You are on page 1of 11

EXCLUSIVE ONLINE INTERVIEW WITH INDIAN PEACEKEEPING FORCES INTELLIGENCE HEAD COL.

HARIHARAN

iINTERNATIONAL LAW JOURNAL OF LONDON


Interview with Indi n Pe !e"ee#in$ F%r!e& Inte''i$en!e C%r#& He d C%'. H rih r n (RH)

Object 1

Interviewer* P r & r n R n$ r + n (PR) P'e &e n%te th t the vide% nd te,t re n&wered &e# r te'-.

PR: First, we would like to thank you for joining us. I understand you spent nearly three decades in the Indian Armed Forces and salute you for that and would like to ask how you started and if you can describe your journey entering the Intelligence Services of India (Intelligence orps!, more so become the "ead, which is e#tremely difficult to do$ RH: %hank you for providing me this opportunity for sharing with you my e#perience as the head of intelligence of the Indian &eace 'eeping Force in Sri (anka for the duration of its e#istence from )*+, to *-. I belonged to the Intelligence orps, which is a part of Army.s /eneral Staff 0ranch tasked to collect as well as deny military information in areas of security interest. It also provides tactical and strategic assessments both in peace and war on security threats including insurgency. I was commissioned as an artillery officer and took part in )*12 war as an artillery officer. %wo years later I was transferred to the Intelligence orps which was e#panding in the wake of India3 hina war )*14. 5f course, as an 6I officer for nearly three decades I have worked closely with all intelligence agencies (there are nearly a do7en of them8! including the 9esearch :amp; Analysis <ing (9A<! and the Intelligence 0ureau (I0!, India.s counter intelligence and security agency. For over two decades, as intelligence officer I gained both staff and field e#perience in 5I= operations against about )4 insurgencies including some in 0angladesh and 0urma. %his could be one of the reasons why I was picked to head the military intelligence effort in Sri (anka; but more importantly as I was the senior most %amil speaking 6I officer which is an important factor in Sri (anka. I served as the first and last olonel /eneral Staff (Intelligence! at the "ead>uarters of the I&'F. As the senior most Intelligence staff officer, usually I was re>uired to assess the developing threat almost on a daily basis and give periodic assessments to help plan future operations. "owever, the 6I role in Sri (anka was uni>ue as it was practically the only agency to collect intelligence on the (%%? in areas where we operated as 9A< resources were mainly focused on meeting /overnment of India.s re>uirements which were largely political. All military field

intelligence units in Sri (anka operated under my direction were a great help in meeting the military re>uirements. 5f course, my work involved close interaction and cooperation with the 9A<, I0, Sri (anka.s =ational Intelligence 0ureau (=I0! and %amil =adu state police and at times with Sri (anka police. PR: Former Indian &rime 6inister Indira /andhi was of the view that what was taking place in Sri (anka in the )*+-.s was indeed a genocide and India should not be a simple spectator which is why many claim the 9A< trained the %amil %igers. First, why was the I&'F dispatched to Sri (anka, what was your role and day to day activities during that period$ RH: %here are several parts to this >uestion@ 1. Genocide Issue In 1983: <as the )*+A anti3%amil pogrom in Sri (anka genocide$ Bualitatively and >uantitatively the )*+A pogrom does not match the genocides of 0angladesh ()*,)!, 9wanda or ambodia. So it might be debatable to call the )*+4 pogrom as a Cgenocide. as defined by Article 4 of the onvention on the &revention and &unishment of the rime of /enocide ()*D+! accepted by the office of the E.=. Special Adviser on the &revention of /enocide (5SA&/!. I would leave such debates to legal brains. &robably 6s. /andhi calling it genocide at that time was part of the political rhetoric connected with the %amil issue. 2. Indian involvement: %he )*+A pogrom was organised by the Sri (ankan &resident F.9. Fayawardane government to cash in on Sinhala sentiments against %amil insurgents triggered by the (%%?.s killing of Sri (ankan (Sinhala! soldiers in an ambush. %here were probably three reasons for 6s /andhi to directly get involved in Sri (anka in its aftermath. a. Real politics: In )*+A, over )--,--- %amil refugees landed in %amil =adu triggering a popular sympathy wave. Indian &rime 6inister 6s.

/andhi needed to strengthen her political base in %amil =adu which was weakened after the )*,) ?mergency. So she used the situation for her political advantage. And her son 9ajiv /andhi who succeeded her after her assassination in )*+D continued to go by her narrative. b. Cold War priorit : 6s. /andhi saw Sri (anka was getting cosy with the E.S. even as the old <ar climate heated up in South Asia after Indo3Soviet Friendship %reaty was signed in )*,). <hen Soviet army entered Afghanistan to support 6ujibullah regime old <ar was joined in the sub3continent with Americans involved in pro#y war against the Soviets. %he E.S. probably wanted to gain yet another foot hold in India.s neighbourhood. %he E.S. was perceived as using Sri (anka as a cat.s paw for this purpose. 6s /andhi and later 9ajiv /andhi wanted to nip it in the bud by sending a strong message of intervention in Sri (anka. c. !el" Ima#e o" $s. Gand%i: 6s. /andhi.s spectacular success in helping the creation of an independent 0angladesh added to her confidence and she probably saw herself as a saviour of the oppressed people everywhere. So the plight of Sri (anka %amils fleeing the country struck a sympathetic chord and induced her to strongly react. 0ut actual intervention in Sri (anka was ordered by her son and successor 9ajiv /andhi after his sincere efforts to mediate between the %amils and Sri (anka government failed to yield results. And the Indian intervention came about with the concurrence of Sri (anka &resident after the signing of the India3Sri (anka Agreement (IS(A! in )*+,. 3. &rainin# o" &amil militants: %raining of %amil militants was organised by 9A< and not the army. I am not sure of the details because army was e#cluded from the whole project. 5f course, the instructors included army men. %hey were mainly used for weapons and tactical training. As officially there is not much of information on this, there is a lot of misinformation about army.s

involvement. And when the army took on the (%%? it suited both the (%%? and the strong anti3India Sri (anka lobby to perpetuate this myth. %he rationale for Indian action stemmed probably from its e#perience in training 0engali freedom fighters in the run up to )*,) liberation struggle for 0angladesh. &robably this was part of 6s /andhi.s tactics to bring pressure on Sri (anka &resident F.9. Fayawardane to force him to evolve a just solution for the %amil minority.s grievances. In )*+D I learnt of Indian involvement in training %amil militants. 0ased upon my intelligence e#perience in insurgency areas, I have always considered the training insurgents of another country by democratic countries as a counter3productive strategy. <hen I drew the attention of 6I Girectorate to this aspect, I was asked to advise them only when asked for; in any case, it was not relevant because army was not training %amil militants they said. '. (ispatc% o" IP)* to !ri +an,a: Initially India sent a division minus troops to Sri (anka the day after the signing of India3Sri (anka agreement in Fuly )*+,. It was ostensibly at the re>uest of F9 Fayawardane to give confidence to him to help disarming of %amil militants in terms of the IS(A. It was also to ensure Sri (anka government (F.9. Fayawardane! adheres to its promise to introduce a level of autonomy to %amil minority. It was to be a short term measure. %he I&'F was formed only when India decided to use force to neutralise the (%%? which refused to lay down its arms in terms of IS(A and started killing members of other %amil militant groups. -. ./perience 0it% +&&. C%ie" Prab%a,aran: %hanks to our family connection with Faffna, I had fairly long (three decades in )*+,! e#posure to the comple#ities of %amil3 Sinhala ethnic friction. 6any Sri (ankan government officials and %amil personalities knew our family linkages with Sri (anka. "owever, professionally for me it never came in handy as 6I never considered Sri (anka as a potential area of military conflict. So 6I had no use for my knowledge till )*+,. Among the %amil militants the (%%? leader 'ittu, who had a long convalescence in hennai after he lost a leg in an internecine conflict, knew my kin. So the (%%? knew who I was when I landed

in Sri (anka in August )*+,. Some of the local journalists and political small timers considered close to the (%%? maintained some link with me all along. In spite of this, I never tried to meet &rabhakaran separately as 6I was not involved in political palaver with him. It was left to our Army /enerals and 0rigadiers on the ground. "owever, as intelligence officers tend to do, even when Indian army was in talking terms with &rabhakaran, we had collected all details of his style of functioning, security, movement, and his associates though I never imagined we would go to war with them when we landed. PR: I believe the I&'F were cordially welcomed by the %igers in the beginning but things turned in the wrong direction after claims of abuses by the I&'F against %amils in Sri (anka which led to conflict between the two. <hat is your take on that, did I&'F commit any atrocities, and what is your view of this scenario in general$ RH: Initially, (%%? was neutral and aloof in their dealings with the I&'F unlike other militant groups which were >uite friendly. %he allegations of abuses by Indian troops came only after the operations against (%%? were launched not before because we were merely spectators as (%%? took to streets against India, even while &rabhakaran was negotiating. "e wanted the whole cake and not a piece of cake offered to him in the interim administration. <e never considered him as a freedom fighter though Indian forces were very sympathetic to the %amil plight as second rate citi7ens. &rabhakaran had mercilessly killed leaders of other %amil militant groups and %amil political leaders who did not toe his line. I remember recovering a /estapo style documentation of )-4 civilians who were e#ecuted (in (%%? parlance it was called Cdumping. because dead bodies were dumped in garbage pits! after a Cmilitary court. tried them for crimes like soliciting outside Sinhala army camp, possessing ten grams of cocaine, acting as a pimp, working as a police informer etc. 5f course, there was no appeal and e#ecution was swift. 5n Gay ) of conflict with Indian forces, a hapless 9upavahini %H (=ational %H channel! caught in (%%? were tied to a lamp post with tyres around their neck and set fire. <e had seen the smouldering fires of their half burnt bodies. I lost even the little enthusiasm for the leadership of &rabhakaran and his concept of ?elam when I saw

them. (%%? losing the war in 4--* was a logical conse>uence of &rabhakaran.s fi#ation of resolving issues only by force of arms; otherwise one cannot understand the logic of walking out of the 4--4 peace talks when he was controlling more or less of the whole of %amil majority areas in =orth and ?ast. %here are a few issues involved in analysing the allegations of atrocities by Indian troops after 42 years. In 5I= operations there are always innocent civilians killed, usually described as collateral damage in the fire fight between two sides. %his happened in Sri (anka also. 0ut there were specific instances where serious allegations were levelled. I remember two of them@ massacre of patients and doctors by troops in Faffna teaching hospital and retributive killings in the site of an ambush in Halvettithurai. I think both the army leadership and government failed to institute transparent investigations to get at the truth and disprove them or punish the culprits. 0ut in )*+,3++ human rights was not a big issue world wide as it is now. India was no e#ception to this. 0igger killings were taking place in Afghanistan where the E.S. was fighting a pro#y war against Soviets. India itself did not pay much attention to human rights accusations against it. 0ut all this is hindsight wisdom. %here are practical difficulties in carrying out counter insurgency operations ( 5I=! and adherence to the rule of law unless special powers are given to return fire on unconventional forces of civilians firing on troops without a magistrate giving clearance for such action as re>uired by law. So those involved in 5I= should have legal protection as well as have a watch dog mechanism that would follow up allegations of human rights violations. It did e#isted in I&'F as in other military units as a command responsibility. =ow Indian army has a mechanism to deal with such allegations and transparency is taking place, though the story is not the same in other wings of government. PR: Go you feel that an international investigation into the alleged war crimes in Sri (anka in 4--* are justified and what do you make of the recent comments by the Secretary to the &resident of Sri (anka (alith <eeratunga that if such an investigation were commenced, I&'F must also be investigated$ RH: Ies, I think there is sufficient ground now to determine the

e#tent of war crimes committed by both Sri (anka government and the (%%? and fi# culpability of authority and responsibility of perpetrators of the crimes. As Sri (anka has dithered in impartially investigating the allegations, probably an international in>uiry is re>uired. %o be meaningful, it will re>uire not only the concurrence but also the cooperation of Sri (anka government. International real politick will ensure economic sanctions are subverted, so it.s no option for >uick results. It can come through only by international pressure and not by threats. Lalith Weeratunga as Chief Secretary was an e ecut!r !f "resi#ent$s !r#ers% S! he is !nly in&enting new ways t! e&a#e Sri Lan'a$s res(!nsi)ility t! in&estigate allegati!ns !f war cri*es in +,,-% I a* n!t sur(rise# he has raise# the issue !f in&estigating I".F$s allege# war cri*es% As a CEO !f the g!&ern*ent !f Sri Lan'a f!r the last // years he is within his rights t! !r#er an in0uiry int! I".F allegati!ns s! that the &eracity !f the accusati!ns can )e esta)lishe#% It is +1 years since I".F !(erate#2 s! why #!es he re*e*)er the issue !nly when Sri Lan'a is as'e# t! )e res(!nsi)le f!r his c!n#uct n!w3 4is intenti!n is clear5 Sri Lan'a #!es n!t want t! carry !ut an i*(artial in&estigati!n% It wants t! e&a#e res(!nsi)ility f!r its #ee#s #uring the war% That is the )!tt!*line% E&en "resi#ent "re*a#asa wh! c!llu#e# with the LTTE t! thr!w the I".F !ut !f the c!untry an# n! l!&er !f In#ia #i# n!t see' such an in&estigati!n% ?ven with my sympathy for victims of human rights violations as a serious advocate of improved accountability of law enforcement agencies and armed forces I feel commonsense approach is re>uired to sell any proposition related to historical issues. %his issue is one of them as many players of that time including those of the (%%? are no more or nearing the age when dementia sets in (I have fortunately escaped it I think.! ?ven if you e#amine it from the point of view of national and international human rights watchdogs. <hy have they failed to internationally raise the an issue now$ %hey have not done so because it will only deflect the efforts take Sri (anka to task for its lack of accountability for human rights violations and war crimes which is at a critical stage in E="9 . So this is neither the time nor suitable environment to raise the issue; it would further delay the process by distracting global attention.

%here is no reason for India to want an investigation now. It is a functioning democracy which has progressively tried to improve its human rights record. 6oreover, it does not serve IndiaJs objectives in Sri (anka which are two fold@ ). ?nsure integrity of Sri (anka as a single entity and discourage all efforts to create an armed insurgency to violate it because it will have security repercussions in IndiaJs national security architecture. 4. %o see that Sri (anka %amilsJ grievances are removed and their confidence is restored in participating in mainstream political democracy in Sri (anka on e>ual terms. So fundamentally any action other than those that serve IndiaJs objectives will not be encouraged or initiated in India. Such a demand would be ignored in India as it is going through a delicate pre3election campaign and it would suicidal for any political party let alone %amil =adu ones to accept it. PR: Go you see a re3emergence of the (%%? or any militant groups in Sri (anka$ RH* =o. It took five decades for a powerful insurgent body like (%%? to emerge because the local and global environment favoured it. It produced &rabhakaran, &admanabha and Sri Sabaratnam and a whole genre of leaders who believed in militancy. =ow the environment is changed; ideology is on deathbed in politics. Sri (anka is no e#ception to this. /lobally insurgents e#cept the Al Baeda kind are passK and even Fihadists are operating with the support of international patron3nations. And %amils are simply tired of war after losing two generations of their kin. %hey have nothing left e#cept their identity. Survival and livelihood are their priority. In spite of all the brave words of fringe elements of Giaspora, they have little to show on ground that the call for ?elam would attract local population to wage yet another insurgency war. PR: As there have been calls for legal Linternational protective mechanismsM for the %amils of Sri (anka due to the e#pectation

of the E="9 passing a resolution for an Linternational investigationM, do you see a role for the Indian Armed Forces in this as usually peacekeeping forces are sent during these international investigations to protect the population providing information$ RH* International protective mechanisms (I&6! have not saved the beleaguered &alestinians from Israeli attacks as and when Israel chooses to carry out. I&6 can at best be useful as a temporary measure in a situation when the hostile lines are drawn against each other. %his is not the case in Sri (anka. It is not /a7a strip or even (ebanon for that matter. %he real protection can come only from a level of amity between the communities in conflict. India would not dream of sending its army again to Sri (anka as it had courted (in the past! enough displeasure from everyone including Indians. In any case protection of population giving evidence has to be undertaken by the government of Sri (anka; unless it accepts this responsibility no e#ternal agency can carry out investigation within the country as it involves evidence of many kinds, not merely witnesses. PR: Go you have any final words for your listeners throughout the world, especially in terms of the mission of the I&'F, the dream of %amil ?elam by diaspora organi7ations, and what you feel would be the best political solution to this ongoing drama today since the independence of the nations of South Asia$ R$: I a* n! !racle% 6ut let *e ta'e a shy% Due t! its internal war Sri Lan'a l!st three #eca#es !f #e&el!(*ent2 !therwise it c!ul# ha&e e*erge# as the !nly Tiger in S!uth Asia% If In#ia #es(ite its huge )ur#en !f (!&erty7 illiteracy an# #is(arities c!ul# f!rge ahea# in last #eca#e there is n! reas!n why Sri Lan'a cann!t #! s!% It re0uires (e!(le t! thin' ahea# rather than l!!' )ac'war#% "!litical rhet!ric an# hy(!crisy has t! )e gi&en u( )y all an# )uil# a win8win situati!n rather than trying t! re&i&e the ca#a&er !f se(aratis* !r enc!urage the (aran!ia !f resurgence !f Ta*il% Ti*e is the essence if Sri Lan'a (e!(le want t! rewrite the st!ry f!r a ha((y en#ing% It re0uires a nati!nal *!&e*ent rather than the eff!rts !f the .an#yan elite7 Jaffna intellectuals !r S!uthern c!nser&ati&es an# !f c!urse th!se l!!'ing at the Eela* te*(late in "aris !r L!n#!n%

I thin' the y!uth ha&e it% It is ti*e f!r y!ung lea#ers wh! ha&e a sta'e in the future re(lace Ra9a(a'sas an# Wic're*esinghes t! )ring the sa# tale t! a ha((y en#ing%