India's periphery today is engulfed by states that are in political turmoil and conflict. India's foreign policies in the region do not seem to have fully grasped that an orderly neighborhood is an Indian strategic imperative. While India could not have made any headway in Pakistan and Bangladesh because of external factors in play in these countries and the religious factor, India could have been more active in Nepal and Sri Lanka to secure its national security interests.
India failed miserably in securing its national security interests in Nepal because it allowed its Nepal policy to be led and run by the Congress Party's major coalition partner, the Communist Party of India (Marxist ) or the CPI (M) in short. The Indian Communists seemed to be more interested in bringing the Nepalese Maoists on the political centre-stage in Nepal so that a bridgehead could be established for an eventual Communist takeover of Nepal. Enough has been said on this aspect in the past in this Column.
Sri Lanka too has been discussed in this Column in the past and how the Congress Party's one more coalition partner, the DMK, is dictating India's policy on Sri Lanka. Once again, India's national security interests are being frittered away to give primacy to the political preferences of the Government's coalition allies.
India continues to be indifferent to Sri Lanka's initiatives for a Defence Cooperation Agreement with India In fact India should take the initiative to put such a proposal on the fast track as of all the other countries in South Asia, Sri Lanka has been well disposed towards India and there exists a history of military cooperation between the two countries. India had also gone in for military intervention in Sri Lanka to ensure the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka. Besides the two countries share many religious and cultural affinities.
If in the past Sri Lanka has veered towards Pakistan or China or does so now again it can be said that this arises from exasperation with India's policy approaches and reluctance or hesitation to supply Sri Lanka's military equipment needs. Sri Lanka cannot be expected to let the LTTE Tamil separatists to run wild over its territory without restraining them militarily. The LTTE is a state within a state as it has built over the years a formidable military machine to militarily attain a separatist Tamil State in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka. It has established both a naval wing and an air force wing. It also stands classified as an international terrorist organization by the United States.
The time has come for India to be a bit more judicious in handling the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils. India insisting for a greater devolution of powers for the Tamil majorities in the Northern part of Sri Lanka is understandable in deference to the wishes of the Tamilnadu people in India. This is quite different from making the LTTE as synonymous with the aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils and not helping the Sri Lankan Government with military aid to combat the LTTE military threat to the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan state. It should not be forgotten that the LTTE seeks a partition of Sri Lanka for the establishment of an independent Tamil State of Eelam.
If any Tamil Party in power in the Indian State of Tamilnadu pressurizes the Indian Government to desist from making such a distinction then such pressures should be resisted It is a national security imperative for India that irrespective of any regional domestic pressures within India, the territorial integrity of the Sri Lankan state must be ensured.
With India itself being subjected to disruptive ethnic insurgencies and separatist movements, it cannot be seen as being permissive of the LTTE's secession movement in Sri Lanka. Moreso, when such a disruptive movement carries grave implications for India too. Have Indians and the Congress Party forgotten that the LTTE was involved in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who also happened to be the husband of India's current Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi.
India to emerge as a regional power in South Asia and a key global player would need to formulate its foreign policies based on the imperatives of India's national security interests and not on the domestic compulsions imposed by regional parties who happen to be the major partners of a Central governing coalition.
With the above perspective in view, it can be fairly stated that India's foreign policy towards Sri Lanka needs a major review and overhaul to safeguard India's national security interests.