Home Contact Us  

Sri Lanka - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#2826, 9 March 2009
For a Pro-active Indian Policy on Sri Lanka
Leslie Keerthi Kumar SM
Research Scholar, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
e-mail: lesliekkumar@gmail.com

Ever since the Tamil nationalist struggle for a separate homeland in Sri Lanka started, there have been apprehensions in New Delhi about the spreading of such a movement into its own province of Tamil Nadu. These apprehensions are well founded as nationalisms do not respect international borders and have a tendency to spread. Hence the Indian Government has supported all along a unitary Sri Lanka within the constitutional framework. However, during the 1980s emotions were running high in Tamil Nadu and it is a matter of fact that many LTTE camps were operating out of Tamil Nadu with the Eelam cause enjoying widespread support among the locals.

All that changed sharply in the 1990s with the LTTE’s assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. The LTTE was banned in India and local support dried up as the Tamils of India lost their trust and interest in the LTTE in particular and the Eelam in general. Also, the economic transformation of Tamil Nadu created a large group of upwardly mobile Tamils who were least interested in what was happening to their Sri Lankan cousins. Meanwhile, in the late 1990s, the LTTE made some significant territorial gains and in the early 2000s even tried to engage in peace talks aided by Norway. The coming to power in Colombo of Mahinda Rajapakse’s nationalist government altered the situation. Even for this, the LTTE has only itself to blame as it had suppressed Tamil voter turnout thereby aiding the victory of the hard-line Rajapakse. LTTE supreme Prabhakaran probably thought that his outfit could win the struggle through its firepower alone. It was a costly miscalculation. Rajapakse’s war against the LTTE is now in its final stage and it does appear that the LTTE would be destroyed. 

Is this for India’s good? Some seem to think so, as they consider that the LTTE will die and along with it will also vanish the Tamil nationalist movement and any separatist tendency within India. Has this been the case? Tamil nationalist emotions are running high again, much like in the 1980s. Students, lawyers and others have come out in protest with every political party obliged to stage protests on the Sri Lankan issue. A significant number of people, though definitely not the majority, are openly supporting the LTTE again and their ranks are growing day by day. Many are angry with New Delhi for being a bystander. The tremendous civilian cost of the Sri Lankan government’s war has reignited the nationalist sentiments of the Tamils. 

India could have done without these developments. However, one may ask what could India have done differently?. By allowing the Sri Lankan government a free hand, it is giving the impression to the people of Tamil Nadu that it is insensitive to their concerns. This is detrimental to India’s own internal cohesiveness. No responsible government can support the LTTE but India should have sought the preservation of the pre-war status quo in Sri Lanka and pushed for a solution to the crisis within the Sri Lankan constitution using its influence with Colombo. This should have been done two years ago when the Sri Lankan government was just starting its war against the LTTE. Instead, the Indian government aided the war efforts of Sri Lanka and it appears that it did not anticipate the ramifications of such a war on the Tamils of India. 

All talk about non-interference in Sri Lankan affairs is fine as rhetoric but in international relations, if its interests are at stake, a country needs to engage. India needs to learn a lesson or two from countries like US and China. A state does not get to choose its neighbors or wish away their problems but has to deal with them the best it can. If not then it cannot prevent the flow of consequences into its own territory which is exactly what is happening now. 

The time is still not past. Now that the LTTE is gone as a potent political force, India should actively pressurize the Sri Lankan government to devolve powers and give political autonomy to its Tamil population within a unitary Sri Lankan framework. Sri Lanka has a long history of denying political rights to its minority Tamil population and this time around with no Tamil counterweight like the LTTE to check it, it is unlikely that it will devolve powers on its own. India will do well to fill the void left by LTTE, else, someone else will. In a worst case scenario, the LTTE may even be replaced by another and worse terror group with a pan-Tamil ideology. Israel worked hard to get Arafat to fail and eventually got Hamas as the replacement. On the other hand, by playing a constructive and assertive role in the post-LTTE scenario, India can win back the hearts of many disillusioned Tamils. 

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?

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?
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


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 2017  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 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.