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September 2002



Part 3. South Asia - Indo-Pakistan Conflict

95) After the Middle East, the South Asian subcontinent is probably now the biggest 'hotspot' as far as US imperialism is concerned. The military face-off at the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002 with the rattling of the nuclear option in the background, for a time put the Afghan imbroglio in the shade. Almost one million troops were amassed on either side of the Indo-Pakistan border, triggered by the running sore of the Kashmir conflict between the two countries.

96) The suicide bombing attack on the capital of Kashmir, Srinigar, in October 2001 gave the excuse for the Hindu communalist BJP, which dominates the Indian government coalition, to ratchet up its military threat against Pakistan. This was reinforced by the attack on the Indian parliament in Delhi in December. For a time, a real danger of a widespread military conflict loomed, probably triggered by India attacking the training camps of alleged Kashmiri 'terrorists', and a policy of 'hot pursuit' of these forces.

97) Colossal pressure was exerted by US imperialism in particular to prevent the situation from 'getting out of hand'. The government of Vajpayee, the BJP prime minister, was not at that stage seriously preparing to go to war. With the election in Uttar Pradesh looming, with the possibility that defeat for the BJP could topple the national government, Vajpayee decided to play the Indian nationalist and 'anti-Pakistan' card.


98) The Indian government is dominated by Hindu communalism. Anti-foreigner, specifically anti-Moslem policies have traditionally formed the bedrock of the BJP and came to the fore in this conflict. The stoked up nationalist fires were further fuelled by the testing of a new missile with nuclear ballistic capability, called Agne after the Hindu god of fire, while the two armies glared at each other across the border. Pakistan reciprocated with its own testing and firing of an IBM.

99) The confrontational foreign policy of the BJP was calculated to assure an enhanced electoral position, vis-à-vis Congress in particular, in the Uttar Pradesh elections. But it also forms a part of the growing imperialist role of India in the region, which the high caste elite that dominates Indian politics envisage. The government spends three times as much on 'defence' as on healthcare, with a huge military establishment. This military might was flexed in this conflict but not deployed because of international pressure and also the incalculable consequences of a fifth war in the subcontinent.

100) In Uttar Pradesh, widely regarded as the Hindu heartland, the BJP's gamble that it would gain from this conflict did not pay off. It is said: "Who controls Uttar Pradesh controls Delhi". The BJP was hoping to extend its five-year tenure by appealing to the nationalist sentiment arising from the conflict with Pakistan. In the event the BJP received a drubbing, as they did also in the newly created hill state of Uttaranchal and in the Punjab, where Congress swept to power. The nationalist card did not work in Uttar Pradesh where the unpopularity of the BJP-dominated national government was utmost in the minds of the masses, particularly the lower castes.

101) In the months after these elections the BJP managed to hold its ramshackle coalition in power but it is an open question as to how long this can last. The fracturing of Indian politics evident in the last few decades is itself a reflection of the splintering of Indian society along national, ethnic, religious and class lines. The two largest parties are the governing BJP and the opposition Congress, now led by the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia. The rest is fragmented among many parties based on language, caste and ethnicity. Therefore the task of forming a government in India involves stitching together a multiparty coalition often with diametrically opposed views and aims.

102) The present government is hanging by a thread, having opened the door to the worst communal violence since 1992 in the wake of the conflict with Pakistan. Indeed, the Vajpayee government is on the horns of a dilemma. Carried into power by a wave of Hindu communalism and chauvinism it is now under ferocious pressure from its base to ratify the construction of a Hindu temple in the northern city of Ayodhya on the site of a historic Moslem mosque which was destroyed in 1992. This resulted in the worst communal violence since the formation of the state in 1947. Remorseless pressure is now being exerted from the base, particularly from the RSS, the semi-fascist paramilitary wing of the party. However, if Vajpayee gives the go ahead for the construction of a temple this will be the trigger for the 23 coalition partners of the BJP, mostly secular, to withdraw their support. This in turn could lead to the downfall of the government.

103) The growth of communal violence has increased rather than diminished in every decade since the relatively trouble-free period which followed partition. This is the most visible expression alongside the ingrained poverty of the Indian masses (one third of the world's poor is concentrated in India) of the complete failure of Indian landlordism and capitalism to solve the national question, caste, religious and ethnic issues, and the problem of the land. This was also reflected in the terrible scenes in Gujarat in February, which saw hundreds of thousands fleeing violence in their own areas only to suffer it again as the trains carrying them to 'safety' were intercepted by mobs. The violence was initiated in the main by Hindu zealots. An orgy of violence and slaughter - mostly of Moslems - took place and over 200,000 people were forced to flee their homes. It should not be forgotten that there are more Moslems in India than in the 'Moslem homeland' of Pakistan.

104) The rising tide of Hindu communalism and nationalism, however, is massively destabilising for the whole region. It is organically linked to the conflict between India and Pakistan, and the flashpoint of Kashmir. The fanatical Hindu nationalists have one simple philosophy: "There are only two places Moslems can go: Pakistan or Cabristan" (the graveyard). The whole basis of the BJP's philosophy was summed up by its ideological father, Guru Goldwalkar, of an India cleansed of the corrupting influence of Arabia, Persia and the perfidious Pakistanis.

105) But it is not just the communal issue; the caste divisions remain. Above all, the incapacity of the bourgeois parties to overcome the intractable economic and social problems of this vast country, with over one billion people and an electorate of 650 million, is stark. It has a larger electorate than the USA, Canada and Western Europe combined. Uttar Pradesh, for instance, if it was a separate country would be the fifth largest by population in the world!

106) For over a decade India has been set on a path of neo-liberalism by the measures of the Congress government in 1991, it must be remembered. The aim was to 'open up' the formerly supposed 'closed' Indian economy. However, this has met with mixed results, particularly as the powerful Indian labour and trade union movement fought back against the attempts to give the bosses an even greater whip hand over the working class and poor farmers. There has been a certain growth in the past decade, highlighted by the development of information technology industries in areas like Bangalore. However, growth has recently stalled; only 4 per cent in 2001 and is expected to be just 5.4 per cent this year. A growth target of 8 per cent is estimated to be required in order to begin to reduce poverty, due to the high birth rate.

107) There has also been a growth in the budget deficit with warnings of a fiscal crisis unless 'drastic action' is taken. This involves above all savage cuts in the state sector and an enhanced application of neo-liberal policies. Even the BJP, pledged to protect native industry through the swadeshi policy, is under ferocious pressure to 'open up the economy', i.e. to dismantle those measures which still protect Indian industry and society from rapacious world capitalism. In an unprecedented intervention the US ambassador, at the beginning of 2002, unbelievably complained about the "unfair" treatment of Enron, the now bankrupt energy giant, which had not received payment for power plant. Wagging his finger at India he pointed to the huge foreign direct investment flows to China ($41 billion in 2000) compared to only $4.5 billion to India. Moreover, he claimed US exports to India were "as flat as a chapatti".

108) Under ferocious pressure the BJP government is now proposing that companies with up to 1000 employees could make redundancies without the state's approval. This has met with the opposition not just of left unions and parties but even of Shiv Sena, the Bombay-based Hindu nationalist party, an important member of the national coalition. This measure, if implemented, would affect 85 per cent of India's industrial enterprises and is designed to remove one of the most important obstacles to an untrammelled development of private capital. Only eight and a half million Indians are employed by the private sector manufacturing companies out of a manpower pool of over 300 million. The solution to the problems of India lies not in a further dose of neo-liberalism but in breaking the stranglehold of landlordism and capitalism, which holds the majority in this vast country in thrall to poverty, caste discrimination, huge unemployment and underemployment, and religious, communal and class divisions. The last decade has seen a colossal social polarisation between the poor who have got poorer and a thin layer of capitalists and landlords who have amassed fabulous riches.

109) With a sure instinct the Indian working class, which has a tremendous tradition of combativity and struggle, came out in a reported 10 million strong strike against privatisation in April 2002. The tragedy of the Indian proletariat is that with the weakening and near collapse of the once mighty communist parties, the mass of the working class is left without a clear political voice. The Congress Party cuts a pathetic figure, compared to its former domination in the decade following independence.

110) Capitalism and imperialism offers no way for the subcontinent. While the international community calls for restraint between India and Pakistan, at the same time we have an obscene jockeying between the major imperialist powers, led by the UK and the US, for a bigger slice of India's growing arms budget. The gross nature of this trade is indicated by the fact that, unabashed by the danger of a nuclear clash, it is still a "unique selling opportunity" for arms to India. Even the Israeli military industry has intervened, with one of its spokespersons stating: "Israel and India both face a similar problem in terms of terror. We are selling our unfortunate expertise in the area and the Indian government is very receptive right now".

111) Amongst the Indian ruling class there is general support for increased military pressure on Pakistan to 'cease its support of cross-border terrorism in the disputed province of Kashmir'. At the same time, there is doubt that a government based primarily on Hindu fundamentalism is best fitted to handle Kashmir, the only Indian state with a Moslem majority.


112) The real loser initially in the region from the Afghan war was the dictatorial regime of Musharraf in Pakistan. It gained a few crumbs for its support of the US 'war against terror'. It has diplomatically 'come in from the cold', which in turn has laid the basis for economic and other concessions from the US and its allies. The Bush administration offered $200 million in economic assistance in early 2002 for the following fiscal year with hopes that this would reduce Pakistan's outstanding debt by $1 billion. The economic reserves of the country, although paltry - a mere £2 billion, enough to cover five months of imports - are nevertheless good in comparison to the past. But sales of Pakistani clothing and apparel are down in the US. As a result of the fall out from the Afghan War, Pakistan is looking for the Bush administration to lift quotas on Pakistani imports into the US in order to bring back US buyers.

113) At the same time, the promise of military assistance has not been forthcoming as imperialism feared the introduction of any new weapons systems into what is already an explosive and volatile region. This conclusion was reinforced by the serious conflict between Pakistan and India in 2002. The concessions made to Musharraf, however, have to be offset against the loss to Pakistan of Afghanistan, which has traditionally been both a buffer and a client state of Pakistani regimes. It was forced to bend to the pressure of India, which as Steven Cohen, a South Asia expert at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC, pointed out, "is the sole winner of this confrontation". He further commented: "Since the 11 September terrorist attacks, India has sat back and watched the United States pressure Pakistan into doing everything that India has been seeking for years".

114) Musharraf was initially forced to crack down on many Islamic groups, the 'jihadis', the hard core of which fought in Afghanistan for the Taliban, and then alongside the separatists in Indian administered Kashmir. More than 2000 had been arrested by February 2002 but the real danger is that in the face of this crackdown these groups would choose to go underground as in Algeria or Egypt. In fact there is a threat that the 'Algerianisation' of Pakistan is now posed. The Islamists, probably supported by the Pakistani security service the ISI, answered this crackdown with the murder of the Wall Street Journal's reporter Daniel Pearl. This was not just aimed against US imperialism but the Musharraf regime as well. Pearl was probably (according to some reports) investigating links between the Pakistani army intelligence service (ISI), the Taliban and the jihadis in Kashmir. The ISI, or at least rogue elements within its ranks, had a hand in this murder also as a warning to Musharraf and the US that they are not so easily tamed. Musharraf then released most of the fundamentalists, thereby inflaming relations with India, which led to the stand-off in 2002.

115) In half of the 54 years since Pakistan's foundation as an independent state it has been ruled by the military. During these periods different dictatorships have leaned on the Islamists, both internally and externally, in Afghanistan and above all in Kashmir. Forced to choose after 11 September the side of the US, the Musharraf regime has been compelled to try and reverse this policy. He has sought to crackdown on the madrassahs, the schools of the Islamists, as well as the removal of the hard-line pro-Taliban ISI chief, replacing him with one of his own 'loyalists'. However, the economic and social problems in Pakistan remain intractable, as does the running sore of Kashmir. Without the existence of powerful workers' organisations capable of mobilising the mass of the working class and the poor peasants, the Islamists can find rich soil for further growth in Pakistan.

116) In answer to them and in an attempt to establish a certain 'democratic legitimacy', Musharraf promised parliamentary elections for October 2002. A sham referendum preceded this, with just 6 per cent of those able to vote participating, which allegedly legitimised Musharraf as president. There has even been speculation that the election date could be brought forward in order to win further kudos from world capitalist opinion. Internationally the world bourgeois is compelled to look over its shoulder and take account of the growing anticapitalist movement and the democratic sentiment that goes with this. They therefore favour 'democracy' because it is perceived at this stage to be the most effective and the cheapest system for safeguarding their position. However, in extreme circumstances where a real danger is posed, as in Algeria in 1992 or in the failed coup in Venezuela, they can quite easily reconcile themselves to the installation of a dictatorship until more propitious circumstances for 'democracy' once more arise.

117) They can, as we see in the case of Musharraf and Pakistan, quite easily reconcile themselves to a dictatorship, particularly one that proclaims that it is 'temporary', which dictators always say is the case. In Pakistan, even in the periods of democratic rule, the military were ever present and ready to step in to depose the politicians, to jail, exile and even execute them - as in the case of Zulfikar Bhutto - if they ever got out of line.

118) Even in the democratic phases Pakistan has always been a bourgeois Bonapartist regime with a thin veneer of democracy. Musharraf hopes to re-establish such a set-up in his proposals for election. For this reason he despatched diplomats to invite the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Benazir Bhutto, to engage in discussions with a view to perhaps participating in elections. A stumbling block was the continued imprisonment of Bhutto's husband Zardari for corruption. However, it has now been 'discovered' that one of the judges who presided over the corruption cases against Benazir and her husband was "influenced by senior officials" of the previous Nawaz Sharif regime. The latter, the leader of the Pakistan Moslem League, was allowed to leave Pakistan for Saudi Arabia after he agreed to repay some of the wealth he was accused of 'earning' through corruption. To go ahead with elections, however, without the participation of the former major parties of Pakistan, particularly the PPP which still has a significant base in the southern province of Sindh and parts of Punjab, would bring into question the legitimacy of any election.

119) It seems that Musharraf believes that his position has been significantly bolstered and moreover he would remain president with 'strong powers' to vet or veto any decisions taken by the 'democratic' government. He has pointedly declared: "I will ensure the continuity and sustainability of all the reforms and restructuring that we have done in these past three years, nobody can reverse them... I am a great believer in democracy, but we will adjust it and fine-tune it to our own requirements".


120) However, these cosy schemes can be blown apart by internal and particularly external developments, above all through further eruptions in Kashmir. This region has been aptly described as a "paradise caught in the crossfire" between India and Pakistan. A Moghul emperor once said of Kashmir: "If there is a paradise anywhere on Earth, it is here". However, for the last 55 years this has been anything but a paradise for the masses. Between 55,000 and 70,000 civilians, militants and soldiers have died during this time, 15 to 20 times the number claimed by the troubles in Ireland over the past 30 years.

121) The playboy Maharajah of (Hindu) Jammu and (Moslem) Kashmir, who once paid £50,000 for an imported dancing girl, opted to remain with India at the last moment in 1947. Despite continual UN resolutions for a referendum allowing the population of the region to decide their own fate, Delhi has ignored them and has pursued a policy of military repression in order to keep Kashmir firmly within its embrace.

122) Both Pakistan and India use the issue to fan their own nationalisms at periods of heightened social tension. Pakistani regimes since 1947, and particularly the ISI wing of the military, have supported and fostered Kashmiri Islamist groups which have been pictured as the champions of national liberation for Kashmir. Undoubtedly, that Pakistan should liberate Kashmir is a widespread sentiment amongst the Pakistani people, who consider that it was illegitimately prevented from joining Pakistan in 1947.

123) On the other hand, as we have seen earlier, India, and now particularly Hindu nationalism in the form of the BJP and their adherents, picture the insurgency in Kashmir as a 'foreign based' Moslem conspiracy to bring about the secession of the region. To give up Kashmir would also fuel nationalist conflicts in the several states bordering Bangladesh and Burma. One senior politician from the BJP told The Guardian in February 2002: "To give Kashmir its independence would have begun a process of Balkanisation of the world's largest democracy".

124) One of the consequences of the armed struggle in Kashmir has been a complete polarisation between the Hindu and Moslem communities, with the gradual pushing out to India of the Hindu population. Both Pakistan and India are implacably opposed to the right of the Kashmiris to decide their own fate. Following the end of the Afghan conflict in 1989 many of the Islamic militants from Pakistan turned their attention towards its 'liberation', in the cause of Islam. Fertile ground was created for them by the rigging of elections, the last but one in 1987 was a clear example of this and of the heavy hand of repression. In that year the main pro-India party in Indian occupied Kashmir, led by Farouk Abdullah, which came to power, was widely perceived as being illegitimately elected. In the last election in 1996 all but a handful of mostly discredited pro-India parties boycotted the polls. There is talk of elections being held this year or next in order to give some legitimacy to the continued rule by Delhi. In the long run this will not work and the risk now of a serious clash over Kashmir between India and Pakistan has compelled the world bourgeois to intervene.

125) Some of the separatist parties have indicated their preparedness to distance themselves from Pakistan, in order to secure a democratic opening with the possibility of some kind of autonomy for at least Kashmir, if not for Jammu. The leaders of one of these movements declared to the Financial Times, "Pakistan allowed our separatist movement to be discredited when they started sending foreign Islamic militants into Kashmir. Our struggle is for self-determination not for Islam". Pakistan clearly feared that some of these forces would participate, thereby legitimising for a time Indian rule. Hence the assassination of Lone, which was probably the work of Pakistan forces, either the ISI or their stooges amongst the 'jihadis'.

126) On a bourgeois basis the Kashmiri issue is as intractable, if not more so, than the Middle East. The only way in which the suffering masses of Kashmir could exercise real self-determination, probably leading to the establishment of an independent Kashmir with full rights for Hindus and other minorities, is on a socialist and revolutionary basis. A patched-up compromise for some kind of 'autonomy' is possible but will not work in the medium and long term.

127) Even with the pressure that will now be exerted by US imperialism on both Pakistan and India for some kind of compromise settlement the capitalist regimes in both countries will be under severe domestic pressure not to compromise on the status of Kashmir. Only a socialist and revolutionary movement of the masses, of Moslems and Hindus, can offer a lasting, democratic and just peace for the region. The nightmare scenario, however, could be that unless this happens one of the most beautiful regions not only in the subcontinent but in the world could be the flashpoint of a new war between India and Pakistan, with the horror of the use, 'accidentally' or otherwise, of nuclear weapons.


128) The states on the periphery of the South Asian subcontinent are affected by and, in turn, affect developments in the region. September 11 has had a profound effect. Nepal, for instance, is in the grip of the most serious crisis in its history as it faces a growing Maoist guerrilla insurgency in the countryside. At the same time the main opposition in the Nepalese parliament is the 'Unified Marxist-Leninists' (UML).

129) The Maoist insurgency began in February 1996 and grew in strength and effectiveness because of the grinding poverty of the majority of the Nepalese. More than 40 per cent of Nepal's 23 million people live on incomes of less than $1 a day. The complete instability, politically, of the regime with one unstable coalition following another, together with the feeling of hopelessness of any way forward on the basis of the present system, has sustained this revolt. Initially the Maoists fought with the most primitive weapons, involving mobs armed with antiquated muskets, but soon this gave way to attacks on police stations with booby traps, explosives and captured police weapons.

130) It is estimated that there are more than 2000 guerrillas in its ranks and a further 3000 in the 'people's militias', as well as others at village level organised in 'squads'. These 'Maoists' seem an anachronistic relic of the past, producing even their own version of Mao's 'Red Book', called the 'Prachanda Path', named after its leader. Although preferring to be known as 'Maoists' in reality they base their approach on the now largely discredited 'Shining Path' in Peru.

131) Needless to say, the Chinese government has disowned these 'Maoists' and supports the King of Nepal and his government's decision to seek to crush militarily the rebels. India has also offered to provide support as has the Blair government in Britain to the efforts of the Nepalese governments to 'root out' the Maoist rebels. However, there are big logistical and geographical difficulties in achieving this task. The Maoists operate in the main in the roadless mountainous districts where they have managed to build a strong base, much like Shining Path did. US imperialism has also been alerted to the situation in Nepal in the aftermath of 11 September and will undoubtedly give the necessary military, if not economic, support against the guerrilla movement.

132) In February 2002, the guerrillas scored a 'success' in a big attack on government forces in the Asham district, which left 130 police and army personnel dead. A state of emergency had been declared earlier, which will undoubtedly be followed up by increased military action against the rebels. However, the fact that a guerrilla struggle can take place in this poverty-stricken semi-feudal nation is itself a symptom of the incapacity of society to go forward on the basis of landlordism and capitalism

Sri Lanka

133) This is also true of Sri Lanka, an important country in the region. Sri Lanka is also vital for us because of the roots which the important forces of the CWI have managed to establish in the country. This alone is an achievement given the terrible effects of the long nationalist guerrilla campaign conducted by the Tamil Tigers. Official estimates put the number of dead in this conflict at "more than 60,000". In reality, well over 100,000 Tamils and Sinhalese have been killed in the last 20 years.

134) However, the outcome of the elections in December 2001 combined with the post-11 September situation does represent a possible turning point in the country's history. After a blood-spattered election campaign, following the previous inconclusive one 14 months before, the elections saw a victory for the opposition United National Party (UNP) - which is historically the main bourgeois party - with the governing party of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), suffering a severe defeat. Chandrika herself came to office herself on a wave of support for peace. However, she missed the boat in the early period of her power and vacillated ever since. She adopted a communalist position in this election, warning the majority Sinhala population that if the UNP won there would be the "partition" of the country.

135) The outcome of the elections saw the UNP scoring 49 per cent of the total vote with a majority in the National Assembly, and the former ruling People's Alliance (PA) of Chandrika dropping to about 37 per cent. It was not just the war but the economic fall-out from this, as well as the effects on Sri Lanka of the deteriorating world economic situation which accounted for the defeat of the PA. The country undoubtedly faces the worst economic situation since independence from Britain in 1948. Government officials have reported that the Sri Lankan treasury is "virtually empty", exports have nosedived, and there has been negative growth in the economy for six consecutive months. State expenditure, fuelled by the bloated expenses of the war, has enormously escalated. There is a massive deterioration in the budget deficit and even the foreign remittances, which have played an important part in buoying up the Sri Lankan economy, have contracted. Tourism, of course, so long as the war continued, also diminished.

Peace Agreement

136) However, the most important development coming out of the election was that the result made more possible steps towards peace with the Tamil Tigers. Any government coming out of the election would have been under the ferocious pressure of world imperialism to take the steps towards 'conflict resolution'. The victory of the PA, however, would have meant this would have been dragged out further, given the increasingly communalist approach of the Chandrika government, backed up by the so-called 'Marxist' JVP, which is even more communalist and demagogic than Chandrika's party, the SLFP.

137) Chandrika made the election a virtual referendum on the issue of the Tigers and the UNP trying to divide the island. However, the International Herald Tribune correctly pointed out: "The guerrillas have scored a string of battlefield victories in the past three years, showing that they cannot be defeated militarily. Their increasing international isolation, however, buttressed by the zero tolerance policy of the West and India over terrorism, has forced them to take a different tack. Their leader, Prabhakaran, declared in a recent speech that he would forego a separate state if the government was willing to grant Tamils 'self-determination', a term that would need to be defined in negotiations."

138) Peace has now been declared, with the re-opening of communications between different parts of the island, which is now enormously beneficial to the development of the working class and Marxist movement. However, there are still huge pitfalls along the road to a final peace settlement. The victory of the UNP means that there will be a peculiar form of 'co-habitation' between Chandrika, who remains in power, and the UNP government. The former has asserted that she still has the power to veto any peace settlement if she perceives it is unacceptable to the majority of the Sinhala population. Moreover, even to grant the 'autonomy' which is now demanded by the Tigers would require a two thirds majority in parliament, which means that significant sections of PA MPs would have to vote for such a proposal.

139) In the past, when either of the main parties has appeared to be taking one step towards peace, they have been checked and countered by the other party which has invariably whipped up Sinhala chauvinism. However, this time the war weariness, which we have commented on earlier, together with the post-11 September mood, mean that is possible that a peace agreement can hold for some time. This does not mean that it will be a smooth process without hitches and maybe even a temporary breakdown. The same thing happened in South Africa and more recently in Northern Ireland. The 'transition' to 'democracy' in South Africa - between the release of Mandela in 1990 and the elections in 1994 - was punctuated by bitter and sometimes bloody clashes. However, both the National Party and the ANC were then locked into 'conflict resolution', because the alternative as long as capitalism remained was a resumption of a bloody and protracted racial civil war, no side in the conflict was prepared to wage. The JVP and other communalist forces will undoubtedly attempt to whip up protests dubbing the Norwegian brokered agreement between the government and the Tamil Tigers as a "document of surrender". However, it is in the interests of world imperialism, as well as the mini-imperialist and main power in the region, India, that this agreement should hold. Indeed the initiative of Norway has got massive US-led support. Undoubtedly the US will wield the carrot and the stick, depending on the circumstances, in order to secure a 'conflict resolution'.

140) The US has also attempted to cash in on the peace agreement. It has supplied arms to the Sri Lankan government and also hopes to negotiate the use for its ships of the Tricomalee deep water harbour in the event of the agreement holding.

Our party

141) Consequently after the heroic work of our Sri Lanka section over two decades but particularly in the last ten years, in seeking to maintain the marvellous revolutionary and Marxist traditions of the Sri Lankan working class, a more favourable situation could open up now. The war may sink into the background - but this is not certain. Yet the underlying social and economic situation is a guarantee of increased discontent amongst the masses, of growing opposition to all the bourgeois forces and a seeking on the part of the more thinking sections of the masses for a workers, socialist and Marxist alternative.

142) The existence of our party, small though the forces may be at this stage, and the consistency with which it has argued for a principled Marxist position on all the fundamental questions facing Sri Lanka has meant that we are in a very good position now to exploit the opportunities which can develop. We must combine the need to build our own forces, which have only recently emerged as a party in its own right, to establish it firmly on an all-island basis. In particular it is necessary to reach out to the most exploited layers of young people, women and the impoverished Tamil masses.

143) At the same time the task of rebuilding the labour movement and an authoritative mass party, or taking steps towards such a goal, is posed in Sri Lanka as elsewhere. It should never be forgotten that the first independent party in Sri Lanka was the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) which was formed even before the bourgeois UNP or the party of Chandrika's father, the SLFP.

144) The building of our forces in all the countries of the South Asian subcontinent is absolutely crucial. It is vital for our position in the neo-colonial world in general. In India, where we have established an impact, and in Sri Lanka we have genuine Trotskyist organisations which have presented a coherent explanation of the processes which have taken place, and have established important forces in both countries. It is also important for us as a springboard into the rest of Asia and the neo-colonial world in general. Significant forces in the South Asian subcontinent can also provide an important bridgehead for work amongst what could be called the 'Asian Diaspora', which now exists because of large-scale emigration, throughout most of the industrialised countries of Europe, America and Japan.