The Centre for Asia Studies and the Press Institute of India organised in September, a virtual discussion based on a book, Haksar on India’s Sri Lanka Policy, authored by Prof V. Suryanarayan and Ashik Bonofer. T. Ramakrishnan, senior journalist, moderated the discussion. Participating were P. M. Heblikar, managing trustee, Institute of Contemporary Studies Bangalore; Com R. Seshadri Vasan, head, Strategy and Security Studies, Center for Asia Studies, Chennai; and Com Udai Rao, former Director, Cabinet Secretariat. The book was prompted by another, The Intertwined Lives: P.N. Haksar and Indira Gandhi, authored by Jairam Ramesh.
The discussions started off with Ramakrishnan citing references in the book to suggest that there was no pure race in Sri Lanka, that there were many points of convergence between the Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils in terms of their roots, that India never had supported the concept of Tamil Eelam even though it would not adopt a hands-off approach which was largely the case in the 1980s, that the book offered no clarity on India’s mediatory militant-support policy and neither did it focus much on the features of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of power devolving to the provincial councils, etc. As the discussions went along, there were references to fishing in the Palk Bay area and Indian fishermen ‘straying’ into Sri Lankan waters, the use of trawlers which was illegal, the kind of smuggling activity in the high seas that used to go on during the years of the civil war, and a host of related issues. Overall, it made for a stimulating evening.