Singing the same tune

Published : Apr 27, 2002 00:00 IST

An analysis of the context of the press conference for insights into the LTTE's evolving strategy leads to the important question: Is Prabakaran once again laying a peace trap.

Did the statements made by Velupillai Prabakaran and Anton Balasingham to the international media on April 10, 2002 hold any surprises? The answer from most Sri Lanka watchers in India is a definitive no. The only surprise was that in the run-up to the press conference, most commentators in Sri Lanka raised the expectations of the people. They suggested that Prabakaran would unequivocally renounce the demand for Tamil Eelam, extend his hand of friendship to Colombo, and express his readiness to negotiate a political solution within a united Sri Lanka. Influential sections of the Sri Lankan media were carried away by the occasional Norwegian hints that Prabakaran would be prepared to solve the ethnic problem "within the framework of a united Sri Lanka".

A few significant points have to be kept in mind before one undertakes an analysis of the content of the press conference and its fall-out on the emerging political trends in the island. First and foremost, the press conference was another desperate attempt on the part of the Tigers to come out of growing international isolation. India, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have banned the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or designated it as a terrorist organisation. The European Union and Australia are likely to follow soon. The repeated killing of innocent civilians, the attack on Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of Sacred Tooth), the dastardly assassination of Neelan Tiruchelvam, the savage attack on Katunayake Air Base and Bandaranaike International Airport and the recruitment of young boys and girls as cannon fodder in the pursuit of military objectives have created a sense of revulsion among large sections of the intelligentsia in different parts of the world.

The LTTE's statements over the last four years have been aimed at winning back international support. Prabakaran is showing the 'velvet glove' to project a soft image of the LTTE as a liberation organisation that is an 'aggrieved party' and a 'victim of oppression', a 'peace-loving group' pitted against 'war mongers'. As an example of his earnestness, Prabakaran has highlighted the cooperation extended by the LTTE to the Norwegian initiative to defuse the crisis in order to begin the peace process. The handling of the Norwegian initiative by Chandrika Kumaratunga's People's Alliance (P.A.) government and its pursuance of the military option enabled the Tigers to mobilise support and sympathy to an extent from foreign governments.

In the press conference, Prabakaran was specifically asked what assurance the Tigers could give that the ceasefire would lead to an eventual peace. Prabakaran's reply was that the talks would have "a different approach this time because the Norwegian government is taking part as a third-party facilitator. We, therefore, believe that the negotiations this time will be smooth to some extent." Balasingham called attention to the fact that it was the Government of Sri Lanka that opted for Norwegian facilitation. "We too decided that Norway would be an appropriate facilitator because of its neutrality and that it has no strategic interest in the region." Prabakaran's political adviser explained that the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE requested the Norwegian government to play a facilitative role because India was not taking an interest in the peace process.

'Tigers are not terrorists'

Prabakaran wants the international community to believe that "the Tigers are not terrorists. We are not mentally demented as to commit blind acts of violence impelled by racist and religious fanaticism. We are fighting and sacrificing our lives for the love of a noble cause, that is, human freedom. We are freedom fighters." Prabakaran wants the world, especially Western democratic countries, "to provide a clear and comprehensive definition of the concept of terrorism that would distinguish between freedom-fighters, based on the right to self-determination, and blind terrorist acts based on fanaticism". He drew attention to the fact that the Tigers came up with the peace initiative even before the September 11 happenings in the United States and, what is more, "the Tigers have issued an official statement condemning the September 11th attack". Balasingham claimed at the press conference: "We are not a terrorist organisation, but a liberation movement. You have to differentiate between a terrorist organisation and a liberation struggle. Those countries that are waging a war against terrorism should come out with a clear-cut definition as to what constitutes a terrorist and who is a liberation fighter. We have been misrepresented all this time."

Step-by-step approach

Of equal significance is Prabakaran's conviction that the peace process should follow a step-by-step approach. Each step will be an end in itself and will also pave the way for the next step. This stance becomes evident if one compares the policy pursued by Chandrika Kumaratunga towards the LTTE during earlier negotiations, which took place in 1994-95. As the Exchange of Letters between the two parties and Balasingham's book, Politics of Duplicity - Re-Visiting the Jaffna Talks, reveal, the two sides were speaking on different wavelengths. According to the LTTE, the peace process should proceed in two stages. In the early stages of negotiation, attention should be focussed on the restoration of normalcy and the creation of a peaceful environment. After normalcy was restored, talks could commence to find a peaceful solution. Chandrika, on the other hand, maintained that there should be simultaneous talks relating to the day-to-day problems of the people and finding a political solution. Finally, the Tigers accused the government of "bad faith" and started the Third Eelam War in April 1995.

Ranil Wickremasinghe, in contrast to Chandrika Kumaratunga, sees sense in the LTTE way of thinking and is prepared to adopt a step-by-step approach. Why should ordinary Tamils be subjected to severe hardships owing to prolonged war? Let the embargoes be lifted, the irksome security controls be removed, and let normalcy return. People irrespective of their ethnic background will develop a stake in peace and security. When normalcy is restored, negotiations can commence on the interim administration in the North and the East. After the interim administration is in place and the two parties have developed sufficient faith in each other, negotiations for a constitutional solution within a united Sri Lanka can begin. Ranil believes that the intervening period will enable him to gain a constituency committed to peace among the Tamils. They will, if the need arises, act as a pressure group on the LTTE. This period can also be utilised by the government to prepare the ground in the South for meaningful negotiations with the Tigers.

But the basic question remains. Can the Tiger be tamed? Will Prabakaran not use the interval to consolidate his power in the North-East, strengthen the Tigers militarily, and start attacking at the appropriate moment? Is history repeating itself? Is Prabakaran once again laying a peace trap?

Prabakaran wins first round

Prabakaran has already won the first round. The Cease-Fire Agreement, which came into effect on February 22, 2002, stresses that the overall objective "is to find a negotiated solution to the ongoing ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka". Four important aspects of this Agreement need to be kept in mind: 1) The clauses relating to military operations are definitely weighted in favour of the Tigers. According to Clause 1.3, the Sri Lankan armed forces "shall continue to perform their legitimate task of safeguarding the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka without engaging in offensive operations against the LTTE." However, Clause 1.2c forbids Sri Lanka from undertaking "offensive naval operations". According to informed sources in Colombo, the Tigers have received two consignments of weapons by sea after the ceasefire was instituted. 2) The Cease-Fire Agreement provides for the creation of a "state within a state". While the Monitoring Team can inquire into ceasefire and human rights violations in other parts of Sri Lanka, it is not empowered to monitor what is happening inside LTTE-controlled territory. What is more, 90 days after the ceasefire agreement comes into force, unarmed LTTE cadres can move around the whole of the North and the East. The Tigers have stepped up recruitment in the East and these new recruits can freely enter LTTE-controlled areas for military training. 3) Clause 1.8 provides that "Tamil paramilitary groups shall be disarmed by the Government of Sri Lanka by D-Day + 30 at the least." The Government of Sri Lanka shall integrate them into its armed services for service away from the North and the East. This provision has naturally affected the fortunes of the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) under Douglas Devananda, the followers of A. Varadaraja Perumal, the People's liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and others who have been provided arms for self-defence by the Sri Lanka Army. In other words, Colombo has created a situation where no credible non-LTTE force can carry on a political campaign, or even defend itself. 4) The sustainability of the peace process will depend not only on the absence of armed hostilities, the easing of sanctions and embargoes, and the removal of checkpoints, but also on the creation of a political atmosphere in which different points of view can be expressed and debated. This is sadly lacking in the Tamil areas. The Tigers have opened offices and started their political campaign, but no form of dissent is allowed.

The press conference

Prabakaran repeatedly claimed at the press conference that the Tigers were sincerely committed to the peace process. At the same time, in response to a specific question, he made it clear that they had not given up their demand for Tamil Eelam: "I don't think the necessity and situation have arisen now for that." By way of underlining this point, Prabakaran added: "It is our people who put forward this demand for Tamil Eelam. The people gave a mandate to the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) for this as early as 1977. We, therefore, with people's support, are fighting for Tamil Eelam till now."

His political adviser explained that a satisfactory solution to the ethnic problem could be found if Colombo accepted the concerns and aspirations of the Tamil people, as expressed in the well-known Thimphu principles. These principles, put forward jointly in July 1985 by six Tamil organisations including the LTTE and the TULF, are: 1) recognition of the Tamils in Sri Lanka as a distinct nationality; 2) recognition of Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka as the traditional Tamil homeland and the guarantee of its territorial integrity; 3) based on the above, recognition of the inalienable right of self-determination of the Tamil nation; and 4) recognition of the right to full citizenship and other fundamental democratic rights of the Tamils who look upon the island as their country.

The first three principles were deliberately couched in vague terms. To the Sinhalese leaders, who at that time viewed even federalism as the first step towards separation, these principles were a red rag. The Sri Lankan government delegation responded within a legal framework and rejected these principles outright. Said H.W. Jayewardene, the delegation's leader: "If the first three principles were to be taken at face value and given their accepted legal meaning, they are wholly unacceptable to the government. They must be rejected for the reason that they constitute a negation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, they are detrimental to a united Sri Lanka and are inimical to the interests of several communities, ethnic and religious, in our country."

On several occasions since 1985, the LTTE and other Tamil organisations have reiterated their commitment to the Thimphu principles. In a discussion paper, Rohan Edrisinha, Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Colombo, has correctly pointed out that "recognising a Tamil nation, a traditional Tamil homeland and its right to self-determination could certainly imply the recognition of an independent Tamil sovereign state." But can these principles be explained, rationalised and accommodated within the constitutional framework of a united Sri Lanka?

What does self-determination mean?

Balasingham's explanation of the concept of self-determination needs closer scrutiny. It must be pointed out that Prabakaran was completely silent when Balasingham launched into a disquisition on the complexities of this issue. As Indian journalists who attended the press conference have pointed out, Balasingham was not translating accurately what Prabakaran said in Tamil. Apart from putting a gloss on the LTTE supremo's answers to key questions, Balasingham held forth with his own views. According to Balasingham, self-determination has two dimensions - the external and the internal. Answering a specific question on what the LTTE meant by self-determination, Balasingham explained: "By self-determination we mean the right of the people to decide their own political destiny - it can also apply to autonomy and self-governance. If autonomy and self-governance are given to our people, then we can say that internal self-determination is met to an extent." However, if the Sri Lankan government rejected the Tamil demand for autonomy and self-government, "then we will opt for secession as a last resort."

In other words, the onus for providing a constitutional proposal incorporating the principle of self-determination is on Colombo. It must spell out the constitutional proposals and, if it is acceptable to the Tigers, negotiations can commence.

The thorny issue of self-determination is likely to dominate the constitutional talks, when they take place, if they take place at all. The Tigers are experts in the art of duplicity and they will use the term 'self-determination' to suit their short-term and long-term needs. The vagueness inherent in the term will enable them to keep their options open. Rohan Edrisinha has pointed out that pro-LTTE spokespersons such as Rudrakumaran and Sornarajah argue that devolution and autonomy are stages en route to the final destination of an independent, sovereign Tamil nation. A paper by Sornarajah (cited by Edrisinha) advocates "the acceptance of a confederal political arrangement as a strategic ploy to further the goal of an independent Tamil nation state". To quote Sornarajah: "The making of a confederacy recognises the distinctness of the Tamil people and their homelands. It will also lead to the demarcation of the boundaries of the homelands in a constitutive document. There are gains to be had. It will bring the war to an end and ensure that the confederate arrangement works as there is the threat of the resumption of war... Strategically, confederation may be considered for the reason that it gives the Tamil homelands clearly defined borders and creates a breathing space for some time... Confederations have generally not worked as solutions to ethnic crises."

Edrisinha points out that scholars like Sornarajah advocate confederacy because they believe that it is doomed to fail. Balasingham's statement that "the Prime Minister, Mr. Ranil Wikremasinghe, is the Prime Minister of those who have elected him" and that "here in Tamil Eelam, our Prime Minister and President is Mr. Prabakaran" has to be clearly understood in the backdrop of the above analysis.

De-proscription of the LTTE

Prabakaran has made it crystal clear that talks cannot be held unless the ban on the LTTE is lifted. He is conscious of the fact that the best way to come out of international isolation is to pressure Colombo to lift the ban on the LTTE, which was imposed soon after it attacked Dalada Maligawa in January 1988. Once Colombo lifts the ban, the Tigers can mount a campaign internationally to get the ban lifted in India, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In his Heroes' Day speech, Prabakaran asserted: "For us to participate in the political negotiation freely as equal partners, as the authentic political force with the status of the legitimate representative of our people, the ban imposed on our movement should be lifted. This is the collective aspiration of our people." In the April 10 press conference, he echoed the same sentiments. Prabakaran reiterated that if the ban were not lifted, the Tigers would not participate in the proposed talks in Thailand.

Ranil Wickremasinghe's government is caught on the horns of a dilemma. If it does not lift the ban, a stalemate is inevitable. What is more, since this government is prepared to recognise the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamils, it cannot be insensitive to the organisation's concerns. At the same time, Colombo will be very happy if the ban on the LTTE continues in the other countries. According to media reports, the Sri Lankan government is working on a legal formula that will permit it to lift the ban on the LTTE without affecting the ban imposed elsewhere. Sobriety suggests that unless Colombo receives iron-clad guarantees from the Tigers that they will settle for a constitutional settlement within a united Sri Lanka and also uphold the democratic and human rights of various ethnic groups in the island, it should not take any hasty decision in the matter.

Perhaps Colombo can learn from Indian experience (see the author's article in Frontline, May 11, 2001). In India, negotiations have taken place and continue to take place with militant organisations that are banned. G. Parthasarathy, as the emissary of the Central government, negotiated a peaceful settlement with Laldenga of the Mizo National Front to settle the Mizo problem. The Mizo National Front continued to be a banned organisation during the period of negotiations. The same holds true for Nagaland. High functionaries of the Home Ministry have held negotiations with the representatives of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN), a banned organisation, in Bangkok and Amsterdam. These negotiations resulted in a ceasefire in Nagaland. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee recently held discussions with some important leaders of the NSCN in Japan. Although the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka has its own unique features, it will be prudent on the part of Colombo to learn from the experience of other countries that have faced threats to their national security.

The Muslim Dimension

Another important strategy of the LTTE became apparent during the April 10 press conference. Prabakaran wants to extend his political influence among other Tamil-speaking peoples, Muslims and Tamils of recent Indian origin. Sri Lanka's Muslims are scattered throughout the island, although there is a concentration of them in the East. Indian Tamils live predominantly in the central parts of the island, especially in the tea plantations. If Prabakaran succeeds in his objective of winning the support of substantial sections of these two minority groups, Sinhala-Tamil relations may take a new turn to the disadvantage of Sinhala-dominated governments. What is more, such a development can lead to the strengthening of Sinhala chauvinist forces such as the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Sihala Urumaya.

The Muslim community in Sri Lanka, constituting about seven per cent of the total population, is in the throes of political change. These Muslims tend to seek their identity in terms of religion, not language. In the early years of independence, the leadership of the Muslim community came from the affluent trading classes based in Colombo. But as the ethnic conflict gathered momentum, the Muslims of the East, who increasingly felt that their interests were not protected by Colombo-based Muslim leaders, rallied round the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC).

What is more, the support of the SLMC became crucial for the survival of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's P.A. government; during the last days of this government, the SLMC withdrew its support and aligned itself with the United National Party (UNP). Given the slender majority of the present UNP government, the SLMC's support is crucial to the government's survival.

The emergence of the SLMC and its stout opposition to the demand for Tamil Eelam led to violent clashes between the LTTE and Muslims. The creation of an armed civilian force, the Muslim Home Guard, further exacerbated the situation. In the early 1990s, the Tigers massacred a large number of Muslims who were offering prayers in their mosques. In October 1990, the Tigers ordered Muslims in Jaffna district to vacate their homes. Nearly 75,000 Muslims fled, leaving behind their property, which was looted by the LTTE. The displaced Muslims have taken refuge in Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Kurunegala districts. Although Balasingham admitted that the LTTE's past policy towards Muslims was a mistake, Tiger-Muslim relations continue to be tense.

The overtures made by the Tigers towards Muslims have to be seen in the context of the Tamil demand for a North-East merger as a precondition for a political settlement. The first indication of a change in LTTE perception came when the Cease-fire Agreement was finalised. The Preamble drew attention to the fact that "the parties further recognise that groups that are not directly party to the conflict are also suffering the consequences of it. This is particularly the case as regards the Muslim population. Therefore, the provisions of this Agreement regarding the security of the civilians and their property apply to all inhabitants." The Agreement, however, did not make any specific mention of the fears and misgivings of the Sinhalese people and Tamils of recent Indian origin, who are also residing in the region of ethnic conflict.

The LTTE's gestures towards Muslims and the subsequent Prabakaran-Rauf Hakeem talks have to be viewed against the backdrop of a large number of recent incidents in the East, where LTTE cadres have subjected Muslims to financial extortion. The LTTE-Muslim animosity has deep roots and it is not easy for Muslims to forget the past. At the same time, the Muslims, being pragmatic, are conscious of the fact that they have to coexist with the Tamils in the East. Will Prabhkaran be prepared to shed his policy of intolerance and open a new chapter in Tamil-Muslim relations? Unless the Muslims are won over to their side, the Tigers will find it very difficult to get a merged North-East. Muslims will continue to oppose the merger because they would become a "mini-minority in a minority state".

Problems of Indian Tamils

On the question of the future of the Indian Tamil community, Balsingham bracketed them with the Muslims and pointed out that the Tigers had invited Arumugham Thondaman, leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), and P. Chandrasekharan, leader of the Up Country Peoples' Organisation, for talks. "We will engage them in constructive discussion to see how we can help to resolve their problems and bring about a final resolution."

Although the Tamils of recent Indian origin share bonds of ethnicity, language and religion with the Sri Lankan Tamils, the problems they face and also their aspirations are in many ways different. Unlike the Sri Lankan Tamil settlements in the Jaffna peninsula, the plantations are surrounded by Sinhalese villages, which are located in the heartland of the Sinhalese people. This stark reality has made the Tamils of recent Indian origin realise that their present and future are closely intertwined with the Sinhalese and they must co-exist with them.

The Indian Tamils do not subscribe to the demand for Tamil Eelam. What is more, their most representative organisation, the CWC, has been part of every government in Colombo since 1978. Even so Indian Tamils are most vulnerable in times of communal conflict. The communal violence of 1977, 1981 and 1983 demonstrated the utter helplessness of these people against lumpen sections of the Sinhalese population. Attempts made by the Tamil militant groups to co-opt the plantation youth into their movements have not made much headway. Except for isolated pockets, the Indian Tamils have remained aloof from Sri Lankan Tamil militants.

However, in the long run, the winds of change will have their impact on the Indian Tamils. The future of the community, and relations between the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Tamils of recent Indian origin, will be determined by the resolution or non-resolution of the question of Sinhala-Tamil relations. As far as a constitutional settlement is concerned, the aspirations of the Indian Tamil community can be fulfilled only if there is further devolution from the provinces to the Pradeshiya Sabhas.

The problems Indian Tamils face can be summed up as follows: Citizenship for the residue of Indian passport-holders and their natural increase, that is, those who have not yet been repatriated to India; identity cards for all Indian Tamils; a monthly living wage for plantation workers; better housing facilities; greater employment opportunities; and better educational facilities so that the community can have upward mobility and play an important role in the social and economic life of the country.

After the death of S. Thondaman, a major leader who provided leadership to the community for several years, there has been a political vacuum in the plantations. A fragmented political leadership will not be in a position to safeguard the interests of Indian Tamils. Fifty-four years into independence, Sri Lanka's Indian Tamils remain underprivileged. If their problems are not solved with sympathy and understanding, it is possible that the LTTE will spread its influence in the plantation areas. If that happens, the plantations, relatively peaceful until recent times, will become areas of political turbulence.

The India Factor

The presence of a large number of Indian journalists at the press conference obliged Prabakaran and Balasingham to explain their position vis-a-vis India. The answers were, to say the least, unconvincing and unsatisfactory. But what is clear is that the India factor looms large in the intellectual horizon of the Tigers.

First, Prabakaran in response to a pointed question characterised Rajiv Gandhi's assassination as a "tragic incident". This implied neither an admission nor a denial of the LTTE's role in the assassination. The Tigers seemed to be appealing for a policy of letting bygones be bygones.

Balasingham repeatedly underlined the important role of India in the resolution of the ethnic conflict: "Without India, this problem will not find a permanent settlement. India is the regional superpower and we need India's backing and support... We do not want to have any unfriendly relationship with India because we have suffered a lot as a consequence of contradictions between India and the LTTE. So we want to renew our friendship and engage in a positive relationship with India."

He added: "As a race of people, we are Tamils and we have our roots in India. India is our fatherland. We have respect and love for India and its people. So whatever happened in the past, we are not going to entertain unpleasant memories. We look forward to establishing new, friendly and pleasant memories... So please don't ask me any such questions."

Prabakaran and Balasingham have clearly underestimated the extent of alienation caused by the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. They also grossly overestimate the influence of pro-LTTE forces in Tamil Nadu - the Nedumarans, the Veeramanis, the Vaikos and the Ramadosses. The mainstream national media, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) Government led by Jayalalitha and the Congress have made their position clear. They do not want the Government of India to have any links with the LTTE. They do not want New Delhi to provide medical facilities to Balasingham on so-called humanitarian grounds. On the contrary, they demand that New Delhi should press the demand for the extradition of Prabakaran to India to face capital criminal charges in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and charges in other cases as well.

Colombo's Response

The UNP government's assessment of Prabakaran's press conference, although guarded, is optimistic. Professor G.L. Peiris, Sri Lanka's Minister for Constitutional Affairs who is expected to lead the official delegation in the talks in Thailand, welcomed Balasingham's explanation of internal self-determination. He characterised it as a "window of opportunity" for further detailed discussion on a constitutional settlement acceptable to all concerned. Peiris no doubt recalls that he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by an LTTE suicide squad on the eve of the last Presidential election. Informed Indian observers of the Sri Lankan scene do not want to place obstacles before the peace process. But since Sri Lanka is not "just another country" and its security is closely intertwined with that of India, they would like to sound a note of caution.

I would like to explain the cautionary note by narrating an Arab folk tale: "A hunter went hunting for sparrows one morning on a cold day. As he carried on the slaughter, his eyes were streaming. Said the young bird to the older one, 'Look, the man is crying.' Said the older bird, 'Never mind his eyes. Watch his hands.'"

Increasing U.S. Interest

The increasing interest of the U.S., and the likely role it will play, in Sri Lanka should be a matter of serious concern for India. The U.S. role in Afghanistan, the help it has given to the government of Nepal in its war against the Maoist rebels, its military assistance to Manila and Jakarta to put down Muslim separatist rebels, its increasing interest in Sri Lanka's domestic affairs - all these are pointers to a greater U.S. role, but also evidence of the bankruptcy of India's foreign policy towards its neighbours. The vocal and interventionist tone of U.S. foreign policy makers is evident from the carrot-and-stick policy adopted by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca. On March 11, the U.S. Embassy in Colombo warned the Tigers against reneging on the Cease-Fire Agreement. Rocca met Wickremasinghe and senior military officials in Jaffna. She fully supported Wickremasinghe's initiative: "We just want him to know that we stand behind what he is doing." It is likely that Colombo is counting on U.S. support - both vocal and military - in case Prabakaran goes back on the peace process.

The rapidly unfolding events in Sri Lanka will have far-reaching implications for India. The ideology that the Tigers represent, which holds that the alienated Sri Lankan Tamils can safeguard their identity and security only within a separate state, runs counter to all that Indian nationalism has upheld and the Indian state stands for - namely, the creation of a pluralist, multi-ethnic, tolerant, federal state. India must fight against this dangerous and reactionary ideology.

New Delhi cannot abdicate its responsibility in Sri Lanka. It should try and persuade Sri Lanka's Prime Minister and President to come together to talk to the LTTE, if the Tigers are willing to talk or tackle the LTTE jointly if the Tigers renege on the peace process. The internationalisation of the ethnic conflict, by encouraging the entry of the U.S. into the region, spells a long-term problem for India's security.

Prof. V. Suryanarayan is former Director, Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Madras, Chennai.

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