Indian Government and Sri Lankan Ethnic Conflict (1983 to 1987)

Indian Government Double-Dealings in the Sri Lankan Ethnic Conflict: 1983-1987

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, September 2003 (ID. 2003-09-01)
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1. Introduction

2. Naval Training to Sri Lankan Military

3. Transit of Weapons to Sri Lanka

4. Cricket Ball Message to Sri Lanka

5. What was India's Game?

1. Introduction

Indian government and much of the Indian press perpetuate the view that the Indian Government was solidly behind Eelam Tamils of Sri Lanka and helped them by arming and training Tamil freedom fighters (Tamil militant groups) between 1983 and 1987. This view is not the truth and the whole truth. Indian government and the Indian press conveniently sweep under the carpet Indian government help to the Sri Lankan military at the very same time.

Although the Sri Lankan military was getting much of its weapons and training from other countries, India was also offering some assistance to Sri Lankan military between 1983-1987, keeping its options open and signaling to the Sri Lankan Government that it was not at all tied to the Tamil people and could switch sides if it serves it purpose. We will discuss it a little further later in this article.

2. Naval Training to Sri Lankan Military

Indian Navy was training Sri Lankan naval personnel in India between 1983 and 1987. If India was behind the Tamil cause, why was it training the Sri Lankan Navy? Against whom was it training the Sri Lankan Navy? There were only two naval forces the Sri Lankan Navy could conceivably encounter. One is the Indian Navy, the other is Tamil militant boats. Things get even more interesting. At the very same time India was training Sri Lankan Navy personnel, India was also training Tamil militants how to surreptitiously place explosives under Sri Lankan naval vessels to blow them up. In return for training the militants in naval warfare, India wanted the militants to watch activities at Sri Lanka's Trincomalee harbor and report it to India. India was (and still is) highly suspicious and concerned about possible American naval facilities at this large natural harbor capable of docking American warships.

3. Transit of Weapons to Sri Lanka

At the time India was training and arming Tamil militants, a plane bound for Sri Lanka from another country made an emergency landing at Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) Airport in Southern India because of engine troubles. When Indian officials looked into the plane they found weapons of war. When news of this leaked out, leaders of Tamil Nadu asked the Indian Government to confiscate the weapons because they were meant for use against Tamil militants in Sri Lanka (the militants India was training and sending to Sri Lanka to fight the Sri Lankan military). But the Indian Government allowed the weapons to go to Sri Lanka. If India was truly in sympathy with the Sri Lankan Tamil struggle for their legitimate rights, would India have acted this way? This is yet another piece of evidence of India's true color.

Countries do stop transit of weapons through their soil, water or airspace if the weapons are to be used against friends. Here is an example. During the brief India-Portugal war over the Portuguese colonial possession Goa in the 1960s, Portugal sent arms and reinforcements to India. The ship had to pass through Suez Canal. The Egyptian Government refused to permit the ship to pass through the canal because India was a friendly country. That is what true friends do.

4. Cricket Ball Message to Sri Lanka

During the days of apartheid in South Africa, many countries including India refused to play cricket games with the South African team as a form of protest. India went one step further. It also refused to play with teams that played with the South African team. While India was doing this to show its displeasure against apartheid, India was playing cricket with the Sri Lankan team during 1983-1987. If the Indian Government truly sympathized with the oppressed Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, it would have refused to play with the Sri Lankan team.

Sports events and games have been used to send signals to foreign governments. It was a ping-pong game (table tennis game) between the American and Chinese teams in the 1970s that sent a signal to China that America was willing to close ranks with China. It led to the rapprochement between America and China after quarter century of frozen relationship. India was also sending a message to Sri Lanka that it was not really with the Tamil minority, it was willing to reconsider its position and switch sides if it gets what it wants from Sri Lanka. Training of Sri Lanka Navy personnel and allowing transit of weapons to Sri Lanka are also part of this sinister game India was playing.

5. What was India's Game?

India never wanted the Tamil minority to gain independence or even get substantial devolution within a federal Sri Lanka. The 1987 India-Sri Lanka Peace Accord is a testament to it [see Section 4 of Reference 1 for a more detailed discussion]. As Tamil militant groups gained momentum after the 1983 race riots in Sri Lanka, India found an opportunity to train them as its "attack dogs" to threaten Sri Lanka. When Sri Lanka agrees to India's selfish geopolitical demands (not to allow expansion of Voice of America in Sri Lanka, not to allow American warships in Sri Lanka's Trincomalee harbor), India would call off the "dogs". This was what happened in 1987. Sri Lanka acceded to India's geopolitical demands and India asked the militant groups to disarm. When one group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), refused to disarm, war broke out between Indian troops sent to enforce the accord and the LTTE.


1. Did India Help Sri Lankan Tamils until 1987? (by Yashoda Reddy, Siva Reddy and Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2001


1. An Independent Tamil Eelam is in the National Interest of India (by Yashoda Reddy, Siva Reddy and Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2000

2. Debunking anti-Tamil-Eelam Propaganda in India (by Yashoda Reddy, Siva Reddy and Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2000

3. Who Made Indian Prime minister the Lord Emperor of Sri Lanka? (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2003

4. Archived articles on Tamil Eelam and Sri Lanka (OR Search the internet with the following key words: Tamil Eelam Sri Lanka Thanjai Nalankilli )

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