Ilankai Tamil Sangam

23rd Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Diego Garcia's Hidden Role in Sri Lankan Politics

By Sujantha Nathan

Amazing how the three vital factors regarding real estate came into play even in the plight of the Tamils -- location, location, and location.

Diego Garcia?

Is he of any relation to the tall, dark and handsome Cuban, Andy Garcia? The very gentleman who set many female hearts afire when he played the most coveted roles in decades, the hot-headed son of Sonny Corleone and mob protégé of Michael Corloene, Vincent Mancini; in 1990 Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather: Part III -- Unfortunately, not!

Then again, if you knew of Diego Garcia, you are clearly in the slim minority, for the name Diego Garcia doesn't come tripping off the tongue of even the most sophisticated geographer or globetrotter. Very few could accuse you of ignorance for never having heard of Diego Garcia -- for not knowing that it's not a person rather an obscure island situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Diego Garcia Diego Garcia is one of a kind in more ways than one; it is a living coral atoll -- an island made of trillions of living organisms. Once an ancient volcano, is now a beautiful island of 17 square miles (44 kilometers), about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) south of India's southern coast. Thanks to its tropical location and heavy rainfall, the island is heavily cloaked in luxuriant tropical vegetation and alluringly trimmed with white sandy beaches - paradise on earth. At least it was, until US began to view the little obscure island as one of the most valuable pieces of real estate on Earth.

During the Cold War era, the US was keen on establishing a military base in the Indian Ocean. Due to Diego Garcia's proximity to India, a potential ally of the Soviet Union, the US viewed the island as a strategic point of vantage. Under the guise of upholding world peace, freedom and democracy the small native population of Diego Garcia were undemocratically kicked off the island in an inhumane manner, so that the island could be transformed into a US military base.

The Persian Gulf War (1991) and Operation Desert Fox (1998) proved Diego Garcia to be critically important as a refueling base, while doubling up as a base for B-52 bombers. It is believed during the latter part of 1998, more than 100 long-range cruise missiles were launched off the island of Diego Garcia aimed at Iraq. Again, in the beginning of October 2001, the US used the island as the base to launch B-2 and B-52 bombers attacks against Afghanistan. The island still continues to plays an imperative role, under the current “War On Terrorism” led by the UK and US. Despite Diego Garcia’s role in military warfare, many analysts view the island’s location far removed from the scene of action to their contentment. Time being a critical component, moving the US military base further north could warrant a favourable bearing in warfare.

Voilà -- look no further, Sri Lanka situated in the Indian Ocean along major sea trade routes, a mere 18.5 miles (31 kilometers) south of the southern-most apex of India -- gateway to the Middle East and Far East.

Quandary -- After many years of defeat and humiliation on the battleground, the Sri Lankan government has finally come to the realization without acknowledgment that it cannot singlehandedly defeat the unconventional army of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Essential to the success of defeat, complete elimination of the LTTE and silencing of the Tamils' outcry of injustice; is heavily contingent upon a joint venture with a power source. While the Sri Lankan government and its unscrupulous politicians, who are more concerned with fattening their bank accounts rather than the country’s welfare, are more willing to sell their country to the highest bidder, who will eliminate the LTTE while elevating their stature in the world. What does a country like Sri Lanka hold of value to entice and allure such a joint venture partner? Of course, the natural habour of Trincomalee and its strategic position on the world map.

Condition -- With the demise of the USSR, US had no time to relax, for its attention quickly turned to China, a nation that was steadfastly gaining ground as a formable opponent both in economic and military might. While the Middle East continued to remain a hotspot for contention; fight for control over the supply of the black gold -- OIL. Not to mention the precarious situation in Afghanistan. With all these components in discord, US suddenly found itself in a vulnerable state with its armed forces thinly stretched over the world. The perfect solution would be a base in the Indian Ocean - mid-point to the east and the west - imperative to monitoring the world, with quick and easy accessibility. This place would have to be further north than Diego Garcia, for time is of essence. What better solution to this precarious situation than the dilapidated island of Sri Lanka?

Realty --The International Community and the US are aware that the Tamils of Sri Lanka have a true grievance. Yet, if the Tamil majority-supported LTTE was to gain independence or attain autonomy, one of the most desired piece of real estate at this juncture, Trincomalee habour, would go into LTTE control by default. And, if the LTTE were to control that crucially strategic area, the US knows that it would not gain any leverage as it desires, compared to if the Sri Lankan government and its greedy politicians were to be in control. From the US stance, the disarrayed and greedy Sri Lankan government would be much easier to manipulate than a persevering and regimented LTTE.

Repercussion -- If the world community and the US were to have their way, they would want the current situation, peace brokered by the Norway, to continue at all cost. This would translate to, both parties upholding their end of the peace, Tamils continuing to die, but at a much smaller rate and number compared to wartime, while the Sri Lankan government continues to retain power over the most militarily desired piece of real estate in the Indian Ocean. An amicable resolution to the Tamils predicament is not a priority as long as the peace is upheld and one of the most desired pieces of real estate in the world is in complaisant hands. In appearance, peace is achieved and the infamous democracy is upheld.

This might be the World’s agenda for the Tamils of Sri Lanka, but is this what the Tamils truly want after so much death and destruction?

If only Diego Garcia and Sri Lanka were in reversed locations, would the world have cared about the Tamils' plight? Would the Tamils have received freedom and their own land by now? At the rate in which the LTTE was advancing in ground and morale during its last war, it sure seemed like they were heading for definite victory. But that was not to be the case, for the interference of outside forces played a significant role in the outcome today.

Amazing how the three vital factors regarding real estate came into play even in the plight of the Tamils -- location, location, and location.