US embassy cable - 03COLOMBO189 (original version)


Identifier: 03COLOMBO189
Wikileaks: View 03COLOMBO189 at
Origin: Embassy Colombo
Created: 2003-02-03 09:16:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
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 03 COLOMBO 000189 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/03/2013 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  I met for one hour today (2/3) with Indian 
High Commissioner Nirupam Sen concerning the current state of 
peace talks in Sri Lanka.  To my surprise, we agreed 
completely on our analysis of the situation (the trend is not 
positive); on the reasons why (LTTE aggressiveness, 
cohabitation tensions, the economy and Muslim agitation in 
the east); and on the need for close Indo-US consultation and 
cooperation re Sri Lanka.  And we came close to agreeing on 
what should be done to improve matters.  We both think the 
LTTE needs to be told that it must accept phased 
demobilization of its military; in this regard, a crucial 
first step would be acceptance by the Tigers of international 
supervision of their long-range weapons on the Jaffna 
Peninsula.  But whereas Sen believes the government should 
abandon its economic liberalization in the short run, 
focusing instead on poverty alleviation and populist measures 
to curb the cost of living, I believe we should keep the 
pressure on the GSL to push ahead with reform.  END SUMMARY. 
2.  (C) I called on High Commissioner Sen at the Indian High 
Commission.  I wanted to see how his and our assessments of 
current conditions in Sri Lanka compare.  It turns out we 
agree completely on our analysis.  Sri Lanka's attempt at 
peace has gone surprisingly well to this point but the 
sprint-like pace of progress will now slow to a mosey.  This 
slowdown traces to four factors, any one of which by itself 
could undo the progress made thusfar. 
The Tigers 
3.  (C) The biggest danger remains the Tigers.  While Sen and 
I agree that the Tigers have given up their push for an 
independent Eelam, a de jure state, they want it de facto. 
This explains their aggressiveness in establishing courts, 
police forces, "civilian" LTTE authority in Sri Lanka's east 
and their unwillingness to consider disarming or demobilizing 
until a final peace deal is signed.  Tiger aggressivness also 
traces to their sensing weakness in the south; they trust PM 
Wickremesinghe still but they worry that his government might 
not last.  If he does fall, they want to get themselves into 
the best position they can geopolitically in the northeast. 
And if he doesn't fall and the peace talks proceed eventually 
to a negotiated settlement, the Tigers hope they will be in a 
strong enough position to insist upon the maximal devolution 
of power to the northeastern entity they expect to dominate. 
(Sen also agreed with our Embassy's "sloppy scenario", in 
which a final peace deal ultimately subverts the Tigers but 
he, like we, thinks there is much work to be done, and much 
luck needed, to reach that happy moment.) 
4.  (C)  Sen is convinced, and I now tend to agree, that the 
President can be expected to do whatever she can to unseat 
Ranil in the months ahead.  If that means doing a deal with 
the extreme left JVP, so be it.  If it means staging 
demonstrations over the rising cost of living or on 
privatization, so be it.  She will only prorogue Parliament 
and go for a general election when she is convinced she can 
win, but in the meantime she can unsettle the south by any of 
several covert means while professing publicly to be for 
The Economy 
5. (C)  Ranil has long acknowledged that the attempt at peace 
must be accompanied by rapid economic growth.  And so far, it 
has not happened.  There was growth in 2002, his first year 
in power, but not enough to create a sense of well-being 
country-wide.  The President, the JVP and others in the 
opposition will seize on this issue to put the PM on the 
defensive and divert his attention away from the peace talks. 
6. (C)  Sen presented me with a chart indicating linkages 
between Muslim groups, mainly in Sri Lanka's east, and 
Pakistan's ISI.  This does not consitute proof, of course, 
but we on our own have noted growing radicalism among Muslims 
in the east.  This may well be partly because of money coming 
in from Pakistan and elsewhere in west Asia, but I am 
convinced an equally important factor is LTTE stupidity in 
pushing its aggressive agenda in Muslim areas.  Meanwhile, 
the elected leaders of Sri Lanka's Muslims have been too busy 
vying for power to bother with genuine efforts to improve 
conditions for their constituents, much less think 
imaginatively about how Muslim interests could be protected 
in a final peace deal. 
What Can Be Done to Improve the Odds 
7.  (C) Dispensing with any pretense at modesty, Sen and I 
agreed that India and the US are the two countries that 
matter most to the GSL and the LTTE.  So it is very important 
that we consult and cooperate closely on Sri Lanka.  We both 
thought the visit of Indian Foreign Secretary Sibal to 
Washington this week could be a good occasion for the two 
sides to dwell on Sri Lanka. 
8. (C)  As for specific steps, we reckoned that a positive 
move by the LTTE on its weapons could have a dramatically 
positive impact on southern politics and cohabitation.  In 
particular, Sen and I thought it high time for the Tigers to 
acknowledge publicly that they must begin a phased 
disarmament and demobilization of their military.  If they 
are truly committed to a peaceful, negotiated outcome, then 
this should not be too much to expect of them.  Full 
disarmament and demobliziation can await a final deal, but 
the iterative process should begin now.  In this regard, a 
first step that would be much admired would be their 
accepting international supervision, presumably through the 
Scandinavian-staffed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, of their 
long-range weapons on the Jaffna Peninsula.  (I did not 
mention to Sen the Deputy Secretary's scheduled speech on Sri 
Lanka on February 14, but this might present a good 
opportunity for the US to call for such a move by the LTTE.) 
9. (C) On cohabitation, we felt that both India and the US, 
and every other interested external party, should continue to 
use every meeting with both the President and the PM to 
emphasize the importance of a southern consensus on peace. 
The President, in particular, should have no doubts about how 
her attempts at destabilizing Ranil would be viewed by Sri 
Lanka's friends.  It probably won't deter her, we calculated, 
but we should be clear with her anyway. 
10. (C) Where Sen and I disagreed concerned the economy.  He 
understandably worries that continued free-market reforms, 
which will lead to temporary unemployment and certain price 
increases, will give the President, the extreme left JVP and 
others in the opposition convenient pretexts for agitating 
against Ranil's government.  This agitation could at least 
distract the GSL from pursuing peace and at most precipitate 
the government's fall, Sen fears.  So he believes the 
government should abandon liberalization, "at least for three 
to six months", and pursue poverty alleviation and populist 
measures aimed at curbing the rise in the cost of living and 
creating employment. 
11. (C) I share his concern but not his remedy.  By septel, 
we will be reporting a conversation I had with Minister 
Milinda Moragoda this weekend in which he asks for our help 
in improving the terms of the IMF's planned Poverty 
Reduction/Growth Program for Sri Lanka.  While I think we 
should urge the IMF to be generous in its PRG loan for Sri 
Lanka, I believe we must continue to insist on reforms that 
have the best chance of growing the country's economy.  Sen's 
proposal is a quick, budget-busting fix; liberalization will 
take longer but it is only through further opening of the Sri 
Lankan economy that big amounts of foreign direct investment 
can be attracted.  With the government's finances already 
severely constrained, the only possible source of funds for 
growth is FDI. 
12.  (C) Sen is an old-school, Nehruvian Indian diplomat, a 
Bengali leftist for whom anti-Americanism must be 
instinctive.  But his country has changed and so too has his 
own attitude.  We were so much in accord that it was a little 
13.  (C) But it is in any case welcome that we and India 
assess Sri Lanka the same.  In the weeks coming, I hope we 
can come to terms with the GOI concerning how we can jointly 
or, more likely, separately exert constructive influence on 
the parties involved in the Sri Lankan peace attempt. 

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