Hardeep Singh Puri, who handled the delicate task of liaising with Sri Lankan political leaders and the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) prior to and after the signing of the India-Sri Lanka Accord in July 1987 as First Secretary (Political) at the Indian High Commission in Colombo, has been inducted into the Indian Council of Ministers as a non-cabinet Minister of State.
He was sworn in as part of a larger cabinet re-shuffle in New Delhi on Sunday.
A decorated former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of the 1974 batch, who is also known for his experience and expertise in foreign policy and national security, Puri served in Sri Lanka at a very crucial period in the history of India-Sri Lanka relations.
The Accord, which was meant to end the ethnic strife and the Tamil armed struggle in Sri Lanka, was opposed tooth and nail by the Sri Lankan opposition parties and the LTTE too. Street demonstrations and violence marked the signing of the Accord though the apolitical man-in-the-street, especially in the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces, welcomed it as a harbinger of peace.
Despite the opposition, the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was inducted into the North and East to help implement the Accord. But as expected, the LTTE took on the IPKF in October 1987 and fought it till President R.Premadasa got the Indian force to withdraw in March 1990.
However, in the meanwhile, the Indian High Commission and the IPKF, with the help of non-LTTE Tamil groups, held the first provincial council elections in the newly unified North Eastern Province.
Puri subsequently left the shores of Sri Lanka to pursue a successful career in Indian missions abroad including the United States. He later became President and Chairman of Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) think tank, and was the Vice President of International Peace Institute,New York.