India stance towards the Eelam War IV changed from ‘negotiations’ and ‘peace talks’ between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers to ‘terrorism should be countered with resolve’ in late 2008, a book written with considerable establishment support, ‘Gota’s War,’ launched here on Monday has said.
This means that the Indian change of heart happened much before its then National Security Advisor M.K.Narayanan flew to Chennai to assure DMK president M.Karunanidhi in April 2009, that there will be a temporary ceasefire ahead of the May 2009 elections. In effect, the Congress-led UPA government was telling its one of its biggest coalition partners one thing, while its policy was firmly another. Mr.Narayanan later met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on April 29, 2009. From available accounts, the President, at that point, did not “cave in” to any of the demands made by India.
From 2006, Sri Lankan forces and the Tamil Tigers, who held vast swatches of land in the north and east Sri Lanka fought a war that displaced almost all the people in the region, and led to innumerable deaths. Sri Lankan forces prevailed on May 18, 2009, and preparations are underway to celebrate the third anniversary on a massive scale across the country.
“It was only after October 2008 following a visit to India by Basil Rajapaksa that the Indian stance seemed to change completely and they dropped all mention of negotiations and peace talks even from their public statements on Sri Lanka… [India] said that] terrorism should be countered with resolve. A great change from what we have seen before,” said Sri Lankan President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, paraphrasing a few lines from the book, at its launch here on Monday.
According to the book, after Mr.Basil Rajapaksa’s visit, the tone of the joint statement put out to mark the visit was ‘distinctly different.’ “India had expressed the usual concerns about the humanitarian situation in the north and the need for a negotiated political settlement. But at the same time it said that ‘both sides agreed that terrorism should be countered with resolve.’ Most importantly, the idea that there was ‘no military solution to the conflict’ which had been the centrepiece of earlier Indian statements on Sri Lanka, had been dropped. From this time until the end of the war, the Indians never again said publicly or privately, that there was no military solution to the conflict,” the book notes.
On an earlier occasion, at a seminar on defeating terrorism held here, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had held that ‘managing India’ was the key to winning the war against the Tamil Tigers. This was done in a deft manner, with the setting up of the Troika – an arrangement where three top bureaucrats each from both countries are constantly in touch. “Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, Minister today, at that time a Member of Parliament, led the troika, that included Gota and myself…Troika was a unique experiment that brought Sri Lanka India relations to a new high…This was a ground breaking arrangement and unique in the annals of bilateral diplomatic relations, at least in south Asia,” said Mr.Weeratunga.
R. K. Radhakrishnan