Lessons from the Tiger Defeat

  • strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/date/date/date.theme on line 255.
  • strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/date/date/date.theme on line 260.
  • strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/date/date/date.theme on line 261.
  • strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/date/date/date.theme on line 255.
  • strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/date/date/date.theme on line 260.
  • strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/date/date/date.theme on line 261.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_page::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display_page.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_block::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display_block.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_node_status::operator_form() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::operator_form(&$form, &$form_state) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/modules/node/views_handler_filter_node_status.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home1/unboweda/public_html/profiles/prosepoint/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
Pirapaharan: iconic victim of a tectonic shift in world affairs
Thursday, June 4th, 2009
May 31, 2009
By Anita Pratap
There are lessons to be learnt from the rout of the LTTE. These lessons span the entire spectrum—from cosmic justice, international geopolitics and national agendas to character flaws.
The first and foremost lesson is that Sri Lanka’s victory symbolises the crystallisation of a New World Order. This is a paradigm shift. We have moved from a unipolar world of American dominance to a bipolar world where China has emerged as the rival pole, independent, non-judgmental and unconcerned about the universal values that the US and Europe stood for—democracy, freedom and human rights.

China’s world order is underlined by its non-ideological, pragmatic, no-holds-barred support to a strategic or economic ally’s regime stability. Unlike the bipolar world of the Cold War when the US and the USSR were the two poles, the 21st century bipolar world is different in that it also represents what Fareed Zakaria calls the ‘Rise of the Rest’. The superpowers in each region—Russia, India, South Africa and Brazil—will have a dominant role to play in their spheres. But this is not a multi-polar world, which implies several equal powers. This is, what I would call, a “New World Pecking Order”. Not quite Peking, but Pecking. China is predominant among the Rising Rest, not surpassing, but already almost an effective counter to the US and Europe.

Prabhakaran is the first iconic victim of this tectonic shift in world affairs. China’s economic power is well established. Its political emergence on the world stage has been demonstrated by the LTTE’s catastrophic defeat. Simply put, Sri Lanka succeeded in destroying the LTTE at great civilian cost thanks to China’s whole-hearted military and financial aid. The fulcrum of China’s backing to Sri Lanka lies in its construction of a port in Hambantota. Experts say what is a commercial venture could become a strategic Chinese naval base in the Indian Ocean. China has virtually encircled South Asia by establishing ports in Pakistan’s Gwadar and Myanmar’s Kyauk Phyu. Some feel threatened while others argue that China is merely securing its energy and raw material supply routes to maintain its growth momentum.

Sri Lanka was able to vanquish the Tigers also due to India’s tacit support, which included providing training and logistical support such as naval surveillance to cut off Tigers’ weapons supply. There were two motives: India wanted to be rid of the LTTE and, second, India could not sit back and surrender Sri Lanka into China’s embrace. The only way to exert leverage with the government was to help its war effort and influence its outcome. Against the combined military might of Sri Lanka, India and China, the LTTE was hopelessly outclassed.

Tamils seethe against the impotence of the international community. But this is an oxymoron. It is neither international nor is it a monolithic community. It refers basically to the west and the UN. Sri Lanka could defy Barack Obama, Europe and the UN because of China’s backing and India’s stance. Vidar Helgesen, a former Norwegian deputy foreign minister, wrote in a brilliant policy paper on the Sri Lankan war: “Access was denied, insistence on respect for humanitarian law was ignored, calls for a political process rejected and western political and diplomatic representatives lambasted in the process. We have seen similar tendencies elsewhere—Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma—but possibly nowhere as systematic and blatant as in Sri Lanka.” The common backer in these other rogue nations is China. They have been able to get away scot-free because China, as a member of the P5, has blocked all western attempts to punish these nations for their cruelty towards their own citizens.

But the trouble is, the west is neither credible nor seen as an honest broker. George W. Bush ensured that. Undemocratic tactics, human rights violations and civilian casualties have marked western interventions in Africa, Latin America and Asia, but most vividly in recent invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan. So it is highly hypocritical for the west to lecture Sri Lanka. China couldn’t care less for liberal values. It interferes without moral posturing.

But this China-inspired New World Pecking Order can have grave repercussions: brutal dictatorships in strategically located countries or nations blessed with natural resources that China covets can terrorise their citizens—especially minorities and dissenters—with impunity. This can lead to much evil. Life and liberty of innocents cannot be bartered by ruling elites for economic gain or political stability. There is thus a dire need for international efforts to coax China into the fold of universal values.

The national priority for Sri Lanka now is to rehabilitate the Tamils and build a just, inclusive society. This is a historic opportunity for President Rajapaksa to not only show pragmatism, but Solomon-like wisdom. If he does so, Sri Lanka can finally hope to achieve its rightful destiny as an island of beauty, stability and prosperity.
For India, the challenge is to bring Sri Lanka firmly back into its own orbit, thus limiting China’s and Pakistan’s influence in the island. Reluctant to provoke China at any cost, India has been taciturn (some would say pussyfooted) about China’s incursions into Myanmar, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But time has come for a more robust—not muscular—foreign policy. India is a regional superpower. Unlike Russia or China, India believes in universal values. This makes India a much more stable and comforting ally to the US and Europe than Russia or China can ever hope to be.

There are also cosmic and personal lessons to be learnt. Prabhakaran died on May 17, as the Congress was celebrating its Lok Sabha election victory that is credited to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. This is divine retribution for Prabhakaran, who killed Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv had his critics, but he was a decent man who simply didn’t deserve his brutal death. The timing of events proves the triumph of democratically and non-violently vanquishing one’s enemies—in stark contrast to Prabhakaran’s vengeful tactics.
And finally, the lesson to be learnt at the personal level is that inflexibility is a fatal flaw. Compromise is not opportunism, but the art of survival. Prabhakaran had four reasonable chances for a peaceful settlement—in 1987 with India, in 1990 with R. Premadasa, in 1994 with Chandrika Kumaratunga and in 2003 with Ranil Wickramasinghe through the Norway-brokered peace process.

But Prabhakaran was uncompromising about Eelam. In the final analysis, he not only failed in his mission, but brought untold suffering to the Tamils, whose rights he sought to champion. A whole generation of Sri Lankans—both Tamils and Sinhalese—paid a high price. History will probably neither forget nor forgive Prabhakaran
 
Courtesy THE WEEK