Tag Archives: colonialism

no war franceFrance became the global defender of peace and international justice when it antagonized the USA for the war in Iraq. Legions of citizens looked at Paris as the guardian of civilization: again the nation of liberte egalite fraternite stood against the brutal, warmongering forces which regularly try to strangle the universal values of citizenship and human rights. Very well, nice, lovely. Only, France didn’t oppose USA for those reasons; it is true that they considered the war in Iraq as unlawful: but the big problem was that they were excluded from the loot, not the war itself!

In fact France is not against colonial imperialism: it was one of the major colonial forces in the past; what France object is to be left behind in the race. In Iraq Paris could clearly see that the Iraqi oil was going all in American pipes. Mon Dieu! Never again!

france warSo when the Arab spring shook the region, France was more than ready to invade another country and to plug French pipe in the Libyan oil wells. The war in Mali signifies a new commitment of France in Africa. Mali’s undersoil is supposed to contain uranium, oil, gas and gold[1]; it is also a neighbour of Nigeria, which has an increasing agitated scenario by its own Islam groups[2]. Whatever the reason, France is on the move to re-assert its sphere of influence[3].

kouchner milibad

France and UK foreign ministers Kouchner and Miliband meet Sri Lanka’s President Rajapaksa.

So I have a rule of thumb: if you see a French diplomat on the move, ask yourself what business is in sight. During the last days of the Eelam War, we saw Kouchner and Miliband (respectively France and UK foreign ministers) running to make pressure on Colombo’s government. What kind of pressure? Well some photographic posing, speeches in favour of human rights and the rule of law. In brief, absolutely nothing. Now, Great Britain has very clear economic interests: they sell weapons to Sri Lanka and they are actively involved in the oil exploration in the Mannar Basin. Cairn and Vedanta are listed in London, though they are Indian companies. But France will remain seated while others are making money in the usual colonial way? Mon Dieu, impossible!

Parithi killing in Paris

LTTE member Parithi Killed in Paris, 2011

Last year a former LTTE leader (the secessionist Tamil movement, defeated in 2009 with the massacre of 80 000 civilians),  Nadaraja Matheetharan alias Parithi was killed in Paris by agents of the Sri Lankan secret services[4]. My big question was: how France can allow such a move on its soil? Especially after Sri Lanka should maintain quite a low profile with the international community and the West… What happened?

Well Cairn and Vedanta don’t hold an exclusive of exploration: they have concession for ONE zone. In the 2013 Sri Lanka will organize another round of auctions. Which are the front-runners? Exxon and Total[5]. I think we’ll hear a lot of noise in Geneva about committee and votes, and alignment, and new resolution and all this sort of empty talking. I suspect that the murder of Parithi was a “gesture of good will” from France in the perspective of the oil exploration rights bidding. totalHuman rights declaration is not worth the paper is written on if you don’t have the political will to enforce it. Mon Dieu, colonial times are over, can can’t interfere in internal matters, we only give wise, impotent advices. Of course the farcical clash of interest is merely superficial: the government of Sri Lanka can show its citizens and supporters that they stand against the old colonial power, the European countries can show their own citizens, they stand for the right cause, but diplomatic route will take time. And we have plenty of time, don’t we? History is not written in a day, oil contracts are. Anything else left to discuss in Geneva?

Lalgarth, assembly of Adivasis women.

Almost unknown in India there are more than 80 millions of indigenous people, the Adivasis. These people are living in the continent before unmemorable time. You may say that they always lived there. Recently their situation has been publicized due to severe injustice against their rights. Prevarication and disempowerment have been the constant attitude of the central government towards the Adivasis, but the situation deteriorated for a simple reason: in the territory inhabited by Adivasis, huge deposits of mineral resources have been found. Mine companies keen to put their hands on that wealth have supported para-military groups in an effort to drive out of their homeland these millennial inhabitants of India.
The case of Adivasis has been analysed to describe a general trend in the Indian: basically the dynamics subsequent to the independence has been characterized by a reverse colonization: a powerful, dominant Indian elite has been handed down the previous British dominion. The outcome is that an anglophone, foreign ruler has been substituted with an Hindi (but also anglophone), local ruler. Even worst: the European master was obliged to follow principle of civilization such as a generalized empowerment of human rights and citizenship. The impossibility to fairly and correctly grant this empowerment was the driving force the self-collapse of the British dominion. In fact it has lost a moral authority to rule other people, primarily under its own matrix of judgement. The new, local masters on the contrary didn’t feel the need to respect any principle. This is why such a vast portion of Indian society lives in extreme poverty and a complete disempowered state.
The new masters had the authority to rule only granted by their local ethnicity, in front of the British and by their strength to crush any other rival, in front of their people.
Therefore you can see that in the union process many actual battle have been fought against small rulers who didn’t recognize the new master. The unification of modern India passed through, also, sheer military conquest.
The centrifugal forces are always running underground because of this purely violent force of cohesion. The separation from Pakistan has been a miracle of pacific transition only because of the unique personality of Mahatama Gandhi: otherwise it could have been a bloodbath of inhumane proportion. The persistent tensions in all the are, from Bagladesh to Sri Lanka, from Kashmir to Maldives, from Nepal to Myanmar are the resultant of this despotic rule.
Politics in India is governed by local chieftains who administered the empire of the central rulers, as representative of the strength, not the law.
The new Hindi ruler are of course incarnated in the first place by the Gandhi family, though not exclusively. And they are paradigmatic for two reason: in the first place, because with peace to democracy, the central power in India is handed down dinastically. Second, because this supreme power is far from being uncontested: the tragic history of the family is the mirror of the centrifugal forces in the kingdom ruled by the family itself.

The Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka

India and the Tamils in Sri Lanka are intimately connected. From a pure geographical proximity, the distance between the sub-continent and the island is tiny. The patch of sand extends till almost touching the northern coasts of Sri Lanka; this strip is known also as the Adam’s Bridge or the Ram Setu, the bridge built by the god Rama to take back his wife. The mythological narrative of an almighty Indian entity and take what he claims, can be considered disturbingly real.

India needs to keep track of what is happening in its own backyard, because of the direct repercussions in domestic politics. Its eye must have been fixed on the Tamil dilemma in Sri Lanka.

To one extent the ethnic continuity with its own population in Tamil Nadu establish a link of blood tie with to the far shore of the Palk Stait.

Ram Setu: the god Rama builds a bridge to take back his spouse, Sita.

The flip side of the coin is that too pronounced an expression of Tamil identity could have centrifugal forces within India; it could reinforce the nationalism in Tamil Nadu, and could in general feed separatism all over the country.

 For these reasons, the relation between India and Sri Lanka is characterized by a complicated balancing of competing forces.

New Delhi feels of being connected to the Tamils in Sri Lanka, attached to their actions, yet it doesn’t want them to fulfill their aspirations. If you claim that a group belongs to your party, but your party doesn’t negotiate and recognize with that group its requests, you impose an asymmetrical relationship with that group: with you as the master.

 This is precisely the position of New Delhi regarding the Tamils: to master, to use and to control them. Like a demi-god, who decides when it’s time to intervene and when it’s time to retreat.