Friday`s visit by a high-powered Indian delegation has caused imagination of many to run riot in diplomatic, political and media circles. It is being given different interpretations. Some observers have claimed India has sent a strong message to the Sri Lanka government that no military solution should be attempted for the conflict and human rights violations must cease forthwith. Others are of the opinion that the Indian troika consisting of National Security Advisor M. K. Narayan, Foreign Secretary Shivashankar Menon and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh was here on a SAARC related mission. The government has chosen to remain tight-lipped while implying that what they were here for was nothing more than a consultative meeting.
If there had been some message strong or otherwise that New Delhi wanted to convey to Colombo, it could have been sent more easily without its top officials being made to exert themselves. India has, as is well known, her own way of sending messages. In 1987, its message came in the form of a parippu drop from heavens. Colombo and New Delhi are only a telephone call away or, in the alternative, there is always Sri Lanka`s man at the other end to run errands for the two governments. Meetings the Indian delegation had with Minister Arumugam Thondaman, TNA leader R. Sambandan and other Tamil politicians were only customary and courteous in nature. Why should Indian top guns land here to meet such lesser minions? New Delhi can easily send for them and they will go running across the Palk Straits for an audience with Indian leaders.
The visit at issue, if read against the spin, was in response to an invitation extended by a top level Sri Lankan delegation including Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa sometime ago during a visit to India. What was of significance was its timing. It happened at a time when the war had taken a decisive turn which, in the opinion of some commentators, harks back to Operation Liberation (1987), during which India intervened to rescue Prabhakaran, who was trapped in Vadamarachchi.
India has no reason to oppose the on-going war to defeat the LTTE and implement the 13th Amendment. For, that exactly was what India was trying to accomplish by the time the IPKF was asked to pull out. The Rajapaksa government has reaffirmed its commitment to the implementation of the Indian remedy. It has already set up the Eastern PC and made it work. India may only want to goad President Rajapaksa into honouring his pledge in full and to assuage fears that Tamil Nadu may have of the safety of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka so that the LTTE supporters like Vaiko won`t have an opportunity to exploit them and the relations between the Central government and its Tamil Nadu allies won`t be strained..
R. Swaminathan has referred to India`s sensitivities and predicament vis- -vis Sri Lanka`s conflict in an article reproduced in this paper today: India cannot easily shrug off her moral responsibility to support the aspiration of the Tamils to be `equal` citizens of Sri Lanka. However, India has consistently been opposed to the carving out of a separate sovereign state of Tamil Eelam. Such an entity is unlikely to function as a classical `buffer state`, but is more likely to have the potential of becoming a focus for pan-Tamil parochialism and nationalism. That this is not a hypothetical fear is shown by a recent appeal by LTTE political wing leader B. Nadesan, made directly to the people of Tamil Nadu, `to rise in solidarity with our cause`. He said that the `Tamils in Tamil Nadu should not remain silent spectators as we suffer. Eelam Tamils could record Himalayan victories if they had an upsurge in Tamil Nadu in their support, as well as the backing of the estimated 80 million Tamils living in the world.` If LTTE could make such an open call for the Tamils of Tamil Nadu to revolt against the Indian State and the elected governments in Tamil Nadu and at the Centre, when it is still on the defensive and is in need of support, what could one expect from it if and when it becomes the power-holder in the sovereign state of Tamil Eelam?
Prabhakaran`s heroes` day speech last year may also have given India a scare, as in it he lamented the fact that there were 80 million stateless Tamils scattered all over the world. India cannot be unaware that a separate state in a tiny country like Sri Lanka, encompassing only two provinces is not big enough to accommodate even a faction of that number of Tamils and a greater Eelam including some parts of India will have to be carved out for that purpose.
India may have managed to shift the focus of Tamil separatism which underpinned the thinking of the likes of MGR from Tamil Nadu to the North and East of Sri Lanka through the creation of separatist terrorism here but after nearly a quarter century there have emerged signs of the monster wanting to go back home to roost, if the pronouncements by the LTTE leaders are any indication. Therefore, the moment of truth has come for India. It has had to make a decision as to what to do with the monster.
India certainly does not mind the monster being slain a task that she couldn`t accomplish but certainly does not want blood on her hands. Nor does she want her interests jeopardised. India only wants to enjoy the benefits of war against the Tigers without taking the blame for its consequences, especially the collateral damage just as some upasakas consume meat here, while condemning destruction of life and blaming it on others.
So, it is highly unlikely that India will want to throw a monkey wrench in the works at a time when Sri Lanka`s war on terror has reached a critical phase and a beleaguered Prabhakaran, who killed Rajiv and turned his back on his creator, is struggling for survival.
She will be happy with the full implementation of her remedy and the installation of Tamil leaders at the helm of the Northern and the Eastern PCs, willing to do her bidding.
That is something India cannot dream of achieving so long as Prabhakaran and his outfit remain powerful.