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Cablegate: Tamil Nadu's Major Parties Pressure Goi to Intervene In

VZCZCXRO4894
RR RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHNEH RUEHPW
DE RUEHCG #0344/01 2891004
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151004Z OCT 08
FM AMCONSUL CHENNAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1912
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3338
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CHENNAI 000344

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR PTER IN CE
SUBJECT: TAMIL NADU'S MAJOR PARTIES PRESSURE GOI TO INTERVENE IN
SRI LANKA

1. (SBU) Summary: An "all-party meeting" held on October 14 under
the chairmanship of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi resolved
that the Members of Parliament (MPs) from Tamil Nadu would resign if
the Government of India does not ensure a ceasefire in Sri Lanka
within two weeks. The "all-party meeting" was attended by the
ruling DMK, the Congress Party (its major ally), the PMK party and
the Communist parties, the CPI and the CPM. Since a mass
resignation of MPs from Tamil Nadu could potentially destabilize the
Government of India, the news of the resolution received wide
coverage in the media.

2. (SBU) Summary, continued: Our sources, however, indicate that
the threat to the UPA government might not be as serious as it
appears in the press. They suggest that the "ultimatum" is a
political tactic to blunt local criticism from the DMK's opponents,
who have charged that the DMK has betrayed the interests of ethnic
Tamils in Sri Lanka by staying on the sidelines in the face of
atrocities by the Sri Lankan military against civilians. While they
are outraged at the situation in Sri Lanka, it is unlikely that the
DMK and its allies are actually prepared to fall on their swords
over this issue. We expect that the GOI will come up with some kind
of initiative that will allow the DMK and its allies to claim
victory and restore local honor. End Summary

"Genocidal" war crossing all limits, says Karunanidhi
-----------------------

3. (SBU) Chief Minister Karunanidhi told the Consul General on
October 15 that an "all-party meeting" held the previous evening in
Tamil Nadu resolved that the Members of Parliament from the state
would resign if the Government of India fails to act to bring about
a ceasefire in Sri Lanka within two weeks. Karunanidhi explained
that the resolution was a "cry of anguish" by the attendees, adding
that they believed that the "genocide" being perpetrated by the Sri
Lankan military "crossed all limits" in violating the human rights
of the island's Tamils. He emphasized that the meeting's attendees
wanted to "communicate their anguish" about the plight of their
ethnic brethren.


4. (SBU) Specifically, the all-party meeting adopted six
resolutions:

--urging the GOI to intervene and bring about a ceasefire in Sri
Lanka;

--demanding that the GOI stop supplying arms to the GSL;

--warning that the MPs from the attending parties will resign if
there is no ceasefire within two weeks;

--encouraging the GOI to offer more humanitarian assistance;

--demanding that the humanitarian assistance needs to be given to
the Tamils directly via the International Red Cross or other aid
agencies, not via the GSL; and

--demanding that the GOI intervene to stop the Sri Lankan navy from
killing fishermen from Tamil Nadu who happen to drift into Sri
Lanka's territorial waters.

Not quite "all parties"
-----------------------

5. (SBU) The "all-party meeting" included leaders of the Congress
party, the PMK, and the Communist parties CPI and CPM, along with
the ruling DMK party. The principal opposition parties, the AIADMK
of former Chief Minister Jayalalitha, the MDMK party of former MP
and prominent pro-Tamil agitator Vaiko, the relatively new DMDK
party of actor Vijayakant, and the BJP had boycotted the meeting.
The attendees, however, represent 37 of Tamil Nadu's 39 MPs, and
local press highlighted the fact that their resignation could bring
down the ruling coalition in New Delhi.

Not much of a threat to UPA, say insiders
-----------------------

6. (SBU) Our contacts, however, tell us that the resolution of the
"all-party meeting" is not a serious threat to the stability of the
UPA government. A senior Congress Party leader characterized the
resolution as a "paper tiger". He told us that the whole exercise
was simple political maneuvering to counter AIADMK leader
Jayalalitha's recent efforts to embarrass the DMK for its
association with the Center, which many in Tamil Nadu see as
ineffective in protecting Tamils on the other side of the Palk
Strait. He noted, however, that the all-party resolution might help
the Government of India mount a diplomatic effort with the Sri
Lankan government to lessen the suffering of the Tamils in the

CHENNAI 00000344 002 OF 002


island.

7. (SBU) A senior journalist from a well-respected daily
characterized the resolution as "posturing". He said that the
resolution is aimed at strengthening the hand of the GOI to pressure
the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) to avoid civilian casualties. He
also told us that he expects the GOI to engage on the issue more
publicly with the GSL to ensure relief supplies to those displaced
by the conflict.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) Tamil Nadu's political temperature has been rising, fed
with reports from Sri Lanka that a humanitarian catastrophe is
looming as the army closes in on the last redoubts of the Tamil
Tigers (LTTE). Karunanidhi's political opponents have used his
silence on the issue -- and his closeness to the Congress Party --
to embarrass him. The characteristic drama of the octogenarian's
response needs to be appreciated in this context. The impression we
had from speaking with Karunanidhi was that this was an important
issue for him. However, he said nothing about bringing down the
government. In fact, he went out of his way to emphasize that the
GOI's policy towards Sri Lanka would be decided by the central
government in New Delhi.

9. (SBU) We expect that the GOI will be able to launch some sort of
initiative, possibly focusing mainly on humanitarian aid, that will
allow the DMK and its allies to claim success and remain in their
parliamentary seats. The plight of Sri Lanka's Tamils is emotive,
however, so we expect that their displacement and suffering will
continue to resonate in Tamil Nadu's politics in the coming months
as all of India gears up for expected parliamentary elections. End
Comment.

SIMKIN

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