The seizure of large quantities of LTTE bound explosives and other warlike material across the Palk Straits during the past few weeks appears to have galvanised India into sitting up and taking note of the high incidence of LTTE arms smuggling activities on her soil. The massive door-to-door verification of Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu is suggestive of a radical change in the Indian policy towards Sri Lanka`s conflict. However, the question is whether India is doing enough to help her southern neighbour achieve peace.
The LTTE is debilitated as never before with depleted stocks of arms and ammunition. The arrest of LTTE emissaries in New York, a few months ago, while on a mission to bribe US officials and procure arms including anti-aircraft missiles, bears testimony to the fact that the outfit is faced with a severe arms shortage. Besides, recruitment is not forthcoming and it has resorted to the forcible conscription of even married adults. The success of any guerrilla movement, especially an organization that believes in suicidal terror, depends on the dedication and motivation of its cadres. And conscripts are no match for volunteers. The increasing dependence of the LTTE on forcible conscription and the fact that it is now even paying its cadres salaries show that it is also having the standard problems that any guerrilla movement faces with the passage of time. Interestingly, the LTTE has also taken to outsourcing terror, as manifest in its decision to train some southern trade unionists to carry out small time terror attacks, which it was in a position to do itself in the past.
The loss of the Eastern Province, the possibility of the government resorting to a northward military thrust with several other fronts opened simultaneously to cause the enemy`s resources to be over-stretched and the absence of any international assistance have made the LTTE depend on India for procurement and political support, as in the 1980s. History seems to be repeating itself!
It looks as if the LTTE had succeeded in re-establishing its links with India to some extent, despite a ban in that country. Although India refused the late Anton Balasingham passage on his way here for pre-talks consultations with Prabhakaran in spite of his ill health, the Indian Prime Minister is now entertaining LTTE proxies. LTTE arms smuggling demonstrate a kind of Indian cooperation at some level. The mysterious circumstances under which India destroyed an LTTE vessel carrying a huge lethal cargo recently and the conflicting accounts of the blast from the Indian officials have naturally disturbed Sri Lanka. What did the arms haul really contain? No one conversant with the Sea Tiger operations will buy the story that the ill-fated boat had been on a suicide mission to attack the KKS harbour. As our main news item pointed out yesterday quoting official sources the LTTE is not so stupid as to use a 34-foot trawler with a maximum speed of 10 knots to attack a well guarded port. If the Indian story is true, then the LTTE Sea Tiger chief must be bonkers! How can a bulky trawler sans manoeuvrability break through a naval cordon and reach its target? India has also claimed that among the crew consisting of suicide LTTE cadres there were two Indians. If so, the question that India must answer, according to the sources quoted in our story, is whether the Indians are aiding and abetting suicide missions. The identities of those two Indians must be established and a thorough investigation launched.
India`s claim that there are about fifteen LTTE suicide craft in the Indo-Lanka waters has puzzled many defence analysts. How has India come to that conclusion and is any evidence available? Whoever floats such stories only gives scares to shipping lines and insurers who are on the look out for something to jack up premiums! If such a threat is actually present in the Indian Ocean, what is India doing about it as the regional policeman? Isn`t it unbecoming of India to let an outfit banned on her soil to `patrol` vital sea routes albeit on the sly?
All peace processes have come a cropper because of the LTTE`s intransigence, which stems from its military strength. At a time when it is as weak as it was during Operation Liberation and during the IPKF onslaught, if it is denied an opportunity to strengthen its military muscle, it will be left without any alternative to reverting to the negotiating table. If India is really desirous of helping Sri Lanka with the peace process, she ought to block the LTTE arms smuggling routes more effectively, especially in the sea. With a powerful Navy and an efficient coast guard at her disposal, it must be child`s play for India to keep the LTTE arms smugglers at bay. Kind words and broad smiles of the Indian leaders won`t help Sri Lanka in any way, unless they are coupled with tangible action. True, India is intercepting LTTE craft in ones and twos. But, she has to go the whole hog to stop LTTE arms smuggling via her territory completely.