Challenges to Peace Negotiations: The Sri Lankan Experience

Sukanya Podder was Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, India.
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  • July 2006

    The ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is a good example of how peace
    negotiations in civil war situations can be elusive. Although several factors impinge on the outcome of negotiations, from the experience of negotiating peace in Sri Lanka three prominent and recurrent variables come to the fore. These are: first, the competing nationalisms in the state-building project of Sri Lanka; second, the political outbidding practiced by the two major Sinhalese parties; and third, the authoritarian character of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which thrives on a rationale of war and terror. These variables have informed spoiler behavior and foiled attempts at a decisive settlement of the ethnic conflict. As a result the ceasefire of 2002 at present lies in a shambles. While the failure of current negotiations does not rule out the likelihood of a future negotiated settlement, a significant reorientation in the country’s political culture and mainstreaming of neglected voices and stakeholders alone would make negotiations

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