New Delhi, June 1 (ANI): A former major general of the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) that was sent to Sri Lanka to rein in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam in the middle 1980s, has accused the Indian Government of complicity in the killing of an estimated 20,000 civilians in the last stages of the Sri Lankan Army's offensive against the rebels.
"We were complicit in this last phase of the offensive when a great number of civilians were killed. Having taken a decision to go along with the campaign, we went along with it all the way and ignored what was happening on the ground," Major General (retired) Ashok Mehta told The Times.
According to Major General Mehta and diplomatic sources, India provided Sri Lanka with military equipment, training and intelligence over the past three years. More controversially, it provided unwavering diplomatic support and failed to use its influence to negotiate a ceasefire for civilians to escape the front line.
Major General Mehta said the Indian Government, led by the Congress Party, wanted to counterbalance China and Pakistan, its main regional rivals, which had each increased arms sales to Sri Lanka in the past few years. It also wanted to avenge the Tigers' assassination in 1991 of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said that neither reason justified failing to act when the Red Cross warned of an "unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe".
India "could have saved many lives if it had taken a proactive position - and it would not have affected the outcome of the war," he said.
Sam Zarifi, Asia Pacific director of Amnesty International, said: "India . . . simply chose to support the [Sri Lankan] Government's notion that it could kill as many civilians as it would take to defeat the Tigers."
India says that it provided Sri Lanka with non-lethal military equipment and sent officials repeatedly to persuade the Government to protect civilians.
"We've consistently taken the line that the Sri Lankan Government should prevent civilian casualties," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
However, President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka told NDTV: "I don't think I got any pressure from them. They knew that I'm fighting their war." (ANI)