Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"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   > Tamils - a Nation without a State  > International Relations in the Age of Empire >  International Frame & the Tamil Eelam Struggle for Freedom


Behind The Sri Lankan Bloodbath, Brahma Chellaney, 10 September 2009  "Colombo's victory over the Tamils shows India's power on the wane"  Thousands of noncombatants, according to the United Nations, were killed in the final phase of the Sri Lankan war this year as government forces overran the Tamil Tiger guerrillas. Nearly five months after Colombo's stunning military triumph, the peace dividend remains elusive, with President Mahinda Rajapaksa setting out--in the name of "eternal vigilance"--to expand by 50% an already-large military. Little effort has been made to reach out to the Tamil minority and begin a process of national reconciliation. China, clearly, was the decisive factor in ending the war through its generous supply of offensive weapons and its munificent aid. It even got its ally Pakistan to actively assist Rajapaksa in his war strategy. Today, China is the key factor in providing Colombo the diplomatic cover against the institution of a U.N. investigation into possible war crimes, or the appointment of a U.N. special envoy on Sri Lanka. In return for such support, Beijing has been able to make strategic inroads into a critically located country in India's backyard."
Both India and Pakistan Trained us to Fight LTTE says Brigadier Udaya Nanayakara, Sri Lanka Army Spokesman, 29 April 2009
No-one in the international community has been calling for a ceasefire or to stop firing to save Prabhakaran - UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband , 29 April 2009

US, China, War in Sri Lanka & Diplomatic Posturing -  International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), 24 March 2009

End of Peace in India�s South, Chivanadi, Tamilnet, 14 January 2009
Vaiko urges British Parliament to restore Eezham Tamil sovereignty, 26 November 2008
தனது விரலால் தனது கண்ணையே குத்திக் கொள்கின்றதா இந்தியா? - மு.திருநாவுக்கரசு 25 October 2008
International Community (IC) should restore the status quo which the IC itself has disturbed in recent times -  LTTE Political Head B. Nadesan, 30 May 2008
Blunted Tool - Tamil Guardian Editorial, 24 May 2008
Iran to Train Sri Lankan Intelligence & Army Officers - B.Raman, 24 April 2008
India rejects US advice on Iran, 24 April 2008

India stands outside the internationally networked stand on Sri Lanka says Col R Hariharan (retd.), South Asia Analysis Group, 26 February 2008 

Cancelled Expatriates  Consultation with Col. R. Hariharan VSM (Retd), January 2008
"India's N-Deal only with the US"  - says US Envoy Nicholas Burns, 1 March 2008
Aftermath of Kosovo:Sri Lanka Needs Dual Strategy  of�Deterrence� and �Balance of Power� Dayan Jayatilleka, 25 February 2008 together with Comment by tamilnation.org
Kosovo countdown: Lessons for Sri Lanka - Dayan Jayatilleka, 17 February 2008 Comment by tamilnation.org
Sri Lanka at Conference on Disarmament - Playing the Third World/China Card, 5 February 2008 "Sri Lanka and the Group of 21 certainly did not believe in the moral superiority of certain countries that had invaded others on the basis of an outright lie. In the view of the Third World, what was needed was realism and new thinking � a new paradigm � one that frankly addressed the concerns of all, and that eschewed threats and moral grandstanding."
Sri Lanka looks to Russia, India for arms deals, 16 December 2007
Sinhala regime playing role similar to Israel - Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne, 11 November 2007
No Choice: International Community has made Tamil rights depend entirely on the battlefield outcome - Tamil Guardian, 9 November 2007
International Dimensions of the Conflict in Sri Lanka,Nadesan Satyendra - Key note address at a Seminar on International Dimensions of the Conflict in Sri Lanka presented by the Centre for Just Peace & Democracy (CJPD) in partnership with TRANSCEND International, 17 June 2007
Tamil Eelam Struggle for Freedom: Some Aspects of the International Dimension -   Power Point Slide Presentation, Nadesan Satyendra, 2007

Video Presentation:
Tamil Eela Thani Arasu...

 கேந்திர முக்கியத்துவம் வாய்ந்த இந்துமா கடற்பிராந்தியத்திற்கான ஆதிக்கப் போட்டியில் இலங்கைத்தீவின் இனப்பிரச்சினை - புரட்சி (தாயகம்) , 16 July 2007

தமிழீழ தேசிய தொலைக்காட்சியில் ஒளிபரப்பாகிய - 'இணைத்தலைமை நாடுகள் என்ன செய்யப் போகின்றன?' , 8 July 2007
Sri Lanka�s Strategic Importance, P.K.Balachandran, 30 May 2005
Indian Ocean Region
 "Evolving Entente": Geostrategic Import of the Coming Bay of Bengal Naval Exercise -  Ramtanu Maitra, Executive Intelligence Review, 27 July 2007
Stealing a Nation -
The two part film about the US bases in Diego Garcia by John Pilger show the lengths to which Britain and the USA will go to secure their strategic interests in the Indian Ocean.
Part One -
Part Two
India's Project Seabird and the Indian Ocean's Balance of Power
Securing Regional Waters, How Much Progress? Rohitha Bogollagama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka, 3 June 2007
Why Tamils face International �Shock and Awe� - Kanthavanam, Tamil Guardian, 12 May 2007
Video-Interview with Dharmaretnam D. Sivaram on the strategic interests of the big powers in Sri Lanka. Sivaram was  silenced by his enemies on 28th of April 2005.
Sri Lanka's Strategy of Terror has International Backing - Tamil Guardian, 15 November 2006
Sri Lanka to sign 150 million dollar arms deal with Iran
Black Pebbles & White Pebbles - Nadesan Satyendra, 2006
 "The escalation of the armed conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE over the past year is moving rapidly towards its logical conclusion. The Government and the LTTE declare that the current acts of hostility do not constitute war. To complement this mockery, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has declared that the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) is still alive. It makes one wonder whether the CFA is a brain dead but clinically alive patient. The attitude of the �International Community', meaning the big powers, has been highly cynical. The EU ban on the LTTE this year was neither a miscalculation as the Norwegians would like us to believe nor an act of approval of the actions of the Mahinda Rajapaksha government. The imperialist West has its global agenda and its policies are not based on the interests of the Sri Lankan state or of the LTTE, and even less the plight of the Tamil people or for that matter any section of the Sri Lankan population. The peace process has been used by the imperialists to manipulate the country into total submission to the process of globalisation, while the Indian hegemon finds in the conflict a tool to assert its dominance over Sri Lanka . While India has been a reluctant supporter of the peace process and probably has a stake in keeping the conflict alive, Pakistan has of late taken advantage of Indian reluctance to give unqualified military support for the Sri Lankan state, owing partly to popular resistance in Tamilnadu to such support. This has added a further international dimension to the Sri Lankan tragedy..." New Democratic Party - Sri Lanka 2006

Exit the Tiger, Enter the Dragon - Dushy Ranetunge, 2 April 2009

Mr. Miliband Prevaricates - Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary General, Sri Lanka Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process, 6 May 2009
How the West lost Sri Lanka - Don Wijewardana , 8 May 2009
Double Standards in Washington - Lucien Rajakarunayake, 9 May 2009
European Union
Indian Ocean Region
South Africa
United Kingdom
United States
Trends in Outside Support for Insurgent Movements Daniel L. Byman, Peter Chalk, Bruce Hoffman, William Rosenau, David Brannan
"Sri Lanka - the Country will Never be Put Together Again" - Lee Kuan Yew, 1998
K. Sooriyakumaran on Labels and Pliability, May 2006
International political advocacy indispensable to maturing Tamil struggle-  Pathmini Sithamparanathan,  Tamil National Alliance Member of Parliament, 19 December 2005

Sri Lanka Presidential Election and the International Community - R.Cholan, 20 November 2005

தமிழீழ விடுதலையும் சர்வதேச சமூகமும் - சுப்பிரமணியம்
Thinakural, 10 October 2005
International Community & Glass Houses - Editorial, Eelamnation, 25 October 2004
Global Dimensions of the Conflict in Sri Lanka  - Rajesh Venugopal, Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford 2003
The Role of the International Community - Brian Wolfe, Executive Secretary Sri Lanka NGO Forum, 1996
Tamils of  Sri Lanka - An International Issue - Dr.David Selbourne, Ruskin College, Oxford, 1984
Ceylon Prime Minister, Sir John Kotelawala at Bandung, 1955

Nadesan Satyendra

Two Voices but One Policy, 1984
Japan's Cheque Book Diplomacy, 1992
India & US - the Calibrated Approach, 1992
Irritants to Calibration,1993
Cynicism of real politick, 1994
Kadirgamar's "Internal Matter", 1997
Understanding Kosovo, 1998
The Buddha Smiled, 1998
NATO, Kosovo & Tamil Eelam, 1999
A National Lottery?, 1999
Mr. Collacott is Appalled..., 2000


Tamil  Struggle for Freedom

Indian Ocean Region  > Australia > Canada > China > Commonwealth > European Union > India > Japan  > Switzerland  > United Kingdom > United States > The Oil Dimension

Nadesan Satyendra
Revised May 2004

[see also International Dimensions of the Conflict in Sri Lanka, -  Nadesan Satyendra - Key note address at a Seminar on International Dimensions of the Conflict in Sri Lanka presented by the Centre for Just Peace & Democracy (CJPD) in partnership with TRANSCEND International, 17 June 2007]

"We are fully aware that the world is not rotating on the axis of human justice. Every country in this world advances its own interests. Economic and trade interests determine the order of the present world, not the moral law of justice nor the rights of people. International relations and diplomacy between countries are determined by such interests. Therefore we cannot expect an immediate recognition of the moral legitimacy of our cause by the international community... In reality, the success of our struggle depends on us, not on the world. Our success depends on our own efforts, on our own strength, on our own determination." Velupillai Pirabakaran, 1993

bullet Introduction
bullet India concerned to exclude extra regional powers from the Indian region and at the same time manage and channel Tamil militancy...
bullet US Support for Indo Sri Lanka Accord as a way of managing India...
bullet IPKF, Rajiv Gandhi & LTTE Ban
bullet Emerging Multipolar World
bullet Australia, Canada, Great Britain, European Union, Switzerland and South Africa
bullet Ban on LTTE and US concern that 85% of the world's population by the end of this century will be living in Africa, Latin America and the poorer parts of Asia....

0upS.gif (883 bytes)


The Struggle for Tamil Eelam is a national question - and it is therefore an international question. Given the key roles played by India , the United States and now China (with supporting roles for the European Union, Japan and Pakistan)  in the Struggle for Tamil Eelam, it is not without importance for the Tamil people as well as others who seek to understand the nature of the Tamil struggle, to further their own understanding of the foreign policy objectives of these countries - this is more so because the record shows that states do not have permanent friends but have only permanent interests. And, it is these interests that they pursue, whether overtly or covertly.

Furthermore, the interests of a state are a function of the interests of groups which wield power within that state and  'foreign policy is the external manifestation of domestic institutions, ideologies and other attributes of the polity'. In the end, the success of any liberation struggle is, not surprisingly, a function of the capacity of its leadership to mobilise its own people and its own resources at the broadest and deepest level. Whether the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam will do so only time will tell.

The nature of the struggle for Tamil Eelam was stated crisply by 17 non governmental organisations at the UN Commission on Human Rights in February 1994:

"The Tamil population in the North and East of the island, who have lived from ancient times within relatively well defined geographical boundaries in the north and east of the island, share an ancient heritage, a vibrant culture, and a living language which traces its origins to more than 2500 years ago.

The 1879 minute of Sir Hugh Cleghorn, the British Colonial Secretary makes it abundantly clear that... before the advent of the British in 1833, separate kingdoms existed for the Tamil areas and for the Sinhala areas in the island. The Tamil people and the Sinhala people were brought within the confines of one state for the first time by the British in 1833. After the departure of the British in 1948, an alien Sinhala people speaking a language different to that of the Tamils and claiming a separate and distinct heritage has persistently denied the rights and fundamental freedoms of the Tamil people...

A social group, which shares objective elements such as a common language and which has acquired a subjective political consciousness of oneness, by its life within a relatively well defined territory, and by its struggle against alien domination, clearly constitutes a 'people' with the right to self determination and in our view, the Tamil population of the north-east of the island are such a 'people'."

Despite protestations from time to time that the conflict in the island is an internal matter for the Sri Lanka government (a view assiduously cultivated by Sri Lanka as well), both India (as the major regional power and an aspiring world power) and the United States (as the world's super power) have taken a direct interest in the conflict with a view to securing their own strategic political concerns.

Often, human rights has served as a convenient point of entry for real politick. The Thimpu Talks in 1985, sponsored by India (and held in Bhutan) brought  the international dimension of the struggle for Tamil Eelam, out from the closet into the open. And, some ten years later, the Norwegian intervention underlined the continuing interest of the 'international community' in the affairs of an island, situated a mere twenty miles or so from the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent - and strategically placed to control the sea lanes of  the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

Indian Ocean Sea Lanes

0upS.gif (883 bytes) India concerned to exclude extra regional powers from the Indian region and at the same time manage and channel Tamil militancy...

Prior to the breakdown of the Soviet Union (and in the context of a bipolar world order), India's 'non aligned' foreign policy had for itself, a relatively broad canvas for manoeuvre. At the 1975 non aligned conference in Colombo, then Sri Lanka Prime Minister, Srimavo Bandaranaike  promoted the Indian Ocean Peace Zone - an ill disguised attempt to exclude extra regional powers from the Indian region.

The election of the West leaning Sri Lanka Prime Minister J.R.Jayawardene in 1977, and the later disenfranchising of opposition Sinhala leader, Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike were matters of concern to India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who herself returned to power in India in 1979. The US, on the other hand, welcomed the open economic policy that the Jayawardene government was pursuing with vigour as against the protectionist and left leaning policies of the coalition led by Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike.

An additional matter of concern to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was that the Tamil armed resistance movement which had arisen in response to decades of oppressive Sinhala rule, had sought assistance from those outside the Indian region, including the PLO and Libya.

India wished to exclude the influence of extra regional powers in the Indian region, and in this, it had the support of the Soviet Union. At the same time, India was concerned that a separate Tamil Eelam state may be used by external powers to as a 'pressure point'. Jyotindra Nath Dixit , Indian Foreign Secretary in 1991/94 and National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister of India in 2004/05 was disarmingly frank at a Seminar in Switzerland in 1998 -

"...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....."

The high profile visit of US Defence Secretary of State, Caspar Weinberger, to Sri Lanka in 1984 reflected the continuing interest that the US, as a world power, had in the Indian region. A US diplomat in Washington remarked (with some arrogance) in July 1984: "India is not a world power - and, it should not try to behave like one".

But whilst the US extended support to Sri Lanka and described President Jayawardene's regime as a 'working multi party democracy', (within 18 months of the 1983 Genocide), the State of Massachusetts hoisted the Tamil Eelam flag in the early 1980s and at Tamil Eelam conferences in New York, in 1982, 1984 and again in 1986, Tamil rhetoric was allowed free flow. It was the US way of monitoring and managing Tamil responses and advancing US foreign policy objectives.

Sri Lanka President J.R.Jayawardene sought to use the political space created by the differences in approach between US and India, by allowing one of his Ministers to take a pro US stand and another a more pro India stand. When confronted, he cheerfully admitted: "We may speak with two voices but we have one policy."

With the assassination of Indira Gandhi in October 1984 and the new dispensation under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, India's new Foreign Secretary, Romesh Bhandari, was openly critical of the earlier Indian approach (which had a heavy Soviet bias) and declared that that approach far from excluding extra regional powers, had led to greater US involvement in the Indian region.

Romesh Bhandari sought to remain true to the central premise of Indian foreign policy of excluding extra regional powers from the Indian region. Having used Tamil militancy to pressurise Colombo, India under Rajiv Gandhi was ready to do a deal with J.R.Jayawardene, if India's own strategic interests in the region were protected. Here, New Delhi's approach was not without parallels to the role of Iran in the Kurdish struggle against Iraq. (see Tamil Eelam, Kurds and Bhutan written in 1985). The debacle of the Thimpu Talks was one consequence of the Romesh Bandhari line.

The limited support extended by India to the Tamil armed resistance during the period 1981 to 1987, the Parthasathary led conflict management initiative in the aftermath of Genocide'83, the 1985 Thimpu Talks sponsored by India, the 1986 "December 19th proposals", the 1987 Indo Sri Lanka Accord, and in particular the annexures to the Accord, all evidence New Delhi's efforts to manage and channel Tamil militancy and at the same time,  further its own strategic interests in the region. 

"The Shah of Iran once said that in his role as the gendarme of the region he had two main weapons for dealing with the revolutionary threat which existed in the region. First, was direct intervention. This was applied in the case of Oman in 1973, and also in the case of Baluchistan when the Shah provided armaments and military finance for the Pakistani state's repression in the area. The second weapon was internal subversion of the national liberation movements among the various nationalities. this method was applied in Kurdistan. The goal, ofcourse, was to allow the national movement to grow in a particular direction in order to defeat it. The case of Kurdistan was classic. The Shah said openly that the Kurdistan operation was relatively cheap for him. With 30 million dollars the job was done. He simply supported Kurdistan to destroy it. Such a possibility always exist in Baluchistan. What is the best way of destroying the Baluch movement? The answer is clear: allowing the development  of the national movement under a reactionary leadership who would then be willing to sell the national resources and the strategic value of Baluchistan to the highest bidder. It is also clear that it is only the revolution which can defend the natural resources and the strategic value of Baluchistan from all foreign control." (Murad Khan of the Baluchistan People's Liberation Front, speaking to Raymond Noat - Interview quoted in Tariq Ali's 'Can Pakistan Survive')

A booklet, published by the Indian intelligence sources in 1987, immediately after India had air dropped food supplies to the Tamil homeland in the island of Sri Lanka  declared:

"As hundreds of innocent civilians - both Sinhala and Tamil - perish in the escalating violence in Sri Lanka, the question of a negotiated political settlement becomes ever more difficult. Any such complex issue is inevitably rendered more complicated by the malevolent involvement of external powers. This involvement does unfortunately have long-term implications for India's security.

There has been periodic criticism of India's good offices and diplomatic efforts which have aimed at bringing together the representatives of the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil minority to work out a viable and durable constitutional set up which would meet the Tamil aspirations and enable the Tamil minority to live in Sri Lanka in safety and with dignity. This booklet presents a factual account of the efforts made by India, through its good offices, to assist in the restoration of peace, harmony and mutual trust in Sri Lanka."

Jyotindra Dixit, India's High Commissioner in Colombo in 1987 has given his version of the events leading to the signing of the Indo - Sri Lanka Agreement in his book titled 'Assignment Colombo'. One of his comments is revealing:

"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..." 

0upS.gif (883 bytes) US Support for Indo Sri Lanka Accord as a way of managing India...

The detailed and comprehensive statement by the Political Committee of the LTTE at an International Tamil conference in April 1988 set out the LTTE viewpoint on the 1987 Indo Sri Lanka Accord and the conflict with the Indian Peace Keeping Force:

"....Thus, the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord secures India's geopolitical interests and strategic objectives. The LTTE is sincerely pleased that the Government of India was able to put an end, through the Agreement, to the dangerous activities of the international subversive elements who operated in Sri Lanka as agents of Imperialism.

As a revolutionary liberation movement committed to anti-imperialist policy we recognise India's security concerns in the region and support her cardinal foreign policy of making the Indian ocean as a zone of peace free from interference of extraterritorial powers.

In this context, we wish to point out that it was the LTTE fighters who put up a heroic and relentless fight against foreign mercenaries. It was the LTTE fighters who shed their blood to contain these evil forces. Our liberation movement is not opposed to India's interests.

We have no objection whatsoever to India's strategic aspirations to establish her status as the regional superpower in South Asia. We always functioned and will continue to function as a friendly force to India. We would have extended our unconditional support to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord if the Agreement was only confined to Indo-Sri Lanka relations aimed to secure India's geopolitical interests. But the Accord interferes in the Tamil issue, betrays the Tamil interests. It is here the contradiction of interests between the LTTE and India emerges..."

Shorn of the cold war rhetoric of  the "dangerous activities of the international subversive elements who operated in Sri Lanka as agents of Imperialism", the message that the LTTE sought to convey to India was clear: 'we are not opposed to your geo political interests'.

Here, the circumstance that the 1987 Indo Sri Lanka Accord (and Indian armed intervention in the island) did have the overt support of the US was not without significance.

On the surface, it was surprising that the US supported an Accord which called for the dismantling of the Voice of America installations in the island and increased potential Indian influence in the Indian Ocean - an Accord which was hailed by Rajiv Gandhi as having secured India's strategic interests in the region.

But, the US appears to have have taken the view that India's direct involvement was a way of ending the less manageable covert support that India had extended Tamil militancy during the period 1981 to 1986. The US was mindful that should India's influence in the island tend to become stabilised, President Jayawardene (who for many years was called 'Yankee Dick' by his political opponents) and US supporters in the Sri Lanka cabinet (like the then Sri Lanka Prime Minister Premadasa and National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali) could always be encouraged to delay or even sabotage the implementation of crucial terms of the Accord.

In the event, the arrest of top ranking LTTE leaders including Kumarappa and Pulendran did provide National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali with that opportunity. His insistence (backed by President Jayawardene) that the arrested LTTE leaders should be brought to Colombo for questioning despite the amnesty proclaimed in the Indo Sri Lanka Accord, forced Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to choose - and Rajiv Gandhi chose to support Sri Lanka (in an attempt to salvage India's role in the region). The subsequent suicide of Kumarappa, Pulendran and others was the final straw that broke the fragile peace that the Accord had secured. (see Eyewitness Account of Incidents in Jaffna - September to November 1987).

Many may conclude that Rajiv Gandhi was entrapped in the snare that had been laid for him and in the end succumbed to forces bigger than those that India could manage.

Also, the assessment of sections of the Indian intelligence services that the EPRLF was the appropriate instrument to further India's interests in the island may have been a monumental mistake.

Perhaps, Rajiv Gandhi should have recognised something which his own IPKF Divisional Commander in Jaffna, Lieutenant General S.C. Sardesh Pande declared later in 1992:

"I have a high regard for the LTTE for its discipline, dedication, determination, motivation and technical expertise... I was left with the impression that the LTTE was the expression of popular Tamil sentiment and could not be destroyed, so long as that sentiment remained." (Lieutenant General S.C. Sardesh Pande in "Assignment Jaffna", published in 1992)

Again, whether the events surrounding the death of Kumarappa and Pulendran left the  LTTE  with no other option but to confront the IPKF will remain a matter for debate. Reportedly, Sathasivam Krishnakumar (Kittu) dissented from the decision to go to war against India. It is ironic, perhaps, that it was the same Kittu who in the end died as a consequence of an act of piracy by India in January 1993. But, by then much water had flowed under the bridge.

0upS.gif (883 bytes) IPKF, Rajiv Gandhi & LTTE Ban

The brutality of the war that India waged from 1987 to 1989, ostensibly against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, but in effect against the Tamil people, brought its own repercussions.  Eduardo Marino's report to International Alert, after a visit to the war zone in November 1987 revealed the horrific nature of the IPKF offensive in Jaffna. (see also Indian Armed Forces).

The war crimes committed by the IPKF in Tamil Eelam  included reprisal killings of non-combatants, looting of homes, rape, a murderous attack on the Jaffna hospital , and killing of a number of unarmed and disarmed guerrilla suspects without trial and in breach of the Laws of War.

The election of Ranasinghe Premadasa as the new Sri Lanka President in December 1988, and the defeat of the Indian National Congress (led by Rajiv Gandhi) at the Indian General Elections in November 1989 contributed to a reappraisal by India of its foreign policy approaches and the IPKF withdrew from Sri Lanka in early 1990.

The assassination in May 1991 of Rajiv Gandhi (in the run up to a new Indian general election), led to a hardening of India's position. It is true that India failed to  adopt a  balanced approach which recognised that Tamil armed resistance had arisen as a response to decades of systematic oppression by a dominant Sinhala majority. At the same time, the Jain Commission Report published in 1998,  refers to some of the circumstances that may have contributed to India's approach:

"By far, however, one of the most mysterious and yet unraveled threat perception revolves around a warning given by Chairman of PLO, Yasser Arafat to Shri. Rajiv Gandhi. This extremely significant piece of information was received by the Intelligence Bureau on 7th June 1991 and more details in this regard were received by R&AW in September 1991 from Tunis. (Deposition of Shri S.A. Subbaiah, dt. 14.02.1996, p. 5) 

The information indicated that Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) had received intelligence reports from his sources in Israel and his European sources one month before the assassination of Shri. Rajiv Gandhi that there existed threats to the life of Shri. Rajiv Gandhi from LTTE or Sikh militants who, the sources mentioned, would eliminate Shri. Gandhi during the election period. 

Yasser Arafat's sources also indicated that hostile powers from outside India may also attempt the assassination of Shri. Rajiv Gandhi. As per information received by the intelligence agencies, Yasser Arafat had drawn the attention of Shri. Rajiv Gandhi to this information. The Palestinian Ambassador in India had also spoken to Shri. Rajiv Gandhi in this connection. Some enquiries to obtain specific details appear to have been made in this regard by the External Affairs Ministry with the PLO Ambassador in India, Khalid El Sheikh, but nothing worthwhile has emerged so far.

This was a prophetic threat perception directly conveyed to Shri. Rajiv Gandhi one month before his assassination and, therefore, in order to get to the bottom of the conspiracy, it is essential to conduct an enquiry into this definite indicator which discloses foreknowledge of foreign intelligence agencies regarding the event..."

The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991 was a crime. Rajiv Gandhi was not a combatant in an armed conflict. Furthermore at the time of his murder, he was not even holding office as the Prime Minister of India. He was the leader of a political party campaigning at a general election. And, the IPKF itself had withdrawn from Tamil Eelam  by early 1990.

It is true that prima facie,  Rajiv Gandhi, as India's Prime Minister during the period 1987 to 1989, may be held accountable for the war crimes committed by the IPKF in Tamil Eelam. But, the extent of Rajiv Gandhi's culpability, for the crimes committed by those under his command in Tamil Eelam, depended on the answer to several questions.

Was he aware of the crimes that were being committed by the armed forces under his command? Did he refrain from intervening to prevent such crimes, although he had the power to do so? Did his attitude amount to incitement to crime and criminal negligence, and should his actions be judged as severely as the crimes actively committed and specifically covered by the humanitarian law of armed conflict?

Did he take steps to adequately punish those who were guilty, or did he condone their crimes? Did his speeches in Parliament and elsewhere encourage those under his command to act with impunity - and to commit further crimes? 

If Rajiv Gandhi had been tried before an International Court of Justice, an opportunity may have been afforded for an informed judgement to be made on the extent of his guilt. In the absence of due process, the assassination cannot be defended as 'punishment' for a war crime.

Again, if the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was a political act, then the political consequences of that act may have damaged the struggle for Tamil Eelam rather than strengthened it. 

At the same time, the trial conducted in secret against 26 Tamils accused of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, under the special  Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (and not the ordinary laws of the land), was a clear violation of the principles of natural justice and has been condemned by human rights organisations including Amnesty.

In 1992, India banned the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Though originally the subjects committee of the ruling Indian National Congress adopted a resolution to ban the LTTE for its alleged involvement in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, in the event the ban was imposed on the ground that the objectives of the organisation threatened the integrity of India. The International Secretariat of the LTTE lodged appeals against the ban, without avail. In July 1996, India renewed the ban on the same grounds i.e. securing the integrity of India.

On the question of the integrity of India (that the ban sought to secure), India may eventually be persuaded by the views expressed by  Pramatha Chauduri writing in Bengali in 1920:

"Just as there is a difference between the getting together of five convicts in a jail and between five free men, so the Congress union of the various nations of India and tomorrow's link between the peoples of a free country will be very different."

In a more recent examination from a Western point of view, Robert L.Hardgrave Jr. wrote in 1993  of the dilemma facing India:

"...In India, in a political culture of mutual distrust and increasing violence, the dangers are legion. India's democracy is challenged by communalism, excessive caste consciousness, and separatism. But in the state response to these challenges, India confronts yet another dilemma--weakening the very values of individual liberty that are at the core of its democratic commitment. In its attempts to quell endemic unrest and the challenge of terrorism, India has enacted a plethora of laws that have become instruments of repression; police and paramilitary abuses seem to get worse while all sorts of other violations of human rights are reported with numbing frequency. But for all the challenges, pressures, and dilemmas to which India is exposed by virtue of its plight as a multicultural state, Indian democracy, sustained through ten elections, still shows remarkable strength and resilience..." (Journal of Democracy Vol. 4, No. 4 October 1993, pp. 54-68)

0upS.gif (883 bytes) Emerging Multipolar World

The collapse of the Soviet Union, the emergence of the United States as the sole super power and the new balances in an emerging multi lateral world have not been without their impact on the struggle for Tamil Eelam.

Today, nuclear non proliferation is admittedly the single most important plank of US foreign policy and in the words of President Clinton, the US intends to ''weave its non-proliferation strategy more deeply into the fabric of all its relationships with the world's nations and institutions''. (see also 'The Buddha Smiled')

This has had its impact on India's nuclear policy and its own security interests. India, not without reason, contends that whilst it will support nuclear disarmament it will not support a 'nuclear non proliferation' treaty that creates an elite nuclear club in perpetuity.  Non alignment in a multipolar world takes on a somewhat different coloration to that in a bipolar one. 'Calibrated adjustment' is the name of the new approach.

Again, the US is not unaware that whatever may be the short term calibrated �adjustments', in the longer term, stability will be achieved in the Indian region only on the basis of  a  free association of the separate nations of the sub continent.

The US may therefore seek to build up influence within struggles for national self determination both as a way of monitoring and managing them and also as a useful addition to its armoury in managing New Delhi. It is within this matrix of power balances that any national liberation struggle in the Indian region may be compelled to adopt its own calibrated approach, both towards New Delhi and Washington.

At the same time, within the island of Sri Lanka, the stark economic reality is that the Sinhala dominated government in Colombo cannot annihilate Tamil resistance without massive foreign aid. Japan has in recent years become Sri Lanka's the largest single aid donor. Japan views the Asia-Pacific region as its own trade area and Japan's trade interests are not always in harmony with those of the US. And China is not a passive bystander and has helped Sri Lanka with arms purchases from time to time - perhaps to the dismay of both India and the US.

The US itself has not been averse to permit the supply of arms (and the provision of military training) through countries such as Israel. There is also the reported presence of US Green Berets as 'advisers' to the Sri Lanka armed forces. It is an approach which the US believes will give it leverage and prevent a power vacuum which may suck in other powers (for 'other powers', one should perhaps read 'India').

0upS.gif (883 bytes) Australia, Canada, Great Britain, European Union, Switzerland and South Africa

Again, Australia, Canada and Great Britain, which are commonwealth countries have taken stands which are broadly supportive of US approaches to the conflict and have offered, from time to time, to facilitate talks to end the conflict. The same is true of the European Union and Switzerland. The Bergen Conference in 1996, with the Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister in attendance, was one such effort, and was the precursor to the Norwegian 'facilitated' Peace Talks in 2001.

In the case of Canada and Europe, the presence of relatively large numbers of Tamil refugees and asylum seekers has influenced governments to take stands that will facilitate their return to Sri Lanka.  The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings have also attracted appeals to address the conflict.

After the dismantling of apartheid, the ANC led government of South Africa has expressed its concerns about the ongoing conflict and at the UN General Assembly in September 1998, South African President Nelson Mandela called for UN intervention to end the 'destructive conflict' in the island.

0upS.gif (883 bytes)  US Ban on LTTE and US concern that 85% of the world's population by the end of this century will be living in Africa, Latin America and the poorer parts of Asia....

It appears that the US as the world's remaining super power, tends to view 'third world' liberation movements as threats to the stability of the existing world order and therefore to US economic interests and national security.

The categorisaton of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, on 8 October 1997, as a 'terrorist organisation' under the US Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 is a case in point. The response by the LTTE and the appeal by the Christian World Service serve to expose the failure of the United States to recognise that which international law recognises - the legitimacy of Tamil resistance against decades of oppressive Sinhala rule.

A position paper updated by the US Foreign Affairs and National Defence Division on 9 December 1996, titled Terrorism, the Future, and U.S. Foreign Policy underlines the frank views expressed by President Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski as long ago as 1983, on US foreign policy objectives:

".... the combination of demographic pressures and political unrest will generate particularly in the third world, increasing unrest and violence... The population of the world by the end of this century will have grown to some 6 billion people.... moreover most of the increase will be concentrated in the poorer parts of the world, with 85% of the world's population by the end of this century living in Africa, Latin America and the poorer parts of Asia....

Most of the third world countries... are likely to continue to suffer from weak economies and inefficient government, while their increasingly literate, politically awakened, but restless masses will be more and more susceptible to demagogic mobilisation on behalf of political movements... it is almost a certainty that an increasing number of third world states will come to possess nuclear weapons....

Terrorist groups may also before very long try to advance their causes through a nuclear threat... the problems confronting Washington in assuring US national security will become increasingly complex..." (Zbigniew Brzezinski - Power and Principle, published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1983)

It is not clear whether Brzezinski saw the irony in his statement that as the peoples of the third world become 'increasingly literate' and 'politically awakened' they will be 'more and more susceptible to demagogic mobilisation'. Surely, literacy and political awakening will render people not more but less susceptible to demagogy.

However, Count de Marenches,  longest serving Head of the French Secret Service holding office for 11  years under two Presidents, Pompidou and Giscard d'Estaing writing in the 'Evil Empire, the Third World War Now' (published by Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1988) was somewhat more direct:

"... I do not believe in what one humorist called 'verbal words'. All the conferences, along with other chit-chat, are merely for entertainment value. It is like a 24-hour cinema... (The population explosion) is very much a taboo subject, because it is highly emotive and it cannot be dealt with phlegmatically without the term 'racist' being brandished. We are supposed to bury our heads in the sand. However mankind is faced with a fundamental problem of nature. Do we want to live in an organised world, where the quality of life is of paramount importance, or an overpopulated planet which is prey to fratricidal racial tensions and conflicts, where the rich, under populated and highly productive North - America and Eurasia alike, would be attacked by the swarming, hungry masses of the South?

The media present us with the most heart rending images of children from the Third World, with swollen stomachs, spindly legs and wide eyes, which cannot but help move us. But the main cause of our distress is never - or rarely - tackled: the over population of bleak lands devastated by natural disasters and often run by incompetent governments, whose main concern is the misappropriation of some of the funds made available by the North.

Out of every ten babies born, nine are born in the Third World. Some misinformed people think that with, with its 320 million inhabitants, the EEC represents one of the greatest concentrations of population in the world. That is a serious mistake. In 100 years, India will have a population totalling 1,600,000,000, and will be the most populous nation on earth. At the moment one human being in five is Chinese. The population of Nigeria today is 105 million, but this will rise to 312 million by the year 2020...

If the governments of men, with all due respect to morality, do not soon put forward vigorous proposals to deal with the threat of a population explosion, they will inevitably preside over a North-South confrontation. Hunger and poverty will be ranged against prosperity based on hard work but irresponsibly linked to its privileges... (And) conscience is the weapon of the weak against the strong... "

For Count de Marenches the prosperity of the North was based on 'hard work' whilst  the 'hunger and poverty' of the South was the result of 'natural disasters' and 'incompetent governments' - and he is concerned that the issue "cannot be dealt with phlegmatically without the term 'racist' being brandished".

Be that as it may,  both Brzezinski and Count de Marenches were right to anticipate the build up of demographic pressures. In 1960 about 35% of the world's population lived in "developed" countries, and 65% in "less developed" ones. In 1990, about 22% lived in "developed" countries and 78% in "less developed" ones.

And, these may be the considerations which led Presidential candidate George W.Bush to declare in the year 2000, some 10 years after the end of the Cold War:

"(Then) it was us versus them and we knew exactly who them was. Today we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they're there.' (George W.Bush, quoted in the New Internationalist, December 2000)

The truth is that what may be at stake is not so much the 'national security' of the US and the so called North, but the capacity of the North (the 'minority world') to direct and control world events - and world economic resources.

That the US should perceive the political awakening of the 'third world' (in reality, the 'majority world') as a threat to US 'national security' may be understandable but neither the US, nor for that anybody else, can Canute like, command the waters to recede. The politically awakened majority world is not about to go back to sleep.

Gradualism may be the way to manage change. But at the same time there may be a need for the international community to accept the solid political reality of not simply the third world but the emergent fourth world as well.

The way forward for the US as well as other states concerned with securing a stable world order, may be to recognise that, whatever the short term results, in the longer term, stability will not come by furthering the rule of one people by another. 

Stability will not come by the North building alliances with ruling Third World governments to suppress non state nations. 

Stability within Third World States will not come from a new version of the 'melting pot' theory. Peoples speaking different languages, tracing their roots to different origins, and living in relatively well defined and separate geographical areas, do not somehow 'melt'. And in any event, a 'third world' economy will not provide a large enough 'pot' for the 'melting' to take place. Nations and states cannot be made to order - not even by a super power.

Stability lies in securing structures where the different peoples of the world may voluntarily associate with each other in equality and in freedom. And if this be perceived by some as an unrealistic 'idealism', the European Union (established albeit, after two World Wars) may help to focus our minds and our hearts - and serve as a pointer to the future.


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