External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today paid homage to 1,200 Indian soldiers at the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) Memorial here who were killed in Sri Lanka in their fight against the LTTE.
Amid the sound of military bugle, Swaraj placed a wreath and saluted the “brave Indian soldiers who gave up their lives protecting the cause of peace in Sri Lanka”. Writing in the Visitors’ Book at the memorial, Swaraj said she was “very moved” and added: “I pray that their supreme sacrifice is not lost in vain. May their soul rest in peace. Jai Hind”.
Interestingly, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, in an interview with a Tamil news channel aired today, blamed the IPKF for some of the Tamil killings besides the Lankan Army and the LTTE. India lost 1,200 soldiers during IPKF operations between 1987 and 1990. About 2,500 officers of the Indian Army also suffered injuries in the operation.
Swaraj, here on an official visit, went to the war memorial - constructed in Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte on the outskirts of Colombo in 2008 - in the morning where senior Lankan Army officers were also present.
The names of the 1,200 fallen soldiers are inscribed on a black marble and the first official memorial service was held on August 15, 2010, when the then Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Ashok Kantha, laid a wreath in honour of the dead. Indian High Commission officials said that on every Republic Day and Independence day, the officers visit the memorial to pay their respects.
The IPKF was formed under the mandate of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord signed in 1987 that aimed to end the civil war here between militant Sri Lankan Tamil nationalists such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan military.
Though they had initially come in for enforcement of the Accord and were not expected to be in any significant combat roles, the Indian Army soon found itself at war with the LTTE.