Indo-Lanka Defence Cooperation Agreement: A matter of routine
The proposed India-Sri Lanka Defence Co-operation Agreement is being considered with some concern by the Tamil press and politicians. The Tigers remain silent. Instead, we heard their advisor Balasingham urging the Indian government to take on a 'more positive role' in the process to realise Tamil rights. His appeal appeared in other versions in some petitions sent by civil society groups in the north to the Indian PM.
But on Sunday a mysterious group calling itself the Tamil National Vigilance Organisation issued a leaflet warning of war if the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) was going to ignore the LTTE's ISGA proposal. Interestingly, the leaflet, among other things, slams President Chandrika that she had waited until Indian officials spoke about the ISGA to give her opinion on the LTTE's proposal. In short, the leaflet, which gave the publisher's address as Tamil Eelam, was accusing the President of being a pawn in the hands of the Indians.
On the other hand, one can safely venture to say that in many political and opinion making circles of the south the India-Sri Lanka Defence Co-operation Agreement (DCA) is considered with a measure of satisfaction as another instrument in Colombo's diplomatic arsenal to check the military ambitions of the Liberation Tigers effectively.
The leaders of the UNP and the SLFP are keen to make political capital by taking credit for the DCA. But this is possible only in as much as it is presented to the Sinhala public as a means of containing the LTTE's military power.
A Sunday paper reported that Defence Secretary Cyril Herath and Army Commander, Lt. Gen Lionel Balagalle accompanied by Nigel Hatch, an attorney at law, would be leaving Colombo for New Delhi today to begin negotiations on the ISL-DCA.
The very sharp contrast in Sinhala and Tamil reactions to the proposed ISL-DCA (the former is somewhat muted while the latter is an alarmist) is yet another instance of the deep chasm that divides the people of this island.
Two fundamental questions appear to be overlooked by either side in their respective responses to the ISL-DCA. Firstly, it should be pointed out, lest it be forgotten, that the Indo-Lanka Agreement of 1987 consists of clauses regarding defence co-operation between the two countries.
Para 3.1 and Para 4 of the annexure to the
Posted January 16, 2004