by S. V. Kirubaharan
Reading this headline, extreme Singhalese may say, ‘another……. paving the way for a separate state’, extreme Tamil nationalists may say, ‘another one going against the independent state’, but the wisest from both communities may say, ‘the right thinking at the right time’.
Twenty five years ago on 29th July 1987, when the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the Sri Lanka President J. R. Jayawardene signed the Indo-Lanka accord, it was a day of mourning in the South of Sri Lanka, a day of confusion in the North and East and a miraculous day for India, especially for the Gandhi family. In the South, half of Colombo was on fire. The majority of the people, politicians, the then Prime Minister, many cabinet Ministers and the present President were angered by India. The people of the North and East were in the dark, knowing nothing about the Indo-Lanka accord. At the same time, it was a miraculous escape for the Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi who was attacked by a Sri Lankan Navy soldier with a rifle in an attempted assassination. Fortunately the heavy blow which landed on Gandhi only injured his shoulder, while he was inspecting the guard of honour in Colombo. If the Navy soldier’s strike had hit as planned, today’s history of Sri Lanka would have been very different.
I read with interest the recent articles by Col. R. Hariharan and Major General Ashok Mehta entitled ‘25 Years On, IPKF…..’. Both served in the Indian Peace Keeping Force – IPKF in Sri Lanka.
After Mullivaighzal, I have written articles about the Indo-Lanka accord. In my article of 8 June 2010 which appeared in the ‘Sunday Leader’ under the title, – “Tactful diplomacy will bring durable solution”, I said, “If we continue to fight among us, in a few years time, we will lose our identity in Sri Lanka. At the moment Tamils are not in a strong enough position even to call for negotiation. Therefore we should be united to be strong and need a friendly state that will support the right to self-determination.”
Both Mehta and Hariharan agree that the Indo-Lanka accord was more strategic than a mere diplomatic initiative. Col. Hariharan was clear that “The Agreement did prevent Sri Lanka from providing any foothold for the U.S. However, it failed in finding a permanent solution to the Tamil issue…..” Major General Ashok Mehta says that, “Three years ago, with India’s passive and active help, Sri Lanka finally disarmed the LTTE through a comprehensive military defeat but the ethnic question, the rationale for ISLA and IPKF, remains unresolved;……..India was drawn into a trap to do Colombo’s dirty work.”
Considering these facts, India has to admit that it has an unfinished un-accomplished task to attend to – a political solution to the Tamil ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. Also it needs to be recognised that concerning any decision about the Tamils in Sri Lanka, India proceeds at a snail’s speed.
As said by Ashok Mehta and Hariharan, if the Indo-Lanka accord was for strategic reasons worked out to prevent US stepping into Sri Lanka, how and where did the Indian decision-makers see the involvement of China in Sri Lanka? Was this an oversight on their part? If so, can we consider that there are Indian decision-makers working for Chinese interests or those of Chinese allies? During the peak hours of the war against the LTTE in Vanni, we heard that few decision-makers objected to Indian support for Sri Lanka and MahindaRajapaksa influenced Sonia Gandhi via her relatives in Italy. Was this also a strategic interest?
War Memorial in Colombo!
I am astonished to note that Ashok Mehta still finds it difficult to understand the smart agenda of the Sri Lankan regime. Mehta agrees that India/IPKF was drawn into a trap to do Colombo’s dirty work. If so, why does he praise the war memorial to the IPKF in Colombo? This was constructed during the peak hours of the war in Vanni, only in 2008 by a President who said in 1988, “Indians are going to occupy this land. They are going to take over this land. Already there are 100,000 soldiers in this country. Our fear is that they might come to down south and they may occupy this area. What will happen to us? And we will have to be another part of India!”……………….. (excerpt) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9WZQZ9JoK4
Major General, this war memorial was constructed neither to the IPKF nor to India nor in good faith. It was constructed to remind every Sri Lankan or the people in the South to be cautious of India. India didn’t construct anything for the IPKF because they do not want the people of India to be reminded of India’s unfinished, unaccomplished mission in Sri Lanka.
Implement the agreement
If India wants to retain pride and dignity, their international agreement with Sri Lanka has to be implemented at the earliest, at any cost. If reluctant to do this, they will regret in coming years.
I take this opportunity to request Tamil nationalists to use all viable methods and diplomacy to safeguard the people in the island. This action should not be counterproductive to the people’s livelihood but should save them and the land. If this is done, the future generation or a change of geopolitics can address the matter of destiny.
The paths presently available have the support of the international community. Ignoring these paths and selfishly trusting in mini conferences and meetings with persons of non grata will put the people on the ground once again in deep trouble. I am not appealing or advising anyone to give up their political ambition, ideology or destiny, but reminding everyone of the realities and the present possibilities.
Enough is enough, let’s get into action.