US embassy cable - 03COLOMBO184

Engaging the Indians on Sri Lanka

Identifier: 03COLOMBO184
Wikileaks: View 03COLOMBO184 at
Origin: Embassy Colombo
Created: 2003-01-31 06:33:00
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000184 
E.O. 12958:  DECL: 01/31/13 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PTER, CE, IN, LTTE - Peace Process, External Relations 
SUBJECT:  Engaging the Indians on Sri Lanka 
(U) Classified by Ambassador E. Ashley Wills. Reasons 
1.5 (b,d). 
1.  (C/NF) While in Washington last week, I discussed 
with the Deputy Secretary and with you the possibility 
of our engaging with India on the subject of Sri Lanka's 
move toward peace.  In this connection, I present the 
following thoughts for your review. 
2.  (C/NF) As you know, Sri Lanka's peace process has 
made immense progress since it began in December 2001. 
There are recent signs, however, that the process may be 
slowing down.  The LTTE seems to digging in its heels on 
such issues as the "high security zones" in Jaffna.  In 
the meantime, the LTTE's human rights record continues 
to be very poor in such areas as the forced recruitment 
of children.  There is also no indication that the group 
has any intention of accepting political pluralism in 
the areas under its control or in which it is seeking to 
exert influence.  Meanwhile, in the south, 
"cohabitation" tensions remain high and support for the 
government's peace initiative could slide if the economy 
does not pick up in 2003. 
3.  (C/NF) Given this sensitive situation, it is vital 
that the international community do what it can to keep 
the peace process moving.  In this regard, we have been 
told by countless interlocutors that the countries that 
count to Sri Lankans -- and with the LTTE -- are the 
U.S. and India.  At this point, we see the U.S. as very 
well-positioned in Sri Lanka.  We have good relations 
with the government and President Kumaratunga, 
consistently using these ties to urge them to bridge 
their differences.  We also have solid links with the 
Tamil and Muslim communities.  And through our various 
public statements and media interviews, we think the 
LTTE knows precisely where we stand, especially 
regarding our insistence that the group reject violence 
and terrorism, and dispense with the idea of an 
independent Tamil Eelam. 
4.  (C/NF) The situation regarding India is a completely 
different matter.  India's attitude toward the peace 
process has been reserved and correct.  Every now and 
then it issues hortatory statements in support of peace, 
but more often than not it is a silent observer and it 
seems especially prone to criticizing developments not 
to its liking, such as Japan's presumed role in the 
process.  Overall, its policy toward Sri Lanka appears 
extremely conflicted, favoring a stable situation in Sri 
Lanka to be sure, but reluctant to do much to accomplish 
that goal.  We know that this situation is explainable. 
The burden of the past is a heavy one in light of the 
casualties suffered by the Indian Peacekeeping Force in 
1987-90 and the LTTE's brutal assassination of Rajiv 
Gandhi in May 1991. 
5.  (C/NF) That said, as the key regional player, it is 
important that India assume a more active role regarding 
Sri Lanka, especially in the months ahead.  To do this, 
we recommend that the U.S. work to draw India into a 
dialogue in which we begin to discuss our respective and 
largely concordant views on the situation in more depth. 
We want to provoke critical thinking in New Delhi, with 
the object of getting the GoI to weigh in more 
compellingly, thus reinforcing international efforts to 
help resolve the Sri Lankan dispute.  In doing this, we 
could underscore that an activist posture is truly in 
India's national interest. 
6.  (C/NF) We think, for example, that India could play 
a key role in convincing the LTTE to take bold steps 
toward disarmament and demobilization.  We say that 
realizing that ties between India and the LTTE are now 
seriously strained, and that there are complexities 
involving Indian domestic politics, including in Tamil 
Nadu and with Sonya Gandhi, that need to be dealt with. 
Nonetheless, we sense that India's positioning is 
crucial in terms of LTTE decision-making.  Put another 
way, continued Indian aloofness gives the LTTE reason to 
think that it can operate without much concern for the 
views of a neighbor that is a stone's throw away over 
the Palk Strait.  Moreover, in southern Sri Lanka, 
Sinhalese extremists take heart from what they see as 
India's seeming reluctance to back the peace process 
7.  (C/NF) In making the recommendation that we move to 
activate a dialogue with India on Sri Lanka, we do not 
have any specific ideas on what our engagement might 
look like.  There are others in the USG who are much 
better positioned to structure the dialogue.  Based on 
what we have heard, however, National Security Adviser 
Mishra seems to have assumed more of an activist posture 
than some other Indian officials, including those in the 
Ministry of External Affairs.  Given this, an in-depth 
Sri Lanka-focused discussion with him might be a good 
place to start. 

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