"Rajiv said he would secure Eelam for Prabhakaran"Coomi Kapoor
December 12: The issue of privilege has (thus) dogged the Commission throughout its proceedings for the past four years ever since it was first brought on the agenda on May 31 1993. -- Justice M C Jain, in the opening volume of his interim report.
Despite their plea of privilege, Justice Jain directed the Central Government and the State of Tamil Nadu to furnish hundreds of secret and top-secret documents from the Ministry of External Affairs, Cabinet Secretariat, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The governments argued that since many of these documents related to governmental confidentiality, national security and friendly relations with neighbouring States, it would not be in the public interest to supply them. Justice Jain did not agree.
Therefore, much of this classified material has been included in his interim report. And the Gujral Government under pressure to appease the Congress hastily agreed to place the interim report in Parliament without considering whether it was in national interest for such explosive material to be made public.
Eventually, RAW alone produced 2,633 documents and the CBI 927. Though it was the Congress Government of P V Narasimha Rao which tried to prevent the disclosure of the secret files, it was ironically counsel for the AICC(I) R N Mittal who opposed the Government and was most insistent on his right to examine the documents.
In fact, the counsel appeared to represent interests of a faction in the Congress party which was anxious to embarrass the Rao government.
The Government caved in and produced the confidential dossiers -- one of the few files it refused to part with was the Cabinet note of the Rao Government suggesting the winding up of the Jain Commission at which both Sitaram Kesri and K. Vijayabhaskara Reddy were present.
Just last week, Indo-Nepal relations came under a bit of a strain thanks to the Commission's inclusion of an intelligence report which refers to an unverified tip-off that Queen Aishwarya of Nepal had paid money for having Rajiv Gandhi assassinated. But this is a minor hiccup compared to the impact the Jain revelations could have on Indo-Sri Lankan relations.
MEA documents, quoted in the report, provide official confirmation of India's reputation as a big bully with its smaller neighbours. The Rajiv Gandhi Government alternatively coerced and cajoled the Sri Lankan Government into signing the Indo-Sri Lanka accord of 1987.
Then Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka J N Dixit seemed to be calling all the shots as he shuttled between Delhi and Colombo with the draft agreements. His first secretary (political) Hardip Puri liaised with LTTE chief V Prabhakaran in Jaffna, whose cadres were trained and armed by the Indian Government. The accord was signed between the two governments on July 29, 1987 despite the opposition of the then Sri Lankan Prime Minister Premadasa and most of his Cabinet.
Here are some telling extracts from MEA records:
After the Sri Lankan Cabinet meet on July 15 objected strongly to the draft agreement prepared by the Indians, President Jayawardene called Dixit to apprise him of developments.
"High Commissioner (Dixit) said that he had been reporting the developments twice or thrice every day and this sudden backing off will have long term serious and negative repercussions on Indo-Sri Lankan relations and the Government of India will have to undertake a fundamental review of its approach towards the ethnic problem." The President then asked the High Commissioner to come to his residence at 20.00 hours. Mrs Jayawardene was present and the President said that she had one or two questions to ask. Mrs Jayawardene asked, "If the President faces extensive opposition and the danger of being overthrown, will Mr Rajiv Gandhi ensure the safety of the President and his continuation in power?" ...High Commissioner told Mrs Jayawardane ..."if as a result of signing the Agreement any political or security threat results, the Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi) will guarantee the President's political stability and security."
On July 27, just two days before the agreement was to be signed, Jayawardene again got cold feet. Prime Minister Premadasa had read out a three-page formal statement at the Cabinet meeting opposing and advising the President not to sign the document. At this stage, the President asked the High Commissioner to meet the entire Cabinet. Premadasa absented himself from the meeting.
"The President suddenly sprang a surprise on High Commissioner by saying there was intense public opposition to the Agreement..he inquired whether the Prime Minister's (Rajiv Gandhi's) visit could be postponed by a few weeks so that he can educate his party, his Parliament and public opinion."
"High Commissioner politely but firmly told the President that if the Prime Minister's visit is postponed, then the visit may not take place and the Agreement will just fade away with no possibility of a political solution.....President asked the ministers to go out of the room and he informed the High Commissioner that he was taking a major risk in going ahead with the Agreement but now that he had failed to persuade the High Commissioner, he would stick to the programme proposed by the Prime Minister."
Like the Sri Lankan Government, Prabhakaran too had serious reservations about the Agreement. "When the High Commissioner along with his first secretary (political) Hardip S Puri met Prabhakaran on July 24 Prabhakaran did a volte face and said he was not in a position to endorse the Agreement. He put forward certain conditions. The meeting remained inconclusive. The High Commissioner told Prabhakaran that this was the fourth time he was trying to embarrass the Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi)." Finally, Prabhakaran met Rajiv Gandhi on July 28 at the Prime Minister's Office in New Delhi.
"Prabhakaran placed his difficulty of meeting finances as he would not be able to realise taxes to support his cadres. Prime Minister said that the Government of India will make up this amount..."
"Prabhakaran said that they may be allowed to form an interim administration and given powers in the North East province. Prime Minister said that although it was not in the Agreement he was confident that President Jayawardene will agree to it. However, LTTE should not expect a monopoly of power." "Prabhakaran said that while LTTE is accepting the Agreement, India must, as a guarantor, take the necessary measures to protect the interests of Sri Lankan Tamils if the Accord fails due to the insincerity of the Sri Lankan Government."
The Indo-Sri Lanka agreement was short lived; this not surprising given the background in which it was brought about! V Gopalasamy, former DMK MP pointed out a basic flaw which did not seem to have struck the Indian Government in its hubris; why should the Government of India have been a party to an agreement when it was really between the Sri Lankan government and the various Tamil groups.
Prime Minister Premadasa, apprehensive that the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) sent in to implement the accord might stay on indefinitely, finally decided that his best course of action was to enter into negotiations directly with Prabhakaran rather than use the Indian Government as an intermediary with the LTTE. This was naturally a severe blow to the Indian Government's foreign policy. Prabhakaran in an interview was to call the Indian foreign policy in Sri Lanka during this period "the greatest defeat suffered by India after the Indo-China war." The Indian Government was obviously piqued when both the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE decided to cut it out and deal directly. According to the testimony of former Prime Minister V P Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, when he was still Prme Minister told DMK leader Murasoli Maran in 1989 that he should tell Prabhakaran to distance himself from Premadasa and that he (Rajiv Gandhi) in turn would secure Eelam for Prabhakaran.
Probably equally damaging from the point of view of national interest is the Jain Commission's exhaustive analysis of Rajiv Gandhi's security cover and the threat perception to him according to intelligence agencies.
The Commission has included in its interim report such highly confidential material as the guidelines for security arrangements for the protection of Indian prime ministers, areas of responsibility of various organisations, a study of security systems in the states, the organisational set-up of the Special Protection Group (SPG), the strength of security in inner cordons and outer cordons. The induction and training methods for the SPG, including the foreign countries where they had been trained. Confidential IB circulars on security to VIPs are now public property. All of which will from now on no doubt will be standard reading for terrorist and anti-national groups operating in India!