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Is Sri Lanka targeting India’s Koodankulam project as retaliation for UNHRC vote in Geneva?

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By Indrani Bagchi

NEW DELHI: In what is seen as an apparent retaliation for India’s vote against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council, Sri Lanka’s energy minister has said they were threatened by the Kudankulam nuclear plant, in case of a Fukushima-like disaster.

“We are not Alone, We are all Together.” by Emi Takano – Litoi Elementary School FUKUSHIMA Paintings of Hope – Fukushima Anniversary: March 12, 2012 ~ On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, elementary school children from Japan were asked to draw their hopes and aspirations for the future. Their paintings reflect a general feeling of unity and hope, and form part of an exhibit being held at the IAEA to commemorate the event.

Champika Ranawaka, Lanka energy minister, reportedly told journalists in Colombo that Sri Lanka would refer the matter to the IAEA at a meeting in September.

The Lankan statement comes as the Kudankulam nuclear plant is finally ready after being bedeviled by protests for the better part of a year.

Indian officials said Sri Lanka cannot go to the IAEA with this matter because there is no convention that covers such issues. At best, Sri Lanka can make a political statement at the IAEA general conference.

The IAEA would, as it already has, referred Lanka to India asking Colombo to work out an agreement with India. The minister even said, “We have sent a proposal to India through the external affairs ministry and the Indians have sent back a note on the matter.”

Officials here said the Lankans have not yet had any technical study done to back up their claims of suffering damage. Ranawaka was quoted as saying that Lankan northern town of Mannar would be threatened in the event of an accident in Tamil Nadu, because it is merely 20 km from the Indian mainland.

Indian government and its atomic energy department, said sources here, have agreed to have a public discussion with Sri Lanka on all the safety aspects of the nuclear power plants in south India. They said India wanted to allay any Lankan fears on the matter. The Department of Atomic Energy is expected to answer all queries by the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Authority, officials said.

However, officials said there isn’t any international agreement between nations on the matter of a nuclear accident. So despite the Lankan minister saying that they would ask for a bilateral agreement with India, New Delhi would want to keep it to a discussion level, because there are no such agreements between nations, so no template actually exists.

The closest would be the IAEA’s Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC). India has signed this agreement on liability, though has not yet ratified it. The convention calls for countries to pool in amounts into the CSC funds which they could draw from in the event of nuclear damage.

That agreement has a provision whereby a neighbouring country, if affected by a nuclear disaster in another country, would be eligible for compensation. India will make the point that Sri Lanka could be covered under this regime once India ratifies the CSC.

But by and large, Indian government sources said they believe this is political payback by hurt Lankan leadership by India’s vote against Colombo. There is also a perception that India’s decision was influenced by Jayalalithaa, who had pressured the Central government to vote against Lanka.

PM Manmohan Singh has already sent in a letter explaining India’s vote and tried hard to smooth ruffled feathers there. But this incident makes it clear that New Delhi has to work harder to reassure Colombo. courtesy: Times of India

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18 Comments

  1. How much ever harder you try, you cannot hide the fact that Jeyalalitha not just infuenced, but forced the central governments decision to vote against Sri Lanka while all the other asian nations voted for Sri Lanka.
    The same way you try to bluff Sri Lanka that the decision has nothing to do with domestic politics,Sri lanka too can counter bluff and say that this concern about the nuclear plant has nothing to do with Un resolution.
    But,Safety concerns of Sri lankans are real,regardless of Geneva.
    It is silly to argue that since there are no international conventions to cover,India is free to put the lives of our people in danger.
    People in the north will be the most exposed to any leakage of radiation from this plant and it is ironic that India while putting the lives of these people in danger admonish Sri lanka for the rights of these very same people.
    Also one must remeber that Sri lanka is not requesting or demanding, like the protesters,for the closure of the plant but only for safeguards.It would have been more productive to recognise that fact and allay Sri Lankas fears than coming up with rediculous arguments.

  2. Thinking back to Bopal, Sri Lanka’s fear is reasonable and justifiable. Bopal is still reeling, the compensation paid by Union Carbide has not reached, victims are in perpetual hell. Sri Lankans have no reason to put themselves to the danger which could be much worse than the Bopal.

    At the same time, Tamil Nadu should raise the impending environmental disaster and possible oil theft by Sri Lanka by its OIL exploration project in Mannar Basin. How many millions of oil Sri Lanka is going to steal that belongs to Tamil Nadu?

    If Sri Lanka can block the Chedu canal project on the grounds of environmental disaster, how could Tamil Nadu allow oil exploration in Mannar Basin? Who will be responsible if Gulf of Mexico disaster repeats itself in Mannar Basin?

  3. Minister Champika Ranawaka raised a very real concern for wrong reason at a wrong time. Lanka should have raised this issue at the begining, a few years ago.

  4. Champika

    According to available information Koodankulam project was initiated in 1988 and the actual construction began in 1997.

    The Kalpakkam Atomic Power Station is in operation since 1984.

    In the past 27 years I haven’t heard anyone protesting about nuclear power generation in Sri Lanka. About few years ago even Mahinda was eager to seek help from Iran on nuclear power generation in Sri Lanka.

    Champika needs not to worry too much about Indian nuclear disaster.

    He himself is a disaster on a permanent basis in Sri Lanka and has been proving it many times over by his thoughts, words and deeds.

    Why do we worry too much about potential danger from Indian nuclear power plants when we already have one in our midst?

    By the way didn’t Sri Lanka agree to buy electricity from Tamilnadu transmitted by under water cables? Would Jayalalitha oblige to supply only green electricity to Champika and not nuclear power electricity?

    When did he become an environmentally friendly Brahmin?

  5. Survival of the Regime largely depended on the Indian Vote at Geneva…the last moment decision by the Indian Govt to support the Resolutions shocked the Regime that survives by & Large on bribes, the easiest method, than strategies..the only thing that focus the Country…

    The Country is fast become isolated in the World with the War Crimes allegations and the Regime has woken up from the dream into reality ..knowing that the end game has begun..suddenly the Regime has begun to display their interest on the Country and its people…..

    Had India voted with Sri Lankan Regime this would have been ignored……

  6. Earlier, Champika Ranawakka’s response on India’s vote in favor of America’s
    resolution in UNHRC was
    If I remember correctly “Don’t throw stone from a glass house”.
    I’m Eelam

  7. //PM Manmohan Singh has already sent in a letter explaining India’s vote and tried hard to smooth ruffled feathers there. But this incident makes it clear that New Delhi has to work harder to reassure Colombo. courtesy: Times of India//

    Why should India appease SL? non-sense. It is a rough state with abductions in the rise, just a simple example.
    India should act like a big brother. Imagine, if it were China in the place of India now.
    Please don’t advice India to reassure SL. Advice India to reassure Human Rights in the Region.

  8. The reasons for Champika Ranawake’s outdated concern about the Koodankulam project, it may be useful to see if there is any nexus between those anti- nuclear protestors in South India headed by people like Uthayakumar and his reactionary foreign backers with immense funds.

  9. What a bull crap this is. This is trully a safety concern for Sri Lanka. One should know that Sri Lanka is only 16KM away from India, in the case of any natural disasters or man made disasters this nuclear power plant will become a threat for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has every right to protest at this project and it is indeed a concern. One can question why this concern wasn’t raised back then, answer is corrupted UNP. Now the terrorism has been eliminated and Sri Lanka wanting to travel in a prosporous path this nuclear plant is indeed a concern. Again I say, our president has the right people for job and as Sri Lankans we should stand together and support the efforts. There is absolutely no need to fear India anymore as we have our long time and good friend on our side providing all the assistance. India can go bully Pakistan, and other nations, definitely NOT Sri Lanka.

  10. Malinga

    There is absolutely no need to fear India anymore as we have our long time and good friend on our side providing all the assistance.

    What friend?

  11. The distance from Jaffna,Trituchi and Colombo are almost in same distance from Koodankulam. The steam clouds could be seen from Colombo but neither South west nor North east won’t bring any rain with this cloud to Southern Sri Lanka. Real danger it faces is from the Sri Lankan navy. Because it is located in the Southern coast of Tamilnadu Sri Lankan navy may one day attack this like they attack the Tamilnadu fishermen. For the time being they can run this with enough defence system but once they built alternative sources to produce enough electricity for Tamilnadu they must abandon it.

  12. Ex Chief Minister Karunanithi is said to have questioned why Sri Lanka kept quiet about Kundnkulam nuclear power station all this time and raised questions now. True, Sri Lankans should have informed India of our anxieties when they declared to build the reactor.

    Then again, there could be many a reason for not doing so. Political arm twisting could have been the first and foremost among them. For another, we had to keep the big brother happy to rid of LTTE. Perhaps, it is more like Indian fisherman coming nearer to our shores to scoop fish in our waters and yet our minister stays as if he is blind.

    Anyway the most important question is; did not Japanese reactors in Fukushima which is known to have the highest standard in the world for safety melt down during a tsunami recently? If so, what is not to say similar accident may well happen at Kundnkulam and we could be doomed with it? Or, are we to believe Indian standards are better than the Japanese and stay put?

    Indians may talk big; remember they promised to build a coal power station in Trincomalee and 50,000 houses for Tamil IDPs a long way back. The way those projects are progressing, it would no doubt take at least another decade to complete them. In short, unlike Chinese, Indians are known to be recalcitrant when it comes to meet obligations especially if they have to payout.

    So, Sri Lanka government must compel Indians to put their money where their mouth is and garantee our safety before they operate nuclear reactors nearer to our shores.

  13. Senathi,

    Both the Navy and our fisherfolk stay on the right side of the palk strait, they do not invade other country’s waters by the thousands on a daily basis to steal fish. The Sri Lankan military has no interest (and at present no capability) to attack the nuclear facility, unless in a far flung scenario where Tamilnadu breaks away from India.. India is building this in the far south to keep it out of range of Pakistans Gauri and Shaheen missiles. But they should be more concerned about sabotage by internal terrorists. With Police powers devolved to the states, it will be another ‘Mumbai attack’ type chaoic sceanrio for the authorities to respond to such an attack.

  14. Diyasena…

    I know the fishermen from Tamilnadu coming inside our water but Sri Lankan Navy had been chasing them up to Rameswaram island and shooting. Also as you said if Tamilnadu becomes independent and if a war comes between Tamilnadu and Sri Lanka the first target would be Koodankulam. So the Tamilnadu people have to consider that too.

  15. Senathi,

    “I know the fishermen from Tamilnadu coming inside our water but Sri Lankan Navy had been chasing them up to Rameswaram island and shooting”

    Are these on days when the entire Southern fleet of Indian Navy and coastguard are taking a holiday?

    “Also as you said if Tamilnadu becomes independent and if a war comes between Tamilnadu and Sri Lanka the first target would be Koodankulam. So the Tamilnadu people have to consider that too”

    In the highly unlikely scenario of Tamilnadu becoming independent, SL is likely to conduct a limited operation to permanently disable the plant and secure any radioactive material. This will happen the moment TN becomes independent, regardless of whether there is full blown war or not (provided what’s left of India disables the plant first). Radioactive material, which can be used for dirty bombs, will not be left in the hands of the people who want to ‘erase Sri Lanka from the map.’

  16. Diyasena…

    You and me may talk a lot about koodankuam, but Sri Lankan cannot talk about it anymore if Russia opened it mouth. I think it has already happened that is why Minister Ranawake is in low profile. India make only electricity but Russia make big money in this project. Not only they are making money by supplying uranium but also employ highly paid scientists to build and run the plant.

    Indian navy is not keeping any gun boat in park bay for the reason known only to them. They have Navy ships in the oceans, in the Northeast of Tamilnadu and southeast of Tamilnadu. From those ships only they were giving tips to SL government about LTTE’s supply vessels. Tamilnadu government only having their own coast guard attached to their police service. They have some boats and with that they can patrol only the coast. They cannot come into the sea and give any protection to the fishermen.

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