Monday, May 18, 2009




Can the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) stage a come-back like the Baloch freedom movement did in Balochistan and the Taliban did in Afghanistan?

Unlikely. The late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto could destroy only the cadres of the Baloch freedom movement through his Army and Air Force. He could not destroy the leadership which managed to take sanctuary in Afghanistan and re-built the organization before starting a new phase of their freedom struggle. After re-organising their set-up, the old leadership handed over the leadership of the new organization to a new set of leaders, who are now leading what has come to be known as the Balochs’ third war of independence. The Americans could not destroy either the leadership or the cadre of the Taliban headed by its Amir Mulla Mohammad Omar. The Taliban avoided a frontal confrontation with the US-led forces. The leaders, including the Amir, took sanctuary in Pakistan and the cadres dispersed to their respective villages. After re-organising their set-up, the Neo Taliban as the re-organised Taliban has come to be known has resumed its operations in Afghan territory for the last three years. The Neo Taliban has benefited from the sanctuaries and assistance provided by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). In the case of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan Armed forces have not only neutralized a large number of its cadres, but they have also decimated the entire ground-based leadership. The LTTE benefited in the 1980s from the sanctuaries in India and from political and moral support provided by the Indian State. Its assassination of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991 has ensured that it will not get these benefits again. With its entire leadership gone and denied these benefits of sanctuaries and support from the Indian State, it will be very difficult to revive the LTTE as an insurgent-cum-terrorist organization.

Can the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora play a role in the revival of the LTTE?

The diaspora’s role in the past was limited to fund collection, arms procurement, shipping, lobbying, political consultancy and agitprop activities. After 9/11, fund collection and arms procurement had become increasingly difficult. This became almost impossible after the European Union (EU) countries declared the LTTE a terrorist organization and the US arrested a number of Sri Lankan Tamils and prosecuted them on a charge of attempted arms procurement for the LTTE. As a result, the diaspora may not be able to play the kind of role which it used to play in the past. But if another leader is to emerge and start a new freedom struggle as the Balochs have started, all this expertise in the diaspora will be available to him. Some highly qualified Tamils in the diaspora with access to important moulders of public opinion, non-Governmental organizations and legislators played an important role as political advisers to Prabakaran and as lobbyists for the Tamil Eelam cause. They will still be available to anyone who starts a new freedom movement. But the diaspora can play the same role as it was doing under Prabakaran only if there is the hard-core of an insurgent organization active on the ground in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka. It will take time for such a hard core to emerge. No other Army in the world has destroyed the leadership of an insurgent organisation as completely as the Sri Lankan Army has done except the Russian Army in Chechnya.

Will the end of the LTTE be the end of terrorism in Sri Lanka and against Sri Lankans?

Not necessarily. Individual, self-motivated terrorism could continue in some form or the other. Some of the most serious incidents of violence in the case of Khalistani terrorism took place after the successful attack by the Indian Army in the Golden Temple in June 1984 under Operation Blue Star. Examples: the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, by her own Sikh security guards, the assassination of Gen.V.S.Vaidya, who was the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) at the time of Operation Blue Star at Pune where he was living in retirement, the blowing-up of the Kanishka aircraft of Air India killing all the passengers, the unsuccessful attempt to blow up another Air India plane at Tokyo, the unsuccessful attempt to kill Jule Ribeiro, who was the DG of Police of Punjab, at Bucharest where he was posted as the Ambassador and the kidnapping of Liviu Radu, a Romanian diplomat posted at Delhi. The successful commando raid into the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July,2007, has been followed by a wave of suicide attacks against the Pakistani Armed Forces, Police and the assassination of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto. Sometimes, it takes years for such anger to subside. In Punjab, it took 11 years. In Pakistan, after two years, it has not subsided.

What will be the attitude of the international community---particularly the West--- to the successful operation by the SL Armed Forces?

No country in the world can criticize the successful action against the LTTE, a terrorist organization, and its leadership. At the same time, there has been considerable disquiet in the West over the reports of large-scale civilian casualties due to the use of air strikes and heavy artillery by the SL Army. The West considerably assisted the SL Army by banning the LTTE and dismantling its arms procurement and fund collection network. It has been greatly upset that the Sri Lankan Government showed total indifference to the concerns and entreaties of the West on the human rights situation and carried on a vilification campaign against Western NGOs and media. The Sri Lankan Government had imposed a total iron curtain in the Tamil areas similar to the iron curtain imposed by Russia in Chechnya. There are already demands in the West for an enquiry into the civilian casualties in order to determine accountability. It remains to be seen whether this demand picks up momentum or dies down now that the war is over.

What will be the next step of the diaspora?

It will concentrate its immediate efforts on getting an enquiry launched into the civilan casualties. After the Second World War, international support for the Jewish people and Israel increased tremendously when the extent of the atrocities suffered by the Jewish population at the hands of the Nazis came to be known. The Tamils in the diaspora are hoping that a similar revelation by an enquiry of the sufferings of the civilian Tamils during the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations could lead to a groundswell of support for the Tamil cause. (19-5-09)

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


According to reports from the Sri Lankan Army, it has completed the liberation of all the territory under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and decimated its entire leadership including its chief V Prabakaran, his intelligence chief Pottu Amman, Soosai, the chief of the Sea Tigers, and others. No leader based in the Northern Province appears to have succeeded in escaping.
2.It is likely that at least some of its trained cadres remain to be accounted for. It is going to be difficult for the Sri Lankan Army to trace all of them and arrest them. This will be a long-drawn-out exercise. The surviving cadres would not remain in groups. They would have dispersed individually and merged with the civilian population since it would be difficult for them to escape abroad.

3.Will the surviving cadres have the capability to indulge in sporadic acts of terrorism in other parts of Sri Lanka ? A significant aspect of the confrontation between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE for over eight weeks now was the total absence of any diversionary attack by the LTTE in other parts of Sri Lanka. The last successful diversionary attack was on a Muslim procession in Matara in the southern province on March 10. One would have expected that facing severe pressure from the army, the LTTE would have tried to organise more diversionary attacks outside the Tamil areas.

4.The fact that it was not able to do so indicated that it had no human and material resources left to organise diversionary attacks. The loss of its capabilities in the Tamil and non-Tamil areas was immense. Despite this, the SL army cannot afford to be complacent that there could be no more major acts of terrorism by the LTTE.

5.The danger in the coming months will be from angry individual Tamil elements indulging in acts of reprisal terrorism directed against Sri Lankan leaders, officers of the security forces and even civilians. Organised, centrally-commanded and politically-motivated terrorism can give way to sporadic individual acts of reprisal terrorism against Sri Lankan targets -- Sinhalese as well as Tamils -- in Sri Lanka itself as well as abroad.

6.Indian intelligence and security forces should also take precautions against possible acts of reprisal terrorism against Indian targets in Indian territory by sympathisers of the LTTE.

7.The fact that the Sri Lankan Tamil issue failed to make much of an impact during the just-concluded elections to the Lok Sabha should not give rise to a complacent feeling that there cannot be any major act of violence in Indian territory. There are elements in Tamil Nadu who could get emotional over the death of Prabakaran and self-motivate themselves to give vent to their anger through terrorism. There is a need for a heightened alert for at least some months.

8.The end of the LTTE is not the end of the humanitarian problem. It will be the beginning of a new phase of it. The state of the Sri Lankan economy may not enable the Sri Lankan government to deal with it adequately. Till now, mainly India and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been allowed by the Sri Lankan government to undertake humanitarian relief work.

9.It is necessary for India to expand the magnitude of its humanitarian relief work immediately in co-ordination with the Sri Lankan authorities. The immediate priorities would be food, water, medicines and other kinds of medicare. Post-conflict rehabilitation of the Tamil civilians displaced would essentially be the responsibility of Colombo, but India should monitor the situation closely to see that this is not neglected or affected by any spirit of vengeance.

10.Tamil anger in Sri Lanka and in the Diaspora abroad would pose new threats to security in the months to come. Addressing and mitigating this anger should be given top priority. One should remember what happened in India due to the Sikh anger after Operation Blue Star in June 1984 and what has been happening in Pakistan due to the Pashtun anger after the commando raid on the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July, 2007. Organised terrorism gave way to individual self-motivated terrorism.

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