Sri Lankan war roils Indian politics
Tamil parties threaten to withdraw from India's Parliament, but some see this as an attempt to wrest more seats in upcoming elections.
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The Tamil Tigers have been waging an insurgency for 25 years to create an independent ethnic Tamil state in northern and eastern provinces in Sri Lanka.Skip to next paragraph
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India, the US, and the European Union put the Tigers on their respective terrorist lists. But many among India's Tamil population – particularly in Tamil Nadu state – support or sympathize with the rebels. Others condemn the Tigers, but worry about civilian Tamils in northern Sri Lanka who have been displaced or caught in the crossfire.
Singh has responded to the pressure from his Tamil coalition partners, but only moderately. Last week he urged a political solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka and expressed concern for the estimated 230,000 displaced civilians. But analysts don't expect him to do much more, reports the Associated Press.
India has generally been reluctant to become directly involved in Sri Lanka's internal affairs after a disastrous military intervention in the 1980s that led to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber.
Strategic concerns are also restraining India, according to a commentary in the Daily Mirror, an independent English-language daily in Sri Lanka. While India quietly provides Sri Lanka with equipment and low-key support, rivals China and Pakistan are providing arms for the fight against the Tigers.
For India, too, several geopolitical concerns have prevented it from exerting undue pressure on Sri Lanka. India knows too well that the more it distances from the Sri Lankan government, Sri Lanka would veer towards China, Pakistan, and Iran. Growing Chinese influence in many spheres including infrastructure development, power generation and many development activities in Sri Lanka would no doubt have raised alarm in India.
In a commentary in Frontline, an Indian magazine produced by publishers of The Hindu daily newspaper, B. Muralidhar Reddy writes that the clash between New Delhi's strategic concerns and pressure from Tamil politicians put it in a tight spot.
It is indeed a delicate moment for India. With general elections a few months away and a growing clamor in Tamil Nadu for a more active role by New Delhi to alleviate the sufferings of innocent Tamil citizens, India has to do a balancing act. Colombo understands the Indian predicament and does not want to add to its discomfiture by any rash talk....
The Sri Lankan government, responding to Singh's comments last week, said its fight was solely with the Tamil Tigers, not Tamil civilians. It said its concern for the welfare of Tamil civilians in the north was slowing its military campaign, according to the Agence France-Presse.