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TREATING TAMIL TIGERS AS DESPICABLE PARIAHS THE TIMES OF INDIA SAYS THEY SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED INSIDE THEIR COUNTRY

By Walter Jayawardhana reporting from Los Angeles

Reminding the Indian government of the bitter lessons learnt in the past of the risks of riding the Tamil Tiger, India's well circulated newspaper, the Times of India in a leader editorial severely warned, New Delhi should nip in the bud any attempt by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to use India or Indian territory for negotiations with Colombo.

In the issue of January 10, 2002 the Times editorial said the presence of the LTTE and other Sri Lankan Tamil groups in Tamil Nadu had dangerously vitiated the political atmosphere in that state.

Reminding what had happened earlier when those Tamil groups were allowed in the state of Tamil Nadu the influential daily said, "Chennai was the arena for their fratricidal killings, bomb blasts, shoot-outs, smuggling of arms, narcotics and gold."

"The IPFK fiasco, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, and the humiliation and hostility heaped on India," said the editorial, " by every party involved in the Tamil Sinhala conflict-despite their own pleas at various times for Indian help and intervention -ought to serve as reminder of why New Delhi should be wary of being ensnared again in this trap."

The editorial severely warned New Deli's readiness to support the peace process should stop short of direct dealings of any kind with any of the parties to the conflict.

Calling the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as terrorists the newspaper said New Delhi cannot attack cross border terrorism in the North and embrace it in the South.

The editorial said , "The LTTE is a 'terrorist organization' and its chief is wanted in India for Rajiv Gandhi's assassination .It would be self-defeating to seek to solve problems in the neighbourhood by inviting them in to our home."

The following is the full text of the editorial:

New Delhi should nip in the bud any attempt by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to use India or Indian territory for negotiations with Colombo.

That the ministry of external affairs (MEA) has not already done so, suggests ambivalence if not confusion in South Block following precisely such a proposal by the LTTE. Instead of a categorical rejection of the LTTE's efforts to implicate New Delhi in its negotiations with the Sri Lankan authorities, the MEA spokesperson has come up with the usual bromide of the government "keeping its options open".

The LTTE is desperate to get a foothold in India to strengthen its position in the peace process which appears to be reviving with the initiatives of the new Sri Lankan prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe. Towards this objective, the Tamil separatist rebels have sought Indian help on two counts: for its chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham, to shift from London to Chennai; and for holding the Norwegian-brokered talks in Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram or Bangalore.

In return, the LTTE, would deign to permit Indian officials to be present as ''non-participant observers'' during talks with Colombo, if and when they take place. The LTTE's argument for Mr Balasingham's relocation to Chennai is that he needs sophisticated and sensitive medical care and that security considerations preclude his flying in and out of Colombo, or to any other European city, and further that he would need to make forays into the Vanni jungles of Sri Lanka for periodic consultations with the LTTE chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran. These considerations make a southern Indian city both an ideal, and inevitable, choice for reviving negotiations, in the argument.

Given past experience, New Delhi ought to have learnt well the risks of riding the Tamil Tiger. The presence of the LTTE and other Sri Lankan Tamil groups in Tamil Nadu had dangerously vitiated the political atmosphere in that state. Chennai was the arena for their fratricidal killings, bomb blasts, shoot-outs, smuggling of arms, narcotics and gold.

From here, the network of violence and illicit activities spread to other parts of Tamil Nadu and the south. The IPKF fiasco, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and the humiliation and hostility heaped on India by every party involved in the Tamil-Sinhala conflict - despite their own pleas at various times for Indian help and intervention - ought to serve as reminders of why New Delhi should be wary of being ensnared again in this trap.

While it cannot be denied that India has high security stakes in resolving the conflict, its engagements in the past have had disastrous consequences. As has been stated repeatedly in these columns, New Delhi's readiness to support the peace process should stop short of direct dealings of any kind with any of the parties to the conflict. It should let Norway, which is acting at Washington's behest, to soldier on with its efforts; and if there is no safe and convenient venue in Europe for talks, then they can choose any other place from the Maldives to Malaysia. New Delhi cannot attack cross-border terrorism in the north and embrace it in the south.

The LTTE is a "terrorist organisation" and its chief is wanted in India for Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. It would be self-defeating to seek to solve problems in the neighbourhood by inviting them in to our home.


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