The next step, in India's view, must be to get the SLA and LTTE back to the bargaining table with the Co-Chairs in Brussels, and for the SLA to move forward quickly with a political package to offer the LTTE.

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/18/2016

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PHUM, CE, IN

SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: NEW DELHI STILL BELIEVES POLITICAL

PROCESS ONLY OPTION

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Geoffrey Pyatt for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)

1. (C) Summary. Despite assessing the current situation in Sri Lanka as a stalemate, India has no plans to change its policy of pushing for a political solution. New Delhi continues to tell the SLA that it should not see war as an option. Public opinion and refugee inflows into Tamil Nadu are seen as ""manageable"" for the time being. The next step, in India's view, must be to get the SLA and LTTE back to the bargaining table with the Co-Chairs in Brussels, and for the SLA to move forward quickly with a political package to offer the LTTE. End Summary.

Keep Talking

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2. (C) Poloffs met with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Director for Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar (BSM) Sanjiv Kohli and BSM Under Secretary Sugandh Rajaram on August 18 to discuss India's reaction to recent developments in Sri Lanka. During the meeting, Kohli stuck to one theme: India believes continuing with the political process is the only viable option. In New Delhi's assessment, although the political process is stymied, neither the Sri Lanka Government (SLA) nor the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could win a war. The Government of India continues to tell the SLA that it shouldn't see war as an option and continues to encourage the SLA to move the political process forward, Kohli stated. However, ""There is a body of opinion"" in India, he claimed, that President Rajapaksa wants to use the military option, either because he believes he can win a war or simply to enhance his bargaining position, which worries Indian policymakers.

Situation Tolerable for Delhi

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3. (C) The ""downhill slide"" since late July when battles arose over control of water resources has negated the potential for the international community to influence the political process for the time being, Kohli suggested. In India's case, New Delhi must remain wary of the spillover of violence in Sri Lanka, particularly in terms of refugees reaching Tamil Nadu and, not unrelatedly, also in terms of public opinion. To date the spillover has been manageable, Kohli said, citing the number of refugees who have arrived since January at just over 6000 and noting that in the late 1980s the number surpassed 20,000. (Note: Consulate Chennai is reporting septel on the impact in Tamil Nadu and the most up-to-date refugee numbers. End Note.) Indian public opinion, too, has not changed in the GOI's estimation, although New Delhi has picked up from the Sri Lankan press accusations that India is perceived in Colombo as ""holding back"" President Rajapaksa from taking more aggressive action.

Next Steps

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4. (C) The next step, in India's view, must be to get the SLA and LTTE back to the bargaining table with the Co-Chairs in Brussels, and for the SLA to move forward quickly with a political package to offer the LTTE. For now, India will not change its policy of promoting, from across the Palk Strait, a political solution -- ""unless Indian assets in Sri Lanka come under direct threat"" Kohli said.

Comment: Once Bitten, Twice Shy

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5. (C) Memories of Rajiv Gandhi's murder remain fresh in this Congress government, whose senior officials -- such as NSA Narayanan -- have extensive Sri Lanka experience dating to India's mid-eighties intervention. Those bad memories, combined with the UPA coalition's fear of rocking the boat of Tamil politics, stay Delhi's hand from getting too involved.

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