Lessons unlearnt

Surely, the Centre cannot give AIADMK, DMK the veto over its dealings with Colombo.

The campaign in Tamil Nadu's political circles to have India boycott the forthcoming Commonwealth meet in Colombo comes as no surprise. Whether it was over New Delhi's attempt to negotiate a workable draft of a UN resolution on human rights in Sri Lanka or the participation of Lankan cricketers in domestic cricket, Tamil Nadu's two largest political parties have been outbidding each other in recommending the more extremist position, never mind its very questionable utility in attaining their stated goal of securing a better political package for the island nation's Tamil minority. Therefore, the pleas of Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and DMK chief M. Karunanidhi to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he keep away from the Commonwealth gathering in Colombo is of a piece with their record. What surprises is the PM's refusal to challenge the rhetoric while assuring Karunanidhi, an erstwhile UPA ally, that any decision will take into account "the sentiments of your party (the DMK) and the Tamil people".

This is not the first time the UPA has apparently given a regional party the veto in the Centre's dealings with a neighbouring country. The unfortunate consequences of allowing Mamata Banerjee to abort the carefully negotiated deal on Teesta will continue to be counted. But in no other context has the UPA been so wary frightened, even as it has been on Sri Lanka, of explaining India's longstanding argument against blanket boycotts and sanctions as effective instruments of forcing democratic change in South Asia. In the time since the final phase of the Sri Lankan military's fight against the LTTE, Delhi has allowed Tamil political parties to determine the standard for how to engage Colombo and, more dangerously, to rouse the street.

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