|Use and scorn
The LTTE has constantly switched between expressions of solidarity with India and open contempt.
BYGONES SHOULD be bygones, insisted the LTTE political adviser, Anton Balasingham, when asked about the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi at the now famous Velupillai Prabakaran press conference on April 10. That was when the LTTE was seeking to reopen shop in Tamil Nadu, with Mr. Balasingham wanting to camp in Chennai, citing his own crucial role in the ongoing peace process in Sri Lanka, his delicate health, the availability of medical facilities in the city and its proximity to the LTTE headquarters in Sri Lanka.
At that time, India was the "fatherland" of all Sri Lankan Tamils. The LTTE wanted Indians to forget what happened more than 10 years ago and "look to the future". Barely 10 days later, Tamils in Batticaloa in eastern Sri Lanka were being reminded by the LTTE of the so-called atrocities committed by soldiers of the Indian Peace-Keeping Force during its tenure on the island. The occasion was the death anniversary commemoration of Annai Poopathy, a woman who died during a hunger strike against the IPKF in 1988. The function was held on a grand scale and addressed by several area leaders of the LTTE.
The contrasting portrayals of India at the two events are instructive. Depending on what it stands to gain from each situation, the LTTE has constantly switched between expressions of solidarity with India and open contempt. "We love India. We love the people of India. There is no question of our deploying our arms against Indian soldiers," said Mr. Prabakaran in August 1987. Two months later that love seemed to have evaporated as the LTTE gunned down Indian soldiers who were sent in to disarm the Tigers.
Since then, the LTTE has constantly dinned into the minds of Sri Lankan Tamils the message that India cannot be trusted. "Which politician in India has the credentials to call the LTTE an opportunistic organisation? You should have some qualification to criticise or find fault with the LTTE... We have never depended on Tamil Nadu. There is no need to do so," said Kittu, a trusted aide of Mr. Prabakaran, in an interview to Frontline soon after Rajiv Gandhis assassination.
Just after the Sri Lankan parliamentary elections last year, as Ranil Wickremesinghe, the newly anointed Prime Minister prepared to leave for India, the Tamil Guardian, a London-based pro-LTTE publication described it as an ill-advised move. The weekly, seen as an accurate reflector of LTTE views, warned that any "unilateral" decisions by the new Government to involve New Delhi in the peace process would heighten suspicion about its intentions. Norway, facilitator of the peace process, could be considered a neutral party because it had no direct interest in the conflict, but the same did not apply to India and other countries, "particularly given their own proscriptions of the LTTE, which naturally entail a moral and partisan condemnation of the Tamil peoples representatives and, by extension, their political aspirations."
Yet, when it seemed like India might present a utilitarian opportunity, three weeks later, the same publication did a volte-face and argued that India must allow Mr. Balasingham to camp in Chennai for its own "geopolitical" advantage. In an editorial titled "India is best placed to provide a venue for talks", Indias ban on the LTTE was not seen as an obstacle as it was based on "as yet unresolved matters not related to the Sri Lankan conflict".
"From Indias perspective, the hosting of such talks should be a relatively uncomplicated matter. As the regional power, India justifiably has vested interests in both securing a speedy negotiated outcome to Sri Lankas conflict and in the nature of the settlement itself," the weekly reasoned.- (The Hindu) N.S.
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