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What Balasingham should understand

As the peace process in Sri Lanka totters on the brink of collapse and the screws of international sanctions tighten on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Anton Balasingham, Political Adviser to the organisation's supremo, has come up with a clever, perhaps over-clever, play. This is in the form of an interview to NDTV — the highlight of which is a so-called confession on the LTTE's role in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperumbudur in May 1991 combining with an appeal to India to be "magnanimous," "put the past behind [it]," and shape "a new foreign policy towards her neighbour" on the basis of "a new understanding ... [and] a new relationship" with the Tigers. This is clearly meant to soften New Delhi's unrelenting hostility, legal and political, towards the LTTE — now proscribed or listed by most major countries as a terrorist organisation — and also to create confusion in the Indian public mind about the organisation's real aims and intentions.

The `confession,' couched in ambiguity, is classic double-speak. The Rajiv assassination, according to Mr. Balasingham, was "a great tragedy ... a monumental tragedy ... which we deeply regret, and we call upon the Government of India and people of India to be magnanimous ... to put the past behind [them] and to approach the ethnic question in a different perspective." This statement can be read in any which way. It will certainly not qualify in any court of law as a confession since Mr. Balasingham can offer the following defence: "What I meant was that the LTTE regarded the Rajiv Gandhi assassination as a great or monumental tragedy and since India seemed convinced we were behind it, I appealed to it to put the whole tragic experience behind it and approach Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict from a fresh perspective." But the answer to the LTTE spokesman's appeal to India to "actively involve [itself] in the peace process" cannot be in any doubt. Given the circumstances, India cannot play any direct role in Sri Lanka's peace process. At the same time, this country has a deep interest and stake in its neighbour coming out of its time of troubles on the basis of a non-military, negotiated, and just political settlement of the Tamil question along federal lines — and within the framework of Sri Lanka remaining one. It can be added that The Hindu has, over the past half century, shared this perspective and consistently championed the cause of the Tamils of the island within this just and anti-secessionist framework. Further, New Delhi has made it abundantly clear that it will "maintain an abiding interest in the security of Sri Lanka and remains committed to its sovereignty and territorial integrity." What Mr. Balasingham needs to understand is that this national policy has solid support across the political spectrum, barring some small pro-LTTE parties and elements in Tamil Nadu that stand isolated from mainstream democratic opinion.

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