India has "no problem" with Indian assistance flowing through the Sri Lankan Government to LTTE areas, MEA Director Taranjit Singh Sandhu explained, adding that suggesting New Delhi's help should be cut off from the Tamil insurgents would be to acknowledge a separate Tamil Eelam.

25165 1/10/2005 13:34 05 NEWDELHI 227 Embassy New Delhi CONFIDENTIAL "This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available." "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 000227

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/09/2015 TAGS: PREL, AEMR, EAID, MASS, PTER, SOCI, CE, BG, IN, India-SriLanka

SUBJECT: AID TO THE TIGERS: ON THE SAME PAGE

Classified By: PolCouns Geoff Pyatt. Reasons 1.4 (B,D).

1. (C) Summary: In a January 7 meeting with MEA Director (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives) Taranjit Singh Sandhu, PolCouns explained the USG position on tsunami disaster relief for Tiger controlled areas in Sri Lanka, including the US intention not to deploy military forces to LTTE areas. Sandhu responded that the GOI had taken a similar track, and expressed surprise at the contrast between the reality of US involvement in Sri Lanka and what had been reported in the Indian media. On the future of GOSL-LTTE relations, Sandhu was optimistic that some good could come of the disaster in that it might force the two sides to cooperate. PolCouns reiterated the need for greater information sharing on Bangladesh. End Summary.

Tigers?

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2. (C) Sandhu remarked that his sense after sifting through all the speculation surrounding the damage the LTTE may have sustained from the tsunami, was that the Tigers did receive a blow, but not so much to their Sea Tigers headquarters. He thought that probably one or two bases had been wiped out, adding that casualty figures have been kept very quiet, but the figure of two to three hundred LTTE deaths is ""nonsense.""

GOI Aid to the LTTE

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3. (C) The GOI has ""no problem"" with Indian assistance flowing through the GOSL to LTTE areas, Sandhu explained, adding that suggesting New Delhi's help should be cut off from the Tamil insurgents would be to acknowledge a separate Tamil Eelam. He noted, however, that New Delhi found ""unacceptable"" the LTTE statement that aid should be given directly to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization. PolCouns explained that the USG approach was similar, adding that we have conveyed the message that US relief could be channeled through others, but that no US military deployments or military relief projects would take place in Tiger controlled areas.

4. (C) PolCouns also clarified the extent of the US military presence in Sri Lanka which has attracted considerable media attention in India, including suggestions that the GOI needs to check US intrusion in India's ""backyard."" Sandhu seemed surprised to learn that the widely reported figure of 1,500 US troops in the country was incorrect, and that the USG was going to refocus some military assets on Indonesia because India was doing a very good job of providing assistance to Sri Lanka. (Note: We have heard from others that the Indian Embassy in Colombo has been a source of some of these alarmist reports about US military plans for Sri Lanka.) Sandhu responded that it was ""wishful thinking"" on the part of the LTTE that a disaster relief turf war would drive a wedge between the US and India. Sandhu was also unaware that conversations between Washington and New Delhi had taken place through the core group before any US military movement into Sri Lanka. Characterizing NSA JN Dixit's death as a set back to Indian diplomacy, Sandhu commented that this was especially true of policy towards Colombo, because Dixit (who had been Ambassador there) knew the country so well.

In the Long Term

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5. (C) Sandhu predicted that the tsunami could have long term political implications in Sri Lanka. What at one time seemed like critical issues in the conflict seem irrelevant in light of the much larger issue of surviving the disaster, he explained. Neither the GOSL or the Tigers are in any position to resume armed conflict, he observed, and they may be ""forced"" to cooperate. If both sides see the current situation as an opportunity, he continued, that could be the ""silver lining"" in this tragedy. He added, parenthetically, that Foreign Minister Natwar Singh had canceled his scheduled mid-January trip to Sri Lanka.

The Other Neighbor

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6. (C) With a meeting between PM Manmohan Singh and Bangladeshi PM Khaleda Zia postponed until the SAARC Summit is rescheduled, Sandhu told PolCouns he has not yet seen ""the light at the end of the tunnel"" in New Delhi-Dhaka relations. He remarked that New Delhi has yet to concur with the proposed February 7 date for the SAARC meeting, and expressed puzzlement at Dhaka's insistence on pushing ahead with the Summit at a time when three of the region's governments were reeling from the tsunami. PolCouns used the opportunity to further encourage more GOI information sharing on the issue through any channel, including the CTJWG. Sandhu agreed ""in principle"" and offered to take the suggestion higher.

MULFORD

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