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2 decade-old Indo-Lanka pact in a shambles

Many Tamils in Sri Lanka wonder why India is looking on while the Accord is being torn apart, reports PK Balachandran.

world Updated: Jul 31, 2007 00:02 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran
Hindustan Times

Two decades down the line, the ambitious and much trumpeted India-Sri Lanka Accord signed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President JR Jayawardene in Colombo on July 27, 1987, lies in shambles.

The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), which was inducted two days later on July 29, to implement the military aspects of the accord, left the island unsung and humiliated in March 1990.

The Accord had envisaged a federal solution to the minority Tamil question in Sri Lanka, and an end to an increasingly virulent militant struggle fast developing into a conventional war.

Federalism a far cry

But today, federalism is a far cry in Sri Lanka. And the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is not only a conventional military force bur one with an air force and a navy to boot. It has anti aircraft missiles, 153 mm artillery, and an ability to stage terrorist strikes anywhere at will.

Yes, the Eastern districts have been "liberated" but life is far from being normal there. Militant strikes have taken over from conventional military action. The Sri Lankan soldiers and the population are as edgy as they had been before.

Colombo today looks as embattled as it was in July 27, 1987. The hawkish Rajapaksa government had made war its one point programme. Security is being given the top most priority. War psychosis rules the minds of the government and the people.

But public appreciation of the War for Peace policy is waning. The Mahinda Rajapaksa government did try to make much of the liberation of the Eastern districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai, but the popular enthusiasm was palpably muted because of rising prices and lack of economic opportunities for the common Sinhalas, the majority community.

The India-Sri Lanka Accord envisaged the division of Sri Lanka into autonomous provinces with the unification of the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces to form a single Tamil-speaking North Eastern Province.

But today, the provinces lack genuine autonomy, with the "13th.amendment taking away from the provinces with the left hand, what it gave with the right hand," as former Constitutional Affairs Minister GL.Peries once said.

All power is concentrated in the Centre at Colombo and in the hands of the Executive Presidency to be precise.

No provincial autonomy, only district level decentralisation

The ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), headed by Mahinda Rajapaksa, has made it clear that it does not stand for anything more than district level decentralization of power.

It has also said that the merger of the North East will do great injustice to the Sinhalas and Muslims who will be subject to Tamil hegemony there.

The Supreme Court has actually annulled the merger of the North and East. It ruled that the merger was done without first restoring perfect peace, and in violation of the laws of the land.

The North and East are now ruled by the Centre, or by the Sri Lankan military to be precise. The Tamils have little or no say in their running.

Both LTTE and successive Sri Lankan governments had been uncompromising in their stands – the former wanting an independent Tamil Eelam in the North-East at any cost, and the latter refusing to envisage anything more than District Councils and Panchayati Raj.

India's indifference

Many Tamils in Sri Lanka wonder why India is looking on while the Accord is being torn apart. But many Sinhalas point out that India was the first to violate the Accord. It had failed to disarm the LTTE!

The popular theory among the Sinhalas is that India never really wanted to crush the LTTE. It wanted to subdue it and make use of it to push its geopolitical aims they allege.

First Published: Jul 30, 2007 21:23 IST

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