Playing with Indian Fire

As expected by the Tamils, the Sri Lankan president is at her tricks again. That is - giving the impression that she is ready for peace talks in one hand and totally rejecting them on the other. So far, this tactic has worked very well with her Sinhalese political friends and foes. It confuses them and, while they are trying to get out of the confusion, the president moves on.  Will it work with the LTTE? There is no sign yet that it does. Tamils have experience from the days of the president's father.  Furthermore, she is not doing something that her predecessors haven’t done, as far as Tamils are concerned.  The Sinhalese political elites will never want to accept a peaceful solution unless they are forced to by someone. There are several pressures at the moement from inside and outside of Sri Lanka to accept a peaceful solution.

Number one is the economy.  A good indicator of the economy is the movement of the exchange rate of Sri Lankan rupees in the last few weeks.  It is not just that the exchange rate indicates the state of the economy. There are reports that the government is nearly bankrupt as it will have no funds to carry out certain of its functions in a few months.  This can’t be a good sign, not only for Sri Lanka, but also for its friends.  Therefore, one would assume that Sri Lanka’s friends will rescue the government one way or the other. The president can rest easy that something will be done. Ironically, this is the main cause for concern to our big neighbour.  With a president of CBK’s calibre in the south, with other superpowers meddling even in the intelligence establishments and with the peace process going nowhere, India should be thinking about keeping some sort of control in the south.  As everyone is aware, the 1987 Indian intervention was not due to the Vadamaraatchy operation or to save the Tamils, but it was to stop Sri Lanka drifting away into the west.  It can be assumed that Indian policymakers in New Delhi are sure that they don’t want Sri Lanka to be India’s Taiwan in many ways.  So, the Indian preferred option is - even if there is going to be a financial rescue of Sri Lanka, it has to be done on Indian terms.  In that case, it will be more like a “drip feed” than a rescue.  Even that will be attached with stringent conditions both from India and “friends.”

As the drip feed will not be enough to keep up with the election promises and the inefficiencies, the government, particularly the alliance partner JVP will not be happy bunnies. The first (and sometimes only) reaction would be to blame the government,  the LTTE, the Tamils, the western countries and, eventually, India. If India has finally decided to implement the “Sethu Samuthiram”  project, to give help to war-affected areas of the northeast of Sri Lanka and to take effective control of the government of Sri Lanka, India will be the target of Sinhalese extremists’ anger. This will reverse all the current invitations to India to come in as mediatiors, facilitators and Tiger slayers.  At that point in time, India might have to decide on some firm actions.  This will be the result of these Sinhalese elites playing with India to try to persuade India to destroy the LTTE for them.  Once India has done it, these people think that the Tamils will be reduced to a screaming lot.  Then business will be as usual.  It is not only the Tamils, but also the Sinhalese people who will also have to suffer because the Sri Lankan rulers live in cloud cuckoo land.

Rajkumar Sivapatham
Harrow, UK

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Posted June 14, 2004