As the Sri Lankan army inches closer to a decisive military victory against the remaining remnants of the Tamil Tigers, the international community has been vocal in its call for a ceasefire in view of the thousands of Tamil civilians caught in the middle of the conflict. The tone from politicians in Tamil Nadu has been particularly shrill, and unabashedly in support of Prabhakaran and the LTTE. Political parties in Tamil Nadu have been demanding Indian pressure on Lanka to declare a unilateral ceasefire. The government in New Delhi would do well not to accede to their demands.
Terrorism is a scourge that has plagued the Subcontinent for decades. However, victories against terrorist forces have been few and far between with governments neither having the gumption, nor the ability to achieve decisive victory in the face of asymmetric warfare. However, Sri Lanka today stands at the cusp of a famous victory against self-appointed champions of the Tamil cause. The Rajapakse government will not squander the momentum gained over the course of three years to please Indian politicians in the throws of a general election or to placate the countless effete world bodies that have neither the right to demand nor the jurisdiction to enforce the ceasefire.
India must recognize that its role in the conflict should be not during the military conflict, but after the demise of the LTTE. Normalcy in Sri Lanka’s civil war can only be fully brought about through political reconciliation between Lankan Tamils and the Lankan government. Sri Lanka has a unique opportunity today to not only end militancy, but also address the root causes that led to conflict, not on the battlefield, but through political engagement.
To that end, India must encourage, prod, assist, the Rajapakse government to take the initiative to address the aspirations of the Tamil civilians. Allowing international aid workers to provide assistance to the thousands of displaced Tamil civilians will be a pressing matter, and one requiring immediate attention. But this can only be possible through a swift military victory against the LTTE. By calling for a ceasefire, India and the international community will leave the Lankan government in a disadvantageous position vis-a-vis a millitant organization known for its ability to rise from the ashes, and injudiciously prolong a war that has already taken the lives of tens of thousands of Sinhalese and Tamil civilians.