M D Nalapat
The past few days, this columnist has been in Colombo, the serene capital of the beautiful island of Sri Lanka, a country with an ancient history and a proud tradition. The Galle Face Hotel, where he is staying, is a combination of western colonial architecture and Sri Lankan heart and soul. The rooms are magnificent, especially those with a sea view, and the service impeccable. The only spot was the inability of the laptop to log on to the internet, a problem in this era of instant and continous communication.
Although India is Sri Lanka’s biggest neighbour, the reality is that it is Pakistan that seems more popular amongst the majority Sinhala population of the country. The reason for this may be that Islamabad has, since 1998,been a reliable supplier of weapons and equipment to the Sri Lankan army in its ( now victorious) battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),the organisation that killed Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993. Ironically, it had been Premadasa who secretly armed the LTTE against the Indian military contingent that was sent into the island by Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 to enforce a peace agreement between the Sri Lankan state and the LTTE, an organisation that had been funded and equipped by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the 1980s, but which subsequently turned hostile to her son and successore Rajiv in 1987,when he brought LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran to Delhi and made him agree to less than total independence for the Tamil-majority regions in north and east of Sri Lanka. Although Prabhakaran – under duress, as he was kept a virtual prisomer in the 5-star Ashok Hotel in Delhi as long as he was relyuctant to sign on to the dotted line - agreed, he changed tack as soon as he returned to Sri Lanka, and verysoon thereafter,his men began to harry the Indian military contingent.