What so hard for men to gain as friendship true?
What so sure defence ‘gainst all that foe can do?
The above excerpt from Dr. Rev G.U. Pope’s English translation of Thirukkural, a Tamil script which dates back to 200-800 AD by Saint Thiruvalluvar, highlights the true meaning of friendship and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee uttered the verses and explained its meaning in detail to Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena at the reception hosted at the Rashtrapathi Bawan last week.
President Mukherjee is a great admirer of late Lankan Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, and he had even represented India as its Foreign Minister at the funeral of the slain Lankan Foreign Minister. President Mukherjee had been a pillar of strength to Sri Lanka during his tenure as Foreign Minister during the Congress regime when late Kadirgamar was spearheading the campaign to get the LTTE proscribed globally during the Government of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.
Late Kadirgamar proved him to be a great Lankan in preserving the unity and integrity of the country against the separatist war of the LTTE, despite his ancestry. Indian President Mukherjee would have uttered the Thirukkural verses to President Sirisena in the hope of strengthening the ties between the two countries.
However, the ancient Tamil verses even highlight the significance of reconciliation in the Island nation, which is still struggling to move towards strengthening unity and integrity.
India played a significant role in resolving the Tamil question by assisting in introducing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, with the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987.
Committed to 13A?
India has been firm and remains committed towards implementing the 13th Amendment to resolve the Lankan Tamil question. More than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Mukherjee, during his tenure as India’s Foreign Minister, had closer interaction with the Lankan leaders such as former President Kumaratunga and late Kadirgamar, in dealing with the Lankan Tamil question.
President Mukherjee can also be described as a person of integrity, from the overwhelming support he even received from several opposition parties when his name was first nominated for presidency by the Congress when it was in power in 2012.
From the time the Indo-Lanka Accord was signed, Narasimha Rao onwards Indian Foreign Ministers have been closely interacting with their counterparts in Colombo, while emphasizing on the implementation of the 13th Amendment.
Even the present Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj, visited the Island leading an Indian Parliamentary delegation when she was in the Opposition two years ago and categorically announced at her press briefing in Colombo that India would remain firm on the implementation of the 13th Amendment, irrespective of whatever the changes in the political scene in the subcontinent.
Before President Sirisena’s first official meeting with Modi last week, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) met Prime Minister Modi soon after he assumed office last year.
The TNA delegation led by R. Sampanthan was given the assurance by Premier Modi that India would always stand by the implementation of the 13th Amendment.
However, since the 13th Amendment is hardly being implemented in the North and East, the post-war issues in the region have emerged as new challenges even for India when it comes to ensuring reconciliation in the Island.
President Sirisena’s visit to New Delhi had taken place in the backdrop of the Northern Provincial Council passing the ‘genocide’ resolution two weeks ago.
Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, who had brought the ‘genocide’ resolution at the Northern Provincial Council had his first official meeting with President Sirisena a few days after the resolution was passed and the Chief Minister had told the President that the ‘hard-hitting resolution’ was not against him or the new government, but it was only aimed at the previous regime of Rajapaksa.
In the meantime, exactly a week after passing the ‘genocide’ resolution, Chief Minister Wigneswaran participated at a special Jaffna District Development Coordinating meeting attended by Minister of Public Administration, Karu Jayasuriya, and several other political figures including Vijayakala Maheswaran and even the ministers and councillors representing the TNA-led Northern Provincial Council at the Jaffna Public Library Auditorium last week.
Chief Minister Wigneswaran delivering his keynote address at the meeting emphasized on the significance of strengthening reconciliation and keeping away from confrontational politics, which had been practised by the Northern and the Southern politicians from the time the country gained independence.
Being a legal luminary, Chief Minister Wigneswaran had clearly drawn the line between the genocide resolution brought by him and his emphasis on getting rid of the confrontational attitude with regard to the Tamil question in the country during his address at the special meeting in Jaffna.
Therefore, it is very clear that a healthy reconciliation is impossible unless the alleged war crimes and the human rights violations committed during the long drawn out war in the North and East are investigated and justice is done to the satisfaction of the victims directly affected by the war.
So the Northern Chief Minister’s desire towards building a healthy reconciliation by doing justice to the victims of the ethnic war, while paving a new path of non-confrontational attitude in the political scene in the backdrop of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee reciting verses from the great Thirukkural to President Sirisena underline the need of striving for a reconciled future by coming out of living in the past.