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The Rediff Special/J N Dixit

'India had no intention of signing an agreement that did not have the endorsement of Tamil groups'

Rajiv Gandhi In the meantime, Rajiv Gandhi met MGR and representatives of all the Opposition parties in Parliament in Delhi. The proposed Agreement was explained in full and the endorsement of the Tamil Nadu government, the Congress party in Parliament and all the Opposition parties was obtained personally by the prime minister. He held further discussions with senior members of his Cabinet and MGR on how to tackle Prabhakaran and the LTTE.

At his meeting with Prabhakaran on July 28, Rajiv Gandhi persuaded him to go along with the Agreement even if he did not formally endorse it. The prime minister agreed to Prabhakaran's return to Jaffna after the Agreement had been signed so that Prabhakaran ensured the implementation of the cease-fire and surrender of arms. India also gave the necessary assurances of the LTTE's future security, participation in Sri Lankan politics and its major role in the proposed government of the north-eastern provinces.

As far as the LTTE and Prabhakaran were concerned, Hardeep Puri had conveyed categorical assurances from India that Prabhakaran would have safe conduct, that he would be airlifted from Jaffna by an Indian Air Force helicopter and that he would be dropped back in Jaffna regardless of whether or not he agreed with the proposals mooted for finding a compromise on the ethnic problem. India acceded to every request of his concerning his visit to Delhi between July 23 and August 21. He was allowed to bring along his senior advisers, his bodyguards and members of his family. We arranged for his discussions with the chief minister of Tamil Nadu before he reached Delhi.

Two other points of criticisms voiced by Prabhakaran in later years -- that he was kept under coercive custody, denied permission to communicate with anybody during his stay in Delhi, and that he was afraid of his life itself -- had no basis in fact. The original plan was to put him up in one of the government bungalows in the centre of New Delhi with appropriate security. He was not satisfied with this arrangement. He said he would like to stay in a sufficiently public place than in an isolated bungalow. He was, therefore, put up in one of the VIP suites of the Ashoka Hotel. His advisers were lodged in the same hotel.

LTTE militants Expressing lack of confidence in the Delhi police, he wanted more specialised personnel to provide him security. This was provided at his specific request. His advisers were present when the Tamil Nadu chief minister and Indian officials met him in Delhi, during each of the meetings. He was provided with telephone facilities to talk to his friends and associates in Tamil Nadu. He was also provided with STD and IDD facilities and he ran up a bill running into thousands of rupees on telephone calls during his nine-day stay in Delhi in July/August 1987.

The only restriction placed on him was one which the Governments of India and Sri Lanka placed on themselves too. The media was not allowed to be in touch with any party negotiating the agreement for legitimate and obvious reasons. Such a sensitive agreement could not be negotiated with the dubious wisdom and commentary of the media affecting its progress.

It must also be mentioned that the details of the agreement had been discussed by Hardeep Puri with Prabhakaran and his colleagues and some very senior LTTE sympathisers before Prabhakaran was brought to Delhi for discussions with Rajiv Gandhi. Apart from Prabhakaran, Hardeep Puri had discussed the outline of the Agreement with LTTE leaders Yogi, Thileepan, Constantine, Santhosan, and Rahim. In the meetings Hardeep Puri held with Prabhakaran on July 19 and 23, 1987, Prabhakaran's colleagues -- Mahatya, Kumarappan, Johnnie, Thileepan, Yogi and Shankar -- were present.

Bomb blast in Sri Lanka The point in recalling all these details is to establish that the LTTE complaint that Tamil groups were not fully informed about the Agreement and that they were duped into it is totally at variance with facts. India had no intention of signing an agreement that did not have the endorsement of Tamil groups. This approval was very much there, from the TULF at the one end of the spectrum to the LTTE at the other end.

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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