How to end war in Sri Lanka

The LTTE boasts of having graduated from bicycles to aeroplanes. Part of the credit for its rise from a band of combatants in bathroom slippers to a formidable terrorist outfit capable of conventional warfare should go to the closet Tigers and certain bankrupt southern politicians who together broke the will of the nation to fight terrorism by successfully propagating the myth that the LTTE was invincible.

Time was when the frustrated and bankrupt SLFP leaders with no hope of coming back to power under a powerful UNP regime (1977-94) kept on claiming that war against terrorism was unwinnable. They were banking on the LTTE violence against the UNP government to win elections. Their wish was granted in 1993, when President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber.

The SLFP shamelessly celebrated that tragedy by lighting firecrackers and eating kiribath. President Premadasa’s assassination triggered a political process that propelled the SLFP to power the following year. Thereafter, the SLFP leaders, after trying to make peace with the LTTE in vain, had to wage war in 1995. At that time, the LTTE propagandists claimed that the army would lose at least 15,000 troops if it tried to recapture Jaffna. They took great pains to prevent the military from launching Operation Riviresa. But, the army took back Jaffna with ease and the Tiger propagandists had to eat their words.

Since the assassination of Gamini Dissanayake in 1994, we have had the UNP peddling pro-LTTE myths, ably assisted by the closet Tigers who usually ride piggyback on the main Opposition party, be it the SLFP or the UNP. They sought to have the country believe that the army would be routed at Mavil Aru in 2006, if an attempt was made to wrest control of the reservoir captured by the LTTE there.

When the army exploded that myth, they claimed the LTTE would open different fronts in the East and pin down the army. Fronts the LTTE did open but the army won all the battles. Then the story was floated that the LTTE had lost interest in the East and was willing to give up that province in keeping with a secret pact with the government. They demanded to know why the government was not taking war into the Wanni.

The government had stopped short of moving into the Wanni because of that secret pact, they said. After the army launched offensives in the Wanni, they challenged the government to attack Kilinochchi, if it dared. Kilinochchi came under attack and the LTTE lobby warned of a chemical attack on the troops if operations continued. The army forged ahead. And the closet Tigers said the LTTE would decimate the frontline troops after allowing them to advance into Kilinochchi. But, the LTTE continues its run with its defences collapsing.

Now, the Tiger lobby is clinging on to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's verti in a bid to demoralise the anti-terror activists by claiming that he will cause the Central Government to put the brakes on the military operations against the LTTE in the Vanni.

We should admire the Tiger allies for one thing: They never give up in spite of being exposed for their diabolical lies!

True, Karunanidhi is in a position to bring pressure to bear on the Centre. But, the Save the Tigers campaigners have turned a blind eye to the factors such as Jayalalitha and India's national security interests that militate against Karunanidhi's pro-LTTE campaign.

Sri Lanka's war against separatist terrorism is also in India's interest. That is why India itself sought to defeat the LTTE in the late 1980s and implement a solution–Provincial Councils–that would not jeopardise its national security. Triumph of separatism across the Palk Straits is the last thing that India battling secessionist forces on several fronts on the home soil can afford.

After all, Sri Lanka is fighting terrorism to implement the Indian remedy––something that India failed to achieve despite the deployment of the IPKF. In the Eastern Province, the present government has established a provincial council with a Tamil Chief Minister. In the North, too, there will be a provincial council after the LTTE is defeated.

There is no way India can step in to protect Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman, a duo wanted in connection with the Rajiv assassination. They have been convicted in Sri Lanka and any attempt to take them off the hook will result in India sullying her image as a state promoting terrorism and defending convicted criminals.

Moreover, the choice that Karunanidhi et al have given India is between a friendly neighbour and a terrorist group led by a convict fighting for a greater Eelam with boundaries beyond Sri Lanka. Prabhakaran, it may be recalled, lamented in his last heroes' day speech the fate of ‘80 million stateless Tamils’. We pointed out in these columns that even if Prabhakaran were to grab the whole of Sri Lanka as Eelam still he would be short of space to accommodate 80 million people and that his lament was a testimony to the fact that the state he was trying to carve out included part of India.

It is the LTTE's greater Eelam project that Prabhakaran's allies are promoting in Tamil Nadu on the false pretext of championing the cause of Tamil civilians. Prabhakaran is their only hope. Sri Lanka's war against terror has provided India with an opportunity to nip that separatist project in the bud.

The LTTE has failed in its attempt to ratchet up collateral damage by using human shields and the LTTE lobby in Tamil Nadu, therefore, cannot hide behind the smokescreen of humanitarian concerns to promote separatist terror. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has offered an alternative to the perpetuation of war: He has urged Prabhakaran to surrender without endangering the lives of his cadres and civilians.

Obviously, Prabhakaran will not heed that call. But, President Rajapaksa by making that offer has given an effective alternative to those who want him to stop war. He, as the Head of State of a sovereign state, has every right to hunt for a convicted criminal at large wreaking havoc. He has even offered to extradite Prabhakaran to India, hasn’t he?

If it is due to a genuine concern for civilians and not for the love of the LTTE that the Tamil Nadu politicians and some members of the international community are calling for an end to the Vanni offensive, then there is no reason why they cannot subscribe to the call for Prabhakaran’s surrender.

Will someone tell Chief Minister Karunanidhi and others of his tigrine ilk to persuade his striped friend trapped in the Vanni to give himself up and bring the on-going war to an end without going down with all others around him?

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