Internationalisation of the final phase
Saving the civilians trapped by the LTTE is a humanitarian achievement of tremendous significance. It also would result in significant military gains because it is the equivalent to 'draining the pond', thereby making it that much easier for the security forces to overpower the LTTE. Saving the civilians therefore gives the Sri Lankan Government strategic and tactical advantages as far as the LTTE is concerned. Some in the International Community seem to not want the Sri Lankan Government to realize these advantages.
The civilians have to be saved within the context of certain existential realities. One reality is that the civilians are the LTTE's human shield, i.e., its armor - its protection. Second, is that without the civilians the LTTE would be exposed and defenseless. The third is that because of the first and second realities, the LTTE will not release the civilians without guaranteed assurances regarding their own security. Therefore, the implied consequence of saving the civilians with these guarantees is to save the LTTE as well; a prospect with serious long term consequences to Sri Lanka's national interests.
Under cover of humanitarian concerns some in the International Community are actively trying to save the LTTE in this way. The motive could be not so much out of "love" for the LTTE but more to do with saving it due to the pressures from the Tamil constituencies in countries with a sizeable Sri Lankan Tamil presence, such as in Canada, UK, France, some EU countries and Australia. However, saving the LTTE without its surrender followed by due process is detrimental to Sri Lanka's national interests. This is where the two strategies part company.
For some in the International Community saving the LTTE would placate their local constituents thereby giving no cause for violence, vandalism and protests in public places in cities as in London and Toronto. Recent attacks directed at the Indian and Chinese Embassies in London attest to the seriousness of the problem. Calls for the release of civilians accompanied with limited amnesty for the LTTE or surrender to a third party are manifestations of attempts to "save" the LTTE.
For Sri Lanka saving the LTTE by limited amnesty or surrender to a third party would mean any or all of the following: (1) fear of reprisals against emerging alternative leadership to represent Tamil interests; (2) long-drawn out guerrilla warfare; (3) continued terrorism in Sri Lanka and the abroad; (4) continued destabilization of Tamil Nadu (5) continued agitation by Tamil diaspora; (6) undermine the functioning of local government institutions; (7) undermine development. Therefore, for the Sri Lankan Government it is a political landscape without the LTTE that holds prospects for a durable peace. The differences in respective national interests is evidence of the various strategies at play.
Questions are being raised as to why some members of the International Community are not supporting the efforts of a democratically elected government to defeat the LTTE and bring security to the Tamil people and to Sri Lanka as a whole. One explanation offered is that the West needs the LTTE as a vital cog to serve its long term geopolitical interests in South Asia. However, evidence demonstrates that the Tamil diaspora in Western countries are exerting tremendous pressure on their respective Governments through elected representatives to save the LTTE at whatever cost.
The intensity and the extent to which the West is prepared to go to fashion the final outcome of Sri Lanka's conflict could only mean that there has to be a direct benefit to them over and beyond the stated purpose of humanitarian concern for the civilians trapped by the LTTE. Despite these external pressures, for the Sri Lankan Government to stand steadfast with single minded purpose in the pursuit of its national interests is both heartening and refreshing.
Pressure to save the LTTE is exerted by some in the Tamil diaspora in countries such as Canada, UK and France. Considering that as of 2008 the number of Sri Lankan Tamils in these 3 countries is 400,000, 300,000 and 100,000 respectively, (quoted by Bandarage, "The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka", p. 21, 2009), pressures from these sources are to be expected. This explains the heavy campaigning by the US and to save the LTTE. However, saving the LTTE would go against the vital interests of Tamils in Sri Lanka as well as Sri Lanka as a whole with reverberations abroad.
What needs to be realized is that pressures and inducements in the form of campaign finances are organized by the activist and vociferous few in the Tamil diaspora. However, as is often the case, the vast majority is silent. Active engagement with this voiceless majority by these Governments would contribute significantly to overcoming pressures from the more vocal and boisterous few. Since it is the few that are responsible for disturbing the peace in Western capitals these Governments need firm action against them while encouraging the vast majority of peaceful Tamils who have sought citizenship in these countries to come forward and make the difference at least for the sake of their kith and kin in Sri Lanka. Saving the LTTE is not in their interests, nor is it for those in Sri Lanka.
The plans being hatched and strategies explored to save the LTTE are detrimental to Sri Lanka's interests. If these plans succeed and the LTTE survives in one form or another Sri Lanka would continue to experience instability, the cost of which would be borne mostly by those in the Northern Province; the crucible of the LTTE. Development would suffer and political pluralism would cease. Since such a situation would not contribute to regional and global security it is incomprehensible why strategies that would facilitate the survival of the LTTE are being pursued
If instead the militarily engagement proceeds and whoever survives undergoes due process while the rest are granted amnesty as proposed by the Government, there can be reasonable hope for stability with the end to terrorism in Sri Lanka. Such an approach would be in the national interests of Sri Lanka with opportunities for the Tamil population to enjoy security in a manner they have not known for decades. The only explanation for the West not buying into the Sri Lankan Governments' approach is that it does not fit the short term goals of the West. It is imperative however, that the strategies pursued are rethought and reconsidered with the attendant long term benefits of durability in view.
The stated Foreign Policy of the Obama administration is Defense, Democracy and Development. None of this would be possible if the LTTE is saved. Attempts are being made to save the LTTE through a limited amnesty or surrender to a third party; two strategies currently advocated and pursued by the West. It is incomprehensible why the West with US leadership is not supporting a democratically elected government to restore Democracy and activate Development in the Northern Province thereby bringing security to the whole of Sri Lanka; a strategy that would resonate with US policies stated above.
The West has realized that the most effective deterrence against unconventional or irregular wars is development. However, no development is possible without security. Given these hard realities why are attempts being made to save the LTTE knowing full well that it would be a matter of time before the LTTE stages a come back to revive insecurity and instability? These contradictions can only be explained in terms of limited goals; that of placating the urgings of the Tamil constituents in their host countries that have recently taken a violent turn.
Saving the LTTE would prevent the emergence of an alternative leadership to represent Tamil interests. By claiming to be the sole representative of the Tamil people the LTTE has suppressed such a development. Since it is only with an alternative leadership that a more realistic political arrangement could be negotiated, every opportunity should be given for such a leadership to emerge without which post conflict development is not possible.
The West would be taking a position in keeping with its policies and objectives if it adopts the following twin strategies:
1) Support the approach adopted by the Sri Lankan Government to bring democracy and security to the Northern Province in particular and security to the country as a whole by militarily neutralizing the LTTE and requiring them to submit to the due process of law while the rest are granted amnesty.
2) Actively engage the moderate elements of the Tamil diaspora in countries with sizeable Tamil constituencies by encouraging them to participate in the reconstruction, rehabilitation and restoration of their fellow Tamils, thereby marginalizing the elements that are prone to violence. Such a positive proactive approach would not only help to restore public order to their cities but also reward the moderate elements for not indulging in violence.
Sri Lanka is poised to realize its full potential. The strategies currently pursued by the West would stand in the way of achieving this goal. The position taken by the Government is to pursue its goal at whatever cost, because having come thus far it cannot abandon it in this final phase since national interest is uppermost. In the meantime it should attempt to convince the West that adopting the twin strategies proposed would benefit the national interests of all.