Shiv Shankar Menon is Indian Prime Minister’s all-powerful National Security Advisor. He has served as Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. In fact, in certain cases, he has acted as a de facto Ambassador for Sri Lanka in India defending Sri Lanka within the Indian circles. There was a news item published in both Indian and Sri Lankan media that Menon was scheduled to visit Sri Lanka sometime soon to convey India’s displeasure about Sri Lanka’s decision to unilaterally amend the 13th Amendment (13A) to the Constitution, which gave birth to the Provincial Councils. Minister Basil Rajapaksa has meanwhile paid a visit to India to brief the Indian Government about the proposed changes to the amendment.
India directly and indirectly has warned Sri Lanka not to violate the Indo-Lanka Accord signed in 1987. Most of the provisions in the 13A are a direct result of the Indo Lanka Accord. Hence, it is pertinent to look at the so-called bilateral agreement though in my view, there is no such valid Accord between the two nations.
According to the principles of Contract Law and International Law, accords signed under duress are voidable. President Jayewardene was of course under duress to sign the accord. India covertly trained and armed the separatist terrorists in Sri Lanka. This was later exposed by Western intelligence units. India openly defended the terrorists, attacked Sri Lanka in international forums and finally, invaded Sri Lankan airspace to coerce Sri Lanka to sign the Accord.
In his biography, written by K.M. De Silva and W.H.Wriggins,President Jayewardene has explained in detail the trauma he underwent. India invaded Pakistan in 1971 and created a new country called “Bangladesh”. India invaded Sikkim in 1975 and annexed it to India as its latest State and these memories must have been foremost in President Jayewardene’s mind when he chose the best out of the two options available and signed the Accord.
" President Jayewardene was of course under duress to enter sign the accord. India covertly trained and armed the separatist terrorists in Sri Lanka. This was later exposed by Western intelligence units India directly and indirectly has warned Sri Lanka not to violate the Indo-Lanka Accord signed in 1987. Most of the provisions in the 13A are a direct result of the Indo Lanka Accord. "
True results of the Accord
India’s influence with the separatist terrorists was reflected in its undertaking to disarm all terrorists within 120 hours. However, the LTTE launched its fight against the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) on October 8, 1987, thus putting an end to a very short honeymoon. Although India undertook to disarm the terrorists, it failed to fulfil its obligation with respect of the LTTE, which came to be known as one of the strongest terrorist outfits. Some people boast that 37 other terrorist groups surrendered their weapons as a result of the Accord. It is of course true but it was counter-productive from a military perspective. Before the Accord, the 38 terrorist groups were involved in fighting each other for supremacy rather than fighting the Sri Lankan forces. After the Accord, there was no intergroup rivalry to weaken each other, and this resulted in the LTTE gradually increasing its attacks on the Government forces. Moreover, the LTTE was transformed into a professional military force from an amateur hit-and-run terrorist group thanks to the Rs.50 million received from India for the rehabilitation of its cadres. In the light of the above, and as a result of the Indo-Lanka Accord, Sri Lanka had to pay a huge price in terms of human and material resources to defeat the LTTE.
Indian violations of the Accord
Let us assume for a moment there was a valid accord between the two nations. However, Sri Lanka has now been relieved of its obligations as India failed to fulfil its obligations. According to Paragraph 2.16 of the Indo–Lanka Accord, Sri Lanka’s obligations as mentioned in the Accord were conditional to India taking five steps in the event military groups refused to surrender their weapons. Since the LTTE neither ceased hostilities nor surrendered their weapons, India was duty bound to perform those five tasks.
The first was to ensure that Indian territory was not used for activities prejudicial to the unity and security of Sri Lanka. But Tamil Nadu State politicians used its territory in supporting the LTTE with the tacit approval of the Central Government of India. All successive Central Governments of India after 1996 tolerated the anti-Sri Lankan activities of Tamil Nadu politicians including the Central government as it survived on the support extended by the Tamil Nadu political parties. India never made any serious attempt to eliminate or at least curtail such activities. Hence, India has violated the first condition.
The second was that the Indian navy was obliged to co-operate with its Sri Lankan counterpart to prevent Tamil militant activities. The Indian Navy did not do so to prevent such activities after the departure of the IPKF from Sri Lanka. The LTTE freely transported weapons and other supplies from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka. Similarly, when the top terrorists were injured in the battle, they were transported to Tamil Nadu for medical treatment without any resistance from the Indian Navy. The inactivity of the Indian Navy broke the second condition.
The third was that India agreed to provide military assistance to implement the Accord as and when requested. As the clause clearly says, such assistance should be provided as requested by Sri Lanka. However, the IPKF did not conduct operations as requested by Sri Lanka. Instead, they acted as they wished. As a result, President Premadasa was reluctantly compelled to request the IPKF to withdraw from Sri Lanka. They did not honour this request. They came out with their own plan for the departure, rejecting the deadline set by President Premadasa. In this backdrop, India has not honoured the third condition either.
Repatriation of Indians
The fourth was that India agreed to expedite the repatriation of Indian citizens who were residing in Sri Lanka to India. This is in fact an obligation overdue for a long time. It was estimated that there were 975,000 people of Indian origin residing in Sri Lanka as at October 30, 1964. They were not recognised as citizens of India or of Sri Lanka and came to be know as ‘stateless’. Under the Sirima-Shastri Pact signed on October 30, 1964, India agreed to grant citizenship to 525,000 of them while Sri Lanka agreed to grant citizenship to 300,000. The balance 150,000 people were equally distributed between the two nations in another agreement signed on January 27, 1974.
Q: But the fundamental clause of this pact was that all armed outfits would be disarmed by a certain date, and India faltered didn’t they?
One moment, I will answer your question. You say that India did not disarm the armed groups, yes the LTTE did defy the India-Sri Lanka agreement, and the LTTE took up arms against the IPKF. By that time the Sri Lankan army was in barracks, and the LTTE was attacked by the Indian Army with a large number of LTTE cadres killed, the Indian Army took control of many areas in the North and the East, several personnel of the Indian armed forces were killed. They really dealt with the LTTE and there is no question about it.
But who gave the LTTE arms? Who gave the LTTE money? Who gave the LTTE vehicles? Was it the Indian government or the Sri Lankan government? These are questions that must be answered. Was the LTTE given money, vehicles and arms by the Indian government or the Sri Lankan government when the Indian army was engaged in the process of disarming the LTTE? The whole world knows that.
And how can you say that it was forced on you? You invited the Army, the Army came here, you asked the Army to go and the Army left.
" But who gave the LTTE arms? Who gave the LTTE money? Who gave the LTTE vehicles? Was it the Indian government or the Sri Lankan government? These are questions that must be answered. "
The Indian Army need not have gone. If they wanted to impose things on Sri Lanka they could have remained here, but the moment the President said that he wanted them to leave, they left. How could you say that they imposed things on you?
Of course they advised you, they told you this is how things are done in a multi-ethnic multi-lingual pluralistic society. That’s what they have done in their own country. How did the conflict in Punjab come to an end? How did the conflict in Assam come to an end? They came to an end because there was power sharing, there was devolution. The people of Assam could do what they wanted in regard to certain matters within the framework of a united, undivided India.
So it would not be correct to say, or believe the story of these people that there was an imposition, I don’t accept that and I think it’s something false which is been deliberately said to justify what you’re doing.
Although India should grant citizenships to 600,000 as stated in the above agreements, only 506,000 applied for Indian citizenship. Sri Lanka did not want to force Indians to leave the country. Hence, Sri Lanka brought a special parliamentary Act in 1986 to grant citizenship to balance 94,000 and their descendants. However, India failed to grant citizenship to the people who applied for Indian citizenship and thus did not even honour the above agreements. India kept using the Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu as the excuse for its failure. That is why there was an obligation as per the Indo–Lanka Accord of 1987 for India to expedite the repatriation. India is yet to honour this obligation although Sri Lanka has granted citizenship to all Indians residing in Sri Lanka and had also started bringing back the refugees in Tamil Nadu.
" However, India failed to grant citizenship to the people who applied for Indian citizenship and thus did not even honour the above agreements. India kept using the Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu as the excuse for its failure "
IPKF killing Sinhalese
The fifth was that India undertkes to ensure physical security and safety of all communities living in the Northern and Eastern provinces. India grossly violated this clause when the IPKF with the support of the LTTE began killing the Sinhalese living in Trincomalee District in September 1987. The IPKF was so brutal that even the Chief Monk of China Bay Temple was shot dead by the IPKF because of his resistance to the slaughter of the Sinhalese. In the aftermath, tens of thousands of helpless Sinhalese fearing for their lives flocked to Kantale and Habarana looking for safety there.
Because India has failed to fulfill any of its obligations, it goes without saying that Sri Lanka has no obligation whatsoever to carry out its undertakings such as the introduction of the provincial councils and establishment of one council for Northern and Eastern Provinces (popularly known as the merger). Hence, Sri Lanka is free to amend the provisions in respect of provincial councils without consulting India or worrying about the Indo-Lanka Accord.
This Accord is not a landmark in Indian-Sri Lankan diplomatic relations, which have spread over several millennia but a scar continues to remain from a shameful past. It only confirms how India has deviated from “a Non Interfering Pancha Seela Policy in its relations with its neighbours,” introduced by Sri Nehru. Since the Indo–Lanka Accord reminds the world of India’s shameful past, India should attempt to do its best to avoid discussions with regard to the Accord. If India insists on the Accord, Sri Lanka will be reluctantly compelled to remind India of the reasons for Sri Lanka to have signed the Accord, which it did under duress and also how India had failed to honour any of its obligations.
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