Towards a political solution
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has
reiterated the significance of close relations between Sri Lanka
and India. As the President explained to a group of foreign
journalists on Saturday, ties between the two SAARC neighbours
have been growing steadily over the years.
According to many observers, diplomatic links between the two
countries have never been better and the last time the relations
reached such a peak was when the Sirima-Shastri Pact was signed.
President Rajapaksa is having regular interactions with India on
a variety of issues including the ethnic crisis.
The President has lauded India's tough anti-terrorism policy
and its avowed commitment to Lanka's sovereignty and territorial
integrity. On the issue of terrorism, it must be borne in mind
that India was one of the first countries to ban the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
LTTE terrorism has gravely affected India as well. Its former
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by the LTTE in
1991. The LTTE has committed several other killings on Indian
soil, including that of EPRLF leader Pathmanaba.
Apart from the LTTE, India has to contend with several other
terrorist and militant groups and Indian leaders know perfectly
well that any country suffering the adverse effects of terrorism
should not hesitate to take appropriate action in the interest
of maintaining national security.
It is in this context that one should appreciate Indian
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's comment that Sri
Lanka is well within her rights to take action against
Many other countries have shied away from directly saying so.
India's bold policy on terrorism, perpetrated by the LTTE or any
other group, is thus an example to the rest of the region and to
The geographical proximity of the two countries and the
porous nature of the maritime border means that the LTTE cadres
can infiltrate the Southern Indian States, especially Tamil Nadu,
quite easily. The two Navies cannot be everywhere in such a vast
sea area and the LTTE is quite adept at playing the innocent
fishermen card as well.
In fact, a 'red alert' has been sounded over increasing LTTE
infiltration and activity in Tamil Nadu by Indian defence
authorities. According to conservative estimates, the level of
infiltration has increased by around three times. The LTTE is
also said to be raising funds in the State through forged credit
cards and other such methods.
This assumption is proved beyond any doubt by the recent wave
of arrests of hardcore LTTE cadres and sympathisers, both Sri
Lankan and Indian. Two more LTTE suspects have been arrested on
Sunday in Tamil Nadu. Earlier, Chennai Police arrested the
LTTE's intelligence chief in Tamil Nadu. But from India's point
of view, the most dangerous aspect was that they were allegedly
planning to assassinate EPRLF's Vartharaja Perumal and Minister
Douglas Devananda on Indian soil.
In this context, Indian defence authorities have been advised
to be extremely careful and alert as this could only be the tip
of the iceberg as far as LTTE activity in the State is
concerned. Indian Security Forces are taking counter measures to
neutralise LTTE threats, including constructing more coastal
security stations and deploying additional vessels for
surveillance. Both India and Sri Lanka should also consider
joint patrolling in the Palk Strait to stop LTTE gun running and
India's help and blessings will be needed as Sri Lanka seeks
to crush LTTE terrorism and evolve a political solution.
Although it may not play a direct role, it is striving to curb
LTTE activities. Sri Lanka has kept India informed of the
developments at the All Party Representative Committee (APRC),
which is due to hand over its proposals to President Rajapaksa
Both India and Sri Lanka agree that the ultimate solution to
the conflict is a political one. President Rajapaksa has
stressed time and again that his Government is committed to a
permanent political solution. The military strategy has been
pointed out as a means to weaken the LTTE and nudge it towards
the negotiating table. It must not be viewed as an entirely
military option that precludes peace talks and a political
With the military gaining victories over the LTTE on one hand
and the APRC process gaining momentum on the other, there is
every hope that this year would turn out to be a decisive one
for peace prospects in Sri Lanka.