With Thailand`s controversial decision to disown the recent arrest of LTTE frontliner Tharmalingam Shanmughan alias Kumaran Padmanathan, Sri Lanka has missed a golden opportunity to unravel the LTTE`s vast global procurement network built on what a military official called ``a foundation laid by India.``
The official asserted that this was a serious setback to their efforts to further weaken the enemy`s overseas network which had been dealt a crippling blow due to the loss of seven shiploads of armaments since September last year in four separate operations mounted by the SLN.
Despite destruction of ships and a series of arrests, particularly in operations carried out by the US, the LTTE network largely remains intact. The sources pointed out that last week`s destruction of three LTTE ships over 600 nautical miles south east of Sri Lanka was evidence of the existence of the enemy network.
Padmanathan also known as `KP` would have been able to reveal the launch of the LTTE`s procurement section which had massive funds at its command to keep the Tigers supplied with arms, ammunition and equipment.
Last week`s Thai rebuttal of any arrest had come in the backdrop of the recent extradition of three key LTTE operatives arrested in Thailand to Colombo. They had been members of the LTTE procurement network when Thai authorities had detained them in March 2004.
Sri Lanka`s failure to keep KP`s arrest secret at least until a high level intelligence team which included representatives from the Attorney General`s Department and Foreign Ministry reached Bangkok had angered Thai officialdom.
India`s call for extradition of KP in connection with Rajiv Gandhi assassination had obviously placed Thailand in an extremely difficult position, authoritative sources said.
`They avoided needless trouble by simply denying KP`s arrest, a fact they confirmed last Monday. We would not have sent a full team without receiving word from them,` a knowledgeable source said.
Surprisingly an SLN representative had not been included in the delegation despite the LTTE overseas network`s almost total dependence on ships to move in supplies.
KP`s network had ensured that that the LTTE shipping fleet was kept busy in moving artillery pieces, aircraft, boats, surface to air missiles, considerable stocks of various types of ammunition and communication equipment among other items.
`Most importantly, he would have revealed the extent of the Indian role in building their overseas network,` he said. `The revelation would have been too embarrassing for the Indian political leadership. KP would have revealed the true extent of the Indian hand. In fact, he would have been able to shed light on the enemy`s access to large quantity of weapons of Chinese origin.`
Wire services quoted Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee saying Padmanathan, an accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, has not been detained in Thailand.
`We have been informed that Padmanathan is not yet detained,` the minister said when asked about reports of the LTTE leader`s detention here this week.
Sri Lankan officials said that the ongoing military operation would have benefited immensely had relevant authorities handled the issue discreetly.
The Maldives giving access to four LTTE cadres in their custody last May is a case in point, the sources said. Within 24 hours after the destruction of their trawler by the Maldivian Coastguard, the SLN despatched an intelligence team to interrogate the suspects.
The SLN last week declared that interrogation conducted in Male` had facilitated the destruction of the three ships.