There is today an urgent need for India to define its Sri Lanka policy and delineate it'soptions, because of India'sunique relationship with Sri Lanka, viz., as a geographical neighbour, a cultural sibling, and a historical cohort.
The Sinhala Buddhist community acknowledges umbilical links with the people of Bihar, Orissa, and West Bengal and are 75 per cent of the total Sri Lanka'spopulation. The people of Tamil Nadu just across the Palk Strait have long-standing and continuing links with Sri Lankan Tamils ( who are 24 per cent and mostly Hindu) going back in ages. Hence India can play an effective role to stem the crisis in the island since the two nations are bound by history and by national security concerns.
But for India to play a role, the genesis of the Sri Lanka crisis has to be clearly understood. At present international facilitators such as the Norwegians have not much clue about the cause of the crisis. Hence they flounder.
Is the crisis rooted in religion, ethnicity, language or terrorism? We have to recognise that it is none of these. Certainly there is no ethnic difference between Sinhalas and Tamils. The DNA structures are the same for the two communities. Nor there is any religious difference because Buddha is an avatar for the Hindus. The Sinhala and Tamil languages also belong the same linguistic family as Sanskrit, and their respective scripts have evolved from Brahmi, and about forty per cent of the vocabulary is common.
The origins of the current antagonism between the two communities, Sinhala and Tamil, is traceable, however, to the Sinhala perception of the Tamils? role during the colonial period and to the progress made by the Tamil enabled by the proximity enjoyed by the community as clerks and officers of the British-ruled administration. The Tamils put the opportunity to good use by accessing English education and the passport to employment that it entailed.
When Independence came in 1948, the Tamils dominated most of the admissions in institutions of higher learning in professions, and the government administration. The disadvantaged Sinhalas resented this progress made by the Tamils as the comprador class in the colonial period. Independence of Ceylon enabled the 75% Sinhala population to attempt closing the gap by a policy of autocratic reverse discrimination. This short-sighted policy is at the core of the problem today.
In brief, the Sinhala majority as of now, does not want to share power with the minority Tamils by devolution in the Constitution. The day the Sinhalas develop sufficient self-confidence to do so, the crisis will abate. The Tamils do not want a separate Eelam except as a last option. They naturally do not want to suffer the terrible reverse discrimination anymore. They want the normal power sharing possible in a civilized democratic society.
There is also a deeper subconscious apprehension in the Sinhala psyche about the Tamil demand for greater devolution: their own ?minority complex?. Though the Sinhala community constitutes over 75 per cent of the population of Sri Lanka, it views the Tamils not as a minority but as part of the looming Tamil political and demographic presence to the north of the island in Indian peninsular area of Tamil Nadu, which has a population of 65+ million, and seen as the natural support base for Sri Lankan Tamils. This makes the Sinhalas feel threatened by a possible dismemberment of their country?a division which could be initiated by India under pressure from its own Tamil citizens.
Thus, the problem in Sri Lanka, and why the island has been in crisis for five decades, is not at all ethnic since there is no ethno-heterogeneity in the people. Nor is the problem religious because Hinduism and Buddhism, the two main belief systems of theology are, at the very least, not mutually antagonistic. The latter is a reform of the former and respected as such. The Sri Lanka problem is instead a hangover of the British colonial mischief, and because the Sinhala community appears to bear a grudge against the Tamils for having got ahead by collaborating with the British colonialists.
There are today as many alternative solutions as there are parties to the strife. A feasible solution can however only emerge by first agreeing to who should be considered as the legitimate parties in the current crisis. Obviously, the easy answer is that the democratic elected government of Sri Lanka is one of the parties. The difficult question is who should represent the Tamils: Whether it should be the LTTE, which seeks to be the sole representative of the Tamils, a claim surprisingly accepted by the fumbling clueless interlocutors from Norway, or whether there should be a composite negotiating partner of all Tamil parties as the present Government of India appears to favour, or that it should be a Tamil rainbow coalition but minus the LTTE, as this writer suggests.
It is my considered view that any alternative solution that includes the LTTE is doomed to failure, and more importantly, even if such a solution is found, it is against India'slong-term national security interests. For India, I contend that a solution is feasible or viable only if the LTTE is excluded, and that LTTE has to be dealt with as a part of the problem, and not part of the solution.
Given this minimum pre-condition of excluding the LTTE from any solution. there are only three viable options for India. The first is to make Sri Lanka to adopt an Indian-type quasi-federal Constitution for a united sovereign Sri Lanka. This is the minimal demand of Tamils. We cannot go below this demand.
The second is the partition of the island to create an independent sovereign state of Eelam. This, however, would mean India has to make a long-term commitment to sustain the survival of Eelam, or risk as we did with Bangladesh and paying a heavy price for that risk, that Eelam becomes a future base for our enemies which on the face of it, is unacceptable to us.
The third is the merger of the island with India. This is the maximal demand of any Indian. Of the three solutions, the first is the least painful for Sri Lanka and feasible today, but time is rapidly running out for its acceptance by Tamils. It could then pave the way for the LTTE to return with the help of ISI of Pakistan or other anti-Indian forces, to force the pace against Indian interests.
India'smost preferred solution is be the first solution of federal or quasi-federal Constitution. And if that is not acceptable to the Sinhala majority, then the only feasible alternative from the patriotic Indian point of view is the third solution of integrating Sri Lanka with India, either first by confederating like in Europe or by outright merger, as was the case with Sikkim.
But there is a pre-condition. If Sri Lanka does adopt and implement the first solution of devolution only then India has an obligation to intervene on the side of the Sri Lankan government and destruct the LTTE. Either Sri Lanka adopts this solution on its own, or India prods it in ways known to all. There is not much time to lose because India has to fix the LTTE for the following reasons.
First, India had trained the LTTE in 1980s and created the Frankenstein monster. Hence, India has to atone for it by actions to disband and wind up the LTTE.
Second, despite enjoying India'shospitality for years, and after welcoming the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement in 1987, the LTTE teamed up with the Sinhala hardliner President Premadasa and betrayed India by killing more than a thousand Indian army personnel of the IPKF sent to the island to enforce the said Agreement. The betrayal and loss of lives of our valiant jawans have to be avenged to keep up the morale of the Indian armed forces.
Third, as the Home Ministry 2005 Annual Report to Parliament states, LTTE has been targeting pro-Indian Sri Lanka politicians and assassinating them. For the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, an Indian trial court has already declared accused no-1 the LTTE chief, V. Prabhakaran as a proclaimed offender, and the Interpol has issued a Red Comer Notice for apprehending him. India is thus obligated to search for Prabhakaran and to teach the LTTE a lesson in a language they will understand, and to immobilize them enough to deter them in the future from engaging in any murderous and terrorist activities against India and Indian interests.
Fourth, the LTTE interferes in the internal affairs of India by financing stooge Indian political parties, in providing training to Indian militant and extremist organisations, and by extending insurgency infrastructure to bandits such as Veerappan and his forest gang. It also launders black money of Indian politicians through it'sillegal Eelam Bank in the Jaffna area. India cannot allow such erosion of law and order within it'sown borders.
Fifth, the LTTE is a part of the international terror network of Al Qaeda and is aided by ISI of Pakistan to smuggle narcotics into India, circulate fake currency notes to buy medicines and diesel, to smuggle out antiques to Italy, and engage in passport fabrication, and hawala operations.
Time is at hand, therefore, for India to effectively contribute to the war against terrorism and in promotion of democracy by targeting the LTTE sincerely and effectively, which is also in the larger national interest of security and national integrity.
There is today a window of opportunity due to international consensus against the LTTE, and we must seize it now, provided the Sinhala majority overcomes its silly resistance to devolution, and takes the Tamils as equal partners in building the future of Sri Lanka as a democratic and peaceful nation.