India, Pakistan, China, America and Sri Lanka

Why India, Pakistan, China and America are all Arming the Sri Lankan Military Against Minority Tamils?

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2008 (ID. 2008-01-01)
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1. Introduction

2. Myth of an Umbilical Relationship Between Sri Lankan Tamils and India

3. Sri Lankan Tamils Look to India

4. Why no one is Helping the Tamil Minority?


ACSA - Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement

LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

USA - United States of America

1. Introduction

India, Pakistan, China and America are all helping the Sri Lankan military against the minority Tamil rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It is unusual and, in fact, unnatural for all these countries to arm the same side in a civil war.

India and Pakistan are archenemies from the very day of their births on August 15, 1947. They have fought three major wars and there are ongoing border skirmishes. India is also accusing Pakistan of helping Kashmiri fighters and assisting in terrorist bomb attacks in India. It is thus natural for these two countries to help opposing sides in a war in their neighbourhood. Yet both are arming and training the Sri Lankan military in this war.

India and China may not be enemies but they surely are rivals for influence in the Indian Ocean region. In normal circumstances they would be supporting opposing sides in the Sri Lankan war. Yet both are providing weapons to Sri Lankan military; India is mostly giving them as gift and China is mostly selling them (like Pakistan).

India and United States of America (USA) are not enemies either. But they both have strategic interests in the Indian Ocean and Sri Lanka. In spite of its professed friendship with America, India jealously "guards" Sri Lanka from American influence. It was reported in South Asian newspapers that it was India's disapproval that held up signing of the "Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA)" between Sri Lanka and USA for over four years (July 2002 - March 2007). In a separate incident, in late 2007, India was reportedly unhappy over Sri Lanka allowing America to install a RADAR system to monitor LTTE movements; India fears that America would also use the RADAR to spy on its military moves in southern India.

In spite of their enmity or rivalry with India, these countries--Pakistan, China and United States of America--support and assist the same side as India in the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. Why? These countries think that even if they help the Tamil minority, once successful, the Tamils would "dump them" and side with India because of the umbilical relationship they "supposedly" have with India. What make them think so?

2. Myth of an Umbilical Relationship Between Sri Lankan Tamils and India

The umbilical relationship that Sri Lankan Tamils have is with the Tamil Nadu Tamils, and not with India as such. Let me elaborate.

There are about 60 million Tamils in the Indian Union, primarily in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. They are of the same ethnic origin, speak the same language and have the same culture as Sri Lankan Tamils. Tamils are less than 10% of the Indian population. The rest of India speaks a dozen or so major languages. The largest group is the Hindi speakers of north India. They constitute about 30% of the population. Although they do not have a majority in the Indian parliament, Hindi politicians dominate Indian government policy making by allying with willing, and often power-hungry, politicians from other regions [See Reference 1 for details].

Political parties from Tamilnadu have been allying with Hindi-dominated political parties and sharing power at the Indian central government for almost two decades. Yet when it comes to Sri Lanka, decisions are made by Hindi politicians even if they go against the sentiments of their allies in Tamilnadu. Power hungry Tamil politicians look the other way even as the Indian Government carries out decidedly anti-Tamil policies in the Sri Lankan ethnic war. Any expression of disagreement with Indian policies on Sri Lanka would result in "anti-Indian" and "anti-national" labels, and possible removal from ministerial positions at the central government and dismissal of the state government (even if the party came to power with a overwhelming majority in Tamil Nadu).

In short, although there is a blood bond, an umbilical relationship between Sri Lankan Tamils and Tamil Nadu Tamils, that bond--that special relationship--does not extend to the north or to the Indian government. To think that the Indian government has a special relationship, a kin feeling with Sri Lankan Tamils, and would come to their aide is wrong thinking. Events of the past two decades are evidence enough. It has nothing to do with the 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a Sri Lankan Tamil lady. India's anti-Tamil actions in Sri Lanka pre-date the assassination [Reference 2].

3. Sri Lankan Tamils Look to India

The unfortunate fact is that many Sri Lankan Tamils including many of their leaders of all political hue and colour seem to think that one day their knight in shining armour would come riding from New Delhi and save them. They think that their only possible help is from India and do not look for help elsewhere. In spite of India's help to the Sri Lankan government militarily, financially and diplomatically, many Sri Lankan Tamil people and leaders swear their eternal allegiance and love for India. They hope against hope that, may be, may be, their oft-repeated statements of love and loyalty might bring some help from India. That is not to be. India continues to provide military, financial and diplomatic assistance to Sri Lanka in its war against the Tamil minority. This writer is of the opinion that India would never help Sri Lankan Tamils achieve their legitimate rights. India's actions during the past two and a half decades are indicative of this.

4. Why no one is Helping the Tamil Minority?

Tamil leaders' oft-repeated recitals of love and loyalty to India are not only heard in the Indian capital New Delhi, they are also heard in the capitals of Pakistan, China and America. Policy makers in those capitals reach the logical conclusion that even if they were to help the Tamils now, if they were to achieve their legitimate rights because of that help, they would go back to India once their problems are solved. So they shy away from offering any help to the Tamil minority. Instead they compete to provide military assistance to the Sri Lankan government, hoping to have at least some influence in Sri Lanka.

Editorial Note: Author is from Tamil Nadu. His related article "Move Away from India and Seek Help from America" will appear in  TAMIL TRIBUNE in the near future.


1. Who Rules India? (Part I) (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2000.

2. Indian Government Double-Dealings in the Sri Lankan Ethnic Conflict: 1983-1987 (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, September 2003 (11 KB)


1. Sri Lanka, America and India: Two Suitors for a Lady (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, December 2002 (12 KB)

2. Sri Lankan Peace Talks on an American Ship? (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, March 2002.

3. More Articles on the Sri Lankan Ethnic Conflict

Summary: Author discusses the reason why India, Pakistan, China and America are all providing weapons or training to Sri Lankan Military in the Sinhala-Tamil ethnic conflict (war).

FIS071227    2008-a1d

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