US embassy cable - 90MADRAS1249

KARUNANIDHI: IS THE TAMIL NADU CHIEF MINISTER BECOMING THE LTTE'S ELDER STATESMAN?

Identifier: 90MADRAS1249
Wikileaks: View 90MADRAS1249 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Chennai
Created: 1990-04-17 07:53:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PREL PREF IN CE
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 170753Z APR 90
FM AMCONSUL MADRAS
TO AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 
SECSTATE WASHDC 2418
INFO AMCONSUL BOMBAY 
AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 
AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 
AMEMBASSY LONDON 
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRAS 01249 
 
LONDON FOR MILLIKEN; CINCPAC ALSO FOR FPA 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL:OADR 
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PREF, IN, CE 
SUBJECT:  KARUNANIDHI: IS THE TAMIL NADU CHIEF MINISTER 
          BECOMING THE LTTE'S ELDER STATESMAN? 
 
1.  C - ENTIRE TEXT 
 
2.  SUMMARY:  CHIEF MINISTER KARUNANIDHI'S OBVIOUS TILT 
TOWARDS THE LTTE IS GENERATING WIDESPREAD CONTROVERSY AND 
DISMAY IN TAMIL NADU, PARTICULARLY IN LIGHT OF THE DMK 
LEADER'S STRAINED RELATIONS WITH THE TIGERS IN THE PAST. 
SINCE DECEMBER, AND ESPECIALLY IN THE LAST TWO MONTHS, 
THE CHIEF MINISTER HAS GONE OUT OF HIS WAY TO 
DEMONSTRATE HIS COMMITMENT TO THE TIGERS -- AT WHAT WOULD 
APPEAR TO BE SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL COST.  NO POLITICAL 
FIGURE  HERE, LEAST OF ALL FROM THE DMK, CAN EXPLAIN 
TO ANYONE'S SATISFACTION THE GAMEBOOK KARUNANIDHI IS 
USING.  AS HE BECOMES MORE AND MORE OF A "TAMIL EELAM 
HARDLINER", SOME MAY FEEL HE IS BURNING BRIDGES 
WITH DELHI.  WE ARE AT PRESENT BAFFLED. 
END SUMMARY 
 
 
3.  TAMIL NADU CHIEF MINISTER KARUNANIDHI'S SUDDEN AND 
COMPLETE IDENTIFICATION WITH THE LTTE IS GENERATING STRONG 
POLITICAL CONTROVERSY IN THE STATE.  RECENT EVIDENCE OF 
HIS TILT IN FAVOR OF THE TIGERS ABOUNDS: HIS KIND WORDS 
FOR LTTE HOSPITALITY AFTER THEIR ABDUCTION OF TAMIL NADU 
FISHERMEN ALLEGEDLY IN SRI LANKAN WATERS AND HIS PRAISE 
FOR THE LTTE FOR "PROTECTING" A SECOND 
GROUP OF FISHERMEN "CAPTURED" BY THE SRI LANKAN NAVY, HIS 
REFUSAL TO PERMIT TAMIL REFUGEES ASSOCIATED WITH OTHER 
MILITANT GROUPS TO LAND IN THE STATE, AND HIS 
BLATANT REFUSAL TO ATTEND AN IPKF WELCOME RECEPTION IN 
MADRAS MARCH 25 (MADRAS 1034).  SOME OBSERVERS FEEL THERE 
MAY BE A DEEPER DESIGN TO THE CHIEF MINISTER'S PRO-LTTE 
STANCE. 
 
4.  THE CONTROVERSY HAS SPREAD TO THE FLOOR OF THE TAMIL 
NADU LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY-  CONGRESS(I) MLA'S, ALONG 
WITH THEIR AIADMK ALLIES, CHALLENGED THE CHIEF MINISTER'S 
PATRIOTISM FOR NOT ATTENDINO LAST MONTH'S IPKF RECEPTION 
AND HIS CRITICISM OF THE BEHAVIOR OF THE IPKF, AND 
FOLLOWED THEIR HARSH WORDS WITH A WALKOUT BY ALL CONGRESS 
AND AIADMK MLA'S.  THE LOCAL PRESS JOINED THE 
FRAY BY ALMOST UNIVERSALLY CRITICIZING THE CHIEF 
MINISTER'S BEHAVIOR TOWARDS THE IPKF JAWANS.  EVEN THE 
DMK'S OWN ALLIES, SUCH AS CPI(M) MLA K. RAMANI, 
TOOK EXCEPTION TO THE CHIEF MINISTER'S INSULT TO THE 
INDIAN ARMY. 
 
5.  FEW PUNDITS WOULD ARGUE THAT THE MACHIAVELLIAN 
KARUNANIDHI DISPLAYS RELUCTANCE TO CHANGE SIDES WHEN 
POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY DICTATES.  HOWEVER, HIS CURRENT KIND 
WORDS FOR AND BLATANT SUPPORT IN FAVOR OF THE LTTE APPEAR 
TO BAFFLE THE DMK'S PARTNER, JANATA DAL, AS WELL AS THE 
ADVERSARY CONGRESS(I).  UPON REGAINING POWER IN JANUARY 
1989, KARUNANIDHI COOPERATED WITH DELHI, MET ON 
NUMEROUS OCCASIONS WITH RAJIV GANDHI AND REFRAINED FROM 
ANY OVERT CRITICISM OF THE PRIME MINISTER'S SRI LANKAN 
POLICIES.  WHEN THE NEWLY ELECTED NATIONAL FRONT 
GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED ITS INTENTION TO WITHDRAW THE IPKF BY 
MARCH 31, KARUNANIDHI INSISTED THAT A PACT AMONG 
THE RIVAL TAMIL MILITANT GROUPS BE PURSUED. 
FOR ALMOST THREE MONTHS, HE ENGAGED IN FRUITLESS 
MEDIATION TALKS TO THIS END. 
 
6.  THE LTTE HAD NEVER BEEN KARUNANIDHI'S FAVORITE SRI 
LANKAN TAMIL MILITANT GROUP, PRINCIPALLY BECAUSE OF THEIR 
CLOSE TIES WITH HIS ARCH-RIVAL, THE LATE M.G. RAMACHANDRAN 
IN FACT HIS DISDAIN FOR THE GROUP WAS MANIFESTED 
OFTEN IN THE PAST.  HOWEVER, WHEN THE DMK CAME BACK TO 
POWER, THE LTTE MADE OVERTURES TO THE NEW TAMIL 
NADU GOVERNMENT, TO WHICH THEY RECEIVED LITTLE RESPONSE. 
ONCE THE MEDIATTION TALKS BEGAN IN DECEMBER, AND 
SPECIFICALLY DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN THE LTTE'S ANTON BALA- 
SINGHAM AND KARUNANIDHI, THE CHIEF MINISTER CHOSE TO 
IGNORE THE OTHER GROUPS, ADVISING THEM TO BURY THEIR 
DIFFERENCES WITH THE LTTE AND SUPPORT THEIR OBVIOUS POWER 
POSITION AND ASSIST IN DEVELOPING A VIABLE TAMIL POLITICAL 
ENVIRONMENT.  EPRLF LEADERS, INCLUDING TAMIL PROVINCE 
CHIEF MINISTER VARADARAJA PERUMAL, ARE BELIEVED TO 
HAVE COMPLAINED TO THE GOI THAT KARUNANIDHI HAD TURNED 
PARTIAL. 
 
7.  HARD EVIDENCE OF THE CHIEF MINISTER'S CHANGE OF 
HEART TOWARDS THE LTTE EMERGED AT THE FEBRUARY DMK 
STATE CONFERENCE IN TRICHY.  WITH HIS NEPHEW, UNION 
MINISTER MURASOLI MARAN, PRESENT ON THE DAIS, KARUNANIDHI 
HIMSELF READ OUT THE PARTY'S RESOLUTION WHICH ENDORSED 
THE LTTE'S BRAVE AND SUCCESSFUL DEFENSE AGAINST THE 
INDIAN ARMY. 
 
 
8.  COMMENT:  WHAT LIES BEHIND THE CHIEF MINISTER'S 
PUZZLING VOLTA FACE?  EVEN SOME DMK COLLEAGUES HAVE 
CONFESSED TO CONSULATE REPS THAT THEY HAVE NO IDEA, 
ALTHOUGH VARIOUS THEORIES ARE BEING DISCUSSED IN 
COFFEE HOUSES, NEWSPAPER OFFICES AND PARTY HEADQUARTERS. 
WHILE ALL AGREE THAT IT WOULD BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE 
FOR KARUNANIDHI TO CONTINUE OVERT SUPPORT FOR THE 
SEVERAL LOSERS AMONG THE SRI LANKAN TAMIL POLITICAL 
GROUPS, HIS ENERGETIC AND UNWAVERING AND TOTALLY 
UNCRITICAL AGREEMENT WITH THE LTTE'S EVERY MOVE IS 
RAISING NUMEROUS EYEBROWS, AND ALIENATING MEMBERS OF 
HIS OWN PARTY. 
 
9.  ONE EXTREME VIEW, TO WHICH WE DO NOT SUBSCRIBE, IS 
THAT KARUNANIDHI IS INTERESTED IN A TAMIL EELAM VARIANT 
FOR HIS INDIAN STATE.  ANOTHER, PERHAPS MORE CREDIBLE 
THEORY, IS THAT THE LTTE HAS THREATENED KARUNANIDHI WITH 
A SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN THE LEVEL OF MILITANT 
VIOLENCE IN TAMIL NADU, ENOUGH PERHAPS TO LEAD TO THE 
IMPOSITION OF PRESIDENT'S RULE, IF HE DOESN'T BOOST 
THEIR CAUSE.  OTHERS POINT OUT THAT THE CHIEF MINISTER, 
THOUGH A CHARTER MEMBER, WAS NEVER AN ENTHUSIASTIC 
ADHERENT OF THE NATIONAL FRONT (AND IN FACT JUST 
ABSENTED HIMSELF FROM THE NATIONAL INTEGRATION COUNCIL 
SESSION IN DELHI) AND MAY BE CARVING OUT A PLACE 
WHERE HE CAN POSITION HIMSELF IN A POST VP SINGH WORLD. 
STILL OTHER LOCAL INTERLOCUTORS POINT TO HIS INCREASING 
WITHDRAWAL FROM PERSONAL CONTACT (NO PRIVATE PRESS 
INTERVIEWS AND FEW ONE-ON-ONE MEETINGS) AND CONCLUDE 
HE IS LOSING HIS ONCE FIRM AND CANNY GRIP ON TAMIL NADU 
POLITICAL LIFE.  THERE ARE ALSO THOSE WHO CONTINUE 
TO BELIEVE THAT HE SINCERELY DEDICATED HIMSELF TO THE 
EARLIER NEGOTIATIONS, WANTS TO BRING ABOUT REAL PEACE 
AMONG THE SRI LANKAN TAMILS, AND BELIEVES THAT HE 
CAN ONLY POSITION HIMSELF TO RESUME THESF DISCUSSIONS 
IF HIS CREDIBILITY WITH THE MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER -- 
THE LTTE -- IS UNQUESTIONED. 
 
10.  WE QUICKLY ADMIT THAT WE DON'T KNOW THE ANSWERS. 
HOWEVER, WE DO NOT BELIEVE KARUNANIDHI IS CRACKING UP NOR 
DO WE THINK THAT HE IS ABOUT TO JOIN A MOVEMFNT FOR A 
GREATER TAMIL INDEPENDENT STATE.  WHAT IS CLEAR IS THAT 
HE IS UP TO SOMETHING AND IN THE ABSENCE OF HIS CHIEF 
CHUM AND ADVISOR, NEPHEW MURASOLI MARAN, IS CONFIDING 
IN NO ONE. 
 
 
TIMBERMAN 

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