Rajiv Gandhi’s Sri Lanka policy led to his assassination, former external affairs minister Natwar Singh has said.
“He was badly advised… Rajiv Gandhi sent troops to Sri Lanka without telling the Cabinet,” Singh said in the second part of an exclusive interview to Headlines Today's, To The Point Show, telecast on Thursday.
Singh was referring to the decision to send the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka in July 1987 under the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord signed between then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan president JR Jayawardene.
“The IPKF was not prepared for what they were undertaking in Sri Lanka. There was no coherence in India’s policy. MGR (then Tamil Nadu chief minister MG Ramachandran) had his own Tamil Nadu policy, India had its own policy.”
Soldiers of the Indian Peace Keeping Force at a briefing session somewhere in Sri Lanka. HT file photo
In his autobiography to be released on Friday, Singh has shared his view on Rajiv Gandhi, his wife and now Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, and family.
The 83-year-old estranged Gandhi family friend has claimed Sonia and daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra visited his home on May 7 to dissuade him from writing about certain specific incidents in his autobiography, One Life is not Enough.
Read: The insider who later turned a ‘betrayer’
“No Indian would treat a man who had been close to the family for 45 years the way I was treated by Sonia,” he said.
Singh was forced to step down as a minister in December 2005 after a UN probe named him and the Congress as the "beneficiaries" of payoffs in an Iraqi oil-for-food programme. He quit the Congress three years later. His son Jagat Singh is a BJP legislator in Rajasthan.
In the first part of the interview telecast on Wednesday, Singh claimed Sonia was forced by son Rahul Gandhi — and not her "inner voice"— to decline the prime minister's job in 2004 because he feared that like his father and grandmother (Indira Gandhi), she, too, would fall victim to a political assassination.
Read: Natwar Singh drops book bomb, says Rahul made Sonia refuse PM job
On Sri Lanka, Singh said, “Rajiv thought there was a simple solution to the Sri Lanka problem. He was a trusting person…
“Rajiv had secret meeting with LTTE chief Prabhakaran. Rajiv was not a hardboiled politician; he trusted Prabhakaran… Prabhakaran double-crossed Rajiv.”
The IPKF was deployed in Sri Lanka’s troubled North and East between 1987 and 1990. It was sent to keep peace between Lankan government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The IPKF was to disarm the rebel outfit.
The LTTE assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991 — during a Lok Sabha poll campaign in Sriperumbudur around 40 km off Tamil Nadu capital Chennai — at a time when he was largely expected to return to power in India.
Read: Sonia will write own book for truth
10 things to know about Sri Lankan Tamils issue
1. Communal tensions between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities had been brewing since the early 1940s and intensified with the wave of Sinhalese nationalism and massive anti-Tamil riots in the latter half of the 1950s.
2. The LTTE was formed in 1976 as the self-styled "national freedom movement of the people of Tamil Eelam" and began a guerrilla war on the government and administration. The war with LTTE officially started after the killing of 13 soldiers in 1983.
3. In 1987 Rajiv Gandhi and JR Jayawardene signed the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord and Indian soldiers were dispatched to Sri Lanka as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF).
4. Though many of the insurgents did agree to intermittent truce under the IPK, matters deteriorated soon and fighting erupted again once the IPKF left in 1990.
5. The LTTE assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 at a time when he was widely expected to return to power.
6. The island nation remained in a state of unrest throughout the 1995 to 2001 with brief intermittent spells of peace. Severe bombing and attacks in the northern and eastern parts of the country continued.
7. The government and LTTE signed a ceasefire with the Norwegians as mediators in 2002. Though peace was achieved for a short period with both sides making concessions, peace talks disintegrated soon. The ceasefire held for a while longer but violence escalated again with an LTTE suicide bombing in Colombo in 2004.
8. In early 2008, the government went on an all-out war against the LTTE, aiming to secure their complete and unconditional surrender. The UN estimates 40,000 civilians alone died in the five months before the war ended in May 2009, when the Tigers surrendered.
9. In May 2009, the Sri Lankan government announced the LTTE was officially defeated. The military said rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed in the fighting.
10. In March 2012, the United Nations passed a resolution urging Sri Lanka to investigate alleged abuses during the final phase of war with Tamil rebels. India voted against Sri Lanka, under pressure from parties from south India.