Tiger’s Trail

The desperate attempt being made by the LTTE to find allies at a time when it is fighting a losing battle with the Sri Lankan Army is not to be unexpected. With dwindling support for its cause and without any allies left to speak for it, LTTE’s latest attempt to reach out to India by confessing and tendering an apology for killing Rajiv Gandhi has rightly been met with hostile reaction from India. The apology tendered by Anton Balasingham who told NDTV (New Delhi Television Ltd) that the killing of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 at Sriperampudhur was a “monumental tragedy for which we regret” is at best an opportunist ploy to once again toy with the sentiments of Tamils living in India and the LTTE knows just how it can use the Tamil card to draw in a major power like India or to put it simply, to bail them out of the mess it finds itself in. 

While India as a regional power cannot shy away from a conflict that is close to its shore, the sincerity of the LTTE is highly questionable if past experience counts. Further, to merely apologize through a media interview does not give much of credence either to Balasingham or to the LTTE. The damage has already been done as far as the violence perpetuated by the LTTE goes. Therefore rather than apologizing, the Tamil Tigers should put an end to violence and return to the negotiating table. Sincerity for peaceful resolution of the conflict must be demonstrated and only once a formal process is put in place, can the LTTE expect to get support for its legitimate claim. 

New Delhi on it part will do well not to simply put the past behind, as the LTTE would like it to be. There is no doubt that the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka constitutes a big factor in Indo-Sri-Lankan relations. However, it has to be borne in mind that New Delhi’s efforts to find a solution has been misinterpreted as amounting to interference in the internal affairs of their country. As much as India has to be magnanimous, it needs to approach the ethnic question in a manner that respects the sentiments of Tamils in India while at the same time keeping the overall national interest in mind. This also means taking an impartial stand on the issue so as not to injure the sentiment of the majority Sinhalese community that constitutes Sri-Lanka.

As much as it would like to stay out of the present conflict, India may have to intervene at some point of time to defuse the crisis. But any intervention has to be strictly non-military in design and purpose. India should not even consider the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) type of misadventure. At best, efforts at mediation has to be on a diplomatic plane, to persuade both the Sri-Lankan Government and the Tamil Tigers to give up their extreme positions and work on a framework that addresses the aspirations of the Tamil Minorities while at the same time respecting the unity, integrity and security of the Sri-Lankan State. New Delhi has to tread cautiously but without leaving any vacuum to forces inimical to its interest. The credibility of India as a regional entity capable of contributing to peace and stability of the region will be on test as far as the crisis in the Jaffna Peninsular goes.