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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame of  Struggle for Tamil Eelam  > India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam > J.N. Dixit on India's Role in the Struggle for Tamil Eelam



President J.R.Jayawardene in an interview with a Colombo Daily quoted by Tamil Nation Fortnightly, 1 November 1991

"On June 3rd 1987, Indian planes dropped food parcels over Jaffna. I sent Ranil Wickremasinghe, Minister of Education to China and Lalith Athulathmudali, Minister of National Security to Pakistan, U.K. and U.S.A. asking for military aid. They came back with the same answer: 'We must not make enemies with India, but go along with her'. It was in this situation that the Indian High Commissioner unveiled the Peace Accord. I still feel that it was right to sign the Accord with Rajiv Gandhi... Having in mind LTTE's assertion that India did not come to Sri Lanka to help the Tamils but came to further her own geo political interests I once asked the Indian High Commissioner, Mr.Dixit: �Who benefited by the Peace Accord?�. After a good look around, Mr. Dixit asked: �Do you want the truth?�, and when I replied �Yes�, he said �India stands to gain most, not Sri Lanka, nor the Tamils.� To the question that I put to Mr.Dixit �Why did India take such an interest in the Tamil problem?�, his reply was: � The shores of India and Sri Lanka are only 21 miles apart. If they were 500 miles apart, India would not have bothered that much.� Dixit went on to say: �New Delhi is concerned only with the interests of India; not the welfare of the Tamils. If the interest of India and the Tamils are the same, we help each other. India�s first priority is to further her own interests.�"

J.N.Dixit in Interview with Frederica Jansz, Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 16 November 1997

"Q: Was India at the time using Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict to extend its political domination over the South Asian region?

A: That is baseless. If India wanted to extend political domination over the region, our tactics would have been to weaken Sri Lanka, and to divide it. Our withdrawal when we were asked to go is proof that we had no intention of imposing ourselves on the Sri Lankan people or the Government. There is not a single case where India has gone to any country in the region and outstayed its welcome."

Comment by tamilnation.org An amoral defence of  'amorality?


India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

Jyotindra Nath Dixit
Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka 1985 /89,
Foreign Secretary in 1991/94 and
National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister of India 2004/05

"...Tamil militancy received (India's) support  ...as a response to (Sri Lanka's).. concrete and expanded military and intelligence cooperation with the United States, Israel and Pakistan. ...The assessment was that these presences would pose a strategic threat to India and they would encourage fissiparous movements in the southern states of India. .. a process which could have found encouragement from Pakistan and the US, given India's experience regarding their policies in relation to Kashmir and the Punjab.... Inter-state relations are not governed by the logic of morality. They were and they remain an amoral phenomenon....."

1. On Indira Gandhi and India's Motivations in 1983, 1997

2. On General Vernon Walters visits to Sri Lanka in 1983/84 [Excerpt from *Assignment Colombo by J N Dixit]

3 On Rajiv Gandhi's Actions in 1985 and the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement, 1998 [Excerpts from *Assignment Colombo by J N Dixit]

4 How India's Security Concerns came to be Addressed in the Exchange of Letters between Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lanka President J.R.Jayawardene,  preceding Signing of  the Indo Sri Lanka Peace Accord [Excerpts from *Assignment Colombo by J N Dixit]

5  On Assignment Colombo - Interview with Frederica Jansz, Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 1997

1. On Indira Gandhi and India's Motivations in 1981-83

  • Excerpts from a Paper by J.N. Dixit on Indian Involvement in Sri Lanka and the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement: A Retrospective Evaluation in Negotiating Peace in Sri Lanka, International Alert Publication, February 1998

"...It would be relevant to analyse India's motivations and actions in the larger perspective of the international and regional strategic environment, obtaining between 1950 and 1981 President Reagan was in power and the Soviet Union was going through the post Brezhnev uncertainties preceding Gorbachev�s arrival on the scene. Reagan was talking about "Evil Empires" and "Strategic Defence Initiatives".

The Soviet Union under Chernenko and Anndropov was equally confrontational. The conflict in Afghanistan following the Soviet military intervention in that country, was at the height of its intensity. Pakistan was an ally of the United States and its main instrument in containing the Soviet advance into Afghanistan. Zia-Ul-Haq in Pakistan was taking full advantage of US interest in utilising Pakistan as a frontier state to further US strategic objectives in the Central Asian region.

The quid pro quo that Pakistan demanded was political, material and military support to enhance Pakistan's strategic capacities against India. Israel continued to be the northern point of the "arc" of containment which the US Government was creating on the South Western flank with the Soviet Union, stretching, from Turkey and Israel, via the Gulf, up to Pakistan. Sino-Indian relations remained uneasy despite the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1976.

There was a parallel in US and Chinese interests in containing Soviet attempts at extending its area of influence in Afghanistan. India was being perceived as a supporter of Soviet movement into Afghanistan and was therefore being targeted with political and economic pressure to reduce Soviet - Indian strategic equations, political and technological cooperation. China and Pakistan were encouraging suspicions about India in Nepal and Bangladesh as part of this exercise.

The rise of Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka and the Jayawardene government's serious apprehensions about this development were utilised by the US and Pakistan to create a politico-strategic pressure point against India, in the island's strategically sensitive coast off the Peninsula of India. Jayawardene who was apprehensive of support from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka Tamils was personally averse to Mrs. Gandhi, and was of the view that she could not control the Indian -Tamil support to Sri Lankan Tamils. He established substantive defensive and intelligence contacts with US, Pakistan and Israel. The Government of India was subject to internal centrifugal pressures in Punjab and Kashmir and portions of the north east during this time.

Tamil militancy received support both from Tamil Nadu and from the Central Government not only as a response to the Sri Lankan Government's military assertiveness against Sri Lankan Tamils, but also as a response to Jayawardene's concrete and expanded military and intelligence cooperation with the United States, Israel and Pakistan.

The assessment was that these presences would pose a strategic threat to India and they would encourage fissiparous  movements in the southern states of India. Had not the (1983) anti-Tamil riots occurred, the Jayawardene Government's plan was to steadily increase the military capacity of the Sinhalese Government and to provide the US, Pakistan and Israel with a continuing presence in Sri Lanka in support of Sri Lanka's anti-Tamil policies.

One ripple effect of this would have been Tamil Nadu being disenchanted with the Central Government of India, if the latter remained detached and formalistically correct about Sri Lankan developments which in turn could lead to some sort of Tamil secessionist movement in India, a process which could have found encouragement from Pakistan and the US, given India's experience regarding their policies in relation to Kashmir and the Punjab.

The 1983 riots precipitated matters. Emotions were high in Tamil Nadu. Mrs. Gandhi had to respond to the situation. There was the domestic political and overall national security rationale which resulted in Mrs. Gandhi sending the Minister for External Affairs, Narasimha Rao and then her Chairman of  Policy Planning, Mr. G. Parthasarthy to Javawardene as special envoys, the objective being to persuade Javawardene to reconsider his options on the basis of ground realities and the logic of regional geopolitics. The message was that India does not demand a break-up of Sri Lanka, nor would India countenance Sri Lanka's policies which posed strategic threats to India, and also that India was quite willing to mediate between the Sri Lankan Government and its Tamil citizens to evolve a realistic compromise.

In normal terns of international law and principles of neutrality was Mrs. Gandhi correct in giving political and material support to Sri Lankan Tamils ? The answer is obvious and has to be in the negative. Sri Lanka should have been allowed to sort out its own problems. India should not have interfered in any way and even if developments in Sri Lanka endangered India's interests, India should have tackled them without interference. Had Sri Lanka been several hundred miles away from the coast of India this approach could have been adopted. But Sri Lanka was only 18 miles away from Tamil Nadu. Inter-state relations are not governed by the logic of  morality. They were and they remain an amoral phenomenon. Unilateral adherence to morality, if it affects your very existence as a united country, may be admired as an idealistic principle. But it is neither desirable nor practical if another country deliberately indulges in policies which are amoral and at the same time pose threat to you. So practical corrective action has indeed to be taken..."

2. On General Walter's visits to Sri Lanka in 1983/84  [Excerpt from *Assignment Colombo by J N Dixit]

(One of the factors which influenced Prime Minister Indira Gandhi) was the visits of US General Vernon Walters to Colombo in October 1983 and then again in 1984. Walters was a senior figure in the US strategic and intelligence establishment. Walters had followed up the first visit to Colombo with a visit to India also. General Walters was perceived by the Indian establishment as a confirmed Cold War warrior. He was known to be the subterranean architect of many of the anti-Indian aspects of US policies on matters of India's national security.

Walters gave detailed information to Mr Jayewardene about India providing training and other logistical facilities to Sri Lankan Tamil separatists in India. He also agreed to act as an intermediary between Sri Lanka and Israel to ensure Israeli arm supplies and intelligence support to the island nation. The quid pro quo suggested by Walters was that Sri Lanka should provide strategic intelligence gathering facilities against India in the proposed Voice of America broadcasting station to be established in that country. Walters also agreed to facilitate the employment of British mercenaries and Pakistani military officers to support and assist Sri Lankan security forces. India had confirmed information about the discussions Walters had on Sri Lanka, both in Colombo and in Washington. This certainly did not improve Mrs Gandhi's mood or attitudes on the Sri Lankan situation.

During his second visit in 1984, General Walters told the then Sri Lankan Minister for National Security, Mr Lalith Athulathmudali, that the United States had satellite photographs of training camps for Tamil separatist groups in India and that he had told his interlocutors in New Delhi that if India kept on denying the existence of such camps and did not close them down, the US would release these satellite photographs to the media to embarrass the Government of India... 

I must also mention that General Vernon Walters found both Mr Parthasarthy and Mrs Gandhi's Principal Secretary Dr P.C. Alexander rather "difficult and unsatisfactory", according to his assessment conveyed to Sri Lankan leaders.

One is not surprised because General Walters with his sense of self-importance must have been reduced to a state of unpleasant shock that some odd Indian natives should see through his motivations, and could tell him that India mould not be taken in by his sophistry and that we had assessed his mission precisely for what it was in terms of the facts gathered on what he was doing in Sri Lanka. I cannot help coming to the conclusion in the light of my dealings with the Bangladesh war also, that Vernon Walters' was a pale imitation of the role which Kissinger tried to play during the East Pakistan crisis 12 to 13 years earlier.

To sum up, General Walters' shuttle diplomacy only heightened tensions and generated an adversarial relationship between India and Sri Lanka. Perhaps that was the predetermined purpose of his activities at that point of time. .."

3. On Rajiv Gandhi's Actions in 1985 and the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement  [Excerpt from *Assignment Colombo by J N Dixit]

In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi decided to stop all training and assistance to Sri Lankan Tamil groups

In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi decided to stop all training and assistance to Sri Lankan Tamil groups to ensure the success of the mediatory efforts he had initiated. An aircraft carrying military equipment for Tamil militants in Madras was intercepted. Another important step was the capture of an equally large consignment of arms by Indian authorities from a ship which had docked at the Madras port late in 1985. It was apparently meant for the Tamil militants in Sri Lanka. 

As Indian material assistance stopped, the Tamil militants sought linkages further afield. Tamil expatriate communities in different parts of the world provided funds and also arranged the purchase of arms and equipment. 

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was the most effective and successful amongst Tamil groups in expanding these worldwide connections. We had information about the LTTE having sent their cadres for training with Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Libya, Lebanon and Syria. To cap it all, the LTTE even sent its cadres for training with Mossad in Israel, the details of which are available in the book By Way of Deception by Victory Ostrovsky and Claire Hoy, with the description of a hilarious situation when Ostrovsky faced the problem of preventing the LTTE cadres and Sri Lankan security personnel from coming face to face in an Israeli training camp where the opposing parties were being trained simultaneously. 

By 1986, the LTTE had also acquired a couple of sea-going ships with foreign registration, which brought in supplies and equipment for them to Tamil Nadu or off the port of Trincomalee, from where these were trans shipped on small boats equipped with powerful outboard motors to various point on the coast of north-western, northern and north-eastern Sri Lanka. The LTTE's emergence as the most dominant and effective politico-military force representing Tamil interests was due to the following factors:  Pirabaharan

First, the character and personality of its leader V Prabhakaran who is disciplined, austere and passionately committed to the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils's liberation. Whatever he may be criticised for, it cannot be denied that the man has an inner fire and dedication and he is endowed with natural military abilities, both strategic and tactical. He has also proved that he is a keen observer of the nature of competitive and critical politics. He has proved his abilities in judging political events and his adroitness in responding to them. 

Secondly, he has created a highly disciplined, and dedicated cadres, a manifestation of which is inherent in what is called the 'cyanide cult.' Each regular member of the LTTE carries a cyanide pill and is pledged to committing suicide rather than being captured by the enemy. 

The third factor is the cult and creed of honesty in the disbursement and utilisation of resources. Despite long years spent in struggle, the LTTE cadres were known for their simple living, lack of any tendency to exploit the people and their operational preparedness. 

The fourth factor has been the LTTE's ability to upgrade its political and military capacities including technological inputs despite the constraints imposed on it by Sri Lankan forces and later by India. 

The fifth factor is a totally amoral and deadly violent approach in dealing with those the LTTE considers as enemies. 

The sixth factor is Prabhakaran's success in gathering around him senior advisers with diverse political, administrative and technological capacities, which contributed to effective training of his cadres, optimum utilisation of the military equipment which he had, and the structuring of an efficient command and control system. 

By the end of 1986, Prabhakaran was disillusioned with his Indian connection. The pressure generated on the LTTE after the Bangalore SAARC summit made him decide that he must shift his base to Sri Lanka for a long struggle. His judgment has been proved correct with the passage of time. When he shifted to Jaffna by January 1987, the anti-Tamil lobby in the Jayewardene government got a strong point to argue against any compromises with the Tamil minority. 

"Puri was explicitly told not to show the agreement to Prabhakaran and give him only an outline of it"

I rang up the first secretary (political) at our mission in Colombo, Hardeep Puri, to tell him to proceed to Jaffna immediately and to inform Prabhakaran about the details of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement and to get his response as well as on his willingness to come to Delhi for an exchange of views. Puri was explicitly told not to show the agreement to Prabhakaran and give him only an outline of it. Puri went to Jaffna the same day. It had been decided to show the agreement to Prabhakaran in the presence of a competent Tamil interpreter later. 

Puri returned from Jaffna after holding discussions with Prabhakaran on July 19 and 20. Puri confirmed that Prabhakaran was generally agreeable to the proposed Accord and that he had only two pre-conditions: (a) the Sri Lankan forces should close down all the military camps set up in the Vadamarachi region after May 25, 1987 and withdraw to older camps/barracks; and (b) he would like to be taken to Madras and Delhi in an Indian Air Force plane, implying thereby New Delhi's recognition of the LTTE. 

He also expressed a wish to call on M G Ramachandran and Rajiv Gandhi. This information was conveyed immediately to the Prime Minister, who confirmed that the demands would be met. Rajiv Gandhi directed that Prabhakaran be airlifted from Jaffna on July 22 and brought to Delhi. 

In the meanwhile, First Secretary Puri had proceeded to Jaffna to organise the airlift of Prabhakaran, four members of the LTTE political committee, Prabhakaran's wife and children, to Delhi via Madras. Prabhakaran and party were airlifted by two helicopters of the Indian Air Force from the grounds of the Suthumalia Aman Kovil Temple on July 24 to Trichy from where they were taken by special aircraft to Madras. Prabhakaran called on the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and proceeded to Delhi, leaving his wife and children behind in Madras. His political adviser in Madras, Balasingham, was also asked to go to Delhi. 

I met the Prime Minister three hours after reaching Delhi. Rajiv Gandhi approved of the draft agreement and agreed to visit Colombo on July 29. 

Detailed discussions were held with Prabhakaran by Indian officials on July 25 and 26. At the first meeting organised on July 24 at Ashoka Hotel, director of the Intelligence Bureau, M K Narayanan, Joint Secretary Kuldip Sahdev, First Secretary Puri and myself met Prabhakaran and his colleagues and explained the details of the Agreement clause by clause. Prabhakaran suddenly did a volte face and said he was not in a position to endorse the agreement. He said he was not aware that the Agreement was going to be signed directly between the Governments of India and Sri Lanka. 

His expectation was that he would get a chance to call on the Prime Minister when he could submit the demands on the lines on which the Agreement should be signed and that he would be allowed to negotiate with Jayewardene and finalise the Agreement. 

Prabhakaran also said he could not endorse any Agreement which kept the merger of the northern and eastern provinces temporary. He also said that no agreement should be signed without all the military camps of Sri Lankan forces being closed down in the northern and eastern provinces. The meeting was inconclusive. 

I told Prabhakaran that this was the fourth time he was trying to embarrass the Prime Minister of India. I recalled that he had done this at Thimpu, again in August/ September 1985 and then again in Bangalore. I told Prabhakaran that he was being shown the final draft of the Agreement, which he should study before taking a final decision. It was the assessment of Indian officials that Prabhakaran had changed his mind after the discussions held in Madras on his way to Delhi. 

First Secretary Puri and Under Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs Nikhil Seth had a three-hour discussion with Prabhakaran on July 25 when they explained the draft Agreement to the LTTE delegation with the help of Balasingham and our Tamil interpreter. Prabhakaran demanded another meeting with MGR before his meeting with Rajiv Gandhi. 

Rajiv Gandhi invited MGR and Food Minister S Ramachandran to come to Delhi immediately to persuade Prabhakaran to endorse the Agreement. MGR reached Delhi early on July 26, by the PM's special aircraft. 

Accompanied by Narayanan, Joint Secretary (PMO) Ronen Sen and Kuldip Sahdev, I called on MGR and briefed him about Prabhakaran's attitude. After a preliminary discussion with Prabhakaran and the LTTE delegation, MGR summoned me for a meeting with them in his presence at Tamil Nadu House. 

I had a lengthy exchange with Prabhakaran on all the details of the Agreement in the presence of MGR and S Ramachandran. But Prabhakaran remind indecisive and demanded that he be sent back to Jaffna. MGR told him to be patient and stay back in Delhi for further discussions. 

'India had no intention of signing an agreement that did not have the endorsement of Tamil groups'

In the meantime, Rajiv Gandhi met MGR and representatives of all the Opposition parties in Parliament in Delhi. The proposed Agreement was explained in full and the endorsement of the Tamil Nadu government, the Congress party in Parliament and all the Opposition parties was obtained personally by the Prime Minister. He held further discussions with senior members of his Cabinet and MGR on how to tackle Prabhakaran and the LTTE. 

At his meeting with Prabhakaran on July 28, Rajiv Gandhi persuaded him to go along with the Agreement even if he did not formally endorse it. The Prime Minister agreed to Prabhakaran's return to Jaffna after the Agreement had been signed so that Prabhakaran ensured the implementation of the cease-fire and surrender of arms. India also gave the necessary assurances of the LTTE's future security, participation in Sri Lankan politics and its major role in the proposed government of the north-eastern provinces. 

As far as the LTTE and Prabhakaran were concerned, Hardeep Puri had conveyed categorical assurances from India that Prabhakaran would have safe conduct, that he would be airlifted from Jaffna by an Indian Air Force helicopter and that he would be dropped back in Jaffna regardless of whether or not he agreed with the proposals mooted for finding a compromise on the ethnic problem. India acceded to every request of his concerning his visit to Delhi between July 23 and August 21. He was allowed to bring along his senior advisers, his bodyguards and members of his family. We arranged for his discussions with the chief minister of Tamil Nadu before he reached Delhi. 

Two other points of criticisms voiced by Prabhakaran in later years -- that he was kept under coercive custody, denied permission to communicate with anybody during his stay in Delhi, and that he was afraid of his life itself -- had no basis in fact. The original plan was to put him up in one of the government bungalows in the centre of New Delhi with appropriate security. He was not satisfied with this arrangement. He said he would like to stay in a sufficiently public place than in an isolated bungalow. He was, therefore, put up in one of the VIP suites of the Ashoka Hotel. His advisers were lodged in the same hotel. 

Expressing lack of confidence in the Delhi police, he wanted more specialised personnel to provide him security. This was provided at his specific request. His advisers were present when the Tamil Nadu chief minister and Indian officials met him in Delhi, during each of the meetings. He was provided with telephone facilities to talk to his friends and associates in Tamil Nadu. He was also provided with STD and IDD facilities and he ran up a bill running into thousands of rupees on telephone calls during his nine-day stay in Delhi in July/August 1987. 

The only restriction placed on him was one which the Governments of India and Sri Lanka placed on themselves too. The media was not allowed to be in touch with any party negotiating the agreement for legitimate and obvious reasons. Such a sensitive agreement could not be negotiated with the dubious wisdom and commentary of the media affecting its progress. 

It must also be mentioned that the details of the agreement had been discussed by Hardeep Puri with Prabhakaran and his colleagues and some very senior LTTE sympathisers before Prabhakaran was brought to Delhi for discussions with Rajiv Gandhi. Apart from Prabhakaran, Hardeep Puri had discussed the outline of the Agreement with LTTE leaders Yogi, Thileepan, Constantine, Santhosan, and Rahim. In the meetings Hardeep Puri held with Prabhakaran on July 19 and 23, 1987, Prabhakaran's colleagues -- Mahatya, Kumarappan, Johnnie, Thileepan, Yogi and Shankar -- were present. 

The point in recalling all these details is to establish that the LTTE complaint that Tamil groups were not fully informed about the Agreement and that they were duped into it is totally at variance with facts. India had no intention of signing an agreement that did not have the endorsement of Tamil groups. This approval was very much there, from the TULF at the one end of the spectrum to the LTTE at the other end. 

'The LTTE's insistence on the creation of a separate Tamil state would have far-reaching negative implications for India's unity'

Rajiv Gandhi had come to the conclusion that neither the Sri Lankan government nor the Tamil groups, especially the LTTE, would reach any agreement and come to a durable compromise unless India took a direct hand in the matter. He had become sceptical about President J R Jayewardene's intentions and was clearly disappointed at the obdurate attitude of the LTTE and other Tamil groups. 

My advice to him after the failure of our initiatives at the Bangalore SAARC summit was that India's purely mediatory efforts were not likely to succeed. I was of the view that India had to shift its role from that of a mediator to a peace-maker and the guarantor of such peace if the crisis in Sri Lanka was to be resolved. 

It was also my considered opinion that the LTTE's insistence on the creation of a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka, based on ethnic, linguistic and religious considerations, would have far-reaching negative implications for India's unity and territorial integrity too. The LTTE's clandestinely publicised objective of a Greater Eelam would have its impact notably on India but the rest of South-East Asian countries with Tamil populations. 

I was convinced that the LTTE's objective of creating a separate political entity, purely on the basis of language, ethnicity and religion, would be a challenge to the plural multi-dimensional democratic identity of India as well as other similarly placed countries in the region. 

Having seen the LTTE in operations, both in the political and military fields, I also felt that, despite the legitimacy of the Tamil aspirations articulated by it, the LTTE was essentially an authoritarian organisation that relied on violence to settle all differences of opinion. 

An example of the mindset of LTTE leadership is provided by a report about a journalist asking Prabhakaran some time during 1986 as to who were his role models in politics and military operations. First came Subhas Chandra Bose in all the power and majesty of his position as the supreme commander of the Indian National Army. 

The other ideal Prabhakaran mentioned was the American actor Clint Eastwood in his personification as the hero who avenged injustice with ruthless violence. I cannot vouch for the total authenticity of this story for the simple reason that this was not said to me. But I am inclined to believe in the veracity of such a response by Prabhakaran, given his intense commitment to the Tamil cause and his personality as a militant leader. My suggestions to Rajiv Gandhi were based on these assessments. 

A series of meetings amongst Indian officials were held under the chairmanship of Minister of State Natwar Singh, Foreign Secretary K P S Menon, and the Prime Minister himself. There were in-depth discussions between July 19 and 21, about the possible ramifications of India and Sri Lanka signing a bilateral agreement (without Tamil participation) to resolve the ethnic crisis. 

I distinctly remember Rajiv Gandhi raising the question as to whether the LTTE would really abide by the agreement, which India was bound to implement as a guarantor. Rajiv Gandhi raised this question in the context of the doubts and misgivings Prabhakaran had expressed when Hardeep Puri provided details of the agreement to him on July 19. 

Rajiv's question was primarily addressed to the then secretary of the Research and Analysis Wing, S E Joshi, who was cautious in his response. He said the LTTE was not a very trustworthy organisation and the agreement in a manner went against their high-flown demand for Eelam. Joshi was about to retire. His successor Anand Verma's response was that the LTTE owed much to India's support, that it was the LTTE which conveyed the message to N Ram of The Hindu, which initiated the whole process of discussions on the proposed Agreement. 

Verma expressed the view that if the LTTE was guaranteed an important role in the power structure in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka, and if the merger of the northern and eastern provinces was somehow made permanent (whatever be the interim political arrangements proposed) and if the LTTE cadres were absorbed into the administrative set-up of the new province, the LTTE would endorse the agreement, especially as it was being guaranteed by India. The general tenor of his advice was that "these are boys whom we know and with whom we have been in touch and so they will listen to us." 

My colleagues Gopi Arora, IB Director Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Menon and Joint Secretary Kuldip Sahdev had doubts about the LTTE falling in line. I shared their worry to some extent, which prompted me to raise two questions in one of these meetings. 

First, whether MGR and the Tamil Nadu leadership would endorse the Agreement? 

Secondly, if the LTTE created a situation, after the Agreement was signed, which might compel us to exert pressure on it to remain committed to the Agreement, would we be able to do it successfully? 

Rajiv Gandhi said he had been in touch with MGR and other Tamil leaders, and that they were supportive of the Agreement. On the second question, about the implications of India having to confront the LTTE, Rajiv Gandhi asked the then chief of the army staff General K Sundarji what his assessment was. 

The general's reply was that once the LTTE endorsed the Agreement, they would not have the wherewithal to go back and confront India or the Sri Lankan government. He went on to say that if the LTTE decided to take on India and Sri Lanka militarily, Indian armed forces would be able to neutralise them militarily within two weeks. So, there need not be any serious worry on this score. 

While the TULF and Tamil militant groups other than the LTTE endorsed the Agreement without any fundamental reservations, the LTTE clung to its misgivings till the end. Mainly because of three reasons.  A political compromise and the revival of the democratic process in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka would deprive the LTTE of its dominant political and military role.  Secondly, the Agreement did not ensure the total withdrawal of the armed forces from the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka. Nor did it specifically provide for the return of large number of Tamils to areas around Vavunia in the northern and the upper reaches of the Mahaveli Ganga river basin from where they were evicted. Successive Sri Lankan governments had evicted Tamil residents from these areas and settled Sinhalese in these areas so that the Sinhalese could benefit from the development projects and the new agricultural lands being created as part of the Mahaveli River Basin Development plans. Tamil resentment at being deprived of this land was valid. 

The LTTE wanted these grievances to be redressed. Realistically speaking, there was no prospect of persuading any Sri Lankan government to vacate these lands, after having made them (the Sri Lankan government) concede the merger of the northern and eastern provinces and declaring merged provinces a Tamil homeland.  Thirdly, the LTTE wished to be recognised as the sole representative of all Sri Lankan Tamils. They were not happy about New Delhi and Colombo acknowledging other Sri Lankan Tamil groups as partners in implementing the compromises envisaged in the Agreement. 

These were the concerns and anxieties with which Prabhakaran arrived in Delhi on July 23. The discussions he had with Indian officials, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and Rajiv Gandhi have already been related. Two additional points of interest in terms of the assurances given to Prabhakaran deserve to be mentioned. 

First, both the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and Rajiv Gandhi assured Prabhakaran that LTTE would be a major constituent element in the interim government of the proposed merged North-Eastern Provinces. Second, that the Government of India would give the necessary financial assistance to maintain the LTTE cadres before they got absorbed into the administration of the new province. 

Prabhakaran had pointed out to Rajiv Gandhi that since 1983, he was sustaining his cadres by imposing taxes on the population of Jaffna and marginally in the Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts whenever possible. He said since he was going to surrender arms and as it would take time for his cadres to be absorbed into the administration and police forces, he would have to take care of his cadres. He demanded about three to five crores of rupees (Rs 30 million to Rs 50 million) for this purpose for a period of six to eight months. 

I was not present at these discussions, but I was informed about them by the concerned agencies. Prabhakaran wanted this money to be distributed through his local commanders on the basis of his estimates and suggestions. Rajiv Gandhi agreed and these resources were channelled to the LTTE as far as I know, through the concerned agencies of the Government of India. 

Prabhakaran said he did not trust either RAW or the ministry of external affairs

The various Tamil groups and the LTTE were not fully satisfied with the Agreement. Prabhakaran told Rajiv Gandhi in the initial stages of his discussions with the latter that he did not know that India was going to sign the Agreement. He thought that India would finalise the draft and submit it to the Tamil groups, especially the LTTE, which in turn would sign the Agreement with the Sri Lankan government after appropriate negotiations.

India originally thought that Sri Lankan Tamils should be signatories to such an agreement. Rajiv Gandhi pointed out that this was his original message to Sri Lanka and to the Tamil groups. He then pointed out that it was the LTTE which stressed that the Agreement should be signed between India and Sri Lanka. Prabhakaran had no answer. He assumed an ambiguous stance.

Prabhakaran made a serious of demands for an immediate follow-up, once the Agreement was signed. He wanted Sri Lankan government forces of all categories to pull back from the whole of the North and Eastern Provinces. He wanted management of the law and order handed over entirely and immediately to his cadres. He was not happy about the tentative provision for holding a referendum on the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces by the end of 1988.

He wanted the merger to be declared permanent and irrevocable. He not only wanted all Tamil refugees in India as well as within Sri Lanka to be resettled and rehabilitated, but the Sinhalese people in north-central Sri Lanka, settled there since the mid-fifties under the Mahaveli colonisation schemes, to be uprooted and replaced by Tamils.

Even the moderate Tamil political party, the TULF, in a communication to Rajiv Gandhi immediately after the signing of the Agreement articulated somewhat similar demands. Prabhakaran, while generally agreeing to the surrender of arms, demanded that he and his senior leaders should be allowed to retain their arms for personal protection, a suggestion which was accepted by the Sri Lankan and Indian authorities.

Prabhakaran was flown back to Jaffna as promised by Rajiv Gandhi on August 2. He had already indicated that a ceremonial surrender of arms would take place on August 4 and 5. Rajiv Gandhi insisted that the surrender of arms should not be described as 'surrender'. I had messages suggesting that the whole exercise should be described as: 'laying down of arms by LTTE in the larger interests of the peace and well-being of the Sri Lankan people,' a suggestion which was readily agreed to by Jayewardene.

The most significant event in Jaffna immediately after the signing of the Agreement and the arrival of the Indian Peace Keeping Force was a large public meeting which Prabhakaran on August 4, on the grounds of the Sudumalai Temple. His speech was militant and not fully supportive of the Agreement. He said he had agreed to generally endorse the Agreement only on the insistence of the Government of India and because India had always been a source of strength and support to the Tamils. The Agreement did not fulfill all the Tamil aspirations.

While he had agreed to the contents of the Agreement, he reserved his options for the future course of action on the basis of his assessment of how the Agreement was actually implemented. His endorsement of the Agreement did not mean abandonment of the basic Tamil demand for Eelam which he had been advocating over a period of time.

The tone and content of the speech was totally contrary to the commitments he had given to M G Ramachandran and Rajiv Gandhi in Delhi. The text of the speech and its translation reached me late at night. I immediately requested my Sri Lankan Tamil contacts in Jaffna to find out what Prabhakaran's motivations and plans were in the light of the speech he made. The response I got was that he had generally endorsed the Agreement because he considered good relations with the government and people of India vital to the Tamil cause. He, however, had some reservations which he had to articulate.

He said the second reason for the tone of his speech was because he had to carry Sri Lankan Tamil public opinion with him. He could not be seen abandoning his entire set of demands including the establishment of Tamil Eelam. That was why he hedged his commitments regarding the Agreement. I was informed that the surrender of arms would take place as scheduled and that he would remain in close touch with the headquarters of the IPKF.

The arms surrender ceremony took place on August 5 in Jaffna. Defence Secretary Cepalle Attygalle, senior representatives of the Sri Lankan Red Cross, the district officer in charge of Jaffna and General Harkirat Singh of the IPKF represented Sri Lanka and India respectively. Significantly, Prabhakaran did not come to the ceremony to lay down arms. He sent the then political advisor to his high command Yogi along with Mahatya and Balasingham.

Prabhakaran explained later that he did not himself come for the ceremony because he was concerned about his security. It was, however, obvious that his absence at the ceremony was also a political gesture of reservation and withdrawal, which both India and Sri Lanka took note of.

Prabhakaran had met Lt General Depinder Singh, GOC, Southern Command, before he returned to Jaffna. Lt General Depinder Singh later revealed that Prabhakaran told him (General Singh) that he did not trust either the Indian Research and Analysis Wingh or the ministry of external affairs. He hoped that the Indian Army would stand by Tamils now that it was in Sri Lanka. I cannot confirm the authenticity of this report, but this conversation has been mentioned partly in General Singh's memoirs and partly by some Sri Lankan authors who had written about Indo-Sri Lanka relations during this period.

The surrender of arms was a farce

The surrender of arms was only symbolic. It was a farce. Only a couple of truckloads of old weapons were brought to the ceremony. The weapons brought during the following days and weeks were patently inadequate in number and quantity. I recall some newspaper correspondents asking General Depinder Singh as to what he would do if the LTTE did not surrender arms as promised by them and as envisaged in the Agreement. Depinder Singh's one line response was: "In that case we would go after them and get the arms."

The statement was interpreted in the Sinhalese press as a clear articulation of Indian policy that India would function impartially to implement the letter and spirit of the Agreement. Our Sri Lankan Tamil contacts were not very happy about this statement of General Depinder Singh. I told them that what General Singh had stated was legally, politically and operationally correct and that the implementation of the Agreement in all its details was for the welfare of the Tamils, and that his statement should not be misunderstood.

The Sri Lankan government desired some preliminary discussions with representatives of Tamil groups about the establishment of the interim provincial government of the north-eastern province and various aspects of the law and order situation. Prabhakaran desired these discussions to be held in Jaffna. After some prodding, he sent a delegation consisting of Yogi, Balasingham and some other second rung leaders of LTTE to Colombo for these discussions. They came and stayed at the residence of one of the first secretaries of the Indian high commission in view of the security concerns they had.

The discussions were, however, botched up for two reasons. First, because of the undulatory approach to discussion specific issues which the Sri Lankan government representatives adopted. Secondly, the LTTE representatives were not happy about the logistical arrangements and the manner in which they were treated by the concerned Indian official. It was agreed that the Sri Lankan government would come up with specific suggestions regarding the constitution of the interim governing council and they should develop some powers straightway to the proposed interim north-eastern government. They could then start working on the constitutional amendments to implement the devolution package.

General Harkirat Singh was perturbed by the civilian demonstrations instigated against the IPKF by the LTTE

The LTTE was in daily touch with the IPKF headquarters in Jaffna. Prabhakaran was a frequent visitor to the Headquarters Officers Mess. By the middle of September, however, the LTTE decided to pull back from the 'limited co-operation' stance it had taken on the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement. Indian military personnel faced demonstrations forcibly organised by the LTTE against the Sri Lankan government and also against Indian policies.

Thileepan -- an idealistic and committed LTTE leader -- commenced a fast unto death in one of the main temples of Jaffna, taking the stand that the Indo-Sri Lankan Agreement did not fulfill Tamil aspirations and that India was not doing enough even to implement the provisions of the Agreement. The situation was becoming critical just about five weeks after the Agreement was signed.

At this stage, pressure was generated by leaders of the civilian population in Jaffna on the high commission to set up the interim council for the proposed north-eastern province. There were messages from Delhi directing me to urge Jayewardene to nominate an interim governing council in consultation with various Tamil groups as early as possible.

Prabhakaran was in the meanwhile refusing to enter into any discussions about the constitution of the interim governing council with local Sri Lankan government representatives or with the Indian army authorities who were now practically conducting the civilian administration of Jaffna.

After the token surrender of arms, Prabhakaran remained entrenched with his closest advisers and military cadres in the Jaffna university area and in strategically selected points throughout the Jaffna peninsula.

Prabhakaran was insistent that Jayewardene should first devolve all the required powers immediately to the interim governing council. He was not willing to wait for the necessary constitutional amendments and procedural requirements to be completed. In fact, he viewed the delays with profound suspicion.

The LTTE's own intelligence sources must also have given him fairly accurate information about (Prime Minister) Premadasa and Lalith Athulathmudali trying to sabotage the agreement, perhaps even preparing to resume military operations against the LTTE either through the instrumentality of Janatha Vimukti Perumana cadres or through military and security personnel who could be encouraged to rebel against Jayewardene's authority.

General Harkirat Singh was getting increasingly perturbed by the civilian demonstrations instigated against the IPKF by the LTTE and the agitated political overtones that marked the discussions held by the LTTE leadership in Jaffna with Indian army officers. He sent messages to army headquarters seeking my presence in Jaffna to bring the temperature down.

Having had some insight into the working of Prabhakaran's mind as well as his reaction, I was totally reluctant to have any discussions with him. Most of his interactions with Indian representatives were through personnel of our intelligence agencies over the years. I told Delhi initially when they asked me to undertake these discussions that Prabhakaran's old and established Indian contacts should undertake this task. But General Harkirat Singh viewed the matter differently. At one stage, he even complained about the high commission being unwilling to take on its political responsibilities.

The LTTE supremo wanted to be acknowledged by Delhi as the sole representative organisation of Sri Lankan Tamils

I kept receiving messages from Joint Secretary Kuldip Sahdev that I must persuade Jayewardene to devolve some substantive powers to the proposed interim provincial council and that I should discuss the composition of the interim governing council with Prabhakaran. Ultimately, Delhi decided to give me a rap on the knuckles. I received a call from Foreign Secretary K P S Menon directing me to proceed to Jaffna immediately for discussions to finalise the arrangements for the establishment of the interim governing council.

These orders were followed by a telephone call from Ronen Sen, joint secretary in the Prime Minister's office, stating that it was a direct order from Rajiv Gandhi, which did not leave any scope to indulge in arguments or defer compliance with. These orders came to me between September 10 and 17, 1987. I conveyed a message to IPKF headquarters to the effect that I would reach Jaffna for discussions with Prabhakaran on all those matters he was worried about.

The reply I got asked me to reach Jaffna for discussions on September 21. I received another message on September 19, stating that Prabhakaran himself would not come for the meeting and that I should have discussions with Balasingham, Yogi and Mahatya. I asked General Harkirat Singh to convey to Prabhakaran that I would come for the discussions only if Prabhakaran himself was present and that his presence at the conference site in the IPKF camp should be confirmed to me before I took off from Colombo for Jaffna. After some dithering, Prabhakaran agreed to come himself. These exchanges delayed the first meeting by two days. I met Prabhakaran thrice in the second half of September.

I was given advance information by my colleague Kuldip Sahdev that the agenda for the discussion would be: First, listening to the concerns Prabhakaran had been articulating after the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement. Secondly, to persuade him to withdraw public agitations against the IPKF he had been engineering and to put an end to the fast by Thileepan. Thirdly, to finalise arrangements for the establishment of the interim governing council. Fourthly, to indicate to him the powers which would be devolved to this interim governing council by the Sri Lankan government immediately. I was also to brief him generally about what further action Colombo would take to fulfill the provisions of the agreement for meeting Tamil demands, including the time-frame within which these process are likely to be completed.

I met Jayewardene on September 21 to find out his views on the points I was to discuss with Prabhakaran. Jayewardene authorised me to tell Prabhakaran that he (Prabhakaran) would be appointed chairman of the interim governing council and chief minister immediately and that he could continue in the position till elections were held for the establishment of the permanent provincial assembly and the board of ministers. He also said that some administrative and routine law and order powers would be devolved to this interim governing council. There was the promise of devolving some financial powers too.

Jayewardene said that other matters of detail Prabhakaran might raise could be sorted out through mutual discussions. While he was willing to do his best, Jayewardene said he would not be able to rush things according to the demands of the LTTE because he had the much more important task of ensuring that the agreement did not get nullified by a massive Sinhalese upsurge, which could not be ruled out.

I landed in Jaffna on the morning of September 23 after getting confirmation that Prabhakaran had reached the IPKF headquarters. Before I go into the details of this phase of developments I must mention that the LTTE had sent me a memorandum ten days earlier, listing five demands.

Firstly, that the interim government should be formed quickly with a clear majority for the LTTE.

Secondly, that nominees of other groups to the interim government should be finalised in consultation with the LTTE.

Thirdly, the police force in the north-eastern provinces would be constituted by the LTTE.

Fourthly, there would be devolution of powers immediately to the interim government on the maintenance of law and order and on all other responsibilities except foreign affairs, defence, immigration, customs, etc.

Fifthly, that the Tamil detenues who were given political amnesty should be released immediately.

At the meeting I had with him, Prabhakaran referred to these issues, saying he had assurances from Rajiv Gandhi on all of them, which were yet to be fulfilled. The Sri Lankan army had not been confined to barracks, neither all over the north or the east. Nor had the army moved out of schools and colleges, without which the refugees could not return to their homes.

There were no indications that the Sri Lankan government would dismantle Sinhalese colonies of recent origin in Vavunia and portions of Trincomalee from where the Tamils had been evicted. Prabhakaran wanted Colombo neither to undertake any rehabilitation work directly nor re-open police stations till the interim government was fully operational.

Prabhakaran objected to some Tamil groups opposed to the LTTE being allowed to come back to Jaffna and to the eastern province. He specifically complained about EPRLF and TELO cadres coming to Tamil areas, claiming, that these groups were armed by Indian intelligence agencies and that they had a brief to attack and reduce the strength of the LTTE. The LTTE supremo wanted his outfit to be acknowledged by Delhi as the 'sole representative organisation of Sri Lankan Tamils.'

He felt that India was reluctant to give this status to the LTTE. It was because of all these reasons he launched a peaceful agitation to protest against the 'non-implementation' of the accord. Prabhakaran also expressed his bitterness that the repeated messages he sent to Madras and Delhi for military assistance against the Sinhalese army during Lalith Athulathmudali's Operation Liberation went unheeded.

I told him that the main reason for the delay in the formation of the interim government of the north-eastern province was that he had not sent his nominees for this interim governing council for nearly six weeks from the beginning of August to the middle of September. He just chose to ignore a message I had sent to him in this connection sufficiently early. Once he delayed his nomination the whole process was delayed. All the same, he was assured that the demands he had articulated would be fulfilled to the extent possible with full support from Delhi.

At the same time I cautioned him that the government of Sri Lanka was an equally reluctant partner in the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement. So, if he gave the slightest chance to Colombo to claim that India and the LTTE had not fulfilled their commitments under the Sri Lanka accord, the agreement would be declared redundant. I requested Prabhakaran to be realistic about issues like evicting the Sinhalese from areas they were settled in since the late 1940s and 1950s which was an impossible task for any government in Sri Lanka.

I, however, assured him that more recent colonies established in the 1980s and the proposed Sinhalese colonisation programmes could be stopped once the interim government took effective control over the north-eastern province.

As for the additional issues mentioned, I told him that while India acknowledged the important role of the LTTE in Tamil affairs, the endeavour should be to create a united Tamil front to implement the provisions of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement. I suggested that he could try to establish equations with other Tamil political parties and militant groups to ensure that they participated effectively in the new provincial government.

Prabhakaran's response was that while he could work with EROS and TULF, it would be difficult to develop an equation with organisations like PLOTE, TELO and EPRLF. When I pointed out that EPRLF had some influence in certain Tamil areas, specially in the east and that carrying the group with him would be useful, Prabhakaran was ambiguous in his response.

The discussions held on September 23 were inconclusive. Prabhakaran first wanted confirmation that Jayewardene would agree to the creation of an interim governing council with expanded membership of 12 in which the LTTE would have a guaranteed majority of at least seven members, with the right to nominate one of the Muslim representatives and the chief administrator. Prabhakaran also sought categorical assurances that powers regarding the maintenance of law and order and for collection of certain categories of taxes would be handed over to this interim government, with LTTE cadres begin given a major portion of responsibility for policing the proposed north-eastern Provinces.

When I conveyed these demands to Jayewardene, he agreed reluctantly to delegate his executive powers regarding law and order and policing to the proposed interim governing council. But he could not devolve the powers of taxation as extensively as the LTTE desired. Jayewardene said he would like to have a panel of two or three names selected by the LTTE from which he would choose the chief administrator or administrator in council of the north-eastern province pending the elections of the provincial council for the north-east. He agreed to let the LTTE have the majority in the proposed interim governing council. Prabhakaran remained dilatory during the discussions that followed on September 26.

By this time, the physical condition of the LTTE leader, Thileepan, at the Nallur Kandaswamy temple had irretrievably deteriorated. Earlier, had asked me to personally go to the temple where Thileepan was on fast surrounded by crowds to request him to break the fast. I told him I was quite willing to do so provided I had a guarantee that he would yield. But Prabhakaran could give no such guarantee, as Thileepan was an idealist and committed freedom fighter.

The IPKF and our intelligence sources had informed me that the plan was to take me to Thileepan at the Nallur Kandaswamy temple, subject me to a massive anti-Agreement and anti-Indian demonstration and then to reject my request with a lot of publicity about the Indian high commissioner's effort being spurned.

I was clear in my mind that I would not subject the Government of India to such a humiliation. So I told Prabhakaran that unless I had an assurance that Thileepan would break the fast I was not prepared to make a futile effort. It was Thileepan who went on a fast for which there was no provocation in objective terms. And it was the LTTE high command's decision to support his fast in which neither the Government of India nor its people were involved.

Thileepan expired half way through the discussions between September 23 and 28. It was an unnecessary and avoidable tragedy. told me that the lute's capacity to support and implement the Agreement was badly affected by the death of Thileepan, as he had expressed a wish that LTTE should withdraw from its commitment to the Agreement. I took the stand that a decision in this regard rested entirely with Prabhakaran. But if he scuttled the agreement even before it was given a chance of implementation, he should not look to India in future to fulfil his aspirations.

In the meetings on September 26 and 28, Prabhakaran said the readiness of Sri Lanka to meet some of his demands was not enough. The Government of India should also fulfil certain demands. The Indian media should stop criticism of the LTTE for not surrendering all its arms and for organising demonstrations against the IPKF. The IPKF should leave the maintenance of law and order to LTTE cadres in Jaffna. That the IPKF should also not interfere with the demonstrations and relief distribution processes being undertaken by the LTTE.

I told Prabhakaran that till the interim government was formed and took effective charges of these responsibilities, the IPKF's involvement was an integral part of its peace-keeping obligations. Prabhakaran was also told that if he kept instigating civilian disturbances and agitations, he would have only himself to blame for things not settling down.

Disclosing that he had sent a request for some more funds for the maintenance of his cadres to Delhi, Prabhakaran sought my intervention to expedite it. He promised to withdraw the agitation against the IPKF and the local administration after the interim government came into being. Prabhakaran reluctantly agreed to abide by the conclusions reached and the agreements arrived at in the agreed minutes of the discussions held between me and him from September 26 to 28.

He, however, refused to sign these agreed minutes himself, arguing that it was a political document and that he was primarily a military leader. So he would ask Mahatya to sign this Agreement upon which I told him that my colleague, First Secretary Hardeep Puri, would sign the agreement on behalf of the Indian delegation. This was the only document which Prabhakaran formally authorised for signatures by the LTTE in relation to the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement.

4. How India's Security Concerns came to be Addressed in the Exchange of Letters between Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lanka President J.R.Jayawardene,  preceding Signing of  the Indo Sri Lanka Peace Accord  [Excerpt from *Assignment Colombo by J N Dixit]

"...I mentioned to the (Sri Lanka) President that while the Agreement and its Annexure would cover all aspects related to the ethnic problem, India's concerns about India-Sri Lanka bilateral relations and India's political and security concerns had not been taken care of. The President was told that the Prime Minister of India also, would, like him (the President), be taking enormous risks in signing such an Agreement in terms of Indian public opinion and, therefore, there must be some formal understanding between Sri Lanka and India on India's concerns which should be embodied in another Agreement or exchange of letters.

When Jayewardene asked me to be specific about India's concerns, I said that Sri Lanka should give assurances to India on the following points:

1. Reduction and phasing out of foreign military and intelligence personnel in Sri Lanka from the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Israel, South Africa and so on.

2. Sri Lanka should reorganise its foreign and defence policies and reduce its involvement with USA, Pakistan, China, Israel and South Africa.

3. Sri Lanka should give some assurances to India that its seaports and airports would not be utilised by foreign powers which were antagonistic towards India or which affected India's security interest negatively.

4. Sri Lanka should fulfil the assurances which it gave in 1985 that India would be given an opportunity to maintain the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farms and that Sri Lanka would prevent foreign broadcasting stations like the Voice of America from being utilised for military purposes by countries like the United States, West Germany, etc.

Jayewardene said that these were excessive demands being made at the last moment. He was, however, reminded politely that these concerns of India were specifically mentioned to him between April 29 and May 5, 1985 by Minister Chidambaram. I recalled that I had repeated these concerns and requests to Jayewardene on June 9, 1985. Minister of State Natwar Singh did the same on November 24, and again between December 17 and 19, 1986. I pointed out that India's co-operation with Sri Lanka to solve the ethnic problem was predicated on Sri Lanka giving positive responses on these important concerns of India. The President consulted Minister Gamini Dissanayake and Finance Minister Romaie de Mel over the phone on these points raised by me. He then directed me to proceed immediately to the offices of the two Ministers to discuss details of how this particular issue should be dealt with.

At the end of the meeting with these Ministers, it was agreed that the points raised could be covered by means of a letter which should be carefully drafted. I said I would get a Draft Letter covering these points prepared when I proceeded to Delhi for consultations on the proposed Agreement and bring it back for approval...."

5. Dixit on Assignment Colombo - Interview with Frederica Jansz,  Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 16 November 1997

India's former High Commissioner Jyotindra Nath Dixit - unpopular and controversial but acknowledged as a master diplomatic strategist during the most crucial years in Indo-Lanka relations - is in the news again with his book "Assignment Colombo". In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mr. Dixit who had been slammed by some critics as a self-styled Viceroy, said he remains convinced that what he did was for the well being of both India and Sri Lanka.

Mr. Dixit, in Colombo to promote sales of the book, gave candid replies to the questions posed to him.

Q: There is criticism against you that your book "Assignment Colombo" has been written after most of its chief actors are dead, thus preventing verification of facts. Also that this is a book any good journalist could have written.

A: If the insinuation is that I deliberately waited for people to die before writing the book, it is a peculiar criticism to make. If you read my introduction I have said that I am sorry that many of the chief actors have passed away. However certain inborn prejudices will continue. Why hasn't any good journalist written such a good book so far? I have no doubt that any good journalist could have written such a book if accessibility to such facts was available. Basically why I wrote this book was because I thought there was a lot of misunderstanding about India's motivation. So I thought it necessary to give a proper perspective to the people both of India and Sri Lanka. This too from a person who was a witness to events and controversies of this period.

Q: You laud the attempt made by India to solve Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict, blaming President J.R. Jayewardene for failing to implement key clauses in the Indo-Lanka Accord. Is this the main reason that why the attempt at peace failed?

A: It was the most important reason. Apart from that, also a lack of co-ordination, a lack of comprehension, Prabhakaran's motivations were all contributory factors. However Mr. Jayewardene from 1983 to 1987 did not do much to address Tamil aspirations. He was slow to address Tamil grievances, giving the LTTE a chance to get back. President Chandrika Kumaratunga however has made a substantially good set of proposals. It is more than what was envisaged in the Indo-Lanka Accord.

Q: In the context of the situation then, do you still believe the Indo-Lanka Accord was the best way to resolve Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict?

A: Well, your opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe says the Indo-Lanka Accord was the best solution offered so far. What better proof do you want?

Q: You have been heard to say that if there is a next time where India may possibly intervene in Sri Lanka's conflict, India would not leave as it did the last time. What do you mean by that?

A: It is my earnest hope that India  never would have to go into Sri Lanka  again. But I am speculating when I say  that if India gets involved again it will  not come away leaving its job half  done. My initial feeling is that India will be cautious about getting involved again but in the event of some extraordinary circumstances, if any such situation arises, India will act on the basis of its previous experiences and exercise extreme caution.

Q: You have referred to Prabhakaran as one whose commitment to the creation of Eelam is unalterable, also that the rebel leader is an accomplished political strategist and military tactician. Isn't that contrary to the perception you had of him when you were the envoy here?

A: This is the benefit of hindsight. The way Prabhakaran has managed things has led me to this conclusion. After ten years I do have a different perception of the man. However the only point which I maintained at the time and do so even now is his commitment to Eelam which is unalterable. Prabhakaran reluctantly agreed to the Indo-Lanka Accord at the time because he did realize the need to be realistic and not fall out with India. But yes, my judgment of the man has changed within the past ten years, after reading many reports and newspaper items on Prabhakaran and the LTTE.

Q: You say that India stepped in to protect the rights of the Tamil people and safeguard the unity of Sri Lanka? But many doubt the sincerity of that claim.

A: If we were not sincere it was easier to simply support the LTTE's claim and let the LTTE divide Sri Lanka. The Indian armed forces lost some 2000 men because of which Sri Lanka is still a united country. India also was gracious enough to withdraw when Mr. Premadasa insisted.

Q: Was India at the time using Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict to extend its political domination over the South Asian region?

A: That is baseless. If India wanted to extend political domination over the region, our tactics would have been to weaken Sri Lanka, and to divide it. Our withdrawal when we were asked to go is proof that we had no intention of imposing ourselves on the Sri Lankan people or the Government. There is not a single case where India has gone to any country in the region and outstayed its welcome.

Q: Don't you think it natural that the Sinhalese people should have had concerns and fears regarding India's role in 1987 and thereafter? You seem to have ignored this factor in your book.

A: I have not. My book is focused on explaining the whole context in which India got involved in Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict, and the motivation for India's policies. I take it for granted that the Sinhalese people did not like it very much. If you refer to the chapters on the JVP, I have acknowledged the fears of the Sinhalese people regarding India's role at the time.

Q: Why have you not referred to the Indira Doctrine which said that no foreign power could go to the assistance of another small power in the region if it was inimical to India's interest?

A: If you read the whole chapter on motivations, I have given every detail of the considerations which led Indira Gandhi to get involved in Sri Lanka. I may not have called it the 'Indira Doctrine' in my book, but the Israel's, US, and Jayewardene factor, all led to India's involvement in Sri Lanka. If any small or big country in our neighbourhood creates a situation which threatens India's interest shouldn't India intervene? Do India's neighbours expect it to indulge in self-destruction? Will Sri Lanka do that? Will Pakistan do that? Any country will take action to safeguard it's interest.

Q: Whom are you referring to when you refer to India's fears about a 'hidden hand' tending to destabilize India with Sri Lanka as a base? What real evidence do you have when you make this allegation?

A: At that time the Pakistani involvement, Israeli and American involvement supporting Sri Lanka's anti-Tamil campaign, caused considerable concern for India.

Q: But wasn't India being hypocritical? After all India soon had secret talks with Israel and established diplomatic relations with it?

A: That was after the Soviet Union collapsed. Then the whole picture changed. How could it be hypocritical? The Cold War was a reality upto 1990. Our adversarial relationship with Pakistan still continues. We established relations with Israel only after we had hard evidence that the PLO and other Arab countries were negotiating with the Israelis. It was only in late 1991 that India overcame its concern over the United States.

Q: During your controversial term as India's High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, some observers felt that you at times stepped outside your line of duty or acted as a Viceroy.

A: My line of duty and my responsibilities were defined by the Government of India. My responsibilities are not subject to definitions by any extraneous agency or individual. I acted strictly according to the brief and instructions given to me by my Prime Minister and Government. I am not a politician. I am a career officer and I have no desire to answer questions on my role in Sri Lanka. I know I wasn't a very popular envoy, but one lives and survives and let me say this, that I am not for half a second defensive about what I did as India's High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. I remain convinced that whatever I did was for the well being of both India and Sri Lanka.

Q: How do you read the situation in Sri Lanka today? Are you hopeful of peace being achieved?

A: Going by what I have read it does not give me much hope. I don't wish to say more about the internal situation in Sri Lanka. 



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