Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.
Op-ed discusses details about India-Sri Lanka Accord 1987, its significance and LTTE issue etc. After reading this op-ed you will be able to understand historical reasons why Sri Lanka is still not a multi-ethnic and multicultural society.
Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to fully attempt the below.
“The most significant contribution of the much-maligned Indo-Sri Lanka Accord has been the restructuring of the island nation’s postcolonial state” Discuss?
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: India-Sri Lanka relations
- It has been thirty years since President J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India signed the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord in July 1987.
- Author discusses the change in Sri Lanka’s politics since the advent of the accord.
Indo-Sri Lanka Accord importance?
- The most important political change in Sri Lanka, since 1987 has been the total military defeat and demise of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
- The accord was one of the early attempts to bring Sri Lanka’s ethnic civil war to an end by means of a political-constitutional solution.
Why India took initiative?
- Rajiv Gandhi thought that a political solution in Sri Lanka on India’s initiative would resolve the island nation’s ethnic conflict.
- It also ensure a role for India in shaping the political trajectories of a post-war Sri Lanka.
- This thinking was subtly reflected in the accord’s clauses as well as annexures.
What are the main clauses?
- Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and multicultural society.
- Tamil demand for secession is not politically tenable, though understandable.
- Regional autonomy is the best alternative both to a unitary state and separation
- Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict can be best managed by political means, grounded in the acknowledgement that the ethnic minorities have legitimate political and other grievances and aspirations.
Objectives of the accord?
- To end Sri Lanka’s ethnic war by persuading the Tamil militant groups to lay down their arms and then join the so-called political mainstream.
- To alter the constitutional and structural framework and offer regional autonomy to the minority Tamil community through devolution of powers.
- The two objectives have been met with only partial success.
- The Tamil militant groups, except LTTE, agreed to follow the political path opened up for them.
- The LTTE rejected the accord, and returned to war not only with the Sri Lankan state, but also with the Indian state.
- Within four months of the accord’s signing, India became a direct party to the war.
- The war went on till May 2009 when the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa achieved a war victory by defeating the LTTE.
- And that happened, with the support of many parties — like India, China, Russia, Pakistan, Japan, EU, U.S. and the UN.
- But Mr. Rajapaksa claimed personal credit for achieving ‘the first success’ in the global war against terrorism
What’s next? Constitutional amendment.
- The second objective of the accord required a constitutional amendment.
- The 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s 1978 Constitution passed in November 1987 followed the Indian constitutional model of power-sharing, created a system of Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka’s nine Provinces.
- Though rejected by the LTTE as an inadequate solution to the Tamil national question, the 13th Amendment at least restructured, de jure, Sri Lanka’s postcolonial state, which had remained unreformable in the direction of pluralism and multiethnicity.
What has happened to Sri Lanka’s Provincial Council system since November 1987?
- In the merged ‘North Eastern Province’, the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), the most leftist among Tamil militant groups, formed a coalition after winning the first Provincial Council election.
- The despair led the EPRLF to declare a unilateral declaration of independence and its members then retreated to India for political asylum.
- Provincial Councils continued in the Sinhalese-majority Provinces, seven in all, where there was no demand for devolution.
- Caught up in a powerful ideological paradigm of a centralised unitary state, the entire system of Provincial Councils found new political reasons for their existence other than regional autonomy.
Changes in Councils?
- The Councils, contrary to the original intention of the law, became institutional extensions of the Central government and the ruling party in Colombo.
- They evolved into institutions through which political corruption and patronage politics got decentralised and democratised
Politics after 1987
- The ethnic civil war has ended, and there is no armed insurgency threatening the state.
- Insurgency led by the Janathā Vimukthi Peramuṇa (JVP) too was defeated and JVP has re-invented itself as an effective parliamentary party.
- Attempts at re-democratisation have been made and have partially succeeded.
- A new generation of political leadership has emerged with conflicting visions for the future of Sri Lanka.
- It is the resistance to reforming the state, and the state’s failure to become truly pluralistic and multi-ethnic.
- Thirty years since the accord, Sri Lanka is fast losing momentum to bring constitutional reform.