Home Contact Us  
   

Sri Lanka - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#3687, 31 July 2012
 
Sri Lanka: 25 Years After the IPKF
N Manoharan
Vivekananda International Foundation
email: mailtomanohar@gmail.com
 

29 July 2012 marked 25 years of the signature of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord and the subsequent induction of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka. Much has happened in the past two-and-a-half decades, and one is tempted to make a realistic assessment of the operation to draw lessons for the future.

The odds were already against the IPKF when it landed in Sri Lanka in 1987. It had little idea of the nature of the mission. The specific role of the Indian Armed Forces was not detailed in the Accord; they were just told to ’implement the Accord’. The agenda of the Indian forces only emerged gradually in response to the ground situation. Although there were contingency plans, India did not seriously expect a military involvement. Even if the LTTE decided to fight, the then Army Chief, Gen Sundarji, maintained that ‘it will take just a fortnight to take care of them’. The Army did not have sufficient time to prepare its men psychologically; the mindset of the soldiers and commanders, until then sympathetic to the LTTE, were to be changed. Accurate intelligence was in shortage. The Army set-up its own intelligence structure only at a later date. Also missing and unknown to field commanders was the ‘higher intention’ and the bigger picture. As a result, the IPKF became ‘the most ill-prepared mission ever sent by any country’.

It was a politico-military engagement. Yet, political consensus on was lacking both in India and Sri Lanka. Neither Rajiv Gandhi nor Jayewardene could carry the opposition or even their own party men along on the issue. Hence when there was a regime change in 1989 in India, there was a reversal of decisions taken by the Congress regime. In the Sri Lankan case, Premadasa, who was opposed to the Accord, soon after becoming President, demanded the withdrawal of the IPKF and went on to connive with the LTTE to oust the Indian forces. There was also less synchronisation between the political and military leadership.

Despite all these difficulties, one can assert that the IPKF did a good job in Sri Lanka and in securing India’s interests. Minus the IPKF, it would have been a double headache for Sri Lanka to tackle both the LTTE and JVP who were causing trouble in the north and the south of the island respectively. Thanks to the presence of the Indian forces in the north, the Sri Lankan forces could completely concentrate on decimating the JVP. IPKF did the ground work for the Sri Lankan military to defeat the LTTE at a later date. The IPKF was also responsible for the laying down of arms by non-LTTE confidently and function as political parties. Without the IPKF’s work, they would have gone the LTTE way of hiding a chunk of arms and surrendering only a few. The Indian peacekeepers also made sure that provincial council elections in the newly created Northeast Province were held smoothly and assisted in conducting violence-free and high-turnout presidential and parliamentary elections in the region after several years. In the process, the IPKF lost 1,065 lives and four times that number injured; crores of rupees were spent on the mission. Interestingly, civilian casualties were minimal because the rules of engagement were clear in that regard; there was no use of air power or heavy equipment against the insurgents.

However, it took more than two decades for Sri Lanka to recognize the IPKF’s contribution in the form of a memorial in its capital. For India, it is important to look for valuable lessons from its ‘first out of area operation’. In hindsight, the very decision on the need for Indian involvement was taken without grasping the intricacies of the Sri Lankan conflict and the dominant actors involved. India especially underestimated the LTTE's military acumen, its organizational skills, use of civilians as shields and intelligence gathering, improvised armaments and explosive devices, and high motivation. The IPKF experience suggests that the concerned nodal agency (Armed Forces) should have its own independent intelligence not only on operational matters but on every aspect of involvement.

The IPKF involvement clearly shows that the decisions that were devoid of political consensus either ended in a failure or were unsustainable. A suitable method can be adopted to co-opt at least important opposition parties in important national security decisions that require sustenance. To avoid delays, a specific time-frame can be fixed for a final decision to be taken. During IPKF operations the Army was much closer to reality than any other agency, yet their views were not given adequate weightage. Yet another lesson is the need to harmonise political decision-making with military capability. A civil-military liaison office could work better to achieve the above objective. Covert manoeuvres would spoil the harmony. For better inter-services coordination there is a need for a 'unified command system', in short, a Chief of Defence Staff. Operationally, the IPKF involvement suggested that any military involvement overseas should be swift and short like in Maldives ('Operation Cactus'). If there are any indications of prolonged involvement, it is better not to engage.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 
Related Articles
J Jeganaathan,
"India’s LTTE Ban Renewal: Politics of Security," 24 July 2012
Bibhu Prasad Routray,
"UNHRC Resolution and the Future of India-Sri Lanka Ties," 4 April 2012
N Manoharan,
"IPCS Debate: The UNHRC Resolution on Sri Lanka," 19 March 2012
J Jeganaathan,
"IPCS Debate: The UNHRC Resolution on Sri Lanka," 19 March 2012
J Jeganaathan,
"Rule of Law or Law of the Ruler?: India’s Stand on Sri Lanka," 18 June 2011

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
India-Maldives Relations: A Tale of Two Concerns

Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh: Designs and Network in India

India-Sri Lanka: Time to Settle the Fishermen Issue

Sri Lanka: A New Base for ISI against India?

Ebola: Concerns for India

Left-wing Extremism 2013: The Threat Continues

Maldives 2013: End of Political Stalemate

CHOGM, India and Sri Lanka: New Delhi’s Missed Opportunities

Sri Lanka: TNA in the Northern Province

Presidential Elections in Maldives: A Pre-Poll Analysis

Indian Mujahideen: After Yasin Bhatkal's Arrest

India and the Peace Process in Sri Lanka: So Close, Yet So Far

Sri Lanka and the 13th Amendment: The Arithmetic of ‘Plus’ and ‘Minus’

Sri Lanka and the 13th Amendment: Reconciling Differing Viewpoints

Naxal Violence: What should be Done to Counter?

Sri Lanka: Third UNHRC Resolution and India’s Dilemma

Hyderabad Terror Attacks: Road-blocks in the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC)

Maldives: GMR, Nexbis and the Tale of Two Ousters

Maldives: Indian Investments vis-a-vis Chinese Footprints

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s India Visit: Taking the Ties Forward

IPCS Debate: The UNHRC Resolution on Sri Lanka

Devolution in Sri Lanka: The Latest Take

‘Taming the Tigers’: Reintegration of Surrendered LTTE Cadres

Fishing in Troubled Waters: Indian Fishermen and India-Sri Lanka Relations

Alternative Strategies for Indo-Sri Lankan Relations: Passenger Ferry Service

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.