Saturday, May 27, 2000

Changing the power equations

Indian President K R Naraynan's forthcoming visit to China may turn out to be more than purely ceremonial. But only if Narayanan, as an old China hand, does actually try and put Sino-Indian relations on a more rational footing, and seeks answers from Beijing, that the latter has evaded ever since Rajiv Gandhi fully normalised relations with the People's Republic in 1988.
Visits by Indian leaders to China have, in recent years, been often marred by controversies. The last Indian presidential visit was in 1992, when the Chinese almost disrupted President R Venkatraman's travels by conducting a nuclear test while he was there.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit in 1979 had to be cut short after China announced its invasion of Vietnam during the visit. Incidentally, it was President Narayanan who was ambassador to Beijing during the ill-fated Vajpayee visit.
Narayanan had been appointed ambassador to China in 1976, fourteen years after ambassadorial relations were withdrawn. While China has "officially" described these incidents as pure coincidences, we shall have to wait and see if similar accidents happen during the Narayanan visit.
In any case, it is time that Narayanan, with his newly acquired bluntness (on particular display during the recent banquet speech in honor of US President Clinton) decided to ask China some hard questions.
First, what is the state of Chinese nuclear cooperation with Pakistan? From the perspective of India, the most serious concern vis--vis China is about the help provided by Beijing to Pakistan's nuclear programme. The true extent of the Beijing-Islamabad nuclear collusion may never be revealed, but it is clear that Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme has relied enormously on China's help, and Chinese nuclear engineers too may have designed Islamabad's nuclear weapons. Nuclear cooperation of this kind is unprecedented in the history of international relations since 1945; indeed, not even the US and Britain shared such a relationship.
Why would China want to help Pakistan to become a nuclear weapon state? India's elite feels that Beijing has consistently regarded a nuclear-armed Pakistan as a crucial regional ally and as a vital counterweight to India's growing capabilities. Is this true? And is cooperation continuing despite the nuclear tests by Pakistan? Are the reports, that Pakistani nuclear scientists are still being trained in various academies in China, false?
Narayanan must also ask his hosts: What accounts for Chinese unwillingness to settle any of the bilateral irritants to which India attaches importance? Despite repeated promises, Beijing has still not recognised Arunachal Pradesh or Sikkim as a part of India. This, despite the number of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) introduced , largely based on unilateral Indian concessions. And why has China continued to violate the letter and spirit of the bilateral CBMs in the last few years, especially but not only, in the Ladakh sector?
Third, should India not be concerned about Chinese inroads into Myanmar, including the reported construction of a Chinese naval facility on the Coco islands, which could be used to monitor missile launches by India? Why is Beijing, in any case, seeking to establish such a large military presence in Myanmar?
Fourth, what really is the story behind the departure of the 14-year-old Ugyen Thinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa of the Kagyupa sect of Tibetan Buddhism - from his monastery in Tsurphu near Lhasa in Tibet to the capital-in-exile of the Dalai Lama near Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh? Is it part of a Chinese plot to subvert the Tibetan movement in India? Or is it one more proof of the scale of Chinese atrocities in the region? And what does China really expect New Delhi to do with the Tibetans?
Fifth, is it not a fact that China has deployed nuclear missiles in Tibet that clearly have one target: India. Admittedly, Chinese inter-continental ballistic missiles elsewhere could also target India, but the potential political and psychological impact of these missiles - literally a few miles from India's border - during a future conflict cannot be underestimated. If China sees India as neither a rival nor an enemy, where is the need to deploy these missiles?
Sixth, why is China the only nuclear-weapon-state that continues to adopt a hard line toward India's nuclear policy? While the other nuclear states have, more or less, come to terms with India's new nuclear status, following the nuclear tests of 1998, why is it that Beijing alone keeps on harping on UN Security Resolutions? Indeed, why is it that the seniormost Chinese official, dealing with nuclear-related issues, Ambassador Sha, takes such a belligerent stand against India in international forums?
Seven, what is the Chinese stand on terrorism, especially the kind inspired by Islamic militants? Is China not facing problems related to Islamic terrorism in its northern province of Xinjiang, and which seems to have been rooted in Pakistan? If so, why is it that Chinese officials are not willing to condemn this terrorism on Indian soil? And why is it that while India spearheads the moves to prevent the adoption of resolutions, in the UN Commission on Human Rights, that condemn Chinese human rights record, Beijing is unwilling to adopt a clearer stand on Kashmir?
Eight, what is the Chinese view of multi-polarity, and what place does India occupy in Chinese cosmology? Does China see India as a partner in a united quest for a more equitable multi-polar international system? Or does it view New Delhi as a rival for influence in Asia? If the former is the case, why is Beijing not willing to openly and forthrightly support India's bid for membership of the UN Security Council? Has it so easily forgotten how India, sometimes totally alone, fought for Beijing's membership of the Security Council?
If President Narayanan were to ask these questions, and hopefully get some reasonable answers, he will do a greater service to Sino-Indian relations than can be performed by the number of toasts that will most surely be raised during his visit to the 'inscrutable' land. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2000

The success story of LTTE

The LTTE's dream of an independent "Eelam" may not be easily realized, but it is clear that the Sri Lankan army too will find it very difficult to militarily defeat the LTTE. Not surprisingly, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga revealed recently that she had offered to hold talks with LTTE leader V Prabhakaran at least three times during the last two years, but he had rejected all efforts at a peaceful negotiated settlement of the ethnic war. Indeed, despite the LTTE being declared a terrorist organization by virtually every important state in the international system, it still continues to be the most powerful Tamil political organization in the world with supporters in virtually every part of the globe. It is believed that LTTE raises more funds overseas, especially in Europe and North America, than any militant organization in South Asia.
What accounts for the Tigers' success and the failure of successive Sri Lankan governments to combat them effectively? There are at least three reasons for the LTTE's continued strength. First, the Tamil Tigers have a formidable military presence. Estimates about numbers vary, but it is generally believed that the organization has a cadre of at least 5,000 men and women. The LTTE consists of four wings: army, navy, anti-aircraft wing, and Black Tiger wing, which consists of members who sacrifice their own lives in suicide attacks on major military installations and political leaders. It was a member of the Black Tiger wing who was responsible for the suicide attack that killed Rajiv Gandhi.
The Tigers' military strength is also rooted in the fact that they have, over time, been trained by some of the most effective intelligence agencies in the world, including Israel's Mossad, India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Pakistan's ISI. Indeed, at one stage in 1989, they were supplied with arms and information even by the Sri Lankan army, which wanted them to defeat the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) that had been deployed there. This was revealed recently by Sri Lankan army officer Lt Priyalal Wishwakumar, who claimed that he had personally delivered four truckloads of T-56 automatic rifles to the Tigers on the instructions of then President Premadasa. However, once the IPKF had moved out, the same weapons were used to slaughter members of the Sri Lankan armed forces.
Quite clearly, Prabhakaran's leadership has been extremely important in the success of the Tigers. While the world views him as a fascist dictator, to the Tigers he is the "supremo," the elder brother in whom they have reposed complete faith.
Prabhakaran's heroes include Alexander, Napoleon, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh and Bal Gangadhara Tilak. By all accounts, he is a brilliant military strategist, as well as deeply feared and respected by the cadre. Ruthless and temperamental, Prabhakaran is totally uncompromising in his demand for an independent sovereign Eelam. 
Finally, whether we like it or not, the LTTE still seems to speak for many Tamils, especially those who have, over the years, faced discrimination and persecution at the hands of the Sri Lankan state. Most other Tamil organizations are inactive or dead. Recall that Prabhakaran set up LTTE, also known as the Tamil National Army, in May 1976 after growing Tamil anger and frustration with the policies of the Sri Lankan government. Indeed, the Tamils' alienation goes back to the late 1950s after the government led by Solomon Bandaranaike, father of the present president, enacted the "Sinhala only" law, making, with one stroke of the pen, the significant Tamil-speaking minority, concentrated mostly in the North and the East, second class citizens.Asia.
But it was legislation which was designed to cut the number of Tamils in universities, and which gave Buddhism the foremost place in the country in the 1970s, that led to the deep political and social discontent within the Tamils. This was compounded by the anti-Tamil riots of the late 1970s and the massive human rights violations that were inflicted by the Sri Lankan army in the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands of Tamils fled the country, many as refugees to India, and countless others were killed.
The LTTE has successfully snuffed out most moderate Tamil voices. Dissent is rarely tolerated and any Tamil organization or leader who participates in electoral politics becomes an automatic target. One of the recent victims was charismatic lawyer Neelan Tiruchelvam. The Sri Lankan government may have only contempt for it, the world may despise it, but there unfortunately is no alternative to dealing with the Tigers if sustainable peace has to be achieved in Sri Lanka.
India's policy must be predicated on three critical elements: First, a firm pledge to the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka; second, a commitment to minority rights, pluralism and secular democracy in the state; and opposition to external intervention in the island. If India has to play a role, it must primarily aim at getting the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government together at the negotiating table.