Did India manipulate Sri Lanka to remove its former army chief general Sarath Fonseka within days of defeating the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)?
If the Pakistani newspaper, The Nation, is to be believed then it took Prime Minister Manmohan Singh merely one late night telephone call to convince the Lankan political leadership that Fonseka had become too powerful after leading the Sri Lankan army (SLA) to victory against the LTTE and a military takeover of the civilian government was imminent.
The LTTE was defeated in May; In July, Fonseka was appointed as the chief of defence staff, which he himself had called "an appointment without power." From being the chief of a 2-lakh strong army, Fonseka had become ceremonial head without any operational head.
The Indian PM warned that intelligence reports indicated that democratic institutions in Sri Lanka were under threat from SLA. "SLA and General Fonseka have become too powerful. The situation is dangerous as it sometimes happened in Pakistan and Bangladesh, where military got control of democratic institutions," unnamed sources in Colombo revealed to The Nation, quoting a conversation between Singh and Sri Lankan leader. The telephone conversation took place in the intervening night between May 21 and 22.
The report goes on to add: "Above all, the Indian PM also advised the Sri Lankan political leadership that they must act swiftly and order changes in senior leadership of Armed forces. It is quite obvious that India was not happy with Sri Lanka's unprecedented victory that could lead to peace and domestic stability; thus denying India's leverage in Sri Lanka's internal affairs."
Fonseka, now the opposition's Presidential candidate against President Rajapaksa, had dismissed the Lanka government's fear of a coup in his resignation letter in November.
It was an attempt to tarnish the image of the SLA, Fonseka had remarked about the government's suspicion that he would stage a coup.
Whereas, the Lankan government denied that India had put any pressure to remove Fonseka.
"India has never pressured Sri Lanka to do any such thing. India and Sri Lanka have excellent relations. No government source however reliable or highly placed could have said this because it is not a fact. If it was so, why did the President (Mahinda Rajapaksa) wait till July to appoint him (Fonseka) as CDS? And it was a promotion," Lalith Weeratunga, President Rajapaksa's secretary and Sri Lanka's top civil servant, told HT.