19 September, 2019

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25 Years On, IPKF Awaits A Fitting Tribute Back Home

By Ashok Mehta –

This day, 25 years ago, the India-Sri Lanka Accord (ISLA) was signed by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Junius Jayawardene to end the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka peacefully. India willy-nilly became the guarantor for the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) disarming the LTTE in lieu of Sri Lanka devolving power to the minority Tamils.

India-Sri Lanka Accord (ISLA) was signed by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Junius Jayawardene

Invited by Sri Lanka, IPKF became the instrument for implementing ISLA. Two and a half years after the accord, with 1200 soldiers lost and nearly 2500 wounded, the IPKF was unceremoniously withdrawn with ISLA in tatters. Then Tamil Nadu CM M Karunanidhi renamed the IPKF as ITKF — Indian Tamil Killing Force. That is the residual public perception of India’s first out-of-area military intervention and coercive diplomacy.

Three years ago, with India’s passive and active help, Sri Lanka finally disarmed the LTTE through a comprehensive military defeat but the ethnic question, the rationale for ISLA and IPKF, remains unresolved. In a letter written to the author after the military victory, a serving Sri Lanka army commander wrote: “The work started by you has been finished by us.” Lt Gen Hamilton Wanasinghe, the Sri Lanka artillery (SLA) chief during the IPKF days, had earlier written in a letter that “were India to leave us alone, Sri Lanka would sort out the LTTE.”

Not without its inherent shortcomings, especially with one hand tied at the back, the IPKF was made the scapegoat for the failure of India’s coercive diplomacy. New Delhi’s decision to intervene in Sri Lanka was triggered by overarching strategic reasons: the presence of foreign military and intelligence agencies inimical to India; domestic politics in Tamil Nadu; the dangerous internal security situation likely to arise in south India from the Sri Lankan army operations against the LTTE; and generally not mentioned — deflecting attention from the Bofors scam.

The ISLA ceremony in Colombo was marked by the assault on Gandhi by a Sri Lankan sailor of the Honour Guard. Dissent within the United National Party government over ISLA was suppressed. Both Jayewardene and LTTE supremo Prabhakaran were inveigled into accepting the accord, though some claim it was the other way round. India was drawn into a trap to do Colombo’s dirty work.

The ISLA was signed in great haste with India becoming not only the signatory but also its guarantor. President Jayewardene was strangely nominated CinC of IPKF which was dispatched with equal haste, lack of preparedness and abysmal intelligence. The flawed assessment claimed that the LTTE would surrender their arms whereas it waged a well-planned insurgency which completely surprised the IPKF.

Lacking forethought, a clear mandate, proper contingency planning, a decisive chain of command and an exit policy, the IPKF arrived with much fanfare in Jaffna. Absence of a political consensus and popular support at home were to compound its problems. For example, no one had factored in that ‘friend’ LTTE would turn foe and that elections in both countries in 1989 would result in change of governments. Conscientous objector, Ranasinghe Premadasabecame president and soon did a deal with Prabhakaran to evict the IPKF. As CinC, he ordered it to withdraw— or face the SLA.

Despite these enormous hurdles, IPKF did a commendable job: prevented Eelam and the breakup of Sri Lanka, with India underwriting its sovereignty and territorial integrity; restored the democratic process and institutions in the Tamil north and east, illustrated by holding of three elections; maintained the merger of the north and east through ISLA enabled the 13th amendment and formation of the northeast provincial council which gave Tamils the first taste of self governance. And, most of all, while IPKF weakened the LTTE, it allowed the SLA to defeat the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna urban insurgency in the south.

The month-long conventional battle of Jaffna and the 20-month short counter-insurgency campaign produced tactical lessons for the Indian Army, especially from LTTE’s brilliant use of IEDs which were responsible for 70% of IPKF casualties. The Indian government blundered over its political calculations on time and resources required to alter the behaviour of the LTTE. Lack of a cohesive policy at the apex level and inadequate coordination at the operational level robbed the IPKF of greater success in its mission. Unfortunately, the lessons of the expeditionary campaign, like previous military encounters, lie buried in government closets.

Protesting Buddhist monks outside the Indian high commission in Colombo have demonstrated Lanka’s prescient India policy: after the deal with Prabhakaran in 1989, their placards read ‘IPKF go back’; following the catastrophic defeat of SLA at Elephant Pass in 2000 it was ‘IPKF come back’. And during the military rout of the LTTE in 2009, ‘IPKF stay out’. Still, Sri Lanka has constructed a memorial to the IPKF in the heart of Colombo. India not doing the same is the ultimate ignominy for the IPKF.

The author is a retired major general of the Indian Army, a former GOC IPKF South and founder member of Defence Planning Staff

The Times of India

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    Author forgot to mention that the brutal killings, tortures, rapes done by IPKF/ITKF. More than 8000 civilians were killed by the so called biggest democratic nation. countless rapes by the soldiers following Gandhi. We never forget this.

    • 1
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      More than that.

      • 1
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        Sri lanka was saved by IPKF LTTE was destryed due to Indias support Otherwise Sri Lanka would not be what it is today

  • 0
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    Reference the Monument put up for the IPKF at Battaramulla near Kalapuraya, first it was to be set up at the entrance to the Parliament. After almost completion at a tremendous cost, where MR was heard over NDTV that it was a fitting monument for the IPKF, suddenly the monument was broken down. Thereafter it was reconstructed again costing millions in memory of the Sri Lankan Soldiers. The Indian monument was shifted to the Kalapuraya sight and was opened without much fan fare.

    • 0
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      There was a Monument near Meeyankulam (near Vakaneri junction) destroyed by the LTTE.

  • 0
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    “Invited” by Sri Lanka it was but Sinhala supremacist historians chose yet one more round of re-writing history – where, in the perception of most Sinhalese – intriguingly, the more educated as well – it is wovem in their minds the whole thing was nothing but India twisting the Island’s arms.

    Has Ashok Mehta slipped in some facts in his essay. “Maintained the merger of the North-East through the ISLA” and “enabled the 13th amendment” ????? In fairness to him, both held for a brief period but the gound reality is far too different now. Both are divisive issues today. As to the Memorial for the thousand-and-half IPKF soldiers, who made the supreme sacrifice, what is baffling is why the Rajapakse Govt is shy about it. Most of the people in the Island are not aware of the location, when and by whom it was opened. The local media plays the part of collutionist and choses to hide the event (or non-event?) Or were they intimidated to remain silent. Mehta tells us we are not alone. India seems to have ignored the event at their side as well.

    Senguttuvan

  • 0
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    Indian soldiers died for the mistake of Rajiv. It is fitting the way Rajiv died taking responsibility for the 8,000 civilans whom the IPKF killed, many thousands girsl and women raped some times in front of the parents and husbands and the 2,000 Indian soldiers died. It would have been more fitting if the whole Rajiv family died in that incident.
    Anyhow killing of Rajiv is the best memorial for the IPKF soldiers his statute at sriperambadur is the best monument for the IPKF soldiers who died

    • 0
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      As far as we know IPKF mission in SL was a Total failure. What hapeened to the Brigadier and the 70 odd soldiers captured by the LTTE and kept at Mullative?

    • 0
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      Raja

      You must be either a stupid Tamil or a stupid Sinhalese wishing ill of others.

      If you are a stupid Tamil, I must say that your stupid leader VP brought the IPKF to my ancestral soil with lot of fanfare to get kicked by them. LTTE should have shot down the two Mirage 2000 and 6 Tuplov in mid air before they dropped Parippu and Chappatti floor. Instead they collected all those bags full of goodies hoping that they bags contained sophisticated missiles.

      If you are a stupid Sinhalese, the stupid policies of Sinhala/Buddhist chauvanism which brought the IPKF to the island and subsequent brutality by them in the Northy East. The Sinhala/Buddhist armed forces should have shot down the two Mirage 2000 and 6 Tuplovs in mid air before they dropped Parippu and Chappatti floor. Instead they were hiding behind their women folks.

      Both attitude prove my point that both people are irredeemabley stupid.

      Your self serving attitude will not help the people.

      • 0
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        I do not who is stupid. Why Should LTTE shoot down Mirage. Army cannot either. It is th estupid politicans and people like you who elected them are responsible. I do not wish ill to thers I am only telling Rajiv and his agreemnt got the end they deserved. If LTTE has Killed Sonia also. Tamils woudl not have been in the position they are now and Sri Lanka will not be in this mess today

        • 0
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          Raja

          does not know who the stupid is.

          I know, Tamils and Sinhalese are confirmed stupids.

          You say:

          “Why Should LTTE shoot down Mirage. “

          Had LTTE shot down the air crafts there would not have been an IPKF invasion of my ancestral land. It would have sent a clear message to the Hindians. They would not have dare to step on my ancestral land. LTTE would not have fought a bloody war with IPKF and people would not have suffered in the hands of invading alien forces. Instead LTTE gloated winning the 6th largest army.

          You say:

          “Army cannot either”

          Why not? A country needs armed forces to protect its sovereignty. In Sri Lanka’s case the state uses armed forces to protect itself from its own people. Irrespective of race, religion or region the Sri Lankan army kills its own people. In other words it is not fit for the purpose. Sri Lankan armed forces have failed miserably to deter the the foreign Indian invaders but gloat destroying the LTTE.

          What is the matter with you stupid nationalists on both sides of the divide?

          You say:

          “I do not wish ill to thers I am only telling Rajiv and his agreemnt got the end they deserved If LTTE has Killed Sonia also.”

          How do you know that was the end he deserved? Are you justifying LTTE killing Rajiv?

          Sonia also can justify why she did not stop Sri Lankan forces killing VP. You want the killing to continue because you see killing is the only way forward.

          So you would want tit for tat killing to continue which you allude would liberate Tamils from Hindians and Sinhala/Buddhist.

          If that is what you want there wouldn’t be anyone left to do your last rites.

        • 0
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          With what would the Tigers and/or the SLAF shot down those IAF aircraft — your Veddha bow and arrow? If your brains have sunk into your amude sit down and be quiet without showing your backside in public.

      • 0
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        I like your comments. Native veddha ‘s are one mostly discriminated and the Island is belong to them. not for lions or Tigers

        • 0
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          verra peurma

          Thanks for your recognition of my people’s plight.

    • 0
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      Yes true, but look at the reality now, What have we achieved so far?
      More mayhem, deaths, bloodshed and destruction in our beautiful island.
      Also we’ve created a another Sinhala VP and his dumb-wits cronies to run our country.

      I call it as a great achievement!!!!!!

      :-)

      • 0
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        G1 says:

        “I call it as a great achievement!!!!!!”

        in self destruction.

  • 0
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    Ashok Mehta States that;

    IPKF WAS -Invited by Sri Lanka, IPKF became the instrument for implementing ISLA. Two and a half years after the accord, with 1200 soldiers lost and nearly 2500 wounded, the IPKF was unceremoniously withdrawn with ISLA in tatters.

    Your IPKF was not invited to our Mother Land.
    we never invited you jawans to sri lanka.

    we did not ask you to Air drop Dhal to our people, When Millions Of Peoples are staving in India.

    Can You remember Your Then Prime minister Was Given A ceremonial Rifle butt Treatment With red carpet welcome.
    IS IT A WELCOME TO AN INVITED GUEST and HIS ENTOURAGE FORCES.

    We SRI LANKAN never treat any uninvited guest like that but your Rajeev Ghandhi Deserved That type of treatment As his mother and himself, both started and Inflamed the sri lanka’s ethnic fire, which consumed more than a million of innocent’s lives.

    Still Your Government Not Learned A lesson And With Your Notorious
    R A W Jackals are Making espionage, subversion and sabotages to destabilize this Sri Lanka.
    As you said,your IPKF did not do a commendable job.
    Your those jawans did only looting, raping and killings only.

    We HATE YOU PEOPLE FOR DESTROYING OUR PEACEFUL COUNTRY.

  • 0
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    IPKF IS INDIAN ARMY HAD BEEN OCCOUPIED OF SRI LANKAN TERRORITY.NO DOUBTE WAS INVADED ARMY BY INDIAN HEGEMONY RUILNIG CLASSES OF BIG BOURGEOISIE.
    BIG NATION BULLY SAMLL NATION BY MIGHY POWER IS ONE OF THE EXAMPLES, OF IPKF OF 1987 JULY HAD BEEN TO ISLAND OF SRI LANKA.

  • 0
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    No point of blaming other people or countries, it is more appropriate to blame our own weak politicians and us, because we elect them.

    • 0
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      Merrill,
      I am Totally Disagree With YOU.
      HOW YOU JUSTIFY, Not to blaming other people or countries.
      THE INDIANS TO BE BLAMED FOR THIS,

      NOW THEY WORRY ABOUT THE IPKF was unceremoniously withdrawn.AND THEY DID NOT GET ANY ADMIRATION FROM US.
      were they expecting to withdraw with ceremony from us , after killing , raping,our people and looting our property,
      When they were Forcibly removing sri lankan Navy property at Trincomalee, we couldn’t do any thing. we were powerless at that time.
      when those jawans shot and killed the chief Buddhist monk at China Bay
      What we Did?.
      That Time IPKF was occupying Sri Lanka.
      I was in india when this jackal Rajeev was delivering two load of containers of arms and ammunition to two sri lankan terrorist groups of their ondian branches.
      It was said Film actress Nalani also was involve as a mediator.
      If they suppied SAM 7 missiles to terrorist, what will happened to us.
      I have met so many Sri lankan terrorist group deserters in Coimbatore,and Kodambakkam, saundarya colany, Vadapalani areas in Chennai, who got training in Indian Military installations.
      most of them were waiting to go to western countries.

      That is why I told Many Times,

      that YOU INDIAN RASCALS, YOU MADE THE SOUP, SO YOU HAD IT.

      CORRECT OR NOT ???????????

  • 0
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    David Blacker

    I like you David.

    How can one hate stupid people?

    Army man seems to have lost his craft and needs technical advice:

    “With what would the Tigers and/or the SLAF shot down those IAF aircraft — your Veddha bow and arrow?”

    How about Catapult or blowpipe?

    I remember your mate Anton Balasingham (although he was in the opposite camp he used think like you) promising the stupid Tamils in 1985 that he was planning to arm the stupid LTTE with SAM 7 missiles. Later a story leaked by the state confirmed that the LTTE was indeed sitting on few missiles.

    In 1971 India provided 3 MIG 7 fighters to destroy JVP hideouts (mostly in Sabragamuwa province) and they were replaced by MIG 17s later.

    I think facts are too much for you so please ignore them.

    Army man you better get your facts right before knocking on the keyboard.

    You think you are writing. I think you are just typing.

  • 0
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    And today The Island’s man in Delhi Venkat Narayan shares from former IHC Mehrotra’s memoir where one gets a ring-side view of Premadasas tantrums. RP threatens to “wage war on Delhi” “commit suicide if the
    IPKF is not withdrawn immediately” and so on. Such a pity, those who come around as Sri Lanka’s leaders eventually ruin the country and its relations with other countries by their poor governance – and the people who are forced to bear the brunt have nothing to do but grin and bear. O tempora! O mores – Demo Crazy.

    Senguttuvan

    • 0
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      Senguttuvan

      What is the message from Narayan?

      Is he implying that Delhi would drive Mahinda to suicide?

  • 0
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    Dear Tamil Lost & Sri Lankan won by all means by cunning

    I Pray My Lord To Do Justice, He Will Bring Justice

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