In a lecture on ‘Personal Recollections of Relations with Sri Lanka — the IPKF and Beyond,’ hosted by The South India Heritage Programme, Mr. Parthasarathy said while politics was important for the international pressure on Sri Lanka to keep its commitments, it was eventually the economic empowerment of the Tamils that would make them wealthy and influential.
An alumnus of the College of Engineering, Guindy, Mr. Parthasarathy suggested setting up industrial training and engineering institutions in the North and East of Sri Lanka that would, within a generation, result in the economic integration of the markets in these areas with that of Tamil Nadu—something that Sri Lanka could be persuaded to see as not beneficial merely for Tamils but for the greater common good.
“There has to be a basic rethink in Delhi to see in economic terms our neighbours as an extension of the Indian market,” he said. Such a rethink was hardly out of place against the backdrop of the bilateral FTA and the move towards a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, he said.
The former diplomat provided an overview of the 1987 India-Sri Lanka Agreement, the tumultuous stand-off between the Sri Lankan Army and the militant LTTE, the dilemma of the Indian Peace Keeping Force —under pressure from every quarter trying to maintain peace without getting involved in a civil war-like scenario and the escalation of the situation into a bloody no-holds barred battle in which “every side is guilty of excess” and “the psyche of which was such that people went haywire.”
While Mr. Parthasarathy paid tributes to the LTTE as an outfit that was “tough, motivated and ruthlessly singular” in pursuit of its objectives—“the word of the leader was law to which even human life was secondary”—his assessment was that the LTTE’s bravery was not tempered with the wisdom that a guerrilla outfit —a non State actor —never fights a conventional battle and the outfit’s disastrous mistake was in engaging in conventional warfare against a conventional Army.
On why the line of thought about condemning Sri Lanka for human rights violations should be abandoned, Mr. Parthasarathy reasoned that while the Europeans might support India, the US was wavering while Beijing and the Islamic world —or for that matter the Asian bloc which holds sovereignty supreme —would vote against us.
Recalling an incident when he was instructed by the PMO to call on then Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran, who was convalescing at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Mr. Parthasarathy found it remarkable that MGR was even during hospitalisation up to speed on developments in Tamil Nadu and quite self-assured about handling the situation.
He also shared an anecdote about Murasoli Maran asking him when LTTE supremo Prabhakaran would do a Yasser Arafat after the Palestinian leader had declared that he recognised Israel’s right to exist in peace and security.