India steps in: Ready to go the whole
believes that, given the options available, rather than confronting the
Sri Lankan Government, the better approach would be to engage it.
India also felt it is better to have something in place, in terms of an
interim arrangement based on existing provisions, than have nothing at
The prompt and favourable response from the Indian External Affairs
Ministry, to the government’s watered down interim proposals to
implement the 13th Amendment, is an indication that Delhi was entering
India is shedding her “hands off policy” and hopes to go the whole hog,
as evident from the statement made pronto, after the proposals to
implement the 13th Amendment were unveiled on Wednesday (23).
“The Government of India will continue to work with Sri Lanka and its
people, to bring a settlement of the issues,” said the official
spokesman, External Affairs Ministry, Navtej Sarna, on Friday (25).
India said the proposals were a “welcome first step”, on the condition
that they pave the way for a final settlement of the ethnic conflict.
India’s Independence Day ceremony held yesterday at India House was
attended by a large representative gathering of politicians, diplomats,
goverment officials, civil society and professionals. Deputy High
Commissioner A. Manickkam, during an animated conversation with top JHU
officials, Environment Minister Champika Ranawaka and Environment
Authority Chairman Udaya Gammanpila made a significant remark. Referring
to the change of policy towards Lanka’s ethnic conflict, he said,
“Brothers are coming together after almost two decades.”
In fact, such a favourable response by the External Affairs Ministry to
a mediocre set of proposals, is proof of a new interest in Sri Lanka’s
This reponse was despite a joint statement by the Prime Ministers of UK
and India, urging “the Sri Lankan Government to put forward a credible
devolution package as a key contribution to finding a political
How does one explain the latest Indian policy?
One step at a time
Some explain it this way: The Norwegian-brokered Ceasefire Agreement
(CFA) was abrogated and with it, western influence over the peace
process reduced. India is now keen on getting the defunct 1987
Indo-Lanka Peace Accord operative after 21 years in the Diamond Jubillee
year of Lanka’s independence.
The Accord brought in its wake the 13th Amendment to the Constitution,
as well as provincial councils, including a merged North and East, that
has now been de-merged.
With both the merger and the CFA thrown overboard, and pronouncements by
the military top brass that the war will be fought to a finish soon, the
international community strongly believes that the Sri Lankan Government
was pursuing a military solution.
Hence, the joint statement by the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan
Singh and visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in Delhi.
The fact that the House of Commons had debated human rights and a
possible UN presence in Sri Lanka, just days ago, suggests that the
British Government was truly concerned about the deteriorating situation
However, it was just a handful of MPs from pro-Tamil constituencies who
were present, suggesting that the LTTE, which was feeling the military
onslaught, had sought to influence them.
While UK would have had its own reasons to thwart a military solution
here, the Indian Government certainly has its own domestic compulsions,
given that the ruling DMK in Tamilnadu is a constituent party of the
Coming as it did, just two days before the APRC was to hand over its
proposals for an interim arrangement, the statement seemed well timed.
Days before the LTTE were set to announce its proposals for an interim
administration, the then Indian Premier A.B. Vajpayee and Sri Lankan
Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe issued a joint statement to set out the
Here, too, the emphasis was on dissuading a military solution and urging
a credible devolution package towards finding a political solution.
If this was the essence of the joint statement, how does one explain the
Indian statement welcoming what was unveiled on Wednesday?
India believes that, given the options available, rather than
confronting the Sri Lankan Government, the better approach would be to
India also felt it is better to have something in place, in terms of an
interim arrangement based on existing provisions, than have nothing at
Delhi believes that the military will not find it a cakewalk, and given
the minimal progress in the Wanni and the north, it is likely that the
parties, after a while, would return to the negotiating table.
Delhi also feels the way forward is to have devolution in stages than
have too much too soon that is immediately maligned and rejected.
The Indian Government is very much happy if a final solution could be
worked out similar to the quasi-devolution of power in the states, even
as the provincial councils are set in motion.
India also does not believe in symmetrical devolution of power, and
cites the example of Kashmir, where there is greater autonomy than the
But, India knows that only one step could be taken at a time. She is
keen on getting the 13th Amendment, which is already in our statute
books, implemented simultaneously, while fresh talks for a final
solution is being discussed and debated.
The ‘Karuna’ factor
On a personal note, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, may have won the
confidence of India, by his comment that he would hand over the man
wanted for the Rajiv Gandhi trial, LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran,
to India, if the forces capture him.
India is also aware that, unlike previous Sri Lankan Presidents,
Rajapaksa was more inclined towards India than the rest, who had a
His presidential manifesto, his acceptance speech and the like are all
testimony to the fact that he was unafraid to openly declare his
allegiance to Delhi, more than the West.
But, the West has an axe to grind with the Rajapaksa administration, for
the way it has dealt with it.
TMVP Leader Vinayagamoorthy Muratlitheran alias ‘Karuna’, was sentenced
Friday to nine months imprisonment in Britain, for travelling on forged
travel documents from Sri Lanka.
The prosecution maintained that Karuna implicated the Government of Sri
Lanka, including Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
The Crown Prosecution Service is also considering the possibility of
trying Karuna for war crimes committed in Sri Lanka in breach of the UN
Convention on Torture.
If that were to happen, Karuna is likely to spill the beans and further
implicate the Sri Lankan Government.
When Alan Rock made allegations against the Sri Lankan Army, for
supporting the Karuna group in armed conscription, the Sri Lankan
Government flatly denied the charge.
The whole episode led to a diplomatic standoff between Sri Lanka and
Karuna may have outlived his purpose here and may have been a thorn in
the Sri Lankan Government’s flesh. But despatching him to the UK may be
more detrimental to the Government. He has nothing to lose and more to
loathe for what happened to him at the hands of key people.
Will Eelam War IV lead to peace?
With the phoney ceasefire over and the Sri Lankan
military pressing in on the LTTE’s northern heartland, three distinct
scenarios are possible. But, in all of them, the constructive role,
friends of Sri Lanka, in the region and outside, could play is the same
By Ram Manikkalingam
Sri Lanka’s phoney peace is over. By abrogating the Ceasefire
Agreement (CFA) with the LTTE, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has
finally proclaimed what has been a reality for two years – the effective
end of the ceasefire brokered by the Norwegians six years ago. The
Sinhala-dominated government and the Tamil Tigers have decided that war
is not only inevitable but also required, before any fresh political
process could emerge. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has promised to
eradicate terrorism. His brother, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
has promised to kill Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran. Scenting
victory, the Sri Lankan military is pressing in on the Tiger heartland
in the north on several fronts, while targeting Tiger leaders for
Meanwhile, the LTTE leader has proclaimed that only military force will
work, to change the government’s policy. He has directed attacks against
hard military targets such as Air Force bases and soft political targets
like ministers and civil guardsmen. The Tamil Tigers are using a
combination of hit and run attacks, bombings and assassinations to deter
and delay the government’s impending assault.
The GoSL has newly acquired armaments – multi barrel rocket launchers,
heavier artillery, precision guided missiles, and bunker busters – and
recruited 30,000 new recruits into its armed forces. The Tamil Tigers
have developed an air wing, an effective sea wing, and heavily
infiltrated population centres in the Sinhala-dominated South. This next
round of violence will lead to the deaths of thousands, the displacement
of hundreds of thousands, and the destruction of property on a larger
scale than what we have ever witnessed before in Sri Lanka.
The LTTE could emerge defeated, weakened, or emboldened from this
fighting. The Tigers will be defeated, if the government succeeds in
ejecting them from territory they control and in eliminating their
leadership. The Tigers will be weakened, if the government ejects them
from territory they control, but they can still continue as an insurgent
organisation capable of guerrilla operations and terrorist attacks. The
LTTE will be emboldened, of course, if it succeeds in bringing the
government offensive to a standstill. While these three scenarios are
very different, the role that friends of Sri Lanka, in the region and
outside, could play in helping to move the country towards a stable
peace, is the same in all of them.
The first scenario is that the government deals a decisive blow to the
LTTE – ejecting it from territory it controls and eliminating its
leadership. The hope, in this scenario, is that a Sri Lanka liberated
from war, would find the will to seek peace. Sinhala hardliners, fearful
of Tamil autonomy in LTTE hands, would be less opposed to granting it
after a Tiger defeat. Tamil hardliners seeking a separate State, would
stop doing so. This would create the opportunity for a new politics of
co-existence among all communities in the island. But the fear is that
military victory may, instead, embolden Sinhala hardliners to reject any
concession to the minorities – Tamil and Muslim – compelling them to
live at the sufferance of the majority. War would give way, not to peace
and reconciliation, but to bitterness and recrimination. Sri Lanka may
not have war but neither would it have a just peace.
The second scenario points to a weakened, though not defeated, LTTE. It
is ejected from territory it controls, but continues as a formidable
insurgent organisation capable of guerrilla operations and terrorist
attacks. The hope here is that both parties would declare victory and
call a truce. The government will view further efforts at defeating the
LTTE as too costly, and the Tigers would accept that they cannot get
what they want by military means alone. Each will give up on its
preferred political objective. The government will give up on
centralising power in Colombo and the LTTE would give up on the
establishment of a separate State. The result would be the classic
federal compromise that most people see as the only reasonable solution.
The fear is that neither party would have the political sagacity to stop
at a partial victory or defeat. Rather, the GoSL would press on, in the
hope of eliminating the LTTE permanently. And the Tamil Tigers will
refuse to accept a new balance of power, where they do not control
territory and administer populations. Each side would seek to continue
the war. Neither would prevail.
The final scenario is a bloody stalemate – where the government fails to
eject the LTTE and the Tamil Tigers fail to make military headway
themselves. The government will unleash all it has, but would not
dislodge the LTTE from territory it controls. The Tamil Tigers would
hold firm but, they would not be able to expand their hold on territory
or population. The result would be a stalemate, but after spilling a lot
of blood. The hope is that, after much cost to the people of the
country, the government and the Tamil Tigers would have relearned the
lesson that war alone would not alter the political dynamics of the
country. They would initiate a political process that would keep the
strengths, and redress the weaknesses of the previous one. This process,
with a combination of internal acceptance and external support, would
get somewhere. The fear in this scenario is that a combination of
Sinhala extremism and political rivalry in the South and Tamil extremism
and militarism in the North, would prevent the parties from seizing the
opportunity to move forward toward a fresh process. Instead, they would
continue seeking military breakthroughs, only to be further mired in a
While these three scenarios are distinct, the role, friends of Sri
Lanka, in the region and outside, could play in helping to move the
country towards the more hopeful scenarios, and away from the fearful
ones, is the same.
The GoSL, as a responsible State in the international system, has some
basic obligations, even while fighting an insurgency. These include
upholding the human rights of all its citizens, irrespective of their
ethnic affiliation; respecting the laws of war; providing humanitarian
assistance to those affected by the conflict, including refugees; and
ensuring access to humanitarian organisations, local and international,
seeking to assist those affected by the armed violence. Sri Lanka’s
friends could help it fulfil these responsibilities.
At the same time, the world could also impress upon the Tamil Tigers
that, while they are no State, they must still respect the laws of war,
as an armed group engaged in a conflict. These include, but are not
limited to, refraining from deliberately targeting civilians, ensuring
humanitarian access to those affected by war, and refraining from
recruiting children. They must emphasise that the future role of the
Tamil Tigers, as serious political interlocutors in a peace settlement,
would depend on how they conduct themselves during war.
Sri Lanka’s friends could also prod the two parties to lay out their
respective visions of a political settlement, without evading it. These
must not be the reiteration of tired old positions by both sides – where
the LTTE repeats its call for an interim administration that only it
controls, and the GoSL reiterates its commitment to a unitary State that
only it controls. Rather, it must be an imaginative effort to describe
both an end goal – where they would like to see the country end up - and
a pathway for getting there – how they would like to set about achieving
it. This would invariably involve a permanent political settlement, an
interim structure for getting there, a process for disarmament on the
part of the LTTE and demilitarisation on the part of the State, and
finally, a mechanism for post war reconstruction that could rebuild the
shattered lives of all communities.
Finally, the world could also help amplify Sri Lankan voices that
support a solution that respects the concerns of all communities
equally, within an undivided country. These include the Muslims, the
upcountry Tamils, and the left-liberal political actors, whose
significant presence has been ignored, precisely because, they have not
been obstacles to peace.
While none of these steps are easy, they are also not impossible. But
the window of opportunity for initiating them would be very brief,
immediately after the next round of fighting ends, and just before both
parties forget about the bloody futility of war. While the belligerents
make war, those who are seeking peace in Sri Lanka from within and those
who wish to help from outside, must begin their plans for making peace.
The people of Sri Lanka deserve another chance.
(Ram Manikkalingam (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is Visiting Professor, Political Science, University of Amsterdam. He
served as senior advisor in the peace process to the previous President
of Sri Lanka.)
Bloodying the Tiger’s nose
The stated military strategy is not to pursue a land
grab in the Wanni, as in the East, where the Army took over vast swathes
of territory. In the Wanni and the North, the forces have to cope with a
less friendly civilian population of around half-a-million people.
And, on top of that, the Tigers are well entrenched in their defences
and have proved their conventional capabilities, which they have
acquired over the years.
Despite the Military’s superior combat power, it is not easy to dislodge
the cadres who have conventional capability including artillery and
mortar power and have dug in and mined the area heavily.
The Army has opened up five fronts in the Wanni and the North to draw
the Tigers into battle. The Military feels that the way to go about is
to destroy the cadres and their strike capability, in an overall war of
(For its part, the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) this week alone, took out
two identified targets, including the LTTE’s “X-ray Base” east of
Iranamadu Tank in the Kalmadukulama area on Wednesday (23) and its
transport base located at Kilinochchi, on Friday (25). In the first air
raid, SLAF fighter jets, in a low flying mission, had, with the pin
point accuracy, targeted the base that LTTE Leader Velupillai
Prabhakaran was to visit, the SLAF claimed. But, there was no
conformation based on ground intelligence, as to the Tiger leader being
The insurgency has grown over several phases and what the Military is
doing is to roll back these phases, which, of course, takes time.
Setting deadlines to win the war, is not very practical, on account on
the LTTE’s use of conventional force, guerilla warfare and terrorism. We
saw how the LTTE continued to make its presence felt in Thanamalwila in
the Moneragala district, killing three policemen and injuring two
soldiers this week.
The Military is shaping the battle and creating the conditions, until
the right time and right place to go for the kill. The last experience
at Muhamalai, ahead of the Budget vote, only goes to show that the
Tigers expected the operation and dealt with it accordingly. As the
soldiers captured the first bunker line and proceeded to get at the
second, the LTTE rained artillery and turned the soldiers into sitting
ducks. The same mistake was not repeated this time, as troops, this
week, destroyed 24 LTTE bunkers and caused damage to the forward defence
lines (FDL) at Muhamalai, Nagar Kovil and Kilali.
While mass scale bodies had to be restricted, a few such operations
would be in order. Ahead of the country’s Diamond Jubilee of
Independence, either side would like to make a dent in the enemy’s
But, until such a large-scale thrust is undertaken; targets in the North
and the Wanni were continually under attack by the security forces this
According to intercepted LTTE messages, 15 Tigers were killed and double
the number injured during the confrontations in Jaffna FDLs. Lt Bopage
of the Infantry Regiment and two soldiers were killed. Lt N.M. Rajapakse
and another soldier were killed in action in Muhamalai on Thursday (24),
while five LTTE cadres were killed during the confrontation.
In another incident, two leading LTTE cadres, including Kengan, who
carried out attacks in government controlled areas, were killed.
Meanwhile, in Mannar, during a confrontation at Periyakulam, two
soldiers were killed and six others injured, while 14 Tigers were killed
in Pandivirichchan, Anandankulam, Marandamode, and Kallikulam areas. A
total of 29 Tigers were killed in all these areas on Thursday (24). At
Periyapanchakulam in Vavuniya, on Sunday (20), two LTTE regional leaders
were gunned down, according to the Military. The security forces
recovered six bodies, including those of Kugan and Manju. Troops from 59
Division, advancing from Weli Oya, killed another two dozen Tigers over
Government military strategists believe that by killing Tigers in small
numbers, the Army would be able to unsettle the LTTE, to strike hard