No role for India in Sri Lanka for now, says LTTE

By M.R. Narayan Swamy, IANS,

New Delhi : India cannot make “any healthy, fruitful contribution” to resolving Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict until it changes its mind on the Tamil Tigers’ struggle for an independent state, a rebel leader has said.

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“Our regret is that the Indian policy makers are viewing (the) Tamil people’s struggle through the lens of their country’s political warfare,” K.V. Balakumaran, a senior member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), told an Australian Tamil radio.

“Until the Indian central government approaches this intellectually and recognises that ours is a struggle for survival by an oppressed people in the land of their birth, India cannot make any healthy, fruitful contribution.

“India has approached our struggle as an integral part of their national political equation. Like in a political chess game, India has taken positions beneficial to the governments in power,” the pro-LTTE TamilNet website quoted Balakumaran as saying.

Balakumaran, who took to Tamil militancy in the 1970s and formally joined the LTTE in the early 1990s, was asked: “How would you like India to view the Tamil issue?”

Balakumaran, who for many years lived in Tamil Nadu and interacted with the Indian leadership in the 1980s, pointed out that there was “a link” between the Tamil Tigers and India.

“We have said clearly (that) Tamil Eelam is not against India; we will uphold Indian welfare as our own,” he said. “There was a time, when India looked after our welfare as her own. India will change its current policy towards us one day.

“We believe firmly (that) our strong cultural ties to our brothers and sisters in India will help their policy makers to select a just and fair path towards our people.”

But he said the LTTE “cannot wait for India’s change of mind to continue with our liberation. One fact should be clear, no one should doubt our friendship, and strong ties to India,”

In the mid-1980s, India provided sanctuary to Tamil militants from Sri Lanka. In 1987, its troops deployed in Sri Lanka’s northeast after a pact with Colombo ended up fighting the LTTE, resulting in thousands of deaths.

Subsequently, New Delhi became the first country to outlaw the Tigers in 1992, a year after a woman suicide bomber killed former Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi. The LTTE has denied assassinating Gandhi.

Balakumaran agreed that the LTTE campaign to carve out a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka, which has left over 70,000 people dead since 1983, would need the support of the international community.

“We accept this. We agree we have to go along with the international community. (But) our people must have a deeper understanding… We must inquire why international actors are responding differently to the national liberation struggles of different peoples.

“The axioms accepted for one struggle are negated for another… Countries are motivated by their own self interest.”

Balakumaran, whose remarks are believed to reflect the thinking of the LTTE leadership, was asked how important it was for “a liberation movement” to show its strength.

“We traditionally equate strength with military might,” he said. But this was one aspect of the larger picture, he added.

“This is a marathon; having the strength to confront the obstacles to the finish is how the success of a liberation struggle is assessed,” he said. “Our people are demonstrating this strength and the accompanying resilience.”