Following the visit of MPs belonging to the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to New Delhi earlier this week, three anti-LTTE moderate Tamil leaders will be in the Indian capital from September 26 to 28, to meet Indian political leaders and high officials.
The moderate leaders are V Anandasangaree of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), D Siddharthan of the Peoples' Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and D Sritharan of the Eelam Peoples' Revolutionary Liberation Front Varadar group (EPRLF-V).
None of them is a member of parliament now.
One of the three leaders told Hindustan Times that while a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had not been assured, they were hoping that they would get an appointment with him because, the head of the delegation, V Anandasangaree, was highly respected in India.
Anandasangaree has had the courage to oppose the LTTE risking his life and has strongly proposed the adoption of the Indian model of federalism against the tide of public opinion on both sides of the ethnic divide.
Recently, he won an UNESCO award for democratic leadership.
Anandasangaree's unabashed advocacy of the Indian model of federalism is music to Indian ears.
And despite the lack of interest in the Sri Lankan government and the academics here in the Indian model, New Delhi has been offering to send its constitutional experts to lecture on the model.
Queuing up to go to India
With the Tamil parties setting the trend, the majority Sinhala-Buddhist political constituency in the island also wants to engage India.
The Buddhist monks' party, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), had said that it would like to apprise Indian leaders of the situation in Sri Lanka from the majority Sinhala-Buddhist community's perspective.
But the JHU has not yet sought appointments with Indian leaders. New Delhi is unlikely to resist these demands because these give its top brass an opportunity to interact with a wide spectrum of political opinion in Sri Lanka.
This is considered to be useful in the context of persistent demands from all sides, that India should take a more active part in the Sri Lankan peace process and help find a solution to the Tamil problem.
India may go step by step
It is likely that India will go step by step in this matter and not rush into giving opportunities to particular political parties to meet the Prime Minister.
Once the trend is set, every political group will want time from the Indian Prime Minister.
Also, meeting the Indian Prime Minister could send out too strong a message to the parties in conflict, and spoil India's chances of playing a neutral, constructive and sustained role.
It is therefore likely that Sri Lankan political leaders (other than the top leaders of the government and the Leader of the Opposition) will only get to see the Minister of State, the National Security Advisor and the Foreign Secretary.
The five-member TNA delegation did precisely this. And it is likely that the Tamil moderates and others to follow will end up doing the same.
TNA deeply hurt
However, TNA members are very disappointed that their leaders could not meet the Indian Prime Minister.
But they attribute the failure of the mission mainly to the Karunanidhi-Vaiko rivalry. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is believed to have sabotaged the meeting with Dr Singh.
But it is also acknowledged that they should have been prudent enough to go through him rather than Vaiko.
Karunanidhi is the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, and is also in the ruling coalition at the Centre, while Vaiko is not.
They also feel that some of the younger and less politically savvy members of the TNA delegation may have taken a strident pro-LTTE stand in their meeting with the National Security Advisor, MKNarayanan, thus putting him off.
One daily had reported that the proposed meeting with the Prime Minister was cancelled following the Narayanan-TNA meeting, lending credence to the speculation that the meeting did not go too well.
TNA will not give up
The TNA MP from Jaffna, N Ravi Raj, told newsmen here on Saturday, that the party was "very disappointed" but said that it would continue to engage India.
"We hope to meet the Indian Prime Minister soon," he said.
"India should remember that unlike the Sinhala majority in Sri Lanka, the minority Tamils will never side with Pakistan or China against India. The Tamils have never done that, are not doing it, and will never do it," he stressed.
"One should also keep in mind the fact that there are 60 million fellow Tamils in Tamil Nadu who have not cut their umbilical ties with the Tamils of Sri Lanka," he pointed out.
Fellow MP from Jaffna, Pathmini Sithamparanathan, said that while there was disappointment, it was good that the delegation met other Indian leaders and top officials.
"We can build on this," she said.
The TNA leaders do not seem to be aware that the Indian Prime Minister has never met Sri Lankan political parties as such, and that the denial of an appointment to the TNA cannot be deemed to be discriminatory.
Indian Prime Ministers have so far formally met only top Sri Lankan government leaders and the Leader of the Opposition, who have constitutional status.