India Intelligence Report

   Sri Lanka - The End Game of the Unending Conflict

Predictably, the so-called peace talks (a description that neither the Sri Lankan Government (SLG) nor the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are willing to accept) at Geneva, failed. - by Mr. S. Gopal

Predictably, the so-called peace talks (a description that neither the Sri Lankan Government (SLG) nor the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are willing to accept) at Geneva, failed. The SLG, in its euphoria of recent successes against the LTTE, has convinced itself that military solution would eventually work. They are brainwashed into this by its army (SLA) which, having tasted some LTTE blood, thinks that it is a matter of time before it would have LTTE for breakfast or lunch depending upon what they think is LTTE’s strength now.

The LTTE, unable to get out of its psyche to get independence from what they view as Sinhalese oppression of the Tamils, keeps blowing hot and cold, depending on its assessment of its strength. Right now it is feeling low, given the factional feud with eastern Tamils led by Karuna, and the drubbing it has taken from the SLA in recent encounters. It is thus understandable that it insists on opening of the A9 highway to Jaffna from the Sri Lankan mainland. It helped them to collect taxes and control the economy of the Jaffna Peninsula. For the very same reason, the SLG is unwilling to do so.

Meanwhile the proxy bleating continues from LTTE to the Government of India (GOI) through the LTTE front, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), that the latter should take a hand in settling the conflict. Balasingham the LTTE “ideologue” added his bit telling India to forget Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, with complete insensitivity and lack of understanding of India’s current power play where Sonia Gandhi (the widow of Rajiv Gandhi) is the major center of power.

Meanwhile, sphinx-like, India continues its policy of wait and watch, making some pious noises like many other countries do, that problem should be solved through negotiations. One would like to emphasize to the GOI that this problem is never going to be solved just by negotiations between the LTTE and the SLG. The latter is a prisoner to the views of Sinhala extremists like the JVP which are partners in the Government and the Buddhist clergy which has a strong hold on the average Sinhalese psyche. On the other hand the LTTE, which is either overtly or secretly admired by most of the Sri Lankan Tamils, does not see any future in life with a Sinhala-dominated Government. The solution therefore has to be through international intervention.

"Mr. S.Gopal retired from the Govt. of India as Special Secretary where he was dealing with strategic and security issues for more than three decades. He is currently settled in Bangalore and is an associate of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. He can be contacted at"

The international community looks up to India as the main actor. India has no option other than taking interest in the issue and finding a solution. It is not difficult to see India’s constraints and fears, having lost face in the ill-advised intervention through dispatch of Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF). As one Indian army officer put it long back, the Indian army was asked to fight with one hand tied behind the back. Armies are not trained to do that.

It is obvious that time is not on the side of the LTTE. With practically whole world calling them terrorists, with finance from abroad drying up and SLG getting help from Israeli and Pakistani sources, military balance is not in favor of the LTTE. Given the current trends in the conflict it is not difficult to envisage a day without Prabakaran. The SLG and army are waiting for that day, continuing meanwhile its war against the LTTE. They will of course keep making internationally acceptable statements about how keen they are to find a peaceful solution through negotiations.

That raises the question of what after Prabakaran. Many Sri Lankan Tamils assert that there is a strong second line leadership after Prabakaran. It is however difficult to see an equally charismatic leader for the Tamils. National liberation and radical movements require a charismatic personality to lead them.

What will happen after Prabakaran is easy to guess. A dispirited Tamil community would seek security for their life and limbs from Sinhala wrath by migrating to India. Atrocities on Tamil from Sinhala extremists cannot be ruled out. India would then be forced to act with the rising pressure from Tamil Nadu. It would be far better to take things in hand now and hammer out a political solution to save life and property. LTTE seems to realize its predicament and is apparently willing to settle short of an independent Eelam. Though the devil is in the details, it should be possible to overcome the devil. An autonomous and unified Northern and Eastern province with due guarantees for Muslims in this area is the need of the hour. The LTTE could be nudged into accepting it by choking its finances and military supplies. The question of culpability of Prabakaran in the dastardly assassination of Rajiv Gandhi could be taken up after this.

It goes without saying that India would have to stand guarantor for implementation of any agreement. International acceptance of such a role for India does not seem to be an issue.

All in all, the time has come for GOI to act. And, act fast.