LTTE: Tigers in turmoil
by Sandhya Jain on 28 Oct 2008 0 Comment

Sri Lanka, which gave the twentieth century its first elected woman Prime Minister, may now be taking the lead in asserting the primacy of the civilisational ethos of its native majority. It is a lesson of special significance for India, whose Hindu majority has been struggling for legitimacy in the public domain since the tragic betrayal at independence. 

Misplaced sympathy for Lanka’s Tamil minority should not mislead India to pander to the separatist and murderous LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), at the cost of the island’s Sinhala-Buddhist majority. As Buddhism belongs to India’s religio-cultural spectrum, a more rewarding initiative would be to foster dialogue and amity between the two groups, shunning the ethnic divides that are a colonial legacy. The Tamil and Sinhala religious and political leaderships have a responsibility in this regard, and the forthcoming eclipse of the LTTE is the best time to unite the ravaged nation.   

For Lankan Tamils, this should be a moment of introspection regarding the LTTE’s aims and objectives, religious make-up of its leadership, and its penetration and manipulation by outsiders. While many issues have been fudged, it is undeniable that the movement’s chief ideologue, late Anton Balasingham, was a Christian, and his wife, Adele Ann, an Australian now settled in Britain; it is inconceivable that she had no other connections. 

LTTE’s links with Pakistan’s ISI are well known. It has had links with gun-runners and drug peddlers, whose back-connections are not difficult to trace. And now, Pakistan’s patron, America, according to Mr. Robert Blake, its envoy to Colombo, wants a political solution without the military defeat of the LTTE. He argued in Chennai recently that a solution would negate the LTTE claim to being the sole representative of Lankan Tamils; improve the human rights situation; and persuade Tamils overseas to stop funding the LTTE.   

Surely Washington knows that whether it is the Sikhs in Britain or Canada; or Tamils in Britain, Norway, South Africa, Australia, Canada and the United States, separatist movements funded by religious or ethnic diasporas are always funded at the instance of the host country. That is how the huge sums of money involved move smoothly across borders. An Indian expert notes a CIA estimate that ex-pat Tamils are raising $ 450 million annually to train and arm terrorists; they will most likely be trained in Britain and smuggled into Lanka via Tamil Nadu.

Western training and arming alone explains the LTTE’s unexpected acquisition of air power, whereby it attacked the Vavuniya military complex by planes, artillery, and suicide commandoes, and the Sri Lanka Air Force base at Anuradhapura last October. These attacks justify President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s determination to decimate the LTTE. Rather than submit to American pressure to negotiate with LTTE, Colombo should use international laws to detect and seize LTTE funding, and arraign Western nations providing training and arms at The Hague! 

Colombo is on the verge of a decisive victory at Kilinochchi. The Tamil Tigers are in fact so unnerved that they are begging Indian Tamil political parties to take up their cause with New Delhi, and negotiate some kind of truce with a resurgent Lankan regime. There are many reasons why New Delhi should not do so.

One, India suffered enormously under the Khalistan movement, which had the backing of Pakistan’s ISI and the fulsome protection of Britain and Canada. Two, India is suffering jihadi terrorism, and cannot pander to terrorists who target civilians with impunity. Third, India has experienced a painful Partition and cannot countenance armed minorities using murder and mayhem to divide a nation, in the name of self-determination. In this connection, New Delhi should ask Ms. Jayalalithaa to explain the meaning of her support for self-determination for Lankan Tamils, and how this is compatible with her opposition to LTTE as a terrorist organisation. 

The crux of the matter is that the LTTE, initially armed and trained by the Indira Gandhi regime, maintains a formidable presence in the jungles of Tamil Nadu; fear of the barrel of the gun turning their way is making Tamil political parties support the lethal Vellupillai Prabhakaran. Ordinary Tamils, however, are indifferent to the LTTE, as evident from the poor response to last Friday’s DMK-led ‘human chain’ protest against the alleged genocide of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka. 

Yet political compulsions forced the DMK to call an all-party meeting (boycotted by ADMK and others) to press New Delhi to intervene with Colombo for a ceasefire. National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan did request the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner to advice Colombo to exercise restraint in military operations against the LTTE; he conveyed India's concern for civilians suffering in aerial bombings in the area, and the dismay over the alleged shooting of Indian fishermen by the Lankan Navy. 

As this was not deemed adequate to placate the LTTE, the DMK launched a ‘resignation drama’ - Mr. M. Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi and other DMK MPs sent their resignations from the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha to the chief minister! AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa derided the gesture by challenging Mr. Karunanidhi to make DMK quit the Union Cabinet. That all posturing was purely political and aimed at the forthcoming general elections was proved by the arrest of ADMK ally Vaiko for making a seditious speech while defending the Lankan Tamil cause. The irrepressible Jayalalithaa forced Mr. Karunanidhi to arrest his own followers in the film industry under the same clause!

It bears reiterating that India cannot forget the LTTE’s role in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991, even if we agree that the decision to send the IPKF to Sri Lanka was a mistake. New Delhi must also remember that LTTE systematically eliminated moderate Lankan Tamil leaders and scuttled all chances of a peaceful solution to the island’s problems as its goal was not the welfare of the Tamil people, but a separate Eelam with LTTE as sole upholder of the Tamil cause. 

Mr. Karunanidhi has confessed that he personally begged the LTTE not to assassinate TELO leader Sabarathinam, but the latter was nonetheless murdered in 1986. India owes nothing to that vicious bunch; it should, however, caution Colombo that a military victory over the LTTE is not a mandate for Sinhala chauvinism in the island-nation.

The author is Editor,

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