Pakistan`s top envoy in Colombo Colonel (retd) Bashir Wali Mohamand is to be succeeded by Air Vice Marshal (retd) Shahzad Chaudhary. High Commissioner Mohamand, who survived Monday`s LTTE assassination attempt is likely to leave the country before end of this month. Chaudhary`s appointment is expected to be announced by the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry shortly.
`In fact, the High Commissioner made his farewell calls over the past couple of weeks,` a Pakistani source said. The outspoken Wali Mohamand is the first diplomat targeted by the LTTE. It was mounted against the backdrop of growing support for Sri Lankan forces battling the LTTE. The official emphasized that Sri Lanka provided Wali Mohamand`s entire security contingent believed to be from the Army`s close protection group comprised of elite commandos.
The Office of the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, accredited to Colombo, Wednesday condemned the attack.
An official speaking on the condition of anonymity expressed the belief that the attack would be an isolated case. He dismissed speculation that the LTTE would target representatives of countries supplying arms, ammunition, training and technical assistance to Sri Lankan forces. Although Islamabad remains a key supporter, China, Israel, Russia and the Czech Republic are the major armaments suppliers. Although Sri Lanka established full diplomatic relations with Israel subsequent to the fall of strategic Elephant Pass base in April 2000, the Jewish State is yet to open a fully fledged mission in Colombo. The Jewish State`s top envoy to Thailand oversees Sri Lanka.
A major weapons deal with Iran envisaged by President Chandrika Kumaratunga did not materialize.
India and the US too provide significant support with the US seeking an Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) to secure access to Sri Lankan ports, airports and airspace for transit, servicing and repair. Sri Lanka wants a Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with India. Both agreements are on hold. The US is believed to be keen to go ahead with ACSA originally expected to be signed during Ranil Wickremesinghe`s tenure as the Prime Minister.
The LTTE first accused Pakistan of playing an active role in support of the Sri Lankan forces in June 1997. The London headquartered LTTE International Secretariat in a statement dated June 12, 1997 claimed that operation Jayasikurui to restore the overland A9 Kandy-Jaffna road was jointly planned. The LTTE claimed that the planning was done at Anuradhapura, a charge vehemently denied both by Sri Lanka and Pakistan. This was before the military coup staged by Gen. Pervez Mushaaraf and since then there has been a marked increase in Pakistan support. The swift deployment of Pakistan`s multi barrel rocket launchers in Jaffna to repulse an LTTE advance emphasized the growing relationship.
The pro-LTTE TamilNet, in a report dated June 14, 1997, reiterated the accusation. The report headlined Pakistan joins other foreigners in Sri Lanka war discussed the growing involvement of foreign experts in the conflict.
`We have always supported Sri Lanka`s territorial integrity and sovereignty and will continue to do so,` the outgoing High Commissioner vowed hours after the assassination bid.