IPKF and Sri Lankan Military at Ease, 1987-90

Retd Brig. Sri Mudannayake … responding to the Items describing the Assault on Rajiv Gandhi by a SLN rating after the signing of the Indo-Lanka Pact

You might want to add that, once the IPKF arrived, Sri Lanka Army and the Indian Army troops acted in perfect harmony upholding best of military traditions. There were misunderstandings at times at mess, but they were addressed and resolved amicably.

One notable incident happened in Trincomalee at a check point where our Army and Indian troops briefly exchanged fire. No one was killed.  The SLA’s ‘ hot headed’ Brigadier in charge of the area was transferred out by Gen Ranatunga. The Indian Army Chief Gen Krishnaswamy Sunderji came to Sri Lanka and addressed SLA officers at Army Hq Colombo after the incident. Gen Ranatunga in his book referred to him as ” An Officer & Gentleman.”

Colombo-Delhi politics of the conflict did not matter to the two armies during turbulent times. We acted professionally. In Jaffna we invited Indian Army officers to our Officers Mess for drinks. They came with bottles of Indian Rum (‘Old Monk’ being the best), and we served them Coconut Arrack. Rum-Arrack diplomacy was helpful during challenging times.

 When the IPKF was asked to leave in March 90′ by President Premadasa, Sri Lanka gave a Tri-Service Guard of Honour to the departing IPKF at the Trincomalee-China Bay Oiling Jetty. That was the way two professional armies did business.


A NOTE ON THE BACKGROUND …. by Michael Roberts

While the Sinhala population in the south resented the Indian intervention and the Indo Lanka Accord, it appears that the Sri Lankan Tamil peoples welcomed that imperial action. However, I speculate that Pirapāharan always had reservations. The photograph of him in an Indian plane bearing him to the island is certainly suggestive of the reservations reposing in the depth of his being.[1]

Scholars must consult the people who massed at the Sudumalai Amman Kovil grounds i early August 2009 to hear him address his people to work out the reasoning behind his reservations. This issue is a major lacuna in my fund of knowledge; but the late Professor K. Sivathamby reckoned[2] Pirapāharan’s speech on that occasion to be his finest oratorical effort.

We also know that these concerns encouraged a leading Tiger, Thileepan, to fast unto death in September 1987 and that the Tigers went to war against the IPKF a little later. As noted in what may be a partisan account in Wikipedia, “in brutal fighting lasting about three weeks, the IPKF took control of the Jaffna Peninsula from the LTTE, something that the Sri Lankan Army had tried but failed to do. Supported by Indian Army tanks, helicopter gunships and heavy artillery, the IPKF routed the LTTE at the cost of 214 soldiers.” However, the so-called rout soon became a war of attrition.

So, what one witnessed between 29/30 July 1987 and October 1987 was a whirlwind of reversals and ironies.

IPKF at bay IPKF troops leaving at Trinco 1990

**  https://thuppahis.com/2019/08/06/a-naval-ratings-assault-on-rajiv-gandhi-30-july-1987-detailed-account/

*** https://thuppahis.com/2019/08/04/lake-house-trains-its-guns-on-gota/#more-36625




[1] My summary account here is restricted by my presence in Colombo and the resulting lack of access to my personal library.

[2] Personal communication.


Filed under accountability, governance, historical interpretation, indian armed forces, Indian Ocean politics, insurrections, landscape wondrous, law of armed conflict, life stories, patriotism, politIcal discourse, power politics, prabhakaran, Rajiv Gandhi, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, vengeance, world events & processes

5 responses to “IPKF and Sri Lankan Military at Ease, 1987-90

  1. Pingback: India’s Kashmir Action: Severe Implications for Sri Lankan Tamils | Thuppahi's Blog

  2. Pingback: Lanseelam in 1985: Cut and Thrust …. | Thuppahi's Blog

  3. Col Sukhbir Singh, IPKF veterans.

    Thileepan was a terminally ill patient. Hunger strike was one of pressure tactics tried on IPKF. Had No effect on IPKF being professional Army. The LTTE had forced civilians specially school going children ( mostly girls ) to gherao IPKF camps.

    • Rohan Gunaratne

      The IPKF was well known for it’s use of rape as a tool of war; Northern India is a land mired in backwardness and misogyny. We know the behaviour of your people; look at how your North Indian brethren treated the Sikhs

  4. Pingback: Lanseelam in 1985: Cut and Thrust …. | Thuppahi's Blog

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