India's Promise of "Humanitarian Aid" to Sri Lankan Military has already Helped the Sri Lankan Military and Harmed Tamil Civilians (Year 2000)

Yashoda Reddy & Siva Reddy

TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2000 (ID.2000-06-02)

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Abbreviations:

LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

This note is not about the absurd notion of "humanitarian aid" to an army in the middle of a battle. Whether it is sending medicine and food to an encircled army or evacuating it is military aid by any norm. That is not the subject of this note. We are of the opinion that India's very promise of evacuation, when requested, has already helped the Sri Lankan army in the ongoing war and, what is more, harmed Tamil civilians in the battle zone, Jaffna. "Humanitarian aid to an army" harming innocent civilians is an irony in itself.

How has India's promise helped the Sri Lankan military already?

Any army almost encircled by enemy troops would withdraw to safety if it determines that any further delay might mean annihilation in the hands of the enemy. This is especially true if a sizable chunk of the army is thus trapped and face annihilation or surrender in the middle of a war. Sri Lanka has more than one-quarter of its army almost encircled by LTTE in Jaffna. It is now clear that Sri Lanka cannot evacuate these forces in a hurry because it lacks sufficient ships and planes; also, its escape route may be cut-off any day by the enemy. So the Sri Lankan army would have evacuated Jaffna by now (as it did at the Elephant Pass) had it not been for India's promise of evacuation. Not only did India make the promise, it has also assembled a naval armada and supporting Air Force planes just miles from Jaffna. Thus the Sri Lankan army could be evacuated within hours notice unless LTTE attempts to block the evacuation and take on the Indian army. In other words, the Sri Lankan army could fight to the last hour until the situation is very desperate, knowing that it would be evacuated and there is no danger of annihilation or surrender. This allows field commanders to make risky battlefield decisions they may not otherwise consider, improves troop morale and allows time to get more weapons to continue the fight. Thus the Sri Lankan military has already been helped greatly by India's promise. [It is our opinion that the Sri Lankan army would have withdrawn from Jaffna by now (third week of May 2000); no military would risk losing more than one-quarter of its army in the middle of a war.]

How are the Tamil civilians harmed by India's promise?

Had it not been for India's promise of evacuation, the Sri Lankan army would have withdrawn from Jaffna and the battle would have ended by mid-May (year 2000), at the least. All the Tamil civilian casualties after that time (well over a hundred deaths and many more injuries) and thousands of Tamil refugees would not have occurred but for the Indian promise. It is in fact an irony that India's promise of so-called "humanitarian aid" to Sri Lankan soldiers in the battlefield should cause a humanitarian disaster for innocent civilians.

----    2000-a1d

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