India and the collapse of Sri Lanka’s peace process

By K. Godage

The Co-Chairs have met in Oslo last Friday but have not been able to take the peace process forward and this is not for a lack of effort on their part, neither does it come as a surprise. The composition of the Co-Chairs has as much to do with it as the fact that the LTTE has another agenda far removed from that of the Co-Chairs or the government of Sri Lanka.

The perceptive and perhaps the best analyst of Indian Foreign Policy Raja Mohan states, in an article titled “India must take the lead in South Asia” (and I do agree with him entirely) “Part of the responsibility for the collapsing peace process in Sri Lanka must be laid at India’s door. New Delhi’s reluctance to lead the peace process has emboldened the LTTE to violate the Ceasefire Agreement with impunity. For the LTTE now fears nothing from India” Raja Mohan could not have said a truer word.

Raja Mohan has also stated “the disturbing reality is that India does not seem to have got its regional security act together. At a time when the world is looking at Delhi to take charge of the region India is dropping the ball”. He also refers to the fact that in the past two years during which our leaders have gone to Delhi perhaps ten times, the Indian PM has not found the time to reciprocate even once; that by itself shows the importance he places on relations with the countries of the region and of giving leadership. Since he is an Economist and a technocrat it appears that he does not have a feel for that which is essentially political. When the LTTE took out Rajiv they certainly did India and the region great harm.

I have myself stated time and again that if there be one single reason for the situation that has arisen in this country today it is because India has shirked her responsibility as the regional power. India which armed and trained the Tamil militants and allowed them to destabilize this country and prevented us from ending the insurrection in March of 1987 by threatening to invade this country and subsequently circumscribed our sovereignty today takes a ‘hands off’ attitude claiming, as one of her recent Foreign Ministers, who probably suffered from acute amnesia did, that this was an “internal problem” of Sri Lanka”. We wish they were that enlightened in 1987. Despite this attitude of India our leaders keep running to Delhi to keep them informed of every move we make. A PTI report filed from Delhi dated 30th April states that the government of Sri Lanka is sending a senior Minister to seek India’s support to revive the peace process. It would, like all other such visits nay pilgrimages to India for the same purpose, including the visit of the President himself, be a complete waste of time. Incidentally I have it from authority that the UNP government of Ranil Wickremesinghe cleared the Solheim-Balasingham crafted pro LTTE CFA with the Indians and to be precise with Birjesh Mishra! (what did he know or care ? has he ever visited this country?). The CFA was not seen leave alone cleared with our Service Chiefs or our Executive President but with India! We never learn so we live to repeat our mistakes.

Today the LTTE is militarily twice as strong as they were before, having exploited and violated the ceasefire agreement with impunity. The most disturbing news in recent times is that they are in possession of nerve gas and other lethal chemical weapons! It is a known fact that the LTTE used mustard gas in 1985. India meanwhile chooses to sit back and say that have no wish to get involved in this “messy situation” –how rich! And to think that our foolish politicians keep running to Delhi to keep them informed, for what purpose I ask? After their acts of commission we now have their acts of omission, which as Raja Mohan also states has placed us in this predicament or to use their own words created this “messy situation”.

The Co-Chairs have failed to rein in the LTTE. This is primarily because the Co-Chairs have very little clout with the LTTE. This would not have been the situation had India agreed to join the Co-Chairs, which was the minimum request of the government of Sri Lanka. The LTTE has shown utter contempt for the Co-Chairs and spat at the entire international community by their continued violations of the CFA and the killing of our servicemen with impunity twice immediately after the Co-Chairs most recent statement in Brussels, before the meeting in Geneva and after that meeting and now the attempt to assassinate the Army chief. Surely this culture of impunity must be ended.

Ours must be the only country on the planet where its President and five Ministers including the Foreign Minister and the Navy Commander have been assassinated and a second President and its Army Commander have escaped assassination and the known culprits have suffered no punishment whatsoever leave alone being brought to book. Ours appears to be a soft society. This is indeed the land of the lotus eaters. Should we not be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves?

Considering the fact that there has been very little that Norway and the Co-Chairs could do to stop the killings and to head-off a war which now seems almost inevitable particularly because India is sitting it out and does not wish to get involved for domestic political reasons (trapped by domestic political considerations) reneging on her obligations by this country, may I suggest to the Co-Chairs that they in the first instance make an unbiased assessment of how the two parties have sought to comply with the CFA and then consider reporting the matter to the Security Council, for non-compliance by the LTTE has led to a deterioration in the security situation and is fast becoming a threat to regional peace and security. Yes insurgent groups in the region are linking up and networking, as has been reported by Intelligence Agencies, presenting a threat not only to regional peace and security but to the very integrity of sovereign states. The Co Chairs should next call for a UN sponsored Peace-Enforcement Force from countries of the region to be stationed in the North in particular and in the districts of Trincomalee and Batticaloa in the east to enforce the CFA. We would then be rid of the Moronic Monitoring Mission that has done much harm to this country and never have to suffer the likes of Telefssen and Haukland ever again. The UN has in recent years sent multi- national armed forces to Haiti, Cambodia, Dafur and elsewhere. This initiative should have the support of all the political parties in the south if it is to be supported in the UN. The UN could then negotiate an agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE on a phased, balanced and verifiable de-escalation, de-militarization and normalization process and at the same time undertake a Dayton type process to arrive at a political settlement. The government of Sri Lanka along with Norway and the Co Chairs must solicit the assistance of the UN to head off the impending disaster for the LTTE will definitely resume the war after the elections in Tamil Nadu are over in May for theirs is a one point agenda—- Eelam ! and thousand will die as a consequence. [Source: Daily Mirror]

[The writer is a former Diplomat]

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