By: T Ramakrishnan
Dr S.I. Keethaponcalan has made some pertinent points in the interview given to the Centre for Strategic Studies Trincomalee (CSST). The most important of them is his response to the question on the effectiveness of liberal values stating "we need to adhere to these principles. One of the reasons we lost international support was that we went against these principles under the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). When we adhere to these principles, the international community will find it easy to support us". I also found to be noteworthy his advice : "Rely on the parliamentary strength as if it is the only weapon available; as part of this strategy elect tough negotiators to parliament; to keep people on alert on all issues; stop talking about self-determination which does not have any practical meaning has done too much harm and focus on practical solutions"
But, I think he was completely off the mark by asking to "make a distinction between India and Tamil Nadu by building sustainable relations with Tamil Nadu." In my view, this reveals his ignorance of Tamil Nadu’s reliance on the rest of India for a variety of reasons including the economic factor. It is in this context that l would like to draw attention to what Pazha Nedumaran told me about the importance of Sri Lanka’s Tamil leadership’s close rapport with New Delhi. According to Mr Nedumaran when Amirthalingam visited Chennai in 1977 immediately after becoming the Leader of Opposition, he called on a number of leaders including MGR and Karunanidhi. When Amirthalingam met Nedumaran, the latter told him that if he wanted India to have a policy sympathetic to his cause, he must build relationships with leaders in New Delhi and introduced him to Indira Gandhi, who was out of power at that point in time. And it was this introduction that helped Amirthalingam build a relationship with Indira Gandhi. The point being made here is that unless you have friends in New Delhi, a mere relationship with Tamil Nadu will be of limited value.
(The author T Ramakrishnan is a journalist and former correspondent in Colombo for The Hindu newspaper. The views are his own and not that of his employer)