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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame of  Struggle for Tamil Eelam  > India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Texts of Letters Exchanged between Sri Lanka President Premadasa and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi June to  July 1989

India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

Texts of Letters Exchanged between
Sri Lanka President Premadasa and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
June to  July 1989

[see also Sri Lanka President Premadasa's attempt to Replace the 1987 Indo Sri Lanka Accord and Sri Lanka - LTTE Talks: 1989/90 - A report by Bradman Weerakone, Adviser to Sri Lanka President Premadasa ]

"...It has been our practice to maintain the confidentiality of official correspondence particularly between Heads of State or Government, unless otherwise agreed upon. However, the gist of your messages to me was more often than not made available to the media before they reached me. Now I find that all our recent correspondence has been officially made public by the Sri Lankan Government. I may thus be constrained to depart from tradition by authorising this communication being made public, after you receive it.." Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to Sri Lanka President Premadasa, 4 July 1989

2 June 1989 From President Premadasa to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
20 June 1989 From  Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to President Premadasa
29 June 1989 From President Premadasa to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
29 June 1989 From President Premadasa to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
30 June 1989 From Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to President Premadasa
4 July 1989 From President Premadasa to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
11 July 1989 From Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to President Premadasa


2 June 1989 From President Premadasa to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi

My dear Prime Minister, I am writing to you on some matters of urgent importance. The most important matter relates to the presence of Indian forces in Sri Lanka. After I assumed the Presidency of Sri Lanka, the Government of India initiated the withdrawal of troops. We are grateful for your prompt action in this regard.
One of the important campaign pledges made by me at both the Presidential and Parliamentary elections was the withdrawal of the IPKF on being elected to office. I assumed the office of President of Sri Lanka on the 2nd of January, 1989. Five months have elapsed since then. The complete withdrawal of the IKPF will hopefully contribute to stabilising the situation in Sri Lanka, where the presence of the IPKF has become a deeply divisive and resentful issue. It is also in keeping with your often expressed sentiments that the IPKF will he withdrawn when requested by the President of Sri Lanka.

I am thankful for the efforts of the IPKF during the time it has been in our country. I have often paid tribute to the bravery of the many officers and men who lost life and limb in the discharge of their duties. The tragedy of violence has not only affected your soldiers, it has also destroyed many Sri Lankans as well as our Armed Forces arid large numbers of civilians, innocent and uninvolved, have suffered beyond description. Their sacrifices must not be in vain. I am confident that a complete withdrawal of the IPKF will enable me to secure the trust and confidence of my people. Therefore, I would like all IPKF personnel to be withdrawn by July 31st, 1989.

The withdrawal of the IPKF will also enable Sri Lanka to host the SAARC Summit in November this year in a climate of tranquility. As you are aware, we could not undertake our obligation to do this in 1988. You will appreciate how difficult it is to a regional gathering of this nature with foreign farces on our soil. Our people are most enthusiastic about welcoming leaders of our own region, particularly our closest neighbours. However, their anxieties must also be satisfied especially in relation to their deep patriotic and nationalist sensitivities. In this context, we have submitted several proposals regarding an Indo-Sri Lanka Friendship Treaty. I believe that, in the long term. such an agreement will further strengthen relations between India and Sri Lanka. I await your response to our proposals in this regard.

We have always appreciated your sincere interest in the unity and the territorial integrity of our country. Our own efforts to this end need the understanding and goodwill of our neighbours. I believe, that your people and you yourself share these objectives and will contribute to their realisation.

I have just seen the Aide Memoire which was handed over by your High Commissioner this evening. As the Aide Memoire refers to the need for consultations between the Governments, I am designating my Foreign Secretary to personally clarify our position on these matters.

With the assurance of my highest consideration and esteem.


20 June 1989 From  Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to President Premadasa

Dear Mr. President,

I have your letter of the 2nd June, which was handed over to me by your Special Envoy, Foreign Secretary Tilakaratne.

India is committed to preserving the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka, under the terms of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement. It was a result of this commitment and our responsibility as a guarantor for the implementation of the Irrdo-Sri Lanka Agreement that we responded to the request of the Government of Sri Lanka to send the IPKF. This was at a time when the situation seemed headed inexorably towards the break-up of Sri Lanka. During its presence, the IPKF has striven with considerable success but at heavy cost to itself, to prevent such an outcome arid safeguard the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka.

Three successive elections have been held peacefully despite threats of terrorist violence in the North-East and all Tamil groups barring one, had given up the demand for Eelam. If the process of devolution of powers to the Provincial Council had been implemented in time and had the deliberate attempt by the Sri Lankan Government to alter the population balance in the Tamil areas by the continued state sponsored colonisation of Tamil areas been stopped, the extremists would have been further isolated and marginalised, and the violence ended.

You have yourself stated that we had started the withdrawal of the IPKF even before you requested for it. A broad time-frame for the IPKF withdrawal was also discussed at our initiative, based on which your Foreign Minister had made a statement in your Parliament on the 31st March, 1989.

All this was being done on the basis of assurances given by the Sri Lankan Government and on assumption that the implementation of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement-especially the devolution of powers to the Provincial Councils-would proceed simultaneously, so that the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils could be met within the framework of the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka. It is pertinent to recall that it was precisely because these aspirations were not being met that a situation was created which threatened the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka.

I have always maintained that the IPKF will not stay in Sri Lanka a day longer than necessary. But we cannot be unmindful of the responsibilities and obligations of the two countries under the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement and to join the democratic process within the framework of a united Sri Lanka only on the basis of assurances that the Tamil majority in North-Eastern Province will be given substantial devolution of powers.

Our two Governments are therefore morally and legally bound to ensure that the Tamils are given the autonomy they were promised, both in the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, as also in the additional areas promised in the Agreement signed between the former President Jayewardene and myself on the 7th November, 1987. Failure to do so will only lend credence to the claims made by Tamil groups that Tamils cannot expect justice within a united Sri Lanka.

We have to be fully conscious of the dangers of a return to a situation which may be worse than prevailing prior to the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement. We believe that, in the spirit of traditional friendship between our two countries, we must jointly draw up a mutually agreed schedule for the full implementation of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement and the complete withdrawal of the IPKF. The two have to be joint, parallel exercises.

We have no objection to your proposal for a friendship treaty. I had told your Special Envoy that we could set dates for commencing discussions with a view of finalising the text of the proposed treaty.


29 June 1989 From President Premadasa to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi

Excellency, I am glad to inform you that the LTTE has announced a complete cessation of hostilities against the Sri Lanka Government with immediate effect.

The LTTE which is no longer a proscribed group has in the course of recent discussions with the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to settle whatever problems they have through the process of negotiation. Under the circumstances it will be appreciated if Your Excellency will ensure that the IPKF does not take any offensive action against the LTTE which will tend to prejudice the negotiations that are currently in progress.

Accept Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.


29 June 1989 From President Premadasa to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi

Dear Prime Minister, I am in receipt of your letter of 20th June in reply to my letter of 2nd June, 1989. I thank you for reiterating India's commitment to preserve the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka as was stated in the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement.

We appreciate the assurance given by the Indian Government in providing the personnel to assist in tile acceptance of arms surrendered by the militants as envisaged by Article 2.9 of the Agreement. We are also thankful for the assistance provided at our request, in terms of Article 2.16 (c) of the Agreement and paragraph 6 of the Annexure in affording military assistance to ensure the cessation of hostilities.

I am unable however to accept the contention that the implementation of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement, including the devolution of powers to the Provincial Councils, is in any way linked with the withdrawal of the Indian Armed Forces. They had been invited to Sri Lanka for the specific purpose of guaranteeing and enforcing the cessation of hostilities. The Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement does not provide for continued military activities by the Indian armed forces in Sri Lanka after a request has been made by me to have them withdrawn. Continuation of such military activities would also be a violation of peremptory norms of international law.

The Indian Peace Keeping Force came to Sri Lanka at the request of the President of Sri Lanka. Due to the circumstances that arose thereafter the IPKF was requested by the President to afford military assistance to ensure the cessation of hostilities. The only condition that should be satisfied for the withdrawal of the Indian armed forces is a decision by the President of Sri Lanka that they should be withdrawn. The request made by me to withdraw the Indian armed forces has satisfied this condition. It is therefore incumbent on the Government of India to withdraw the Indian armed forces from Sri Lanka.

The proposals for the political settlement of the ethnic problem negotiated from 4.5.1986 to 19.12.1986 as well as the residual matters to be finalised between the government of Sri Lanka and the government of India have all been accepted and incorporated in the relevant amendments to our Constitution and the Provincial Councils Act. The delay in giving effect to certain proposals within the timeframe envisaged by the agreement had been occasioned by the inability of the Indian armed forces to ensure cessation of hostilities and violence in the North and the East.

The actual functioning of the Provincial Councils in the new system of administration is applicable not only to the North and the East but to all the Provinces of Sri Lanka. This is entirely a political process in which the military has no role whatsoever. You will no doubt agree that it has been an experience common in many other jurisdictions that the establishment of an entirely new structure of administration based on devolution, is essentially a long-term process. There is neither a legal nor any other rational basis for the presence of any military force to ensure that the administrative structure is fully in place in any Province of Sri Lanka. I have, in consultation with the Ministers of the Cabinet and the Chief Ministers of the Provincial Councils, taken all steps to ensure that the administrative structure necessary for the effective exercise of devolved powers is in place as expeditiously as possible.

As I have already intimated to you in my letter of 2 June, 1989 one of the important pledges made by me both at the Presidential and at the Parliamentary elections was to ensure the withdrawal of the Indian forces. To quote the manifesto: "We will seek a Friendship Treaty with India on the lines of the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty. If by the time our candidate is elected President, the Indian forces have not left, we will ensure that they are withdrawn." The main Opposition Party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, in their election manifesto had stated that the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement would be abrogated and the Indian forces asked to leave. Thus, it will be seen that over 95 per cent of the voters clearly mandated the withdrawal of the Indian forces. The majority approved the UNP proposals for the conclusion of a Friendship Treaty with India.

I would like to mention a most significant development, which may not have been brought to your notice, namely that the majority of people of all three communities in North and the East demand the immediate withdrawal of the Indian forces.

In your letter you have mentioned that there has been a deliberate attempt by the Government of Sri Lanka to alter the population balance in the Tamil areas by continuing state-sponsored colonisation. I must emphatically refute this. There has been no colonisation whatsoever in these areas since the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement.
The ground is now set for the Government to resolve any outstanding issues relating to the ethnic problem on the basis of consultation, compromise and consensus with all communities and groups concerned.

As I have already informed you, the LTTE has announced the cessation of hostilities against the Government of Sri Lanka. They have also resolved to settle any issues outstanding through negotiations and discussions. It is in this context that I have requested you to issue the necessary instructions to the Indian armed forces to refrain from any offensive operations against the LTTE. The LTTE has already expressed its willingness to put an end to such activities against the Indian armed forces on a reciprocal basis. The withdrawal of the Indian armed forces within the time-frame visualised by me is an essential pre-condition for the Government to proceed with the consolidation of a political settlement.

Far from being of any assistance in the complete resolution of the ethnic problem, the presence of the Indian forces are now a serious impediment. In this connection, I must bring to your notice an alarming development that has been taking place in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. There are complaints that youths mostly of tender age are being forcibly conscripted by certain political groups and are being trained at the hands of the Indian forces. I need not elaborate on the possible consequences that will follow if this is not checked forthwith.
Therefore, in consideration of all these circumstances, I again earnestly request the immediate recommencement of the withdrawal of the Indian armed forces and an acceleration of this process.

I am glad at your favourable response to my proposal for a Friendship Treaty with India. We have already given our draft to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi. I would request that discussion should commence without delay, so that this Treaty could give concrete and expeditious expression to the traditional bonds of friendship between our two countries.


30 June 1989 From Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to President Premadasa

Dear Mr. President, I have your message of 29th June sent through your High Commissioner.

The Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement provides for a cessation of hostilities between the Tamil militant groups and the Sri Lankan forces, and also for the Sri Lankan Forces to stay in barracks in the North-East Province. Both these were achieved on 30th July, 1987. Thus, there has already been an effective cessation of hostilities between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE. I am glad that the LTTE has now formally conceded this reality.

We hope that the formal agreement of the LTTE to cease hostilities clearly implies their commitment to the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka and to renounce violence and to respect democratic processes. We trust that, consequent to giving up violence, LTTE will resume surrender of arms through the Sri Lankan Government - a process which had started on the 5th August, 1987 and is not yet complete. Unless the LTTE have undertaken to hand over their arms and to renounce violence not only towards the Sri Lankan Government but towards the other citizens of the North-Eastern Province, their announcement of cessation of hostilities would be meaningless.

Since IPKF has a mandate in terms of India's role as a guarantor, for ensuring the physical safety and security of all communities of the North-Eastern Province, I would appreciate clarifications on the points I have mentioned above. These clarifications will facilitate an immediate decision on the IPKF's cessation of offensive action to disarm the LTTE. The earlier we receive your response, the quicker will be the process of initiating suitable action.


4 July 1989 From President Premadasa to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi

Dear Prime Minister,

I have your message of 30th June sent through your High Commissioner, in response to my message requesting you to ensure that the Indian armed forces in Sri Lanka do not take any offensive action against the LTTE. Such action or any intensification of operations is liable to prejudice the negotiations currently in progress and prolong the armed conflict.

Your statement that the cessation of hostilities took place on 30th July, 1987 does not accord with facts. The LTTE ceased hostilities against the Sri Lankan security forces only for a few days but resumed violence on 2nd August, 1987 and continued until they announced a cessation of hostilities in June, 1989. During the interim 148 service and police personnel were killed and 80 were wounded; 481 civilians were killed and 115 injured.
The LTTE announced a cessation of hostilities only in June this year after the commencement of the dialogue with the Government. This cessation covers not only the Government but also the people in the North and the East and in fact the people in the whole of Sri Lanka. At the same time, the LTTE reiterated its commitment to resolve all outstanding problems through negotiations and discussion and indicated their readiness to enter the democratic process.

As stated in your message, you have been seeking to disarm the LTTE for the past two years and this process is not yet complete, nor have you been able to bring them to the negotiating table. I am confident that I will be able to ensure that the LTTE will give up their arms after the Indian armed forces have been withdrawn.

The political solution which I seek to provide will not only be within the framework of our Constitution but must also preserve the sovereignty of our people, the unitary character and the territorial integrity of our country.
The responsibility of providing safety and security for all citizens within Sri Lanka is solely the responsibility of the Government of Sri Lanka.

The Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement does not and indeed cannot in international law provide a mandate for the Government of India or its armed forces to assume any responsibility for this function otherwise than at the express request of the Sri Lankan Government. In any event, during the past two years when the Indian armed forces were operating in the Northern and Eastern Provinces they were unable to prevent the killings of a number of civilians and the displacement of even a larger number from their homes besides the casualties referred to above.

Any interpretation of the agreement which seeks to provide a mandatory role for the Government of India or its armed forces within Sri Lanka otherwise than the express request of the Government of Sri Lanka would constitute a serious interference in the internal affairs of a friendly sovereign country and a gross violation of the peremptory norms of International Law. I am sure such is not your intention.

I trust these clarifications will enable you to ensure that the Indian armed forces do not continue any offensive operations against the LTTE.


11 July 1989 From Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to President Premadasa

Dear Mr. President,

I have your letter of 30th June and 5th July. I do not want to enter into a debate on various interpretations of mutual obligations assumed by our sovereign nations. These are quite clear. I also do not wish to go into the validity of assertions like the LTTE having resumed violence on 2nd August, 1987 whereas the arms surrender started and the amnesty letter was handed over by the Sri Lankan Government to the LTTE three days later. We should let facts speak for themselves.

There is an agreement between the two countries. The Agreement is meant to preserve the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka and to ensure the safety, security and legitimate interests of the Tamils. Nearly a thousand Indian soldiers have made the supreme sacrifice in fulfilment of India's obligations as a guarantor to this Agreement. Since the signing of the Agreement, not only have the Provincial Council elections been held, but also the Parliamentary and Presidential elections. The situation in the North-Eastern Province is far more settled and peaceful than elsewhere in Sri Lanka. Despite all this, the devolution package promised to the Tamils has not been implemented. These are incontrovertible facts.

Both of us agree that the IPKF should be withdrawn. Both of us agree that we had commenced the withdrawal even before you asked for it. A broad time-frame for IPKF withdrawal had in fact been discussed. Discussions on finalising details were proposed by your Foreign Minister at Harare only a few days prior to your unilateral announcement of lst June. I have repeatedly said that the IPKF's withdrawal schedule should be worked out through joint consultations along with a simultaneous schedule for the implementation of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement.

We are willing to resume discussions on this subject at any time and place of your convenience. Your colleague the Honourable Mr. Thondaman, who met me here, would have conveyed to you our desire for friendly relations and our willingness to resolve any misunderstanding through mutual consultations. If, however, discussions for this purpose are not acceptable to you, we will have to decide the details of IPKF's withdrawal unilaterally consistent with our responsibilities and obligations under the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement.

While I reiterate Government of India's willingness to cooperate with your government to resolve pending issues, I must emphasise to Your Excellency that India has traditionally been mindful of the sanctity of the agreements it signs with other countries and of commitments solemnly undertaken under such agreements. India will under no circumstances deviate from the policy of affecting our concerns.

It has been our practice to maintain the confidentiality of official correspondence particularly between Heads of State or Government, unless otherwise agreed upon. However, the gist of your messages to me was more often than not made available to the media before they reached me. Now I find that all our recent correspondence has been officially made public by the Sri Lankan Government. I may thus be constrained to depart from tradition by authorising this communication being made public, after you receive it.

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