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The Rediff Special/J N Dixit

'I told Prabhakaran that this was the fourth time he was trying to embarrass the prime minister of India'

Prabhakaran I rang up the first secretary (political) at our mission in Colombo, Hardeep Puri, to tell him to proceed to Jaffna immediately and to inform Prabhakaran about the details of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement and to get his response as well as on his willingness to come to Delhi for an exchange of views. Puri was explicitly told not to show the agreement to Prabhakaran and give him only an outline of it. Puri went to Jaffna the same day. It had been decided to show the agreement to Prabhakaran in the presence of a competent Tamil interpreter later.

Puri returned from Jaffna after holding discussions with Prabhakaran on July 19 and 20. Puri confirmed that Prabhakaran was generally agreeable to the proposed Accord and that he had only two pre-conditions: (a) the Sri Lankan forces should close down all the military camps set up in the Vadamarachi region after May 25, 1987 and withdraw to older camps/barracks; and (b) he would like to be taken to Madras and Delhi in an Indian Air Force plane, implying thereby New Delhi's recognition of the LTTE.

Rajiv Gandhi He also expressed a wish to call on M G Ramachandran and Rajiv Gandhi. This information was conveyed immediately to the prime minister, who confirmed that the demands would be met. Rajiv Gandhi directed that Prabhakaran be airlifted from Jaffna on July 22 and brought to Delhi.

In the meanwhile, First Secretary Puri had proceeded to Jaffna to organise the airlift of Prabhakaran, four members of the LTTE political committee, Prabhakaran's wife and children, to Delhi via Madras. Prabhakaran and party were airlifted by two helicopters of the Indian Air Force from the grounds of the Suthumalia Aman Kovil Temple on July 24 to Trichy from where they were taken by special aircraft to Madras. Prabhakaran called on the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and proceeded to Delhi, leaving his wife and children behind in Madras. His political adviser in Madras Balasingham, was also asked to go to Delhi.

I met the prime minister three hours after reaching Delhi. Rajiv Gandhi approved of the draft agreement and agreed to visit Colombo on July 29.

LTTE militants Detailed discussions were held with Prabhakaran by Indian officials on July 25 and 26. At the first meeting organised on July 24 at Ashoka Hotel, director of the Intelligence Bureau, M K Narayanan, Joint Secretary Kuldip Sahdev, First Secretary Puri and myself met Prabhakaran and his colleagues and explained the details of the Agreement clause by clause. Prabhakaran suddenly did a volte face and said he was not in a position to endorse the agreement. He said he was not aware that the Agreement was going to be signed directly between the Governments of India and Sri Lanka.

His expectation was that he would get a chance to call on the prime minister when he could submit the demands on the lines on which the Agreement should be signed and that he would be allowed to negotiate with Jayewardene and finalise the Agreement.

Jayewardane Prabhakaran also said he could not endorse any Agreement which kept the merger of the northern and eastern provinces temporary. He also said that no agreement should be signed without all the military camps of Sri Lankan forces being closed down in the northern and eastern provinces. The meeting was inconclusive.

I told Prabhakaran that this was the fourth time he was trying to embarrass the prime minister of India. I recalled that he had done this at Thimpu, again in August/ September 1985 and then again in Bangalore. I told Prabhakaran that he was being shown the final draft of the Agreement, which he should study before taking a final decision. It was the assessment of Indian officials that Prabhakaran had changed his mind after the discussions held in Madras on his way to Delhi.

First Secretary Puri and Under Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs Nikhil Seth had a three-hour discussion with Prabhakaran on July 25 when they explained the draft Agreement to the LTTE delegation with the help of Balasingham and our Tamil interpreter. Prabhakaran demanded another meeting with MGR before his meeting with Rajiv Gandhi.

Rajiv Gandhi invited MGR and Food Minister S Ramachandran to come to Delhi immediately to persuade Prabhakaran to endorse the Agreement. MGR reached Delhi early on July 26, by the PM's special aircraft.

LTTE militants Accompanied by Narayanan, Joint Secretary (PMO) Ronen Sen and Kuldip Sahdev, I called on MGR and briefed him about Prabhakaran's attitude. After a preliminary discussion with Prabhakaran and the LTTE delegation, MGR summoned me for a meeting with them in his presence at Tamil Nadu House.

I had a lengthy exchange with Prabhakaran on all the details of the Agreement in the presence of MGR and S Ramachandran. But Prabhakaran remind indecisive and demanded that he be sent back to Jaffna. MGR told him to be patient and stay back in Delhi for further discussions.

Excerpted from Assignment Colombo, by J N Dixit, Konarak Publishers, 1998, Rs 400, with the publisher's permission.
Readers interested in obtaining a copy of the book may direct their enquiries to Mr K P R Nair, Konarak Publishers, A-149, Main Vikas Marg, New Delhi 110 001.

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J N Dixit, continued

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