But, towards the beginning of the last week, when Tamil Nadu showed signs of softening its stand on the Sri Lankan situation vis-à-vis the Central government's refusal to give in to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's threats, Prabhakaran, true to form, chose to roar. In an interview with an Indian magazine, he vowed to defend Kilinochchi at any cost and resorted to a great deal of rhetoric. Then bad news came for him on Sunday, when the Congress-led government and the DMK patched up differences much to his chagrin. Now that Prabhakaran has given up on Karunanidhi et al, he doesn't have to keep up his pretence any longer. He will go all out to unleash hell in a bid to boost the sagging morale of his cadres and activists here and abroad, though he knows 'the god of war has manifestly gone over to the other side'. Fight he must as he has no way of escape.
Piqued, wounded, frustrated and desperate, the Tigers won't baulk at anything in trying to turn the tables on the military. Their planes will do risky sorties over the southern parts and key military installations in the North to avenge their losses in the North and they may not even hesitate to use chemicals on the army, if they possess any. They will also attempt high profile assassinations and perpetrate heinous crimes against civilians to provoke a backlash with a view to mobilising support in Tamil Nadu and western capitals.
The air raids at issue revealed serious lapses on the part of the military, however excellent its performance may be at the battlefront. The LTTE aircraft in spite of all their limitations managed to flee unscathed, having almost hit their targets.
Tigers have tried to match the military in every respect. Now, we hear that they have come out with an innovative solution to the problem of anti-aircraft missiles. It is said the Tiger plane that flew over Colombo on Tuesday had been coated with some kind of paint to prevent heat emission so as to evade heat seeking missiles. The failure of the Air Force to down it will embolden the flying Tigers to do more trips.
That is the way with terrorism. It, like germs, mutates into new forms resistant to traditional remedies. In dealing with an outfit that keeps unveiling new capabilities such as human bombs, human torpedoes, suicide stealth craft, a crude air wing, the military has to anticipate surprises all the time. Most of the terror strikes such as the Digampathana blast which killed about 100 Navy personnel, the Anuradhapura Air Base disaster, where a number of aircraft were destroyed, the Katunayake attacks, the attempt on the army commander's life and the raid on the Galle Navy camp could have been prevented, if the military had not lowered its guard. Terrorists, the armed forces seem to have forgotten, have to be lucky only once.
Yesterday, the Air Force had ample time to tackle the LTTE plane that bombed the Kelanitissa Power station. The Air Force in the attack mode has been instrumental in debilitating the LTTE. It has facilitated most of the impressive victories the army has scored since 2006. Time was when it was claimed by the armchair military pundits that jets were of no use in a war like Sri Lanka's. The Air Force has made them eat their words. But, the fact that a crude air wing has managed to run rings round it has caused serious concern to the public. It is not anger but disappointment that people abhorring terrorism have.
However, it needs to be granted that there are ups and downs in a war and what matters in the end is the overall performance. The Tigers may preen themselves on the fact that they have outfoxed the Air Force and embarrassed the government, though they have so far failed to achieve anything spectacular with air strikes. Prabhakaran is sadly mistaken if he thinks he can frighten this country into submission with his terrorism. He has over the years inoculated it against violence. It has become resilient and people have learnt to live with terrorism. They don't even remember the years, let alone the dates, of most of the major terror strikes. When did the LTTE attack the Kollonnawa oil tanks? Many won't be able to give the correct answer off hand.
Prabhakaran has no new targets to take in this country. He has destroyed many military bases, shot down several aircraft, sunk many naval vessels, attacked the Central Bank, killed a President, a large number of ministers and MPs, accounted for an umpteen number of police and armed forces personnel, massacred thousands of civilians and blasted many a nerve centres during the past twenty five years. What has he achieved? Sweet nothing! He is back to square one with the military banging on the gates of his 'capital', Kilinochchi, whose fall is only a matter of time in spite of his bragging that it is impregnable.
So, no amount of more terror attacks will help Prabhakaran with his Eelam project, which is as dead as a dodo in all but name. It is high time he realised the futility of bloodletting and gave up violence.