As Sri Lanka is being compelled to grapple with yet another ethnic conflict forced on it by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) with the brutal assassination of Sri Lanka'sdeputy Army chief Lt Gen. Parami Kulatunge on June 26, one begins to wonder whether there is any future for this unhappy island.
One thing is clear: India should steer clear of Sri Lanka'sinner conflicts no matter who calls for its intervention. India tried militarily to help, only to lose several thousands of its army men. Rajiv Gandhi, India'sPrime Minister himself was assassinated and nobody believes a word of what the LTTE'schief negotiator and ideologue Anton Balasingham said about it. Balasingham did not admit to LTTE'sown sinister role in planning the assassination but has been quoted as saying that it was ?a great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy? which his own party had arranged, whether Balasingham admits to it or not. He now expects the Government of India and the people of India ?to be magnanimous to put the past behind and to approach the ethnic question in a different perspective?. Cheap words.
No Indian can possibly forgive or forget the killing of Rajiv Gandhi even if Balasingham pledges to the Government of India that the LTTE ?under no circumstances will act against? India'sinterests.
If the LTTE wants India's?support??whatever that implies?it must give up arms and abhor violence of any kind. After a two-day visit to Colombo in early July, India'sForeign Secretary made it clear that Delhi is fully committed ?to the territorial integrity, sovereignty and unity? of Sri Lanka. And that is as it should be.
Under no circumstances can India even distantly support the LTTE'sdemand for self-determination and an independent eelam. There can be no separate Tamil State and India cannot?and should not?be a party even for the conceptual foundation of the proposal for an Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA), which the LTTE presented to the Sri Lankan government in October 2003, pushing the idea of confederalism, which is just another way of demanding ?self-rule? and not ?shared rule?.
Any compromise by India on this issue may turn out to be self-destructive. The LTTE'sbelated pseudo-apology for the killing of Rajiv Gandhi may be one way of seeking India'sgoodwill. This must be firmly denied. The pseudo-apology probably means that the LTTE is on its last legs and has decided to make one last chance for winning a battle against the Sri Lankan forces. Like Pakistan it has tried out terrorism and is now attacking civilians, forcing them once again to flee their homes and make a dash to India.
Between January 12 and June 28, 2006 as many as 3,673 persons belonging to 1,155 Tamil families were forced to take refuge in India. By taking recourse to such brutalism, the LTTE probably hopes to gain Tamil Nadu'ssympathy for its cause. It is a bad case of misjudgement.
Meanwhile, the European Union (EU), has unequivocally condemned terrorism as a means of realising political goals, which means the LTTE has no friends. Neither in India, nor in the EU, nor, in fact anywhere in the whole world. It is beginning to get isolated. In an era of globalisation it is futile for Tamils in Sri Lanka to speak of a separate state. They have to learn to live in peace with fellow Sri Lankans whatever their ethnic background. That is the reality of today and that is going to be finality of tomorrow. And it is a foolish LTTE that does not understand the changed circumstances.
Prabhakaran has tried everything, short of an all-out war against Colombo'srule. He may, in his desperation, initiate a war, only to face international hostility. And that may be the end of his dreams. He should have learnt his lesson from Pakistan, which has tried every trick under the sun. To capture Jammu & Kashmir it waged three wars against India and failed all three times. Then it tried terrorism on a large scale but that has not taken Islamabad any further. It is now likely to lose Washington'sfriendship as well, considering that the US Congress wants to cut aid to Pakistan, and Musharraf has been forced to cling to China'stail.
Now Musharraf is playing one last card. He has proposed demilitarisation of Kashmir and has reportedly ordered that henceforth there should be ?no mention of Muzzafarabad or Azad Jammu-Kashmir? in official maps, which are now expected to show the entire Jammu & Kashmir as one region with Srinagar as its capital.
In a programme highlighted on CNBC TV Musharraf said: ?I have proposed demilitarisation as a final resolution. Demilitarise Kashmir, give self-governance to the people of Kashmir with a joint management arrangement on top. This is an idea I am proposing.? If Musharraf can now try to get out of the trap his own country had set up, it is a signal to Prabhakaran that the LTTE's time is up. Even low intensity offensive no longer pays. In Sri Lanka the first sign of it was noticeable when the LTTE'sSpecial Commander for Batticalao-Amparai, V. Muralitharan (?Col. Karuna?) defected to the Sri Lankan Government. In Pakistan'sinstance, obviously at the instigation of the United States, former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharief have made their peace and are out to return ?home?, which is an obvious warning for Musharraf to behave. If Musharraf'stime is up, Prabhakaran cannot last either. If he refuses to compromise, his end cannot be far off. Hence, Balasingham'spathetic appeal to India is to forget the past and show magnanimity. Hence, Musharraf'sappeal is to show a ?united? Jammu and Kashmir on official maps.
Sri Lanka can afford to wait. So can India. Violence does not pay. Certainly not in the long run. And violence has had a very long run both in Sri Lanka and in South Asia. The LTTE is now pleading for an Interim Self-Governing Authority within its current jurisdiction. For all the loud noises it makes, it is surely aware that the world will no longer put up with violence and if the European Union, with the support, direct or indirect of the United States creates a cordon round Sri Lanka to prevent arms and other goods getting access to the LTTE, it will turn out to be the beginning of its end.
The message has gone to Musharraf; a similar message is bound to reach Prabhakaran. It is to ensure Sri Lanka'sunity. Musharraf has not asked for a confederation with India but who knows what the future holds for him as to Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharief? History does not care for individuals or their fates. History has its own task to fulfill and it does so in its own mysterious ways. The Musharrafs and Prabhakarans are mere toys in the hands of fate. They would only be foolish to think otherwise.