America's strategic interests in the Indian Ocean and South Asia

Sri Lanka: Minority Tamils Should Seek American Help

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2008 (ID. 2008-06-02)
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For the past several years I have been advocating the position that minority Tamils should actively seek American help to achieve their legitimate rights to run their own affairs in Sri Lanka. Corollary to this position is that Tamils should stop their constant pleading to India for help because India would never help the Tamils. I have discussed this aspect in several of my articles during the past decade [search the Internet for "India Sri Lanka Tamil and my name"].  India's continued military, financial and diplomatic support to Sri Lanka during the past two years proves my point.

In 2002, as preparations were being made for peace talks between the Tamil militant group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and the Sri Lankan government, LTTE wanted to hold the talks close by and asked India for permission to hold the talks. India refused. I suggested at that time a bold move. I wrote in the article Sri Lankan Peace Talks on an American Ship [Reference 1]: "The Sri Lankan Government, LTTE and the Norwegian facilitators should turn to the United States of America (USA). Request the American Government to anchor an American Navy ship off the Sri Lankan coast and make it available for the peace talks. The ship could be anchored at the Colombo harbor or Trincomalee harbor." I thought that it would make America directly involved in the peace talks and give an opportunity for American officials to know firsthand that Tamils are not unreasonable warmongers but are reasonable people willing to settle for a true federal setup with real devolution of powers to run their own affairs.

I continued to advocate the position that Tamils could not expect any help from India and must turn to United States of America (USA). At the end of an article earlier this year on the relationship between Sri Lankan Tamils and India [Reference 2], I said that I would soon publish an article "Move Away from India and Seek Help from America" (That article is yet to be written; it would explain the differences between Indian and American interests in Sri Lanka and why Tamils should seek American help and why America may be open to it.)

I also wrote that Sri Lanka is not a reliable ally or friend to America in South Asia. In a 2002 article titled " Sri Lanka, America and India: Two Suitors for a Lady" [Reference 3], I explained this with couple of examples and closed the article with the following statement: "What America needs in South Asia is not a wavering, opportunistic friend but a solid and capable ally that would stand by it whether it rains or shines." It is up to the Tamil leaders to convince American officials that they could be such an ally.

A window of opportunity opened up within the last few months. Sri Lanka is bleeding financially with escalating war costs. It found a benefactor in Iran and reportedly has established close ties with it. Israel stopped selling weapons to Sri Lanka because of fear that Israeli technology would fall into Iran's hands. It was reported in April 2008 that American government had sent a strong warning to Sri Lanka over its rapidly growing close ties with Iran.

Here is a window of opportunity for Tamil leaders to approach the American government and establish better relations with it. Recognize and respect that United States of America (USA) is a global power and that it has strategic interests in the Indian Ocean and South Asia. Discuss how Sri Lankan Tamils could be helpful to meet their interests, now that Sri Lanka has proven again to be unreliable.

Tamil people need friends--powerful friends. The two countries that could influence the situation in Sri Lanka are India, as the neighboring regional power, and United States of America (USA), as the global power with strategic interests in the region. India will never help the Tamil people. So Tamil leaders should turn to America instead of repeatedly hitting their heads on the Indian brick wall. Try to open the American door.

Thanjai Nalankilli - Thanjai Nalangkilli


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

2. Why India, Pakistan, China and America are all Arming the Sri Lankan Military Against Minority Tamils? (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2008 (13 KB)

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


1. More Articles on Sri Lankan Ethnic Conflict (OR search the Internet for "Sri Lanka Tamil Tribune")

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