Chennai/New Delhi, March 18: M. Karunanidhi today climbed down and sought a Parliament resolution condemning the “genocide” of Tamils in Sri Lanka and demanding a time-bound international war crimes probe, but the Centre will find even this difficult to carry out.
Yesterday, the DMK president had declared his party would quit the UPA if India failed to facilitate a similar declaration at the United Nations Human Rights Council by introducing amendments to a US-sponsored resolution.
Karunanidhi softened his stand after a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with three senior Union ministers — A.K. Antony, P. Chidambaram and Ghulam Nabi Azad — who had rushed to Chennai to placate him and stave off a crisis.
“I conveyed this (the revised stand) to the three Union ministers and they have promised to do the needful. If they carry out this demand, the tensions could subside,” the former Tamil Nadu chief minister said after the talks.
Although Karunanidhi claimed the Congress had agreed to move the resolution in Parliament, the cabinet trio were non-committal.
All Azad would say was: “We wanted to discuss in person the contents of the letter Karunanidhiji had written to the Prime Minister and Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi. We have discussed threadbare the contents of the letter and we will report back to the Prime Minister and the Congress president.”
Although the Congress had tried to reach out to the DMK patriarch by dispatching the three heavyweight ministers, it also told him he had over-reached himself by coming up with an untenable demand and linking it to his party’s support.
The three ministers explained to Karunanidhi that moving amendments to an American resolution at the UN body was not technically feasible. It was Karunanidhi who apparently came up with the compromise formula after the talks had remained deadlocked for almost two hours.
But even now, it is doubtful how far the Congress can implement the face-saver without jeopardising its diplomatic ties with Colombo. So, the next round of tensions between the allies could be about the wording of the resolution and how to push it through.
While the DMK will ask for a resolution moved by the government, the Congress might suggest a private member’s resolution.
The Centre doesn’t want to antagonise Sri Lanka, where China is spreading its wings, at a time relations with Nepal too have come under strain.
Even at the UN, where India once voted against Colombo, it does not want to repeatedly send out negative signals. New Delhi also realises that supporting an intrusive US resolution at the world body could hold implications for Kashmir.
External affairs minister Salman Khurshid had refused to spell out the government’s stand when the matter was debated in Parliament but assured the members about “keeping their sentiments in mind”.
If the resolution Karunanidhi wants is indeed passed in Parliament, he can flaunt it as an achievement better than the Assembly resolution passed by the Jayalalithaa government in Chennai.
Keeping up the game of one-upmanship, Jayalalithaa today dashed off a letter to the Prime Minister. It demanded that India put forward amendments to the US resolution, seeking “a credible, independent, international mechanism to prosecute genocide, war crimes and war criminals and the accused should stand trial before an international court”.
Chidambaram, Antony and Azad have excellent rapport with Karunanidhi and the decision to send all three indicated Sonia’s desperation to salvage the situation. The Congress sent them only after a categorical statement from Chennai that the pullout threat was genuine.
The trio skipped an important cabinet meeting to fly to Chennai as the DMK’s support has become crucial after Trinamul’s exit. A pullout would have reduced the government to a minority and left it at the mercy of Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is flexing his muscles every day and asking his cadres to get ready for elections later this year.
One of the three ministers’ mandates was to extract a promise that the DMK would extend support from outside even if it chose to leave the government.
A senior MP from the DMK who is close to Karunanidhi explained why the party had taken such a hard line.
“Students are out on the streets. Once that happens, political parties can only swim along with the public sentiments,” he said.
“This student agitation is reminiscent of the one in 1965 against the Centre's imposition of Hindi on Tamil Nadu. The agitation has gone out of the hands of even diehard pro-LTTE leaders like Vaiko.”
He added: “India should intervene bilaterally like Rajiv Gandhi did. If the Congress is only concerned about protecting or increasing its commercial interests in Sri Lanka instead of fighting for the rights of the Tamils there, it will be very difficult for us to continue supporting it because we have an election to fight in Tamil Nadu.”