Sri Lanka Bearing Gifts

India intervenes in a civil war

After a week of fighting, Sri Lankan troops had battled their way up Jaffna Peninsula, ousting ethnic Tamil separatists from a number of strongholds in the northern tip of the island nation. The cost was high: as many as 200 civilians believed dead and thousands more left without food. But, said a high-ranking official in Colombo, the capital, "we were winning."

Suddenly, in an unambiguous show of support for the rebels, the Indian government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, which up until then had been trying to mediate the civil war, dispatched 19 fishing boats laden with food and medical supplies...