Getting the government to make concessions: India and Norway in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a relevant case to study in order to understand the dynamics of biased mediators. This case can help to illustrate the causal pathways through which the actions of a biased mediator help to bring about basic concessions on conflict issues. As seen from global data in the previous chapter, the general picture is that biased mediators outperform neutral ones, when these categories are compared with each other. This comparison will be pursued in this chapter also, with the help of an in-depth study of a particular case. The causal mechanisms of biased mediation will be illustrated by the example of the Indian intervention in Sri Lanka that brought about the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987. This historical agreement was remarkable in the sense that India’s intervention led to an agreement where the government made significant concessions concerning the main area of contention – the devolution of governmental power. This analysis suggests that the bias of the Indian mediators can help to explain why they were successful in reaching the most comprehensive agreement on peace institutions throughout the history of the conflict. This chapter will focus more narrowly on the works and dynamics of biased mediators, contrasting these to the functions of unbiased mediators. In this chapter, it is the comparative approach that is of interest. Success in international mediation is necessarily relative and bound to contextual circumstances. Sri Lanka has experienced two mediation interventions: one by India and another by Norway. Neither of the mediation efforts can be seen as ultimately successful, as the conflict continued until its military phase ended in the complete destruction of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on the battlefield. Yet, by the standards of the Sri Lankan context, the mediated agreement of 1987 stands out as the most far-reaching and comprehensive settlement of the underlying issues of the conflict reached so far. The question I therefore ask in this chapter is why the Indian peace mediation was able to help the parties reach a substantial agreement on the basic peace institutions – which could have regulated the conflict if it had been implemented – whereas the Norwegian peace mediation never went beyond agreement on cease-fires and procedural issues? The ties, interests, and resources that came along with the Indian bias in the Sri Lankan conflict can help to explain how the process unfolded, and the difference in the outcomes. Ultimately, the crafting of peace institutions depends upon
the government side – as a status quo power – being ready to make concessions on its control of territory and power. The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord represents the first and only time the government of Sri Lanka was ready to make serious institutional arrangements that addressed, and at least partly resolved, the grievances of the Tamil minority in the country.