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The alchemy of peace

“The order was resisted and the Navy Chief had to resign as a result. That was not the first time sophisticated arms were obtained by the LTTE with the blessings of R&AW. India has done that several times during the last two decades. This kind of assistance to rebels and revolutionaries appears to be an important aspect of India’s foreign policy. War by proxy was the favourite pastime of the super powers during the cold war period. But, India is not a super power, nor are we living in a cold war climate.”
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by Leo Panthera

(March 28, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Certain events between 1972-78 gave the new organisation some popular support and even moral justification. The fourth International Tamil Research Conference was held in Jaffna in 1974. Tamil scholars and delegates from different parts of the world participated in this literary convention. Due to some mishap, the convention ended on a tragic note with the deaths of four participants. This provided an opportunity for the Tigers and a few new formations - PLOTE, TELO, EPRLF, EPDP and EROS - to project their grievance of discrimination to the outside world, specially to India.

Alfred Duraiappah, a member of the ruling SLFP was the Mayor of Jaffna during these developments. He was a moderate politician like any other who believed in democracy and in a united Sri Lanka. So, he was a traitor to the Tamil cause and was therefore assassinated in 1975.

Then came the General Elections of 1977. The militants supported the TULF, not only to score a clear victory in the North and East, but also to become the largest opposition party in Parliament. This victory was considered a mandate for self-determination, because that was the platform on which the TULF faced the polls. These developments apart, LTTE came out into the open and raided police stations every now and then. Security forces were their targets and their weapons were the loot. They were encouraged by the success of their attempts. Then came the riots of 1983 - communal riots all over the country which lasted for about a week. Tamil refugees left for Tamil Nadu in large numbers and provided a good reason to buttress the separatist claim of the LTTE.
1983 was a blessing in disguise for the militants. They became freedom-fighters, overnight. International recognition for the struggle came sooner than expected, and it helped many Tamils to migrate not so much to India, but to many western countries- in large numbers, many of them as political and economic refugees.

Above everything else, it provided India, a plausible reason to intervene in Sri Lankan affairs.

South India was the closest and the safest haven for the majority of victims of communal violence who were both less affluent and less educated. They felt comfortable in a place where language was not a problem. Besides, all that, they wanted was temporary shelter. However, Indian involvement in Sri Lankan matters is not of recent origin.

The LTTE and other militant groups were trained in guerrilla warfare on the Indian soil. Weapons and financial assistance had been given by the centre as well as the state government. The primary aim of the Indian government was to compel Sri Lanka to pursue a foreign policy that would safeguard its interests and not to be independent of its concerns. In short, an Indian - guided policy and certainly not the pro-western stance followed by the Jayawardene regime since 1977. It is possible only by fomenting trouble here and then start fishing in the troubled waters.

It is with this view that R&AW, the intelligence arm of the Indian Defence Establishment, was entrusted with the task of training the militants in about 20 camps in different parts of South India. The Tamil Nadu government and the Opposition were united in espousing the cause of the LTTE as the cause of the Tamils. MGR, Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi, the Chief Ministers during this long period were vying with each other to make LTTE’s dream a reality Vaiko and Ramdass and their MDMK and PMK also paid some lip-service because they wanted to be in the political limelight there. They were interested in their own survival, even at the expense of others, including LTTE, if necessary. Their internal compulsions are so pressing that they assume an external dimension to the detriment of small countries like Sri Lanka. The same rule applies to all the neighbours, whether Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan or Pakistan.

At the moment, George Fernandez has become the god father of LTTE. He gave orders to the Indian Naval Chief, Vishnu Bhagwat, not to check vessels engaged in the supply of arms and other explosive materials to the LTTE. The order was resisted and the Navy Chief had to resign as a result. That was not the first time sophisticated arms were obtained by the LTTE with the blessings of R&AW. India has done that several times during the last two decades. This kind of assistance to rebels and revolutionaries appears to be an important aspect of India’s foreign policy. War by proxy was the favourite pastime of the super powers during the cold war period. But, India is not a super power, nor are we living in a cold war climate.

Indian involvement from the centre as well as Tamil Nadu has complicated the problem so much that Sri Lanka has to get prior approval from New Delhi to start the process of mediation and also to engage in talks with LTTE.

A recently reported incident involving M.V Princess Kash is just one instance which shows the extent of India’s link with LTTE. In August 1988, Sri Lanka Navy detected Sea Tigers off loading arms from this ship carrying goods from Colombo to Jaffna. It was bombed and destroyed. The 21 member crew consisting of 17 Indian Nationals, 3 Sinhalese and 1 Sri Lankan Muslim was evacuated by the LTTE. Instead of handing over the Indian Nationals to Sri Lankan authorities for interrogation, the LTTE got the Indian High Commission in Colombo to take them over on August, 18 1998. The helpless Sri Lankans were allowed to interrogate only the Captain and the Chief Technician before their departure to Madras and that too in the presence of Indian High Commission officials. This shows how much India respects the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of its neighbours.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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