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17th May 1998

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Mirror Magazine

Vesak bomb

India has astounded the world with its nu- clear test blasts and there has been quite a bit of fallout, though thank Heaven not nuclear fallout. Well at least India did so in its own compound unlike France which did it in somebody else's backyard. Even France now it appears has expressed 'concern' at what India has done.

Does it now seem the order of the day to condemn those who do so but carry on regardless themselves while taking on the role of international moral policemen?

While there can be no doubt that there has to be unanimous agreement on the fact that the world would be a safer place if there is non-proliferation of nuclear arsenals it seems equally clear that those countries which have the capability assume wrongly that they and they alone have the right to flaunt that capability as a matter of national pride.

In this context it is rather quixotic, if not quizzical, for the United States and those other nations which have such capabilities to propose and impose what would be the equivalent of nuclear apartheid.

It seems perfectly in order for them not only to have nuclear weaponry piled up in their arsenals but even to spy over India's nuclear reactors - attempts which ended up with the CIA having egg on its face.

For us in Sri Lanka, the fact that India is so close to us is matter for concern, and that its test blasts came on the holiest of days, Vesak Day is a matter of sadness.

Further, the fact that it has intensified fears among its neighbours Pakistan and China gives cause for added concern.

Will South Asia now be a veritable nuclear powder-keg waiting for the unthinkable to happen?

In this context we cannot agree with remarks made by Deputy Foreign Minister Lakshman Kiriella.

Going contrary to the official line he said, India was free to do what it thought best for its own national security reasons.

That is a dangerous concession to make to India.

We say that because those were the very grounds on which India justified earlier interference in Sri Lanka's separatist war in the North.

While Sri Lanka would surely opt for de-escalation of the nuclear threat, we would equally be ready to understand - though not really accept - India's security fears in this unequal world.

Confusing Convention

the over-enthusiastic Media Minis ter last week mis-read not only 'The Sunday Times' but also what was going on in Sri Lanka regarding the Army's drive to recruit school leavers. We wish to now say what we wanted to say last week but were distracted by the Minister's outburst.

That is to congratulate this Government of forcing the LTTE into the scrutiny of the world by inviting Olara Otunnu and committing the LTTE not to recruit children below age 17 - for there has been overwhelming evidence that the LTTE has used children, who have not even become teengers, in the war.

Otunnu himself seemed a little confused when he made a demand to both the LTTE and of all things the SL Army, not to recruit 'teenagers' below 17 or 18 and at the same time to adhere to the UN Convention on Children.

When infact what the Convention says is that only those below 15 should not be recruited for armed conflict.

Now that is astounding. And what is still worse is what the UNICEF Chief in Sri Lanka is reported as telling us, that those who are objecting to an increase in this ridiculously low age limit of 15 years to 18 are those countries of the North i.e., the rich, industrialised Western countries - like USA - which are not only pontificating to India about breaking international obligations and how dangerous nuclear weapons can be but are sermonising to us about adhering to international obligations on the Rights of the Child.

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