Sri Lankan and Indian forces: the entanglement of partnership can’t be dissolved by a protest call from Jayalalithaa

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Mrs. Jayalalithaa

Mrs. Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister requested to scrap the plan of training personnel from the Sri Lankan air forces. The site designed to hold the course is Tambaram, in Tamil Nadu. Without a particular intent to stir controversy or to chase an easy populist stance, I think the Chief Minister asked for something like a minimal basis of reciprocal understanding: if we want to build a solid partnership between the two countries, it is recommended to implement first the basic needs of displaced Tamil in the island. She manoeuvred cleverly around the issues and without openly attack the Colombo’s actions during the war, pointed out that the Tamil people were victims of what happened and the Sri Lankan army is involved in those operations.
It is definitely not a strong accusations. But it is stating the obvious: that Tamil civilians suffered (also) because of the Sri Lankan army. So it is not a wise step to establish a new deal, starting from the military side.
Difficult not to agree, in this case, with Mrs Jayalalithaa.

But I think that the episode is also quite enlightening. India and Sri Lanka are allies. And not since yesterday.

SLNS Sayura

The two countries conducted joint navy exercise in 2009 and subsequently in 2011 (Slinex II). The Sri Lankan navy received an Indian ship, the INS Sarayu ;then renamed SLNS Sayura. The Sri Lankan flagship for the offshore patrolling came from the Indian navy and it is still under Indian responsibility for the maintenance and refit of the vehicle. Indian navy assisted Sri Lanka in intercepting LTTE Sea Tigers. International reports (Jane’s International Review and e Woodrow Wilson School of Politics and International Studies) claimed that Sri Lankan navy before the IV Eelam War was highly disupted and overtaken by the SeaTigers. For the LTTE the control of the sea was always a vital matter and they survived because they have been able to take and maintain that control.

Indian Navy Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma and Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
courtesy Sri Lanka Ministry of Defence

Now, the defeat of the LTTE by the Sri Lankan has made possible by India intervention (intelligence, electronic surveillance and satellite coverage); during the operations Indian officer were actually present on the field, to monitor what was happening.

In a nutshell, India was actively involved in the military side of the defeat of the LTTE. This simple fact is clearly difficult to handle politically for obvious reasons. I think that Mrs Jayalalithaa is right in saying that a minimal sense of decency for the Tamil brethren should avoid the training of Sri Lankan personnel in Tamil Nadu. Will she so brave to tackle also the bigger question of the Indian responsibility in the massacre of Tamil civilians?

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