The editorial comments in The Washington Post of February 7 on the events in Sri Lanka are as opposite as they are worth pondering. Indeed, the Post’s coverage of that subject in the past week is creditworthy for its comprehensiveness and readers interested in following the situation on the Indian subcontinent must feel gratified. We, ourselves, wish to dwell on the last sentence of that editorial: ‘“‘But India also had a heavy responsibility, and it is not fulfilling it.”’
India’s ‘responsibility’ here, obviously, refers to the requirement that as the single most powerful nation in that region, India must do all it can to ensure an amicable political settlement so that Colombo looks up to India rather than solicit the assistance of one of the superpowers.
It is dismaying to note that instead of taking a constructive approach (and one which would place it in a role of leadership) the Indian government has chosen the more hazardous task of actually playing partisan. There has, for example, been little denunciation of the violence that is being perpetrated, less interest in the all too obvious advantage of stability in the area and only a policy statement that Tamils’ demands for autonomy be recognized by the Sinhalese government of Junius Jayewardene. If Rajiv Gandhi fails to steer the government from such a course, he might be construed as following the example of his illustrious predecessor, Indira Gandhi, who at the time of East Pakistan insurgency obligingly jumped into the fracas and helped establish Bangladesh.
Political analysts and men of judgment would alike dismiss this as conjecture and we all hope it does not come about. Be that as it may, Sikhs the world over must watch this more closely for yet another reason: will Rajiv Gandhi demonstrate the same kind of sympathy towards the Sikhs who seek autonomy in the Panjab or will he simply act as an amateurish statesman operating on Machiavellian rather than Gandhi an principles? How much support will he lend the movement for Eclam (across Palk Strait) and how will he deal with the Panjab crisis in his own backyard?
Since the issue has implications within India and affects adjoining nations, it is important that western democracies exert pressure on the government of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi so that it does not arbitrarily stifle the voice of ethnic minorities in one area even as it espouses it in another. India on her part would do well to stay away from such a double standard if it is to retain credibility amongst its democratic allies.
Article extracted from this publication >> April 19, 1985