Thirteen years after the IPKF went into Sri Lanka, calls are being made yet again for India to step in. And its not only the fringe anti-devolutionists, but also the popular opinion in Sri Lanka which is in favour of active Indian involvement.
Even the Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka, which had opposed the IPKF, has turned around. The National Sangha Council, an umbrella body of monks, was among the first to meet Indian High Commissioner, Shiv Shankar Menon, asking for Indian intervention. "Yes, I was strongly against the IPKF, but now its imperative we invite the Indian army to help halt LTTEs advance towards Jaffna," says Buddhist monk E. Gunawansa.
Says Tamil United Liberation Front leader K. Sambandan, who lives in virtual confinement with his son because of the threat to his life, "India cant continue to be a distant spectator. Its had a bad past experience, but the immediate reality is different. Its imperative for India to take an active role by virtue of being Sri Lankas neighbour and the regional power." Asked what he meant by an active role, he replied: "This conflict is incapable of resolution domestically. Great international input is required in the process of negotiation and ensuring permanent cessation of hostilities. Indias role is important here, as no other country would come in unless India does so." Sinhalese sentiment echoes the Tamil position. "The international community and more so India will have to press for an end to hostilities for the LTTE to come to the negotiating table," says Godfrey Gunatilleke, human rights commissioner and governor, Marga Institute.
Leader of the opposition UNP, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was "almost on a state visit to India," to discuss with the Indian premier "the broad contours of the devolution package". The UNP had earlier asked President Chandrika Kumaratunga to seek foreign military assistance to help fight the LTTE. Summing it up, a senior advisor of Wickremesinghe says: "Its clearly impossible to arrive at a peace settlement which does not have Indias support.... We are heading towards a de facto Eelam in northern Sri Lanka."