Whether or not the crude snub to Sri Lanka by the UPA government will translate into a gain for China and Pakistan will be known later, but there can be little doubt that it will result in a clear loss for India. The decision of the Prime Minister to succumb under the pressure of the Congress’s so-called core group and opt out of the Colombo summit meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government is most unfortunate. Foreign policy cannot be hostage to partisan regional interests. But a weak and doddering prime minister, whose foremost concern seems to be only to retain his elevated post without exercising its attendant powers, will further hurt the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Most ironically, the absence of the Prime Minister from the summit meeting is ascribed to his concerns for these very Tamils. The truth is that the Indian Tamilian parties are engaged in a bitter competition to exploit the poor plight of their ethnic brothers and sisters across the Palk Straits for their own narrow political/electoral ends. Each party in Tamil Nadu seeks to pose as a greater champion of the Sri Lankan Tamils than the rest. The Congress Party, devoid of a strong and visionary leadership, has simply allowed itself to be manipulated by the Tamilian Nadu groups. Neither the cause of fishermen from Tamil Nadu, who often stray into disputed waters and find themselves in Sri Lankan prisons, nor the larger cause of Tamils in northern and eastern provinces, is likely to gain from the calculated absence of Manmohan Singh from Colombo for the opening ceremony of the CHOGM summit. Far from regretting the Indian Prime Minister’s decision, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister’s reaction to the news was one of complete nonchalance. It takes two to tango. If India thought it would snub Sri Lanka, the latter was ready with its thank-you-do-not-come-we-would-not-miss-you response. Of course, further autonomy for the newly-elected Northern Provincial Council can be ruled out. The Prime Minister was invited by the Chief Minister belonging to the Tamil National Alliance to stop over in Jaffna on his way back from Colombo. He could have used his visit to Colombo to impress upon the Rajapaksa regime to grant police and land management powers to the newly-elected provincial government. Now that too can be forgotten for the foreseeable period. For, the Indian snub is bound to further harden the stand of the powers-that-be in Colombo. As it is, China and Pakistan have made deep inroads into Sri Lanka, having cornered a large number of infrastructural contracts, including the one for port-building, which was first offered to India and which the latter refused to execute. As it is, in other neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, the ISI has found ready access to run its anti-India terrorist modules. Pakistan, despite the uninterrupted and uninterruptible mollycoddling by the Indian government, is determined to press ahead with its Project Destabilise India. In Bangladesh, the PM had succumbed under the pressure of the West Bengal government and at the last minute, aborted the agreement over water-sharing. In Nepal, the internal political mess seems to be unending, allowing China, Pakistan, etc., to use the absence of a strong regime to gain a further foothold in that nation’s affairs while India invariably is left to do the fire-fighting after the damage is done.
When all is said and done, the conclusion is inevitable that the UPA government is incapable of doing the country any good. A lame duck regime, it had abandoned governance a long time ago, but it has now undermined foreign policy too. Outsourcing foreign policy to mutually hostile party chieftains within and outside the UPA has harmed the larger national interest. As for the Prime Minister, well, he is one Singh who was never the king even when he occupied the prime ministerial ‘gaddi,’ but he has now become a miserable figure, evoking ridicule and pity in equal measure from the aam aadmi and the intellectual sophisticates alike. He can do no good to this country. Period.