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Lankan peace hangs by a thread

Even as the troubled island nation steps into the New Year, the lack of clarity continues, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2006 17:16 IST

Through out the event-filled 2005, the Sri Lankan pendulum swayed between war and peace, between hope and despair. Opportunities for national reconciliation did come, but these were not seized.

The troubled island country is now stepping into a new year. But the lack of clarity continues. And the question on everybody's lips in Sri Lanka still is: Will there be war or will there be peace?Indeed, peace here hangs by a thread.

At least one leading defence expert, Iqbal Athas, has predicted the beginning of "Eelam War IV" in the very near future. "Eelam War III" had ended with the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in February 2002.

Major operations had been given up, but covert operations, assassinations and jockeying for strategic positions continued, putting a heavy strain on the CFA.

However, most observers do not foresee a full-scale war, at least in the immediate future. What is expected is a tiresome and uneasy stalemate, punctuated by agitations and violence in the Tamil areas of the North and East.

The LTTE would intend to make these areas ungovernable through "popular" agitations.

It would indulge in piece meal violence to provoke the armed forces. There would be counter-insurgency operations carried out by government forces and anti-LTTE groups would try to eliminate LTTE leaders and supporters.

Violent actions and agitations take place when there is a political vacuum. Right now, there is a political vacuum in Sri Lanka vis-à-vis the peace process.

There is no early chance of this vacuum being filled. This is because the two sides, namely, the government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the LTTE led by Velupillai Prabhakaran, are too far apart politically, to meet and narrow the gap meaningfully.

First Published: Jan 02, 2006 13:33 IST