Sep 14 2007
Intervention in Sri Lanka: The IPKF Experience Retold by Major General Harkirat Singh (Retd.); Manohar; pages 108, Rs. 545
Depinder Singh writes: “… I remember a telegram the High Commissioner sent from Colombo to Delhi stating inter alia that, according to information available to him, the LTTE collapse was imminent… The reason why the Army view did not or could not prevail, perhaps, can be ascribed to the lack of rapport between the COAS and the Prime Minister – undesirable in normal times, completely fatal in an emergency.
The author writes: “I am unsure of what prompted the Army Chief, Sundarji, to shift me out of Sri Lanka, but one of the factors must have been the letter that India’s High Commissioner J.N. Dixit reportedly wrote to Sundarji in September 1987 since I did not accept his order to shoot/arrest the LTTE supremo. …”
RAW began rearming other Tamil groups even while the LTTE was being disarmed in August 1987.
“According to Dixit, the ultimate objective of the IPKF was to discredit the LTTE in the eyes of the local Tamil population. In short, the IPKF was expected to play a double game. I realised that these tactics would not work since the Tamils had already understood that their aspirations for Eelam could be met only by the LTTE. Dixit then turned towards me and said, ‘General, please ensure that the actions of the IPKF are in line with my discussions with the Prime Minister at Delhi. You should adopt a posture of gradual change from negotiations to coercion. The junior commanders during their contact should ascertain the view of the Tamils on the above approach.’”
“On the night of 14/15 September 1987, I received a telephone call from Dixit, directing me to arrest or shoot Pirabakaran when he came for the meeting. Telling Dixit that I would get back to him I placed a call to the OFC. Lt. Gen. Depinder Singh directed me to tell Dixit that we, as an orthodox Army, did not shoot people in the back when they were coming for a meeting under the white flag. I then spoke to Dixit in Colombo and conveyed the message, emphasising that I would not obey his directive. I pointed out that the LTTE supremo had been invited by the IPKF in order to find a solution to the problems in the implementation of the Accord. Dixit replied, ‘He [Rajiv Gandhi] has given those instructions to me and the Army should not drag its feet, and you as the GOC, IPKF will be responsible for it.’ The next morning I received a call from Lt. Gen. B.C. Joshi, the then Director General Military Operations, who supported my stand on Dixit’s directive. However, the COAS, Gen. Sundarji, expressed his annoyance.”
Dixit and Sundarji thought that Harkirat Singh was soft on the LTTE. The texts of his assessments on September 17 and 20 and on December 5, 1987, show him to be far more perceptive and realistic than Dixit. The Army lost 1,155 men when the IPKF withdrew.
No responses yet