India’s spoke in the peace process wheel

Union Home Minister of India L. K. Advani has, in response to a calling-attention motion in the Rajya Sabha, reiterated that India is committed to seek the extradition of the LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran. According to our front page news item today quoting The Hindu, Mr. Advani has revealed that a special team of the Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) was flown to Colombo a week ago to have discussions with the Attorney General and the Solicitor General of Sri Lanka and press for Prabhakaran’s extradition.

India’s renewed call for extradition of Prabhakaran has come amidst a flurry of peace-oriented diplomatic activities aimed at bringing the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to the negotiating table once again. India is justified in making this call again. The LTTE leader is wanted in India in connection with the assassination of none other than ex-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the grandson of Pandit Nehru.

Other than this dastardly crime, the vigour with which India is pursuing the extradition of Prabhakaran stems also from the fear the centre has of the threat the LTTE is posing to the territorial integrity of India. As the article we reproduced last Wednesday from the Guardian, "India feels the threat of Balkanisation," points out "the latest, and most insidious threat to India’s territorial integrity comes not from the north but from the south. To be precise, Tamil Nadu, a region of some 60 million Tamils, who ostensibly have little in common with their Hindi-speaking northern neighbours." The article goes on to point out the concern of the Indian centre of the growing influence of the LTTE in Tamil Nadu. "...to the alarm of India’s Hindu-nationalist leaders, Prabhakaran’s influence is steadily growing within Tamil Nadu..." The Indian intelligence has also identified a nexus between the LTTE and the forest brigand Veerappan, who has made a mockery of Indian law enforcement agencies.

India already has more trouble spots on its soil than it can cope with. Kashmir, border disputes with Pakistan, Nagaland, Naxalites to name just a few are chipping away at India’s military might. The canker of cross-border terrorism making inroads into its south has aggravated India’s security problems. The LTTE, which is fast spreading its tentacles all over Tamil Nadu, where already movements like Tamil Nadu Liberation Army and Tamil Nadu Retrieval Force are operative, is therefore an ominous proposition for India.

Above all, the involvement of western countries with peace-brokering in this region may not be to the liking of India. India cannot be expected to agree to play the role of a mere spectators in South Asia where it is trying to assume the role of regional policeman. It cannot be unaware of the possibility of the separatist movements in Tamil Nadu riding the Tigers piggyback in the western countries that have offered to intervene in Sri Lanka’s conflict so as to pursue their objectives more effectively through fund raising etc.

India’s demand for Prabhakaran’s extradition could not have come at a worse time for those who are working overtime to bring about another round of talks here. Despite efforts by Norway and others to make India a party to the ‘peace process’ India has indicated through the extradition demand that it is not willing to compromise its national interest to impress the world by helping broker peace. It is asking for its pound of flesh in the form of Prabhakaran’s head. The signal it has sent to Norway and Britain is, "You broker peace, but hand over Prabhakaran to us."

Extradition comes to naught without the capture of Prabhakaran. It is not clear how India wants Sri Lanka to proceed with extradition. The Sri Lankan military has not yet been able, thanks to blunders and wavering of successive governments, to penetrate even the jungles where his hideout is, let alone capturing him. How soon India will be able to achieve its objective with regard to Prabhakaran hinges on the co-operation - military not humanitarian - that India is willing to extend to Sri Lanka for fighting the LTTE. When the Sri Lankan troops were trapped in Jaffna a few months ago, India flatly refused to provide military assistance. If its policy is the same as it was then, then it is not making a realistic demand that can be met by Sri Lanka. However, if this policy has undergone a sea change since then due to external compulsions such as the undermining by the west of its position in the region where conflict resolution is concerned, then it is asking for the possible.

With India determined to send Prabhakaran to the gallows, it is doubtful whether the on-going peace making exercises will reach fruition. Under the present circumstances, the LTTE won’t be able to settle for anything that will warrant its joining the democratic mainstream. For in such an eventuality, the LTTE leadership will have to come out of hiding, This is exactly what many including India are looking forward to, to avenge themselves for the crimes the LTTE has committed. So, the LTTE entering a peace process to arrive at any solution aimed at demilitarising the Tamil electorate, which will expose the LTTE leaders to its enemies will be tantamount to Prabhakaran himself signing his death warrant.

India’s extradition demand no doubt will constitute a massive hurdle for those keen on bringing Prabhakaran to the negotiating table. Whether they will be able to overcome it, is the question.

Your comments to the Editor