A retrospective on the Indian intervention in Sri Lanka

President Jayewardene
courtesy JR Jayewardene Centre

In the ’80’s India was proceeding from its non-aligned position towards an increasing friendship with the Soviet Union(1), whilst Sri Lanka was taking progressive steps to approach the Western.

At that time the Sri Lanka’s president Jayawardene was adopting very pro-Western economic policy(2). In reaction to this, Rajiv Gandhi decided to support the Tamil insurgency, after the civil war broke out.

By mid 1987 more than 20 000 Tamil combatants have been trained in Tamil Nadu(3). The Indian intelligence service (RAW) provided arms, training, monetary support4 and the insurgents group started to used Tamil Nadu as a sanctuary for their operations(5).

It is speculated that the Indian support was spread to 6 groups (namely Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, LTTE, Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization, TELO, People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam, PLOTE, Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students (EROS), Eelam People’s Revolutionary Libeartion Front (EPRLF) and Tamil Eelam Liberation Army (TELA)(6)

. Apparently the intention was to create a massive but divided front against the Sri Lankan army. The main objective for New Delhi was to weaken Colombo, not to support the Tamil cause.

(1)Robert C.(1982) Horn’s Soviet-Indian Relations , Praeger
(2)”Sri Lanka – an Overview”. Fulbright commission.
(3)”LTTE: the Indian connection”. Sunday Times. 1997
(4)Gunaratna, Rohan (1993). Indian intervention in Sri Lanka: The role of India’s intelligence agencies. South Asian Network on Conflict Research. ISBN 9-5595-1900-5.
(5)Interview with Prof. Surayanarayan, “A Sri Lankan Quest” documentary
(6)Rajasingham, K. T.. “Sri Lanka: The untold story”. Asia Times.


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