Saturday, January 3, 2009




I have received many questions in response to my article on the capture of Kilinochchi, the so-called administrative capital of the LiberationTigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), by the Sri Lankan Army on January 2,2008. I will attempt to answer some of the questions:

Q.What will be the next move of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA)?

A.One of the reasons for the continuing success of the SLA during the last two years has been its ability to deny to the LTTE an opportunityfor an offensive action. It has consistently forced the LTTE to fight a defensive battle in one piece of territory after another-----whether in theEast or the North. Succession of defensive battles with no opportunity for taking the offensive anywhere saps the morale. That moment hasnot yet come for the LTTE, but it could and it will if the SLA manages to continue to deny to the LTTE an opportunity for an offensive action.From the reports coming out of the North, one gets an impression that the SLA is not giving itself a pause after its success at Kilinochchi. Itis pressing its offensive against the LTTE and has started moving towards Mulaithivu, which has now become the principal target of thebombings by the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF). The objective of the SLA is to keep the LTTE bleeding and not to allow it to re-group itself.

Q.In the past against the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) as well as the SLA subsequently, the LTTE had repeatedly bounced back from seemingly hopeless situations and recovered lost territory. Will it be able to do it again?

A.The LTTE's morale and motivation remain strong, but strong morale and motivation alone cannot win battles in the absence ofresources----human and material resources. In respect of both, the law of diminishing returns has already set in for the LTTE. One cannottotally rule out the kind of spectacular come-backs the LTTE had staged in the 1990s, but the objective conditions in the post-9/11 world aredifferent from those in the pre-9/11 world. There was a certain amount of acceptance of the legitimacy of terrorism/insurgency for achievinga political objective if left with no other option pre-9/11. Hence, the LTTE had a free run of the world collecting funds and clandestinelyprocuring materials. One of the consequences of the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US is the acceptance by the international community thatterrorism is an absolute evil and cannot be accepted whatever be the reason for it. The LTTE today is a terrorist organisation in the eyes ofthe international community. It no longer has a free run. Its source of funds and equipment are being choked off one after the other. Before9/11, another important source of replenishment of arms and ammunition for the LTTE was the capture from the SLA. In defensive battlesthis also dries up. The ground realities today are much more strongly against the LTTE than they were pre-9/11. It will be a miracle if it isable to repeat its pre-/9/11 comebacks, but one should not act on the assumption that it will not be able to stage a come-back.It particularlycan if the SLA, in over-confidence or over-exuberance, creates serious tactical or strategic mistakes.

Q.But even in the post-9/11 world, Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda forces in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan staged a come-back?

A. Yes, they did due to two reasons----- the availability of sanctuaries and assistance for the pro-Al Qaeda forces from Iran and Syria and thesimilar availability for the Taliban from the Pakistani Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The LTTE is a banned terroristorganisation in India and its leader Prabakaran is a wanted assassin in India wanted for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Hence, the LTTEmay not be able to get sanctuaries and assistance from elements in Tamil Nadu. It has to fight with its back to the sea with no possibility ofescape beyond the sea.

Q. But even under the IPKF the LTTE managed to stage a come-back despite being denied sanctuaries and assistance in Indian territory?

A.As I have already mentioned, the pre-9/11 objective conditions were different from the post-9/11. Moreover, the IPKF did not indulge in aruthless application of India's air power against the LTTE. If it had done so, as the SLAF has been doing now, the LTTE might not have beenable to stage a come-back.

Q. Does it mean, the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils has become hopeless?

A. Their cause was not hopeless till 2003. It enjoyed a lot of international support. Prabakaran made it hopeless by a series of errors ofjudgement and tactical and strategic blunders. He continues to live in a make-believe world of his own, nursing an illusion that theinternational opinion might once again change in favour of the Tamils. Yes, it might, but only if Prabakaran is removed from the leadership ofthe LTTE along with his close associates. As I have been saying and writing for the last two years, he has become a liability for the Tamilcause and should be removed by the Tamils themselves or by his associates in the LTTE leadership who realise the damage he has causedto the Tamil cause.

Q. How will the end of Prabakaran come?

A. Either in an air strike by the SLAF or through suicide or through one of his own men turning against him. I would not be surprised if one ofthese days the SLAF manages to kill him as it managed to kill Tamilselvan, his political adviser, in 2006. As I wrote in the past, he has to belucky every time,but the SLAF has to be lucky only once.

Q. What are the chances of he and his cadres taking shelter in India?

A. The Governments of India and Tamil Nadu will not allow it.However, one has to be alert to the possibility that the Maoists (Naxalites) inthe tribal belt of central India who have some territorial control in the jungles might help him and give him shelter in return for theassistance which the LTTE had allegedly given them in the past. If he manages to reach the Maoists controlled territory, the ability of oursecurity forces to get at him may be limited. In the case of the LTTE cadres, some of them might succeed to come over to India as refugees.This would call for stricter vetting of the refugee flow in order to identify and arrest such elements.

Q. What would happen to the arms and ammunition and the planes at the disposal of the LTTE?

A. They might try to cache them in the jungles in the Northern Province or bring some of them to India and give them to the Maoists forpossible use or safe custody. We have to be alert enough to prevent this.

Q.If the SLA ultimately manages to defeat the LTTE, will it be peace in Sri Lanka?
A.Most probably not. It might be the end of classical insurgency, but it will not be the end of terrorism till the aspiratiions of the Tamils areaddressed without weakening the unity of Sri Lanka.

Q. India has been accused of double standards---taking a strong line against terrorism as seen after Mumbai, but at the same time critical ofthe strong measures taken by the SL Government?

A.There are no double standards. We take a strong line against the ISI-sponsored Pakistani terrorists, who have no business to be in ourterritory. We follow a no-holds-barred policy towards them to eradicate them. Our policy towards our own people----separatists, ideologicalterrorists or jihadi terrorists--- is more nuanced. Our policy towards them is graduated with a mix of political and the law and ordercomponents. We have never hesitated to talk to them. We look upon indigenous movements not as a conflict between one community andanother, but as a conflict between the Government and aggrieved elements in a community. Some of the strongest supporters of thehuman rights of the aggrieved communities have come from the majority Hindu community. In Sri Lanka, there are no foreign terroristsoperating. All the insurgents and terrorists are their own people. The counter-terrorism strategy of the Mahinda Rajapakse Governmentlacks the kind of sophistication and nuances we have. It treats the Sri Lankan Tamils as if they are foreigners while paying lip service totheir being citizens with equal rights. This has made the conflict in Sri Lanka not only between the Government and aggrieved sections ofthe Tamils, but also between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil communities. How many Sinhalese moulders of public opinionhave come forward to support the human rights of the Tamils? How many of them have criticised the use of the Air Force against the civilianTamil population? Even if the SLA is able to defeat the LTTE, it will take years for the SL society to heal the divide between the Sinhaleseand the Tamils caused by the policies of the Rajapakse Government and the intemperate pronouncements of Lt.Gen. Sarath Fonseka, theCommander of the SLA. (4-1-09)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStrudues, Chennai. E-mail: )



The US pressured India into not retaliating against Pakistan after the attempted attack on the Indian Parliament by Pakistani terrorists onDecember 13,2001, and promised that Pakistan would be made to dismantle the anti-Indian terrorist infrastructure in its territory. Inresponse to the US pressure, India exercised moderation and did not exercise its right to retaliate. The promises made to India were neverkept. The anti-Indian terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory continued to grow without the West taking any action against Pakistan.

2. The result: the savage attack of November 26-29,2008, in Mumbai by 10 Pakistani terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). The US and theother Western countries have been conducting themselves in exactly the same way as they did in 2002---- expressions of outrage over theterrorist strike, pretense of solidarity with India, but at the same time ill-concealed attempts to protect Pakistan and its military-intelligencecomplex from the consequences of their continuing to sponsor terrorism against India in Indian territory.

3. Pakistan's behaviour----whether it is ruled by elected political or military rulers---- has not changed one iota since it started using terrorismagainst India in 1981. It would organise an act of terrorism and to pre-empt a possible Indian retaliation would project itself as thevictim-State threatened by India and manipulate Western policy-makers into rationalising its use of terrorism against India and pressuringIndia not to retaliate against Pakistan.

4. One thought and hoped that the West would act more firmly against Pakistan this time than it had done in the past because of the factthat the LET terrorists, who attacked Mumbai, killed nine Israelis and some nationals of the US, the UK, France, Italy,Germany, Canada andAustralia,in addition to killing about 160 India nationals. These hopes are on the way to being belied.

5. Instead of stepping up the pressure on Pakistan to dismantle the LET's terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory and arrest and handover to India those involved in the orchestration of the terrorist strike in Mumbai, pressue is being stepped up on India not to retaliateagainst Pakistan---not even politically. Instead of calling Pakistan to account for the outrage, attempts are being to mollify it by acceptingthe various conditions sought to be imposed by it, one of the conditions being that it would, if India produces evidence, prosecute theterrorists in its own courts and would not hand them over to India.

6. This is the fifth time Pakistan has been defying international pressure to hand over suspects for investigation and prosecution. The firstwas Omar Sheikh, one of the principal accused in the case relating to the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, atKarachi in January-February,2002. It got him tried and sentenced to death by one of its courts. The hearing on his appeal has beenadjourned by the anti-terrorism court over a hundred times. In the meanwhile, reports from Pakistan say that he has been given all thefacilities such as mobile phones etc that he asked for and that with these he is once again active from jail in guiding the pro-Al Qaeda jihaditerrorist organisations like the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM).

7. The second is Dawood Ibrahim, the Indian mafia leader, who is the principal accused in the case relating to the serial explosions inMumbai in March,1993. He was designated by the US Department of Treasury as an international terrorist in October,2003, because of hislinks with Al Qaeda and the LET. Pakistan has avoided handing him over either to India or the US. He continues to live under an assumedname as a Pakistani national at Karachi. Even though sections of the Pakistani media have been periodically reporting about his presenceand activities at Karachi, Pakistan continues to deny his presence in Pakistani territory.

8. The third is A.Q.Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, found guilty of clandestinely transfering military nuclear technology to North Korea,Iran and Libya. Both the previous Government headed by Pervez Musharraf and the present Government headed by Asif Ali Zardari haveconsistently opposed demands that an international team of experts should be allowed to interrogate him outside Pakistan.

9. The fourth is Rashid Rauf, a British citizen of Mirpuri (Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir ) origin, who was arrested by the Pakistani authorities inAugust,2006, on suspicion of his involvement in a plot discovered by the London Police to blow up a number of US-bound planes originatingfrom British airports. He was the brother-in-law of Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). The Pakistaniauthorities repeatedly evaded action on a British request to hand him over so that they could interrogate him not only in connection with thealleged plot to blow up planes, but also in connection with the alleged murder of one of his relatives in Birmingham before he fled toPakistan. He escaped from police custody under mysterious circumstances in December,2007, and died in a missile strike by a US Predator(pilotless) plane on a suspected Al Qaeda- hide-out in North Waziristan on November 15,2008. The leaders of the LET wanted by India inconnection wit the Mumbai attack constitute the fifth instance .

10. Pakistan's reluctance to hand over Omar Sheikh was due to the long history of contacts between him and the Inter-Services Intelligenceand between him and Osama bin Laden. According to Karachi police sources, he had claimed during his interrogation that during a visit toKandahar to meet Osama bin Laden before 9/11, he had come to know of Al Qaeda's plans for the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US homelandand that on his return from Kandahar he had met Lt.Gen.Ehsanul Haq, the then Corps Commander at Peshawar, and told him about AlQaeda's plans. After 9/11, Musharraf, under US pressure, had appointed Ehsanul Haq as the Director-General of the ISI in replacement ofLt.Gen.Mahmodd Ahmed whom the US did not trust. It was believed that Musharraf was worried that if Omar Sheikh was handed over to theUS, he could mention during his interrogation by the FBI about his telling Ehsanul Haq regarding Al Qaeda's plans and the question mightarise as to why Pakistan did not pass on this information to the US, which might have prevented the 9/11 strikes.

11. Fears that Dawood Ibrahim's long history of contacts with the ISI, his contacts with Al Qaeda and the LET and his role in helpingA.Q.Khan in clandestinely transporting nuclear material to North Korea, Iran and Libya and North Korean missiles to Pakistan might cometo the notice of the US during any interrogation have stood in the way of Pakistan handing him over either to India or the US. In the case ofA.Q.Khan, fears that he might reveal the role of the political and military rulers in his clandestine proliferation activities are behindPakistan's refusal to permit any independent interrogation of him. When the restrictions on his house arrest were relaxed after the electionsof March last year, he allegedly told some foreign journalists that Musharraf was totally in the picture about his nuclear and missile dealingswith North Korea. The Government strongly denied these allegations and re-imposed the restrictions on him.

12. In the case of Rashid Rauf, police sources say that he was aware of the contacts of the JEM with the ISI. Moreover, according to thesame sources, he was also aware that the four suicide bombers, who carried out the London blasts of July 2005, had been trained by theJEM in one of its camps in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) at the request of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the NO.2 to bin Laden. TheISI's anxiety to cover up these facts should explain the decision not to hand him over to the British Police.

13.The LET's close links with the ISI on the one side and with Al Qaeda on the other is believed to be behind the present refusal to handover the masterminds behind the Mumbai attack to the Indian authorities.

14. Under these circumstances, the Pakistani leadership----political as well as military--- is determined not to hand over any of the LEToperatives either to India or to the US. If the US, through independent sources, collects more irrefutable evidence and maintains thepressure on Pakistan, the most Pakistan might do is to hold a proforma trial against the LET operatives, get them jailed and allow them toguide the LET activities from jail in the same manner as Omar Sheikh has been guiding the activities of the JEM from jail.

15. If the US is really concerned over the refusal of Pakistan to act against the LET's terrorist infrastructure and operatives, it could declarePakistan as a state-sponsor of terrorism and stop all military and economic assistance to it.However, it is unlikely to take this step due tofears that this might affect even the limited co-operation which Pakistan has been extending to the US in targeting Al Qaeda sanctuaries inNorth Waziristan.

16. India should not, therefore, have any illusions that the US would act decisively against Pakistan. It is our problem and we have to dealwith it on our own through appropriate political, diplomatic and operational means. It is a pity that all the strong statements on the optionsbefore India are coming from Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the Minister For External Affairs, and not from the Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh.He mostly maintains a discreet silence. Some comments which he did make like ruling out a military option have had the effect of dilutingthe uncertainty and anxiety caused in the minds of the Pakistanis by the strong statements of Shri Mukherjee.

17. This impression of Indian softness, if not removed, would encourage the Pakistani political and military leaders to continue with theirpresent policy of inaction against the LET. (3-1-09)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: )