How would the LTTEs military gains in Jaffna affect any future peace negotiations? Its clear the LTTE is trying to manoeuvre itself into the best possible bargaining position. Paradoxically, this is not such a bad sign if their aim is the negotiating table. To try and secure the best possible position en route the table is an old tactic. My feeling is, in some ways, the net is closing around them.
Whats Colombos perception of Indias possible role? I dont think we should expect the impossible from India. In Sri Lanka theres a mood in favour of India coming in, doing something. Dont lie low, forget the IPKF, start all over again and so on-all thats easily said. But its a highly complex problem for India. Dont forget its a democracy, theyll have to debate about it in Parliament. Then, bear in mind the armed forces bitter memories of IPKF. Add to it the Tamil Nadu factor, which has its own dynamics.
So, I would be content if India does what its doing now. That is, reaffirm loud and clear, notwithstanding the past, that it wholeheartedly supports our territorial integrity. Dont forget its a position very much in Indias interest, not a divine stand taken out of some grace or favour. I dont see them budging from it. Secondly, for a variety of reasons, India makes no bones of its opposition to the LTTE. Im very pleased to see that, apart from the Centre, we have the very significant and clear stand taken by Mr Karunanidhi. I have no doubt that in appropriate circumstances-and thats something one cant predict today-India will take necessary action to meet its stated position... (that is) if it feels Sri Lanka is seriously threatened. I cant predict what that action might be, but we can be sure itll be a well-considered one. There are also other factors such as the Trincomalee (harbour) offer. India now has had time to digest events. I feel its sounding international opinion, gearing itself up for assuming a role, even if it be thrust upon it by events.
In the short term, do you think there is a chance for peace negotiations? Yes. But my optimism is not based on any change of heart on the LTTEs part. I believe Prabhakaran is still obsessed and driven by his dream of a separate state. To him thats absolutely the be-all and end-all of existence. But with all that, the awareness of realities must surely dawn on him. He must learn he cant obtain and maintain a separate state in the face of so much opposition. So I believe the LTTE is getting ready for the inevitability of negotiations. Not the desirability mind you, but the inevitability. It makes tactical sense that they would want to secure as much land as possible and they would also like to set the time-frame.
Do you feel India has to play a key role or are you looking towards Norway to perform it? Norway has made it plain that they are willing to be the facilitator. But if events dictate otherwise, they will gracefully withdraw or play a secondary role. In other words, Norway is not taking an egoistic position on this. Therefore, in the event of India wishing to play a role, Noway will create no problems at all.
How would you respond to an Indian offer to facilitate talks with the LTTE? I have verified that Jaswant Singh did actually say something to that effect on TV. Of course, there is still a world of difference between his saying something to the media and officially indicating it to us. Now, should we take account of the fact that he said it on TV and therefore respond to it? Thats something we are reluctant to do-it is not a good way to conduct diplomacy. The point is, should we wait for an official inclination or should we make an official inquiry? Of those options, making an official inquiry on the basis of what he told Star TV does not appeal much to me. I would rather prefer diplomatic channels. These channels are open and are working. So, fairly soon, we should be able to articulate a position.
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