While I do not condone killing unarmed children–and Balakrishnan Prabhakaran was a child–I do have serious objection to selective prosecution of Sri Lanka. A US soldier killing 16 civilians–9 of them children–is termed as an aberration, mistakes and killings by armies in Asia and Africa are seen as gross human rights violations.
This is unacceptable.
I held this view in the immediate aftermath of 18 May 2009 and continue to hold that view even now. Read what I wrote on 1 June 2009 on ndtv.com
If ever there was a proof needed about the double standards applied by the Western nations in dealing with Asia and Africa, there is no better example than their reaction to the developments in Sri Lanka over the last fortnight.
Here’s a nation that secured a hard-earned military victory over what was unarguably the world’s most dreaded and ruthless terrorist group–the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE. Banned in 26 countries across the globe, the Tamil Tigers, as the LTTE was also known, had a powerful naval arm, a rudimentary air wing and at least 25,000 infantry fighters backed like a conventional army with 155 mm artillery guns, multi-barrel rocket launchers, Universal machine guns and claymore mines among other small arms.
This was the outfit that gave the world the suicide vest and suicide belt that were responsible for the assassination of at least one President and a former Prime Minister across two nations, this was the group that killed and wounded at least 70,000 people over a quarter century; here was a group who’s writ ran large over one-third of a sovereign nation.
And to top it all, the LTTE had kept over 250,000 innocent, hapless Tamil civilians–women, children, the young and the old–hostage for over two years and mercilessly used them as an insurance against the advancing Sri Lankan army.
If ever there was a ripe case for a well-planned and executed military operation, here it was in Sri Lanka. President Mahinda Rajapakse and his team went about prosecuting what, by all accounts, was a legitimate war. But the world, the Western world went into an overdrive to stop Colombo. Norway, Sweden, UK and to a lesser extent the United States put pressure on Sri Lanka by various means. Some threatened to move a resolution in the UN, others lobbied to prevent a bailout package mooted by the International Monetary Fund for the war-ravaged country. Now, many have called for war crime investigations into the conduct of the Sri Lankan military.
Had it not been for countries like Russia, China and to an extent India, Sri Lanka would have suffered grievously at the hands of the so-called liberal lobby, ably aided and abetted by the ‘bleeding-heart’ liberals among the western media who think they are the judge, jury and executors when it comes to dealing with Asian and African nations. All of them had tried to stop the war in Sri Lanka, ostensibly to safeguard the civilians but in reality the efforts were directed at rescuing LTTE chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran and his top associates.
The simple and bitter truth is: the Western world has not been able to digest the fact that a small, underdeveloped nation like Sri Lanka has managed to defeat a terrorist group, a feat that they have not managed despite deploying huge resources and manpower across the globe.
For years, the US and the NATO countries have been trying to vanquish the Al Qaeda and the Taliban, without much success. In the past decade, the US and other western militaries, operating in Iraq and Afghanistan to take just two recent examples, have killed and maimed scores of civilians. But except for cursory apologies, none of these nations or the defenders of human rights operating from the safe havens of western capitals have bothered to even acknowledge their gross mistakes.
So why is it that a small nation’s victory over terrorism “fit to be tried for war crimes,” but a big bully’s (like the US) blatant violation of human rights is part of a “necessary war on terrorism?” Why didn’t any one of these defenders of human rights put pressure on the LTTE when it was taking hundreds of thousands of civilians along with it as it retreated during the war?
If ever there is a clear case of the western nations’ hypocrisy, it is demonstrable here in India’s backyard, in Sri Lanka. Let Washington and London and Bonn and Ottawa first look at their own conduct before trying to prosecute a small country for doing what any sovereign nation has a right to do.
(The author, NDTV’s Defence Editor, reported the war in Sri Lanka from the conflict zone between 2006-2009)