With DMK President M. Karunanidhi’s decision to quit both the Union Cabinet and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the political environment in India has taken another turn. The anti-Sri Lanka sentiment has grown stronger. He has argued that continuing in the government and the alliance would do great harm to the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Of late, the Sri Lankans visiting or staying in India have been harassed, assaulted and booed, especially in southern India. As reported by The Hindu, “a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka was assaulted by three unidentified persons on board the Tamil Nadu Express, just as it arrived at Chennai Central Railway Station. This is the second such attack in three days, the first being on a monk at the Big Temple in Thanjavur.” Recently, Sri Lankan cricketers participating in the IPL matches were barred from playing in Chennai by the AIDMK-led government of Jayalalitha.

Why has Sri Lanka and its people become a target and victim of Indian hate and undue pressure? It is important to understand India’s treatment to its smaller neighbours, who happen to challenge its hegemony and try to maintain their sovereignty in the geographically Indo- Centric South Asia.

The Delhi- Colombo relationship has seen many ups and downs, most of the time remaining uneasy. According to Ceylon Today, “India enjoyed a highly cordial relationship with leaders such as Sirimavo Bandaranaike, unrepentantly pro-India, and disliked with equal zeal, the likes of Presidents J. R. Jayewardene and R. Premadasa, who did not consider it important to play a submissive role to the regional power. That's another snag India finds in the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.” However, it is not as simple as stated by the newspaper.

Nevertheless, India’s hostility towards Sri Lanka is deep-rooted in history and culture. Valmiki's Ramayana, and its context of struggle between Rama and Ravana, is essentially ingrained in Indian psyche and folklore - Sri Lanka is the symbol of eternal villainy and cannot be pardoned for whatever happened to Sita, as Ravana wilfully decided to stay on the wrong side of Indian history.

In modern history and not long ago, Sri Lanka was a paradise on earth. Highly educated and enterprising people, Sinhala and Tamils, lived side by side with peace and prosperity. It boasted to be the best in human resource development in South Asia and was a tourist paradise.

But the reflection of brightness across the Palk Strait was too much to bear for the Indian establishment. Thus, a plan was chartered in the South Block to sow the seeds of terror and hatred between the majority Sinhala and minority Tamils, which morphed into the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), or the Tamil Tigers, with RAW’s trademark stamped on its forehead.

According to Wikipedia, “From August 1983 to May 1987, India, through its intelligence agency, the RAW, provided arms, training and monetary support to six Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups, including LTTE. During that period, 32 camps were set up all over India to train these militants. Four hundred and ninety five LTTE militants, including 90 women, were trained in 10 batches. The first batch of Tigers were trained in Establishment 22 based in Chakrata, Uttarakhand.

“The second batch, including LTTE intelligence Chief Pottu Amman, was trained in Himachal Pradesh. Velupillai Prabakaran himself visited the first and the second batch of Tamil Tigers to see them training. Eight other batches of LTTE were trained in Tamil Nadu.”

Indeed, the RAW’s dirty game of supporting LTTE has continued till recent times. At its peak, the militant group had turned into a ruthless war machine.

Referring to Wikipedia, “The military wing consisted of at least 11 separate divisions, including the conventional fighting forces, Charles Anthony Brigade and Jeyanthan Brigade; the dreaded suicide wing called the Black Tigers; naval wing Sea Tigers, air wing Air Tigers, LTTE leader Prabhakaran's personal security divisions, Pandian regiment and Ratha regiment; auxiliary military units such as Kittu artillery brigade, Kutti Sri mortar brigade, Ponnamman mining unit and hit-and-run squads like Pistol gang. Charles Anthony Brigade was the first conventional fighting formation created by LTTE. The Sea Tiger division was founded in 1984, under the leadership of Thillaiyampalam Sivanesan alias Soosai.

“LTTE acquired its first light aircraft in the late 1990s. Vaithilingam Sornalingam, alias Shankar, was instrumental in creating the Air Tigers. It carried out nine air attacks since 2007, including one last suicide air raid targeting the Sri Lanka Air Force Headquarters, Colombo, in February 2009.

“It is the only terrorist-proscribed organisation to acquire aircraft. LTTE’s intelligence wing consisted of Tiger Organisation Security Intelligence Service aka TOSIS, run by Pottu Amman, and a separate military intelligence division.”

Anyway, thousands of people lost their lives in the civil war and Sri Lanka became a basket case of governance. The RAW through its stronghold in Tamil Nadu played the dirty game by arming and equipping LTTE and bleeding Sri Lanka white.

The most hilarious episode of this double-face Chanakya strategy was ‘Operation Cactus’ where the Indian army intervened in Sri Lanka in the garb of a peacekeeping force to help the government fight against the warring LTTE.

What happened to ‘Operation Cactus’ is another story of the failure of this Indian adventure with its epitaph written with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Ironically, Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, alias Dhanu, who carried out his assassination, and Sivarasan, the key conspirator, were among the militants trained by RAW in Nainital, India (Wikipedia).

The grand finale of the LTTE crisis was played in the time of President Rajapaksa, whose leadership inspired the Sri Lankan military to win a grand victory against it and reunite Sri Lanka as one entity. The RAW’s last strongholds in Jaffna (Kilinochchi and town of Mullaitivu) fell in May 2009 with the President declaring victory.

The current anti-Sri Lanka sentiment in Indian polity is, therefore, born out of frustration of inability to keep a small but proud nation of Sri Lankans humiliated through kinetic means. The Indian intelligence apparatus has now resorted to massive employment of non-kinetic war against Sri Lanka where politico-diplomatic pressure, economic arm twisting, including cheap tactics of targeting Sri Lankan cricketers and tourists, and psychological operations through print and electronic media have become the chosen tools of the Indian statecraft.

Sri Lanka, however, has developed strong ties with other regional countries like Pakistan, China and Bangladesh, who have supported it in difficult times and continue to do so even after itss victory against scourge of terror. Indeed, Sri Lanka once again is bound to find its well deserved place in the comity of nations.

The writers are freelance columnists based in Zimbabwe.  Email: yalla_umar@yahoo.com