Indian Military Aid to Sri Lanka

Indian Duplicity in Military Aid to Sri Lanka as Impotent Tamil Nadu Watches: Part II

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2007 (ID. 2007-06-01)
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Part I discussed specific incidences of Indian military assistance to Sri Lanka in 2006. Part II discusses how the Indian Government tries to fool Tamil Nadu that it is not strengthening Sri Lankan military against minority Tamil fighters. This is done through secrecy, and double-talking when exposed. Read on ...

Part I (Click here to read Part I)

1. Introduction

2. Palaly Air Force Base Repair

3. Gift of Military Radars

4. Training Sri Lankan Air Force

Part II (continued below)

5. The Great Deception (Lying to Tamilnadu)

5.1 Excuses, Excuses
5.2 Deception from the Highest Levels
5.3 Defensive Weapons versus Offensive Weapons
5.4 Offensive Weapons that cannot be Used Against Civilians?
5.5 Non-Lethal Military Training?

6. A Few Final Words


IAF - Indian Air Force

IPKF - Indian Peace Keeping Force

LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

MDMK - Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

SLAF - Sri Lankan Air Force

SLMM - Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission

UPA - United Progressive Alliance

5. The Great Deception (Lying to Tamilnadu)

5.1 Excuses, Excuses

In spite of the constant propaganda against LTTE by the Indian government and much of Indian media, there is still a reservoir of goodwill in Tamil Nadu towards Sri Lankan Tamils and, to some extent, towards the LTTE. Indian government knows this and tries to hide its military aid to Sri Lanka. When exposed, it gives feeble, irrational excuses.

India's stance reminds me of the story of the owner of a vicious dog. The dog bites and injures a neighbour. The neighbor complains to the dog owner and demand that the dog be leashed and kept away from his house. The dog owner gives a series of excuses:

  1. My dog does not bite people.
  2. It was not my dog that bit you.
  3. Even if my dog jumped at you, it was just playing; no harm done.
  4. Even if it bite you, it was just a surface bite; no harm done.
  5. Even if the bite broke the skin, it was just a nip; no harm done.
  6. Even if there was a little blood, it was not much; no harm done.

Indian government's excuses to Tamil Nadu political leaders' complaints about Indian military assistance to Sri Lanka are also in the same vein.

  1. India has a hands-off policy towards the ongoing ethnic war in Sri Lanka.
  2. India does not give military assistance to Sri Lanka.
  3. Even if we give military aid, we give only non-lethal or defensive weapons; no harm done.
  4. Even if we give lethal weapons, they cannot be used to kill Tamil civilians; no harm done.
  5. Even if we train Sri Lankan military personnel, we do not give weapons training; no harm done.
  6. Even if we give weapons training, it is not for killing Tamil civilians; no harm done.

5.2 Deception from the Highest Levels

Here are some examples of Indian Government excuses from the highest levels, going all the way up to the Prime Minister of India.

In 2004, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh told Tamil Nadu political leader, MDMK General Secretary, Vaiko that India would not give military aid to Sri Lanka. After hearing reports of Indian military assistance to Sri Lanka, Vaiko met the prime minister in August 2006 and reminded him of that assurance. This was Dr. Manmohan Singh's reply: "India will not in any way augment the military strength of Sri Lanka." There is no ambiguity here. It could mean only one thing: India would not give any weapons, ammunition, military hardware or training to Sri Lanka. But Indian military technicians installed military radars in Sri Lanka sometime before or soon after Manmohan Singh's reply to Vaiko. These radars were to protect Sri Lankan military assets including its main air force base in Colombo from which air force bombers take off regularly to bomb Tamil areas. Is it not augmenting Sri Lankan military strength? (Reports of India's radar gift to Sri Lanka appeared in the press in 2005. Exactly when they were installed is not known except that they were installed in late 2005 or sometime in 2006.)

In October 2006, just a few months after Dr. Manmohan Singh's promise to Vaiko, India's chief of naval staff, Admiral Arun Prakash, said that Indian military had approved some types of sonars, radars, electronic warfare suites and some makes of naval guns for export to other countries. Although he would not say which of these items were cleared for export to Sri Lanka, he said that some exports to Sri Lanka were cleared. Export of any one of those items would surely augment Sri Lanka's military strength. Why else would Sri Lankan military want them?

In the same interview, Admiral Arun Prakash said, "The policy so far has been not to give Sri Lanka offensive weapons". This is different from the Prime Minister's assurance that "India will not in any way augment the military strength of Sri Lanka." Defensive weapons not only augments a country's military strength, they could result in increased casualties for the opposing army and civilians. (This is explained in Section 5.3) So, now, India's assurance to Tamil Nadu is not that it would not augment Sri Lanka's military strength but it would not give offensive weapons (which does increase the military strength).

The prime minister changed his tune further within the next few months. He wrote to Vaiko in November 2007, "India would not provide Sri Lanka lethal offensive weapons, specially of the kind that could be used against the Tamil population. It is no longer "no offensive weapons" but "no offensive weapons that could be used against Tamil civilians". There is no offensive weapon that cannot be used against civilian populations. So prime minister's letter to Vaiko is just meaningless empty words.

In December 2006, Tamilnadu police intercepted a truck carrying gelex boosters meant for export to Sri Lankan military. With this discovery, Indian government's successive lies that it has a hands-off policy towards Sri Lankan ethnic conflict, India gives only defensive weapons, and Indian gives only offensive weapons that could not be used against Tamil civilian population lay exposed. Had Tamilnadu police not apprehended this truck, the fact that India was sending explosives to Sri Lankan military might never been disclosed and remained a secret.

Even after being caught red handed, excuses did not stop. Chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Mrs. Sonia Gandhi told Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi that Indian government authorities had promised her that government policy was not to provide Sri Lanka arms or materials that could be used against civilian population. To be on the record, Sri Lankan military had killed two to three thousand Tamil civilians from 2006 to now.

5.3 Defensive Weapons versus Offensive Weapons

Both defensive weapons and offensive weapons kill people. Offensive weapons kill directly, defensive weapons kill indirectly. Let me illustrate it by a hypothetical example.

Two countries are at war. Let us say, for the purposes of this hypothetical example that India and Pakistan are at war. Each has equal offensive weapons, say, 100 warplanes (bombers); these are the only weapons each has; neither has a defensive system to protect the warplanes, soldiers or civilians. India and Pakistan are using these warplanes to destroy each other's warplanes and kill each other's soldiers and civilians.

Since both started with equal military capabilities, and assuming each has competent military personnel, they would cause approximately the same amount of damage to each other's warplanes, soldiers and civilians. Now a third party, say, China enters the picture. China gives Pakistan an air defense system that protects its planes and soldiers from Indian warplanes. This is a pure defense system; it does not kill anyone or damage anything. Now India is unable to destroy Pakistani planes and kill Pakistanis while it is steadily losing planes and lives. Thus the purely defensive system that China gave to Pakistan in this hypothetical example causes more deaths in India while reducing deaths in Pakistan. This is exactly what India's defensive systems are doing in the Sri Lankan ethnic war. India's defensive systems protect Sri Lankan warplanes (bombers), for example, and they bomb and kill minority Tamils. So India's oft-repeated excuse that it provides only defensive systems to Sri Lanka does not amount to anything.

Suppose people of Tamil Nadu give Kasmiris (who are fighting the Indian army) money to buy body armors to protect them against Indian guns, will Indian government sit quietly? After all, body armors do not kill people.

Will the Indian government allow people of Tamil Nadu to send concrete and steel to Sri Lankan Tamils to build bunkers to protect against Sri Lankan bombs and artillery? After all, concrete and steel do not kill people.

5.4 Offensive Weapons that cannot be Used Against Civilians?

As we stated in Section 5.2, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh wrote to Vaiko in November 2007, "India would not provide Sri Lanka lethal offensive weapons, specially of the kind that could be used against the Tamil population. There is no such offensive weapon. Any weapon that could kill soldiers could kill civilians also.

For the record, in every war in the quarter century ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils, the Sri Lankan military killed far more Tamil civilians than fighters--totaling over fifty thousand.

5.5 Non-Lethal Military Training?

As we discussed in Section 4 of this article, India's training of Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) personnel on Russian-made MIG-27 planes became public in November 2006. It was also revealed that India had already trained two other batches of SLAF personnel. Some Tamil Nadu politicians objected to this. When Vaiko met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh couple of weeks later and told him that training SLAF pilots is tantamount to training them to kill Tamils, the prime minister promised him that he would personally see to it that such training is not given. In December 2006, Indian Defense Minister A. K. Anthony told that India was not giving weapons training to Sri Lankan military.

Both the prime minister and the defense minister are playing with words. We know that training of Sri Lankan Air Force technicians in maintenance and repair of MIG-27 planes continued. What the prime minister seems to have promised was that Indian would not train pilots but it surely continued with the training of Air Force technicians. Does it matter whether it was pilot training or technician training? Sri Lanka's MIG-27 would have to be grounded without these technicians trained by Indian Air Force. That means no bombings of Tamil areas by MIG-27 planes. In other words, India's training of those technicians directly contributes to Tamil deaths, including civilian deaths. SLAF bombing of civilian locations have been well documented by international agencies including UNICEF and Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM).

Defense Minister A. K. Anthony is also hiding behind words. We know for sure that India trained aircraft technicians to work on MIG-27 planes. Mr. A. K. Anthony is correct that it was not weapons training. MIG-27 may not be technically a weapon but it surely carries bombs and drops them; those bombs kill people. Indian government may hide behind words and technicalities but the truth of the matter is that Indian military hardware and training are killing Tamil civilians and fighters in Sri Lanka.

6. A Few Final Words

We will close this article with a few words from the former Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka and India's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.

Former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said in February 2007, "India provided us with most of our requested requirements including important assets for Naval and Air defense. Subsequent to one such request I conveyed to the Indian Prime Minister and the Defense Minister, a special team was sent to (Sri Lankan capital) Colombo within 48 hours to assess our needs". 

The former foreign minister then quoted former Indian High Commissioner, Nirupama Rao, as saying that India has not provided so much military help to Sri Lanka since IPKF days. (IPKF - Indian Peace Keeping Force)

These statements stand it stark contrast to Indian Prime Minister's empty assurances to Tamil Nadu.

(NOTE: Author is from Tamilnadu. Views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Tamil people or leaders of northeastern Sri Lanka (the "Eelam Tamils".)


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