Beset by huge losses in Sri Lanka, a colossal defeat in Nepal, and reversals in its relationships with Pakistan and China, the Indian government has reasons to rethink its foreign policies. India has been chief sponsor of terror in Sri Lanka. Not only did it start the terror in Sri Lanka, it aided and abetted the terrorists organization LTTE for the the past decade. Thanks to the help of China and Pakistan, the Sri Lankan government has not only reversed the gains made by the LTTE, in 2008 it is on the verge of annihilating the worst terror group on the planet.
BANGALORE – The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is in dire straits. Territory under its control is shrinking by the day and the Sri Lankan armed forces are knocking on the door of its political headquarters, Kilinochchi.
Things have never looked this bad for the LTTE. Two years ago it was in control of the entire Northern and Eastern provinces. Then territory began slipping out of its grip in the east. It was driven out of the Eastern province in July 2007. And in the past year-and-a-half, it has been losing ground in Northern province as well, having suffered serious military reverses. If the army wrests control of
Kilinochchi – which it says it will capture soon – the LTTE will be boxed into the jungles of Mullaitivu.
On November 15, the LTTE lost Pooneryn, a strip of land in the northwest of the island that runs parallel to the neck of the Jaffna Peninsula. This is a huge loss for the LTTE. With the fall of Pooneryn to the government, it has lost access to the island’s west coast. This means that its access to the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu through the west coast of Sri Lanka has been cut off. It is to Tamil Nadu that injured LTTE fighters are taken and it is from here that the LTTE gets much of its supplies.
With the capture of Pooneryn, the Sri Lankan government finally has full control over its western seaboard. What’s more, for the first time since November 1993 (when Pooneryn fell into the Tigers’ hands) the government controls a land route into the Jaffna Peninsula. Previously, supplies for civilians and the armed forces in the peninsula have been ferried in by air or sea. These can now be taken through the land route that the capture of Pooneryn has opened up. Repair of the road from Pooneryn into the peninsula has already begun.
Two days after the capture of Pooneryn, the Sri Lankan army took another strategic town, Mankulam, on the arterial A9 highway in the Wanni. On November 20, the armed forces overran the LTTE’s first Forward Defense Line at Muhamalai. This is the area separating the government-controlled Jaffna Peninsula from the LTTE-dominated Mullaitivu and Kilinochchci. And then on Monday, Kokavil, a town that has been under LTTE control for the past 28 years, fell to the armed forces.
While the Sri Lankan army has made major gains in recent weeks, its advance towards Kilinochchi has not been easy. Heavy rains have slowed its operations and the LTTE has fought pitched battles against the advancing troops.The loss of Pooneryn and other strategic areas could not have come at a worse time for the LTTE, as these setbacks came in the run-up to Great Heroes Week.
For the past 19 years, the LTTE has been observing Great Heroes Week between November 21 and 27, when it pays homage to its fighters who have fallen on the battlefield. The “martyrs” are glorified, their sacrifices are remembered and their families honored. Then on the last day – Great Heroes Day – the LTTE chief delivers his annual address, where he makes a “policy statement” and highlights the LTTE’s achievements over the past year. Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher based in Bangalore.Cornered Tigers look to India.
The reversal of the fortunes of the LTTER causes huge problems for the hegemony and the aggressive policies of New Delhi which espouses Akand Bharat or an India extending from Kabul to a mythical land East of Bali called Raj Kilhani. This is very similar to Hitler’s Germanic nation and is actually the Nazi dream which has been resurrected by the BJP.
This year Prabhakaran’s speech made little reference to achievements. But he indicated clearly that, military reverses notwithstanding, he is not about to throw in the towel. “Whatever challenges confront us, whatever contingencies we encounter, whatever forces stand on our path, we will still continue with our struggle for the freedom of the Tamil people … we will continue with our struggle till alien Sinhala occupation of our land is removed,” he declared.
Tough talk? Or a picture of what lies ahead? A look at the way the LTTE has conducted itself over the past 25 years, skillfully maneuvering itself out of the tightest of spots would indicate that it will survive the recent military reverses. Its fighters are now engaged in pitched battles and it is likely to put in all its resources to hold Kilinochchi town. And it will continue to bleed the Sri Lankan forces with guerrilla strikes. More suicide attacks can be expected in the coming months.
That the LTTE has not yet given up is evident from the way it has been mobilizing support in Tamil Nadu over the past few months. Parties and Tamil nationalist organizations have been organizing massive rallies and demonstrations across the state to put pressure on the Indian government to end its considerable defense and other cooperation with the Sri Lankan government. With the LTTE cornered in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, its supporters in Tamil Nadu have been pushing for a ceasefire.
Recently, the Tamil Nadu assembly passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire between the government forces and the LTTE, the return of the armed forces to their original positions and commencement of peace talks. The LTTE strategy is that public and political pressure in Tamil Nadu will push the Dravida Munetra Kazhagam, the party in power in Tamil Nadu, to convince its allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government in Delhi to get Colombo to call for a ceasefire.
This strategy hasn’t quite worked out the way the LTTE would like it to. India has not withdrawn its defense cooperation with Colombo, neither has it pressed the latter to call for a ceasefire. The furthest Indian officials have gone is to warn Colombo on avoiding civilian casualties. Besides, India is providing humanitarian support through the government to the hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians who are trapped in the war zone.
That Prabhakaran is desperately seeking India’s support at this critical juncture is evident from his appeals to the “Indian superpower” in his Great Heroes Day speech. Drawing attention to the “great changes taking place in India” – he was referring to the resurgence of political support for the LTTE in Tamil Nadu – the LTTE chief called on Indian leaders “to raise their voice firmly in favor of the LTTE’s struggle for a Tamil Eelam state, and to take appropriate and positive measures to remove the ban which remains an impediment to an amicable relationship between India and our movement.”
But Prabhakaran’s pleas are likely to fall on deaf ears in Delhi. The Indian government recently extended the ban on the LTTE which officials in Delhi have repeatedly said will remain in force. Prabhakaran and his intelligence chief Pottu Amman are wanted in India for their role in the assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. It is unlikely that, as long as they are around, India will lift the ban on the organization. “Nothing has changed in India’s perception of the LTTE as a terrorist organization,” an Indian Home Ministry official told Asia Times Online.
In fact, hours before Prabhakaran delivered his Great Heroes Day speech, Mumbai came under attack from terrorists leaving over 215 dead and 300 injured. Indians are angry with the government for having failed to protect them from terrorists. At a time when the UPA government is facing public wrath for failing to act against terrorists, surely the government cannot be seen to be lenient with the LTTE, much less bailing it out of a tight corner by calling for a ceasefire. India has accused “elements in Pakistan” for the attacks and is considering stern measures against Pakistan to express its ire. At such a time, India is highly unlikely to make things easier for the LTTE.
Besides, in the aftermath of the audacious attacks in Mumbai the government is considering steps to tighten security, including beefing up the coast guard to prevent terrorists from entering the country, whether to carry out attacks or for treatment of injured cadres.
Cornered in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, the LTTE is likely to find the going will get tougher in India as well.