India must support the Sri Lankan government against the Tamil Tigers
Here’s what is happening in Sri Lanka — having successfully created a conducive political environment Velupillai’s Prabhakaran’s LTTE has returned to its preferred murderous route of seeking a separate homeland for the island’s Tamils. It’s entire strategy of participating in Norwegian-mediated ceasefires and negotiations was in response to post-9/11 international climate that was unsympathetic to terrorism. The parallel with its earlier behaviour — when it undermined a peace process put together under Rajiv Gandhi — is obvious. Prabhakaran & Co have clutched on to the means with as much determination as they have clutched on to the ends. However much Indians may sympathise with the ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka, it is impossible to consider the Prabhakaran-led Tamil Tigers anything more than an incorrigible bunch of murderous terrorists who stand in the way of peace in Sri Lanka.
Two months ago, The Acorn argued that Jayalalithaa’s defeat in the Tamil Nadu state assembly elections will make it that much more difficult for the Indian government to take an anti-LTTE position. That, unfortunately, is now the case. It is not unusual to see some of Tamil Nadu’s politicians calling for Indian intervention in Sri Lanka, implicitly in the LTTE’s favour, whenever the Prabhakaran has a battle on its hands. That they are now in power, in an alliance sympathetic to the UPA government in New Delhi, makes India’s electoral politics a tactical ally in the LTTE’s current terror offensive.
India’s current policy of ‘neutrality’ that includes denying military assistance to the Sri Lankan government risks being outpaced by the LTTE’s campaign. The restraint with which President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government has handled the situation is bound to swing international opinion in his favour. The EU has already signaled this. India’s policy of discouraging international arms sales to the Sri Lankan government will become increasingly hard to defend. Unless India raises its game immediately, it risks being isolated on this issue.
Despite the domestic political environment and lack of leadership militating against it, what India has to do in Sri Lanka is clear. That begins with the elimination of the section of the LTTE that is irreconciliably opposed to a peaceful settlement, weakening of the Tamil Tigers as a military force and institution of a federal solution in Sri Lanka that protects the interests of all its communities. It may be a tall order. Yet it can be achieved with imagination, initiative and above all, resolve. The boats are already coming in, ahead of problems that will make India’s options even worse.