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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame of Struggle for Tamil Eelam > India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam >A consistently unsound policy - Nina Koshy
The assertion by the Jain Commission in its interim report that India's post-1981 Sri Lanka policy was `consistent' and `perfectly sound' is patently untenable and so unconvincing that it casts serious doubts on all the findings of the Commission. In fact, the policy was flawed and lacked coherence and direction. Decisions were ad hoc and agencies worked at cross purposes. The fact that a government which began its involvement in 1983 to protect Tamil interests in Sri Lanka four years later had its Army launching a massive attack against Tamil militants speaks for itself.
From the vantage point of an observer's seat in the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations in Geneva, before which the Sri Lankan issue came up in August 1983 and stayed on through the eighties, one could notice the contradictions, incoherence and ad hocism in Indian policy. The Indian position in each session of the Commission and Sub-Commission was a puzzle causing exasperation to diplomats and NGOs who wanted to support Sri Lankan Tamils. The fault was not that of the Indian diplomats in Geneva. Most often they did not know what New Delhi expected from them.
In the 1984 meeting of the Commission, some Sri Lankan Tamil leaders had come with a `categorical assurance from the highest quarters' that a resolution critical of Sri Lanka would be supported by India. As discussions began it became clear that India would not support it. One Western diplomat commented: ``India is schizophrenic.''
Even at the next session of the Commission in February-March 1985, after the collapse of the all-party talks in Colombo, India's position remained unclear. At the last minute it said it would not support a resolution though Argentina was ready to sponsor one.
The story was repeated in 1986. A specific resolution on Sri Lanka, rather mild in character, was adopted for the first time at the Commission in March 1987.
By the time the Commission met again in 1988, the IPKF had mounted a major offensive. Denying allegations of IPKF atrocities, India now sought to make sure that it did not replace the Sri Lankan Government in the dock. In the Commission, it often appeared that India, rather than seeking action from an international body, sought an opportunity to flex its diplomatic muscle before Sri Lanka. The cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils did not appear very prominent.
By 1984, Sri Lankan Tamil groups abroad had the impression that at an opportune time, if the need arose, India would intervene militarily.
When I met Lalith Athulathmudali in Colombo in April 1984, on the day he took charge as Minister of National Security, I asked him how he assessed the military situation in the north. He told me the Tamil groups would not be able to dislodge the Sri Lankan army unless India intervened, a possibility Sri Lanka did not rule out.
When I was in Colombo in March 1985 officials told me they knew ``all about India's present and future designs on Sri Lanka and all its contingency plans'' because they had in their possession the seven-page RAW document.
The document's existence was no longer a secret and had received much publicity in Sri Lanka. References were made in it to Indian plans for a Grenada-type intervention in Sri Lanka.
The officials told me they had other RAW documents. ``We know every move in New Delhi before it is made''. I was told Sri Lankan diplomats in Geneva had already made such claims.
During the Sub-Commission meeting in Geneva in August 1985 the leader of a Tamil group who was a participant at the Thimpu talks chaired by Foreign Secretary Romesh Bhandari told me about attitudes there: ``We have fixed Punjab, we have fixed Assam, now we will fix you bloody Tamils''. Those were the heady days of `quick-fix' under Rajiv.
In July 1986 a prominent TULF leader told me that the Sri Lankan Government was able to convince Rajiv Gandhi that a merger between north and east in Sri Lanka -- a major demand of the Tamils -- was impossible. ``It was like merging north and east in India''.
The Tamil leader told me that they did not seem to have a proper map of Sri Lanka in New Delhi. When the 1987 accord made provision for a referendum in the east, Indian officials assured Tamil groups that there was nothing to worry about: ``We never held any plebiscite in Kashmir''.
It is not often recalled that India made a military intervention in June 1987 and it was quite successful. At the time of `Operation Liberation', the Sri Lankan army launched a massive assault on Jaffna from Indian transport aircraft. While it was called a humanitarian mission, the point was made and the message was clear. India could bomb Sri Lanka into submission with impunity. The comment heard in Geneva was that the US has now officially recognised India as the regional policeman.
`Operation Liberation' was suspended and the Indo-Sri Lanka accord was made. A desperate but scheming Jayawardene not only ensured the survival of his government but made the Indian Army fight the Tamil militants. Prime Minister Premadasa charged the IPKF with genocide in the Jaffna peninsula. Does Justice Jain want us to believe that India got itself into this predicament by following a `consistent' and `perfectly sound' policy?
LTTE representatives in Europe told me about renewed contacts with Rajiv Gandhi early in 1991. His emissary met some of them in London. This was followed by two meetings between LTTE representatives and Rajiv Gandhi at his residence in Delhi. Why these renewed contacts with someone out of power? I got this reply: ``We are disappointed with V.P. Singh and Chandrashekhar as Prime Ministers. Rajiv Gandhi is our best hope. He has already expressed regrets for some IPKF actions. He will be a strong Prime Minister and support our cause''