Sunday, May 31, 2009
A report received on May 31,2009, from a source believed to be based in Zahidan, the capital of the Iranian province of Sistan-Balochistan,speaks of an exchange of fire between groups of Shias and Sunnis in different parts of Zahidan following an unsuccessful attempt by unidentified persons to kill Mulla Abdol Hamid, a senior Sunni leader. While he survived the attack, many of his body guards were reportedly injured.
2.According to the Government controlled IRNA news agency, three persons were injured on May 29,2009, when unidentified gunmen attacked the election office of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Zahidan. Ahmadinejad is contesting re-election as the President. The polling is scheduled for June 12,2009.
3.Meanwhile, the Iranian authorities have blamed the US and Israel for the suicide attack in a Shia mosque on May 28,2009. They have already announced the hanging in public in Zahidan of three persons in connection with the attack. While the authorities have accused them of having been involved in the attack, independent reports claim that these persons were already in the custody of the police when the suicide attack took place in the mosque.
4.Jalal Sayah, Deputy Governor-General of Sistan-Balochistan, has been quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying: “Three people involved with the terrorist incident were arrested.According to the information obtained, they were hired by America and the agents of the arrogance.” Interior Minister Sadegh Mahsooli said: “The terror agents are neither Sunni nor Shia but Americans and Israelis seeking a Shia-Sunni divide." The Agence France Presse has quoted Ian Kelly, a spokesman of the US State Department, as saying: “The US strongly condemns all forms of terrorism. We do not sponsor any form of terrorism in Iran and we continue to work with the international community to try to prevent any attacks against innocent civilians anywhere.”
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Many Sri Lankan Tamils were killed during the anti-Tamil riots in Colombo in 1983. In their anxiety to suppress details of the exact number of fatalities from being known to the international community, the Sri Lankan authorities allegedly decided to secretly burn the dead bodies of the Tamils killed in mass cremations without informing the relatives. Much before any agency of the Government of India, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, came to know about it and took action to stop it.
2. Her information came from Tamil families in Tamil Nadu with links or contacts with Tamils in Sri Lanka, I am mentioning this to underline that if there is any large-scale massacre of Tamils in Sri Lanka by State agencies, Tamil families in Tamil Nadu would generally come to know about it much before anybody else in India or in the rest of the world. The fact that there has been no such tom-toming across Tamil Nadu of independent stories----- and not stories disseminated by Western sources--- about large-scale massacre of Tamil civilians in the Northern Province by the Sri Lankan security forces would underline the need for caution in accepting stories being disseminated by Western media and human rights organisations about the alleged massacre of nearly 20,000 Tamils during the final weeks of the Sri Lankan Army's counter-insurgency operations against the LTTE.
3. Had there been really such massacres as alleged by Western sources on the basis of purported leaks from unidentified members of the junior staff of the United Nations, people in Tamil Nadu would have come to know of these alleged massacres long before anybody else. Yes, there was concern over the use of air strikes and heavy artillery by the Sri Lankan security forces. These concerns were voiced by political and non-political elements in Tamil Nadu. There was equally a feeling in Tamil Nadu that the number of casualties suffered by the civilians during the final days of the fighting must have been more than the figures given by the Sri Lankan Government. In counter-insurgency situations, it happens often that the authorities tend to underestimate civilian casualties. We saw it in Iraq and we have been seeing it in Afghanistan. The debate regarding the number of civilian fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan goes on without anybody being to establish the exact figure. But nobody accuses the US-led forces in Iraq and Afghanistan of deliberately indulging in large-scale massacres of civilians. Nobody is asking for an international tribunal to try those in charge of operations in those two countries.
4. A campaign has been started in the West to embarrass the Sri Lankan Government and to put its senior officers, who were in charge of counter-insurgency, in the dock by disseminating unauthenticated high figures of civilian fatalities in the Northern Province. India should keep away from this campaign, which seems to be motivated not necessarily by wholly humanitarian considerations. India is uniquely placed in having a better and more objective idea of what happened in the Northern Province and should act according to its judgement without being influenced by the anti-Colombo campaign mounted in the West.
5. Now that the LTTE's insurgency is over, three issues have acquired priority. The first priority is relief and rehabilitation of the Tamil civilians affected by the counter-insurgency operations. The second is post-conflict economic reconstruction in Sri Lanka as a whole and in the Tamil areas in particular. The third is addressing the Tamil anger through an appropriate political package. The LTTE may be gone, but not the Tamil anger.
6. Since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and more particularly since 2002, India has been playing second fiddle in Sri Lanka. It has left it to Western powers such as Norway and the US as well as to Japan to play an activist role in helping Sri Lanka. The time has come for India to once again play an activist role in respect of all the priorities cited above. India should assume the leadership role in helping Sri Lanka in its relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction tasks.
7. The goodwill for India in Sri Lanka has never been higher than it is after the defeat of the LTTE. It is not because India played any active role in its defeat. It is because India did not try to hamper the counter-insurgency operations of the Sri Lankan security forces. This was interpreted by them as India's moral support for their operations. Many Sri Lankans with whom I have interacted in recent weeks have frankly admitted that India's moral support was much more crucial than any material support from Pakistan or China in their counter-insurgency operations.
8. India should try to build up on this goodwill and strengthen it further by taking the leadership role in international efforts to help Sri Lanka after the conflict. If this goodwill is not frittered away and is strengthened further, that could give India a moral authority to nudge the Sri Lankan Government towards a politicasl solution which would be meaningful to the Tamils and acceptable to the Sinhalese.
9. In many articles in the past, I had expressed my fears that once the SL security forces win against the LTTE, the SL Government would try to impose a dictated peace on the Tamils. Those fears remain. All the more reason for India to play the leadership role to ensure that these fears are belied. These fears, even if valid, should not be allowed to inhibit our initiatives in Sri Lanka.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com)
The following is the text of an E-mail interview given by me to The Yomiuri Shimbun of Japan :
QUESTION NO.1 With Obama behaving like this, spreading impression he is a nice guy but not to be feared, are you more or less certain the United States will not be able to stop crisis in Iran's nuclear development or Af-Pak situation to be worsened?
MY REPLY: Iran has seen how North Korea has been able to defy theUS and the international community with impunity.Due to the failure ofthe US to act against North Korea before it acquired its military nuclear capability, a pre-emption is no longer an option. North Korea's conventional military capability and its missiles capable of hitting Japan and South Korea rule out the use of the military option against North Korea.. The soft policy of the Obama Administration towards Iran and its inability to take a strong line against North Korea are likely to encourage the hard-liners in Iran who want Iran to acquire a military nuclear capability. The image of Obama as a soft President who tends to avoid a confrontation will also encourage the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda to step up their activities against the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan and could derail its Af-Pak policy sooner rather than later.
QUESTION NO.2 Regarding North Korea, where should Obama begin to roll back? Reports from Washington indicate he is about to put more emphasison pressuring Pyongyang rather than pursuing dialogue. Is that the right direction?
MY REPLY: As I see it, the only option left for Obama and Japan is to threaten Beijing with the danger of Japan going nuclear if China does not pressure North Korea to de-nuclearise.One does not know whether this option will work or not, but it deserves to be tried.This fear of a nuclear Japan must be constantly kept before the eyes of Beijing.
QUESTION NO.3: What do you think was North Korea's purpose in carrying out a nuclear explosion at this point? What kind of concessions are they willing to get from the U.S. as well as the international community?
MY REPLY: North Korea wants the international community to accept as a reality its present nuclear stockpile of about six A-bombs and its missile and space capability in return for its agreeing to freeze any further production of fissile material. It also wants assurances of energy supplies and economic assistance.
QUESTION NO.4: Eleven years ago this month, it was India and Pakistan that were in the position of today's North Korea, being under attack from all over the world for carrying out nuclear tests. Many people now suspect North Korea is following the examples of India and Pakistan for defying the NPT regime to win recognition as de facto nuclear powers. Those people therefore still condemn India and Pakistan for their "bad examples" that have compromised the nonproliferation regime. How do you respond to such criticism? Why India's case was different from today's North Korea?
MY REPLY: India is a democratic and open society. It is not a rogue State like North Korea. It is not a state sponsor of terrorism like North Korea. India has an adversary in China, which has a military nuclear capability since 1964. South Korea and Japan, which North Korea looks upon as adversaries, do not have a military nuclear capability.