49054 1/4/2006 4:51 06 NEWDELHI 27 Embassy New Delhi CONFIDENTIAL 06 NEWDELHI 8892 "VZCZCXRO1910OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH RUEHPWDE RUEHNE #0027/01 0040451ZNY CCCCC ZZHO 040451Z JAN 06FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHITO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8116INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9502RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 2607RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 2629RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 5473RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 2175RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 3270RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 7609RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 5978RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 0229RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2526RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 0642RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 0293RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 1501RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 1887RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 9557RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 2579RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDCRUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DCRHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HIRUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0465RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDCRHHJJPI/PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HIRHMFISS/HQ USSOCOM MACDILL AFB FLRHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FLRUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDCRUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC" "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 NEW DELHI 000027
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/06/2016 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PTER, MASS, CE, IN SUBJECT: GOI DECLINES A MORE ACTIVE ROLE IN SRI LANKAN PEACE PROCESS
REF: NEW DELHI 8892
Classjfied By: PolCouns Geoff Pyatt for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) Summary: Mahinda Rajapakse's December 27-30 trip to India stimulated the public debate about the Sri Lankan President's call for a more active Indian role in the peace process, but did not yield any major new Indian initiatives. The GOI told President Rajapakse, who encouraged greater Indian involvement during the election campaign, that New Delhi supports the Norwegian facilitators and places great importance on the maintenance of the ceasefire agreement, but can not play a more active role until there is a Sinhalese consensus. Although few Indians are clamoring for a greater GOI role in the peace process, the visit attracted significant media attention and analysts of Sri Lanka argued on both sides of the debate. In addition to India's negative 1987-1990 experience with the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), the UPA government is also constrained by the sensitivities of its Tamil coalition partners, some of whom would interpret deeper Indian involvement as support for the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) against Sri Lankan Tamil interests. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha's decision to cancel her meeting with Rajapakse reflected her limited maneuvering room and the domestic dimension of this issue. Although our MEA contacts took private encouragement from the fact that Rajapakse made India his first foreign destination, the Sri Lankan President returned home with little more than a military gift of small radars, some new development projects in Jaffna and Trincomalee and an Indian statement ""deploring the violations of the ceasefire."" End Summary.
Continue Peace Talks But Prepare for Violence
2. (U) Sri Lanka's newly elected President Mahinda Rajapakse emphasized the importance of bilateral relations by making his first visit abroad to India on December 27-30. In a December 26 MEA Press Briefing, the GOI underscored that ""the decision to make India his first overseas destination is evidence of the importance attached to bilateral relations by the government and people of both countries. India-Sri Lankan relations are excellent."" During his four day trip, Rajapakse held meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Kalam, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Ministers of Commerce and Industry, Home, Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, and the Minister of State for Planning. In addition to continued tsunami relief donations, India announced assistance projects to construct a library and stadium in Jaffna, jointly develop a port in Trincomalee, and offer USD 100 million line of credit for the Colombo-Matara rail network. Although the Defense Cooperation Agreement remained unsigned, press reports indicated that the GOI offered Rajapakse several small radars without committing to further military involvement.
3. (C) MEA's Sri Lanka Desk Officer Anupam Rae reported that in its meetings with President Rajapakse, the GOI stressed the importance of maintaining the ceasefire agreement and continuing to work towards peace talks, while warning the GSL to prepare for greater LTTE violence. Rae commented that Rajapakse expects a significant increase in the level of violence, if not outright war, by February 2006. However, the President believes that the LTTE is using violence to win
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GSL concessions before returning to further talks, and is not about to start a ""fight to the finish."" Noting that Rajapakse is very sharp, Rae said that Rajapakse was extremely interested in the GOI presentation on federalism and understood the need to devolve power. The new President reassured the GOI that the Sinhalese national party, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), will publicly oppose Rajapakse's moves to devolve power, but will stick with the government.
Merely Fulfilling Campaign Promises?
4. (C) Since Rajapakse campaigned on the need for a more active Indian role in the peace process, media reports predicted that he would make this request publicly during the visit. However, when asked whether there was any discussion of a greater role for India or India's participation in the Co-Chairs, the MEA's Official Spokesman signaled that there would not be a change in policy, stating that ""India's position on the peace process is well known.""
5. (C) MEA's Rae emphasized that the question of India's role was the ""major issue"" of the visit, although he speculated that Rajapakse knew Delhi's answer would be negative before he left Sri Lanka. As violations of the ceasefire rose over the last two months, Rae explained that India toyed with the idea that its participation could help prevent a breakdown in the peace process (Reftel). However, since Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera came to New Delhi in late November, the GOI has been saying that it will not take a more active role without a Sinhalese consensus to guide the peace process. As a result, Rae speculated that Rajapakse continued asking in order to bide time and carry out a campaign promise, all the while knowing what the Indian response would be.
6. (C) At a December 29 reception for Mahinda, Sri Lankan analyst and Prabhakaran biographer M.R. Narayan Swamy spoke to the President's brother and Defense Minister Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who claimed that Sri Lanka had been hoping for ""a dramatic expression of support."" When Swamy asked the President how the visit had gone, Rajapakse responded in a disappointing tone that ""it was fine."" Although the GOI chose not to fulfill the call for a greater role, MEA's Rae noted that New Delhi gave a vote of confidence to the Rajapakse government through its Joint Statement. The Joint Statement ""deplores violations of the ceasefire"" and ""emphasizes the need for strict observance of the ceasefire and the immediate resumption of talks."" According to Rae, this statement was ""a big step beyond the usual Indian language"" about the need to find a negotiated settlement acceptable to both parties and a gesture of support to the GSL.
India's Tamils Protest Rajapakse's Visit
7. (C) India is also bound by the political sensitivities among its approximately 60 million strong Tamil population. MEA's Rae conceded that the GOI's Sri Lanka policy ""is almost entirely run by domestic considerations."" While Tamil Nadu coalition partners such as the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) party and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) party have always protested greater cooperation with the
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Government of Sri Lanka, Swamy suggested that it is particularly difficult for India publicly to support Rajapakse's Sinhalese nationalist ""unitary"" solution to the ethnic conflict. He hoped that India's message would persuade Rajapakse and the JVP to continue down a more moderate and inclusive path.
8. (C) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha demonstrated Indian Tamil sensitivities when she canceled her meeting with President Rajapakse, which was interpreted as a political signal to the GOI not to take a greater role in the peace process in the run up to Tamil Nadu state elections this spring. While Rajapakse attended meetings in Delhi, the PMK and MDMK attended an ""Eelam Tamils Protection Meeting"" which passed a resolution criticizing Rajapakse for joining hands with ""Sinhalese chauvinist groups"" and ""denying basic rights"" to the Tamils. Rajapakse was scheduled to meet Jayalalitha in Chennai, but the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI) threatened a public demonstration. Swamy noted that these Tamil parties do not speak for the majority of the Indian Tamils, who do not support the LTTE. However, with elections coming up in Tamil Nadu and violence in Sri Lanka threatening to inflame public emotions, Swamy observed that ""Jayalalitha could not afford to be seen cozying up to Rajapakse.""
Comment: Tamil Politics and Violence Tip the Scales
9. (C) In light of New Delhi's increasing concern about the peace process in Sri Lanka and calls from some strategists for a more muscular Indian approach, it is significant that the GOI stuck to the same old hands-off policy. India has to balance its role as a rising world power with its previous negative Sri Lanka experiences and the realities on the ground, which as seen from here do not favor the peace process. Rajapakse's Sinhalese nationalist and anti-minority campaign image has not been softened by ""practical"" moves since his election, which makes GOI involvement even more controversial among Indian Tamils. India has significant economic and security interests in Sri Lanka, and does feel an obligation to use its influence there. MEA has indicated that the PM made the decision to rebuff Rajapakse's call for involvement, influenced by domestic political constraints. The increasing violence of recent weeks complicated this decision process, and likely contributed to an Indian decision to let the situation ripen. The GOI's leading expert on Sri Lanka is NSA Narayanan -- a Chennai resident who knows both Tamil politics and the LTTE well. In this instance, Narayanan's judgment appears to have been that now is not the time for India to get dragged again into Sri Lanka's travails.
10. (U) Visit New Delhi's Classified Website: (http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/sa/newdelhi/)