தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"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 

Home

 Whats New

Trans State Nation Tamil Eelam Beyond Tamil Nation Comments Search
Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki) > What is India’s stand on the peace process?

Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)

 

What is India’s stand on the peace process?

Northeastern Herald, 19 December 2002

"...The US led coalition is doing the job of trying to settle the conflict through Norway. And Delhi is assured of keeping abreast of the developments by virtue of its legal status vis-à-vis the Tamil question which is guaranteed by the Indo Lanka Accord. We must not forget India has come to wield such decisive say on Sri Lanka’s strategic status in the region by managing and mediating Tamil militancy between 1983 and 1987 in its so called attempt to settle the ethnic conflict here. The US and its allies are doing exactly the same here now, though by subtler means. It is obvious to everyone that they are not making peace for peace’s sake. There is nothing called a free lunch in international diplomacy and power politics. Therefore, India may just keep watching the peace process and blessing it towards fruition as long as it does not give the US coalition great leverage in the affairs of the island – the kind of leverage that could undermine what Delhi feels are its “non negotiable strategic interests” in Sri Lanka..."


What is India’s stand on the peace process? No one seems to have a definite answer.

The Sri Lankan government and the Norwegian facilitators give us the strong impression that India too should be involved in a significant manner in the talks to end the conflict. However, Delhi has not made any move so far to become directly engaged in the conduct of the negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers. Initially it did not venture to commit itself on the matter except drawing the broad and clichéd parameters of a possible solution even as it was being systematically briefed by the Norwegian facilitators and the anxious leadership of the United National Front.

That any settlement to Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict should not affect its sovereignty and territorial integrity was and is a refrain every state interested in this island’s affairs is harping on. India was thus content at the time with stating the obvious regarding the peace talks. Given Delhi’s amply demonstrated concern with the Tamil question in the past, this seemingly hands off attitude is perplexing to many.

But more importantly, what does the Sri Lankan government expect India to do regarding the current peace process?

There are three things that Delhi can possibly do about the talks.

It can facilitate the talks or mediate between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL). It could provide the venue and take part in the talks directly in order to ensure that no part of the process impinges upon its national interests. Thirdly India can promise to underwrite the eventual settlement.

Firstly, it is not practically possible for India to negotiate or mediate because it has no official contact with the LTTE now. Politically and legally it is not possible for Delhi to have the kind of relationship with the Tigers, which is necessary for such a role. For the same reason it cannot sit in the talks.

As far as I am aware, India would not consider the third option even remotely. In fact it may be one of the reasons that is deterring Delhi from getting involved in Sri Lanka’s current peace process in any manner.

If Delhi decides to host, facilitate/mediate or sit in the talks it could eventually, though not inexorably, draw it into a situation where India may have to singly or jointly underwrite a settlement to the conflict. This is an eventuality that Delhi would like to avoid at any cost in the context of the emerging strategic scenario in the region.


Even if Delhi does not underwrite a settlement between the LTTE and the GOSL, any serious involvement in the peace process would impose on it a moral responsibility to ensure the implementation of a peace deal.

India would like to steer clear of this too. Why?

The LTTE is a heavily armed and resourceful military organisation. Any underwriting of an agreement by India in which the LTTE is the main party to the settlement involves a serious potential for conflict. There is also the very real possibility of interested parties precipitating a military standoff between the LTTE and India by devious means as in 1987.

Some senior defence analysts in Delhi say that India’s enemies want to bleed it with a “thousand cuts” to achieve what they cant with a single decisive strike of the sword i.e. conventional warfare. They also argue that India’s quest for global economic and strategic power would be hampered if it allows itself to be insidiously drawn into minor conflicts in the region, falling prey to the ‘thousand cuts strategy’ of its opponents.

In recent years Delhi has done its best to de-escalate tensions and conflicts in its northeastern border region, in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, by developing good relations with the military Junta in Burma and by greater rapproachment with China. It has also sought to ‘demilitarise’ the militancy in Kashmir through elections, by promoting ‘alternative’ groups etc., It is an interesting co-incidence that the three regional powers identified by the US as the ones that could individually or in alliance pose a global challenge to it in the future on the order of that posed by the former Soviet Union are all afflicted by festering internal conflicts.

Muslim separatism in its eastern Xingxiang Province continues to frustrate China’s ambition of channelling surpluses to its west coast for developing blue water naval capabilities and space programs, according to a recent issue of Janes Intelligence. Similarly, Russia’s political stability and resources are being seriously tested by Muslim separatists in Chechniya.

India of course has Kashmir.

It is the stated objective of the US to prevent a concentration of resources by any of these three states that could pave the way for one of them to emerge as a global challenge to America in the future, an eventuality that may deny the current sole superpower unhindered economic, political and military access to Asia.

“US support for Pakistan achieves precisely this by ‘bleeding India’s resources and stability with a thousand cuts’. Pakistan sponsors the destabilising terrorist forces with impunity and with the knowledge of US intelligence agencies which have close ties with the ISI”, said an area specialist in Delhi recently. (ISI – Inter Services Intelligence- is Pakistan’s main intelligence organisation)

Delhi’s concern appears to be that any direct engagement in the Sri Lankan problem carries with it inevitable traps that could ensnare it into confrontation with the LTTE and a protracted conflict. If it were to be ensnared thus the potential for interested parties to escalate the conflict with measured inputs and manipulation is immense given the current strategic scenario in the region. The fear of a spill over effect in Tamil Nadu from a destabilised LTTE is less than Delhi’s apprehensions about the opportunities a chaotic northeast could offer to parties that are keen to permeate ‘terrorism’ into south India.

This is why India was keen that the operation to extract Sri Lanka army troops from Jaffna in May-June 2000 should in no way draw it into a confrontation with the LTTE.

“Avoid the conflict traps - which regional hegemons were frequently wont to fall for in the past- and stay focussed on the goal of economic development”, is the modern Indian policy makers’ motto.

And above all what does India stand to gain from involving itself in the conflict resolution process in Sri Lanka? It has already got what it wanted legally through the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987. Its strategic objectives here were achieved in the annexure to the Accord.

The US led coalition is doing the job of trying to settle the conflict through Norway. And Delhi is assured of keeping abreast of the developments by virtue of its legal status vis-à-vis the Tamil question which is guaranteed by the Indo Lanka Accord.

We must not forget India has come to wield such decisive say on Sri Lanka’s strategic status in the region by managing and mediating Tamil militancy between 1983 and 1987 in its so called attempt to settle the ethnic conflict here.

The US and its allies are doing exactly the same here now, though by subtler means. It is obvious to everyone that they are not making peace for peace’s sake. There is nothing called a free lunch in international diplomacy and power politics.

Therefore, India may just keep watching the peace process and blessing it towards fruition as long as it does not give the US coalition great leverage in the affairs of the island – the kind of leverage that could undermine what Delhi feels are its “non negotiable strategic interests” in Sri Lanka.

 

Mail Us up- truth is a pathless land - Home