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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam Conflict Resolution - Sri Lanka - Tamil Eelam: Getting to Yes  > Negotiating Peace - Lessons from Sri Lanka Peace Process, 1997 > J.N.Dixit - Indian Involvement in Sri Lanka and Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987 - A Retrospective Evaluation

J.N.Dixit, Former Foreign Secretary, India - Negotiating Peace - Indian Involvement in Sri Lanka and Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987 - A Retrospective Evaluation, International Alert Conference, Luzern, Switzerland, 28-30 July 1997

Indian Involvement in Sri Lanka
and Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987
- A Retrospective Evaluation


Summary of concluding points inherent in my paper
on India and Indo Sri Lanka accord : Lessons and experiences

(1) Sinhalese society, despite being the majority community in its country, has a deeply felt minority complex in relation to the link between Sri Lankan Tamils and the Tamils of Tamil Nadu in India. A conscious effort to remove this complex is a prerequisite for any, solution of the Sri Lankan ethnic problem.

(2) The Governments of both India and Sri Lanka have to undertake specific measures to create mutual trust, to educate public opinion and to evolve policies which will guarantee the existence of Sri Lanka as a plural society.

(3)The Indian endeavour should be to continuously and tangibly assure Sri Lanka about India's commitment to Sri Lanka's independence, unity and territorial integrity.

(4) The Sri Lankan Government should move out its suspicion and xenophobic mindset and be genuinely responsive to Tamil political aspirations. Any expectation that Tamil concerns can be neutralised by a process of political and military confrontation is not realistic.

(5) The Indo Sri Lanka accord failed because the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE agreed to it only for tactical purposes and with contradictory motives, while India pushed through the agreement due to lack of patience after nearly four years of mediatory efforts. The Sri Lankan Government entered the agreement in the hope that India's direct involvement will help the Sri Lankan Government to military suppress the LTTE. The LTTE initially accepted the agreement under the misunderstanding that the agreement would be the umbrella under which India will directly intervene in Sri Lanka and help in the creation of  Eelam. India entered the agreement in the expectation that by directly participating in the agreement, it would overcome the competing obstinacies of the Sinhalese and the Tamils, thereby stabilising the situation in Sri Lanka. The predications on which the agreement was signed and the expectations on which it was based proved to be inaccurate.  

(6) Neither the Sinhalese nor Indian public opinion gave sustained support to the Indo Sri Lanka agreement despite Tamil its valid motives and correct objectives. Sri Lankan Tamil public opinion, while generally supportive of the agreement and the Indian involvement, did not have sufficient resources or will to resist the fear and violence generated by the LTTE, thereby weakening the agreement. Their deeply felt suspicions about the Sinhala majority also contributed to their stilted cooperation in implementing the agreement,  

(7) Rajiv Gandhi was given inaccurate advice about the political, military and intelligence factors affecting the implementability of the agreement by his military, intelligence and foreign service advisers. He decided to go ahead with the agreement on wrong predications which led to the hurdles which the agreement ultimately faced.  

(8) The Jayawardene and Premadasa governments did not completely fulfil the Sri Lankan Government's obligations under the agreement. Neither did the LTTE fulfil its obligations.  

(9) The large scale induction of the IPKF into Sri Lanka was in some respects an unexpected contingency. The result was the IPKF undertaking a task without clear briefings and clear definition of objectives. The situation on the ground itself changed the objectives and tasks of the IPKF compared to what was envisaged originally. The IPKF did not have the full backing of Indian public opinion and faced hostility from Sinhalese public opinion, while it was viewed with an amount of reservation and suspicion by the Sri Lankan Tamil population. They performed their task in excruciatingly adverse circumstances.  

(10) Inter departmental rivalries in the Government of India resulted in lack of cohesion and coordination between different agencies of the Government of India engaged in the implementation of the Indo Sri Lanka agreement.  

(11) The situation was compounded further by senior figures of the Sri Lankan Government actively sabotaging the agreement for their own political purposes.  

(12) There were vested interests abroad desiring a continuation of the civil war situation in Sri Lanka in terms of sale of arms, drugs, safeguarding refugee status and political asylum status and also for maintaining intelligence and security linkages with foreign entities on the basis of the continuation of the ethnic crisis.  

(13) The religious and ethnic reluctance of the Sinhalese majority to meet Tamil aspirations remains a major hurdle. Only a change of heart and mind can eradicate this fundamental defect.  

 (14) India being interested in developments in Sri Lanka  is unavoidable.  But, India should not get directly involved in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka except when Sri Lankan developments pose a direct and immediate threat to the security and territorial integrity of India. The Indian involvement in Sri Lanka between 1983 and 1987 was perhaps precipitated, now that we have the benefit of hindsight.  

Having said all this, it is to be emphasized that the motivations of Indian involvement in Sri Lanka between 1983 and 1990 was based on concrete apprehensions about India's national security and India's sincere desire to safeguard the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.

The more important lesson which Sri Lanka should take note of is that if she has to survive as a unified country, the Sinhalese majority will have to make genuine efforts to respect the multi ethnic, multi religious and multi linguistic plurality of the Sri Lankan polity. This acknowledgement can be achieved only through political processes and not by military means.


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