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WikiLeaks puts things in perspective

world Updated: Mar 23, 2011 01:46 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

A new bunch of Wikileaks cables have firmly put in place pieces of recent Indo-Lanka diplomatic jigsaw puzzles. But many commentators and analysts already knew what the cables seem to confirm. For one, it was known that India was worried about the developing humanitarian crisis involving displaced Tamil civilians in Mullaitivu during the final months of the war. One cable, accessed by the august Hindu, quotes an Indian diplomat telling other foreign diplomats that Indians were "troubled by the high level of casualties sustained by Tamil civilians caught in the crossfire."

At the same, it was also known that India did nothing to persuade Colombo to stop the offensive against the Tamil Tigers. Now, many are saying that it was this twin approach by India and the international community – discuss civilian casualties but mostly keep quiet about the violence -- that allowed Colombo to carry out the "world's largest hostage rescue mission" in which thousands of hostages allegedly and unfortunately ended up as casualties.

Some of the cables published were from 2005, around the time rising political star Mahinda Rajapaksa won the Presidential poll. The impression conveyed by the US diplomats to their superiors in Washington, which in turn were impressions collated from Indian diplomats and analysts, was that though the new President was an "unknown commodity" he would neither go to war nor resolve the ethnic issue. And that post-2005, Sri Lanka would be in a "no war no peace" situation for a few years.

The assessment was wrong. Within about half-a-year, by the middle of 2006, the fourth and final Eelam War had begun. And within one year, the LTTE were driven out of the East. Of course, both the government and the LTTE blamed each other for the gradual breakdown of the ceasefire agreement. Leaked cables anyway reveal that the impression was that the supremely confident LTTE chief V Prabhakaran dumped Ranil Wickremesinghe because he didn't want to return to negotiations.

One cable also reveals how India were sure to finish and finalise talks on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Rajapaksa after he became President. And also to wrest large infrastructure projects here. Six years later, CEPA is still a draft and large infrastructure projects have been mostly gifted to China.