Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Confederation or a Separate State

Trajectory of Ethnic Conflict

by Dr. Chandra Bose , TamilCanadian, July 8, 2007

To what extent India is going to exercise its raw and diplomatic power remains uncertain today. However, there are indications that the Indian establishment seems to be quite serious in desiring a solution to the conflict at least in the near future.

The future scenario of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka suggests that things might not be that bad for Tamils and the LTTE. Although the outcome might not be to the full satisfaction of the LTTE, strategic thinking is required to capitalize on the unfolding circumstances.

Under changing conditions of war, it might be unwise to be fixated to one particular methodology for the realization of the ultimate objective. In fact, there are many roads to travel, some short and long, but right thinking and strategic calculations might ensure the right road to be taken to reach the destination. An adoption of worst case scenario methodology might be useful, not in terms of reaching the final solution, but more to gain time and resources to chart the ultimate course.

First, despite the constant ramblings of the U.S., Britain and the European Union on ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and its myriad consequences, it is India that will have a major say on the nature of political settlement. To what extent India is going to exercise its raw and diplomatic power remains uncertain today. However, there are indications that the Indian establishment seems to be quite serious in desiring a solution to the conflict at least in the near future. Reliable sources indicate that India is not keen on its version of federalism, but prone to endorse a confederation for Sri Lanka, a solution that would take care of the rights of Tamils and Muslims.

Second, there are reliable indications that the Indian establishment is quite frustrated with the present Sri Lankan government headed by Mahinda Rajapakse. India does not want to engage in any form of interventionism at the present stage simply because the Sri Lankan government is gung-ho about the military option. However, India knows the futility of such an option and realizes that the Sri Lankan state would not realize such a folly without suffering a major military defeat at the hands of the LTTE. In this respect, India expects that the LTTE would be able to teach the Sri Lankan government a bitter lesson before the next round of negotiations could be started.

Third, the only place or battleground that the LTTE is going to teach the Sri Lankan state a bitter and painful lesson will be in Jaffna. Some senior members of the Indian establishment and some former officers of the Sri Lankan armed forces seem to concur that the LTTE is digging in for a major battle in Jaffna. Furthermore, there is also an emerging belief that it would be difficult for the Sri Lankan armed forces to prevent the capture of Jaffna by the LTTE.

Fourth, if the LTTE captures Jaffna in the near future, prospects for a negotiated settlement are much better with the active support provided by India. Actually, India wants this to happen as a way for it to come into the political conflict. Since the capture of Jaffna will instill much confidence and pride in the LTTE, chances are that it might be influenced to go for political negotiations.

Fifth, if the LTTE goes for a political settlement after the capture of Jaffna, then there is possibility that the Indian-sponsored solution will cover the eastern province as well, something that the the Sri Lankan government says it has liberated from the LTTE. However, a separate state option after the fall of Jaffna will merely lead to another civil war between the LTTE and the government, with the focus on the east.