To understand the genesis of the Sri Lanka -LTTE conflict one has to have a look at the history of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) for the last one hundred and fifty years. At that time the British were the omnipotent power in the subcontinent and Ceylon was their colony. During the nineteenth century the British imported a many Tamil speaking Hindus from India to Sri Lanka to work in the tea plantations. Over the decades these Tamils multiplied and now constitute 13% of the population.
In 1948 Sri Lanka was granted independence by the British. However the larger Sinhalese community started a blatant discrimination against the Tamils. The result was that the Tamils effectively became second class citizens in the land they had lived close to two centuries. This sowed the seeds of the conflict and the Tamils aided by the Tamil Diaspora took up arms against the Lanka government in 1983. This led to the formation of the LTTE (Liberation Tamil Tigers Elam) a front organization to fight the Sinhalese Army. Their leader was V Prabhakaran.
The Indian Role
Initially RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) an intelligence department of the Government of India gave training to the LTTE cadres. This was because there was inherent sympathy for the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, as many Tamils reside in the Southern State of Tamilnadu. However after a few years this was stopped as the LTTE had turned to terrorist activities. In 1987 Rajiv Gandhi tried to broker a peace pact between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government. In a shrewd move the Lankan President Jayewardene, invited the Indian Army as a peace keeping force.
The Indian Army moved in and it is on record that they ended up fighting the LTTE. The LTTE had a tough time facing the Indian Army and suffered heavy casualties as well as lost Jaffna, their stronghold. The Indian Army at the request of Sri Lanka withdrew from this theatre in 1990.
The Murder of Rajiv Gandhi
The LTTE heaved a sigh of relief at the Indian withdrawal, but being a terrorist organization decided to take revenge on Rajiv Gandhi for sending the Indian Army to Sri Lanka. Thus on the orders of their leader Prabhakaran a suicide bomber blew up Rajiv Gandhi, at a public meeting. This was the beginning of the end for the LTTE, as they lost all support in India and the LTTE was banned as a terrorist organization. Many other countries followed suite and with this branding many sources of funds for the LTTE dried up. In addition the Indian Navy started a vigil on the sea and informed the Sri Lanka Navy of the movement of boats and vessels coming to the aid of the LTTE.
The Final Phase
In conjunction with Indian advice, a rejuvenated and better armed Lanka Army mounted an assault on the LTTE. The significance of this assault lies in the fact that it was determined and ruthless. With the Indian Navy bottling the LTTE, the Lanka Army moved rapidly forward. In battle after Battle the LTTE gave way and soon were confined to a small area in the NE of the Island by 2009. India provided no succor and gave regular intelligence of LTTE movements to Sri Lanka.
Thus any escape route for the LTTE leadership, including Prabhakaran was sealed. The choice was surrender or death. In real terms there was no choice as the surrendered LTTE cadres were shot dead, without compunction by the Lankan Army. Thus the Indian role in the defeat of the LTTE cannot be minimized. The Killing of Rajiv Gandhi turned out to a fatal mistake, that left the LTTE with no escape route. From that day, they were doomed to defeat. Perhaps the US which is operating against a force of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan can take some lessons from the annihilation of the LTTE.