foreign policy is not for the States

Foreign policy is not  for the States

Be it Arizona, Colarado, Texas or Wyoming, none of the individual states of the United States of America would even think of interfering with the...

Be it Arizona, Colarado, Texas or Wyoming, none of the individual states of the United States of America would even think of interfering with the nation's foreign policy. A visitor to the US who held a genuine visa was able to travel unhindered anywhere in the country. If a state came across a foreigner moving around suspiciously and who could be a spy, the investigation and his possible deportation would be handed over to the Federal authorities. Whether it was the Republicans or the Democrats who were in power, this system was adhered to rigidly. The states had no say in foreign policy though it may be flawed. Even India with its huge population, multi-religious and multi-cultural societies and mushrooming number of political parties followed this policy. There could be (and there was) strong criticism of foreign policy but the debates were always in Parliament and not state legislatures. Quite often both Houses of Parliament flayed our foreign policy with regard to our neighbours, the US or the Middle East and this was accepted as part of our democratic system. The long-held Non Alignment ideology initiated by Jawaharlal Nehru and carried forward by his successors was roundly criticized by pro-US MPs but Nehru was never upset and was ready to discuss it any time in the House. This golden rule did not mean that foreign policy could not change; the only rule was that changes were made, debated and approved of by Parliament. Today our foreign policy could no longer be termed non-aligned. The word lost most of its sheen after the eclipse of international Communism. Economic liberalization meant that we had to follow a free market path and adjust our relations with other nations on the basis of economic issues and not political ideology. Naturally, we came closer to the US and even established diplomatic relations with Israel, though such a move did not please Arab nations who had been our close friends for years. Yet there were times when what happened within India and its neighbourhood cast its shadow on foreign policy. Pakistan's open interference in Jammu & Kashmir was just not an internal issue. More often than not, it was a foreign policy issue because it threatened the national security of the nation by a foreign power. Militants and anti-Indian nationals living abroad often tried to 'internationalize' local issues so that it would catch the attention of the rest of the world and lead to calls for interference in our internal affairs. Small sections of the Sikh community who were well settled in life, both in India and abroad, were disgruntled with 'Hindu' India and not gaining political power in Punjab which they wanted to be converted into a 'Sikh' state. As the Congress went on retaining political power in Punjab, the Sikh-dominated Akali Dal encouraged groups of militant Sikhs both within India and abroad to take to war and 'liberate' Punjab and usher in the new state of Khalistan. For a decade murder and mayhem prevailed in Punjab. Some of the wealthy and influential Sikhs, particularly in Canada supported the Khalistan concept and tried to win international support. But the movement failed because it lacked support from the people of Punjab. Further, most political parties and the media opposed the idea of Khalistan from becoming an international issue. Today, the Akalis are in power in Punjab through the ballot box but there are still fanatical elements addicted to the Khalistan issue. But the efforts to internationalize the matter never succeeded.
The ongoing Sri Lankan problem is more complicated. It involves the Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils. But basically, it remains an internal affair of Sri Lanka and the recent ill-conceived efforts by the Indian government amounted to gross interference in the internal affairs of a friendly neighbor. While the Sri Lankan Tamils have every right to demand justice, equal rights and proper rehabilitation, sections of Tamil Nadu politicians are still harping on war time atrocities of four years back. There is no mention of the atrocities committed by the LTTE and its murderous chief V Prabhakaran who did not hesitate to use as human shields for his army Tamil girls and boys. It was the same Prabhakaran who savaged Sri Lanka with suicide bombers who killed indiscriminately and in a horror climax had the Indian Prime Minister blown to bits. Did the feuding DMK and the AIADMK have all this in mind when their supporters carried posters with pictures of the late LTTE Chief? Did they care for India, their Motherland? Yes, the shooting of the 12-year-old son of Prabhakaran was a reprehensible act but the videos which showed the dead youngster were of doubtful pedigree. A Channel 4 of Britain is not known for its credibility and NGO groups in this part of the world knew which side of their bread was buttered. Yes, the killing of the boy had to be investigated and the guilty punished. Rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamils has to be speeded up and they must be made part of the political process. But all this could be achieved only with the co-operation of Colombo. The farce now being playing out in Tamil Nadu could not help this. Buddhist monks and other Sri Lankan visitors visiting Chennai were attacked. To cap it all, under pressure from Tamil Nadu students, instigated by Dravidian parties, the Jayalalithaa government announced that Sri Lankan players contracted to appear in the IPL Tamasha would not be allowed to play because their security could not be guaranteed. This was nothing but bowing down to goondagiri and was certain to bring down India's stature in the sporting arena. No one who really cared for cricket would moan the death of the farcical IPL but not under such circumstances. The UPA government also had much to answer for. Did it have to join hands with countries like the US and UK to push through an anti-Sri Lanka resolution at the Human Rights Meet at Geneva? The world knows that the US and the UK over the years fought illegal wars and committed thousands of violations of human rights. Now, they had the company of India which had been accused of crimes in Kashmir, the North-East and Punjab. As a friendly neighbour, Sri Lanka had not joined the movements condemning India on its human rights record. Pakistan and China did not support the UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka. But India did. By doing so it made the fundamental mistake of internationalizing an internal issue of a friendly neighbor. Tomorrow, it could be Sri Lanka's turn to vote for resolutions critical of India in the Kashmir, North East and Khalistan problems. The spineless act of the UPA government was not due to any sympathy for the Sri Lanka Tamils but only to appease its ally DMK from breaking its alliance. This shameful act motivated by self- interest did not work and India was left with a red face.
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