India Strategically Loses Sri Lanka Due to Ambivalent Policies

Sri Lanka inflicted a crushing military defeat on the LTTE insurgency which plagued the island nation for nearly twenty five years. LTTE Chief Prabhakaran and the entire hierarchy of the LTTE now stood decimated. In this hour of Sri Lanka's magnificent victory, India as a regional power with significant strategic stakes in Sri Lanka should have stood out as a significant contributory power to this victory. In a strange twist of strategic irony, it were Pakistani supplied tanks, reportedly Pakistani piloted fighter aircraft and Pakistani supplied ammunition which paved the final victorious assault by Sri Lankan Armed Forces on the LTTE strongholds. In a further strategic irony, Sri Lanka stood politically emboldened by China's political support to ignore UN and Indian advice for a last minute ceasefire. India thus stood lost out strategically in Sri Lanka mainly due to her ambivalent foreign policy where Tamil Nadu's domestic politics were allowed by the Congress Government to dominate India's strategic interests pertaining to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka over the years was pleading with India to sign a Defence Cooperation Agreement and also for military supplies to combat its long drawn out counter-insurgency operations against the LTTE. India kept dithering on the issue as the Congress Government did not want to lose the political support of the Tamilian DMK coalition partner which would then have led to the fall of the Government.

Seemingly, in sheer exasperation, the Sri Lanka Government turned to Pakistan and China to fill the strategic void which India's flawed foreign policy had caused.

This Columnist had repeatedly been drawing attention to the strategic pitfalls that were being generated by such flawed Indian foreign policies. In particular attention needs to be drawn to the following three Columns:

Sri Lanka Strategically Important for India (January 11, 2006)
Two major points were underscored in this Column and which need to be repeated to highlight India's obliviousness. (1) ' National security interests demand that a stable Sri Lanka can be ensured by India signing a Defence Cooperation Agreement with the island nation and committing itself to its security.. A civil war in Sri Lanka is not in India's interests and nor the division of Sri Lanka for forming an independent Tamil state. (2) More significantly it was in the end pointed out that 'Strategic opportunities are always fleeting ones and so is the case of India forging a Strategic Partnership with Sri Lanka. If India dithers because of domestic political compulsions, China is waiting in the wings to fill the vacuum. The Chinese strategic encirclement of India would then be fully complete and India will have no one to blame but itself.

India Needs to Review its Sri Lanka Policy Approaches (January 10,2007)
In this Column was again stressed the Indian security imperatives to conclude a Defence Cooperation Agreement that Sri Lanka was pressing for and that this nation could veer towards China and Pakistan should India vacillate.

Sri Lanka Ends Ceasefire with LTTE : Implications For India (January 06,2008)
Caution was interjected in the Column that India as a claimant to regional power status could not afford to be an abject and helpless spectator in the developing conflictual situation in Sri Lanka and that in other words India needed to adopt a proactive stance and shed its ambivalent policies.

While India today may contribute millions of dollars to Sri Lanka for reconstruction of the war ravaged areas and show its sympathies for the Sri Lankan Tamils, the impact would be limited to that community only. In the critical stages of Sri Lanka's war against the LTTE, India should have forcefully demonstrated that it would not allow the devaluation of Sri Lanka in its strategic calculus . What India demonstrated was that India was prone to sacrifice its national security interests on the grounds of domestic political expediency.

Regrettably, the strategic predominance that India should have enjoyed in Sri Lanka stands now occupied by Pakistan and Sri Lanka, in detriment to India's national security interests.


More by :  Dr. Subhash Kapila

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