India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam
Jyotindra Nath Dixit
Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka 1985 /89,
Foreign Secretary in 1991/94 and
Security Adviser to the Prime Minister of India 2004/05
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
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..."
General Walter's visits to Sri Lanka in 1983/84 [Excerpt from
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
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
On Rajiv Gandhi's Actions in 1985 and the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement [Excerpt from
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
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 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
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
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
explicitly told not to show the agreement to Prabhakaran and give him only an outline
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.
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
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
'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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
How India's Security Concerns came
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
Colombo by J N Dixit]
"...I mentioned to the (Sri Lanka) President that
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
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
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.