Islamic Terrorism in India

Most Muslims are not terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims

How LTTE, Palestine, Kashmir, India lost by not seizing the moment

Posted by jagoindia on January 4, 2009

Seizing the moment
Business Standard / New Delhi January 04, 2009, 0:31 IST

The Israelis bomb Gaza out of shape, and the Sri Lankan army captures the Kilinochchi headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Tigers (LTTE). What could the Palestinians and Sri Lanka’s Tamilians be thinking? Whatever their thoughts are, it is fairly certain that they will not be blaming their leaders, past and present. And which of their leaders would want to remind them of what might have been?

The LTTE’s Prabhakaran could have accepted the terms of the Rajiv Gandhi-Jayewardene accord 20 years ago, which would have given the island nation’s Tamils more autonomy and self-governance than they are likely to get now or in the future; but the Tiger supremo would have none of it—despite the Indian government passing on some Rs 5 crore (the equivalent of may be Rs 50 crore or more today) as an inducement. Similarly, if Palestine’s leaders in 1948 had accepted what was on offer, a full-fledged Palestinian state would have existed for six decades now, with vastly more territory than it has today—and mostly contiguous land at that.

A sense of injustice is a poor guide to making sensible compromises; and if at the same time you misread the forces of history and over-estimate your own strength, you lead your people into several hells. The Palestinians had good reason to feel poorly done by in 1948; their land had been taken away, their people were refugees in their own home. But what were their realistic options? Similarly, the Tamils of Sri Lanka had been subjected to sustained prejudice by the majority Sinhalas, and laws passed to put them at a disadvantage (such as the secondary treatment given to their language, to reduce their position in the job market). But if revolt was the option, did history have any successful examples of secession without external military support, to justify the war that the LTTE and other rebels started? And having started a rebellion, what was the sensible compromise that should have been accepted?

There are examples closer home. If the people of the Kashmir valley had been satisfied with what they had got in the agreement of 1952, they would have been living with far more autonomy than they are likely to get in the foreseeable future—because they had their own “prime minister”, no jurisdiction for the Supreme Court, the Election Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General, and not even financial integration with India (currency, customs posts, etc). All that New Delhi had control over were foreign policy, communications and defence. It is hard to think of anyone in New Delhi accepting such a package today.

Indeed, when China’s prime minister Chou En-lai offered Jawaharlal Nehru a border settlement package that involved India retaining Arunachal Pradesh while China kept possession of the Aksai Chin, Nehru should have accepted it as a realistic compromise instead of getting hung up on unilateralist positions that were not supported by history. In that event, the subsequent conflict and its prolonged aftermath could easily have been avoided, and China may not then have become Pakistan’s chief source of military succour, as it has been for decades. It should also be obvious that, even after decades of negotiations, India will not get a better deal than what Chou offered half a century ago.

A sense of injustice can be a great motivator in shaping the currents of world affairs (as the successful challenge to colonialism demonstrated), but if divorced from realistic assessments of what is possible, it could lead down blind alleys. Equally, both Israel and Sri Lanka would be well advised to be magnanimous when they are on top: offering a fair deal can do more than end a conflict, it can repair relationships.

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