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India and Sri Lanka’s ethnic question

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There has been a radical change in the world scenario since the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) engagement in northern Sri Lanka in the late 1980s. India has emerged as a major player on the world scenario both in economic and political spheres.

The other major powers, including the United States, recognise India’s new importance on the world scene, and they expect India to contribute to political stability in the world. So India has the additional responsibility to meet the expectations of other players in international affairs.

But Norway is playing the role of the mediator quite effectively, and the two sides to Sri Lanka’s conflict have made some progress. There is no need for India to participate in the peace process because that would only introduce a new element into a complex picture.

There is no armed resolution to the conflict. The Sri Lanka Army cannot win the war against the Tamil insurgents. The LTTE is also aware that it cannot achieve victory against the Lankans. There is no alternative to the peace process.

The basic parameters of the peace are recognised by both sides. The framework for the peace process has been spelt out in the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement signed in 1987, which speaks about ensuring the legitimate rights of the Lankan Tamils on the one hand, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka on the other. What remains to be done is to flesh out the principles of ‘legitimate rights’ and ‘sovereignty and territorial integrity.’

This comment is compiled from an interview with Gulf News. Lieutenant General A.S. Kalkat was once commander of the IPKF in Sri Lanka

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