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Obliterate the Tamil Tigers

 By G. Parthasarathy

On May 21, 1991, a suicide bomber strapped with explosives deputed by the LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran blew herself up and assassinated former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Prabhakaran, who faces charges of involvement in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, still controls the LTTE from hideouts in Shri Lanka’s northeast.

Successive Governments in India have done precious little, either overtly or covertly, to see that he is brought to face trial for his heinous crime of assassinating one of India’s top leaders in the midst of a national election campaign.

Worse still, recent coalition Governments have gone to the extent of soft pedaling and downplaying condemnation of the LTTE because of what are stated to be the "compulsions of coalition politics". Rarely, if ever, do we see forthright condemnation of the LTTE, or a vigorous diplomatic campaign by India to secure international pressure on the LTTE to force it to end its campaign of terrorism.

Described by a Western analyst as the "most successful terrorist organisation in the world," the LTTE is today the only terrorist group that has acquired maritime and air power potential. On May 11, a squadron of LTTE speedboats piloted by suicide bombers rammed into a Shri Lankan navy troop carrier carrying the chief of the Shri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Norway’s Major General Ulf Henricsson off the northern coast of Shri Lanka.

Seven Shri Lankan navy personnel were killed in the attack. This attack followed a suicide bomb attack in Colombo barely a month earlier, in which the Shri Lankan Army Chief Lt General Sarath Fonseca was nearly killed.

The SLMM and the international community are quite clear that under the ceasefire agreement the LTTE does not have the right to have a naval armada. The SLMM demanded that the LTTE should immediately cease all operations at sea, as these constituted violations of the ceasefire. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan backed this demand.

The LTTE, however, brazenly claimed that as the Cease Fire Agreement was based on its "parity" with the Shri Lankan Government, it had "sovereignty" over the land, sea and air of the "Tamil Homeland" in north-eastern Shri Lanka.

While members of the European Union have shown forbearance in dealing with the LTTE, the patience of the
international community is wearing thin. The US condemned the attack of May 11, and urged the European Union to
"list" the LTTE as a terrorist organisation.

On May 18,the European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg passed a unanimous resolution asking all its member states to freeze all assets of the LTTE including bank accounts, holdings, companies and undertakings. It also called on member states to prevent the LTTE from collecting illegal tax from resident Tamil communities.

As High Commissioner in Australia, I have been witness to how the LTTE supporters virtually extort money from expatriate Shri Lankan Tamils. Apart from calling on EU Governments to "list" the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, the European Parliament rejected LTTE claims that it is the "sole representative" of the Tamils. It noted that the LTTE does not permit other democratic and political voices in the Tamil community to be heard.

The actions taken against the LTTE by the international community are primarily because of its terrorist acts in Shri Lanka. India has not mounted any meaningful effort to get the LTTE declared as an international terrorist organisation, despite its involvement in the assassination of a former Indian Prime Minister.

There is also reluctance in New Delhi to back democratically inclined Tamil parties in Shri Lanka like the EPDP, or to support the efforts of Tamil leaders like "Colonel" Karuna who have rejected Prabhakaran’s excesses.

While it is true that there will be concern in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere in India if an escalating conflict should lead to yet another exodus of Tamil refugees from Shri Lanka’s northeast, past experience has shown that people in Tamil Nadu are not particularly impressed or attracted by Prabhakaran’s excesses. Efforts to mobilise opinion in Tamil Nadu against New Delhi’s policies failed and the Congress-AIADMK alliance swept the parliamentary elections in 1989, when the IPKF was still operating against the LTTE.

One hopes that as it faces growing international isolation and the prospects of severe restrictions being imposed on its sources of funds and its shipping and other activities across the world, the LTTE will moderate its policies. But, it is quite possible that it will not mend its ways. It would not be India’s interests to allow a terrorist organisation to run its own "navy" close to its shores. Maritime cooperation with the Shri Lankan navy and other regional countries will have to be stepped up the curb the maritime pretensions of the LTTE.

Surveillance on the LTTE’s aerial assets will also have to be stepped up. More importantly, the time has perhaps come to move the UN Security Council to declare the LTTE as an International Terrorist Organisation under its Resolution 1373. India will be fully justified in proposing such action given the role of the LTTE in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and in its numerous terrorist activities, including gun running and drug smuggling across the world.

Having notified the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, New Delhi obviously cannot sit across the negotiating table with its representatives. But India has an abiding interest in a resolution of the ethnic conflict in Shri Lanka in that guarantees the Island ‘s unity and territorial integrity, while ensuring the security and dignity of its Tamil population. There can be no question of pandering to LTTE demands for "sovereignty" or "parity" with the Shri Lankan Government, or endorsing its secessionist objectives.

There have unfortunately been reports of excesses against Tamils by the Shri Lankan authorities in Trincomalee and
elsewhere. Colombo will have to be persuaded that an influx of Tamil refugees in large numbers into India will adversely affect India’s ability to help in isolating the LTTE.

But, it is imperative that our Government does not become paralysed in helping a friendly neighbour to deal with a terrorist threat to it security and integrity merely because of unwarranted fears about the political reaction in Tamil Nadu.

A nation that allows such considerations to determine the conduct of foreign policy hardly has any right to claim to be a responsible regional power that merits international respect. -Courtesy:The Pioneer


June 3, 2006 - Posted by | Media Journalism, News and politics, South Asia, World News

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