In the wake of an abortive terror strike on Tuesday on a radar station in the North, an Opposition lawmaker demanded to know how the government could ever claim that Vavuniya was in a cleared area, as the LTTE had managed to mount an attack there. Vavuniya, he said, was far away from Kilinochchi, where the war was raging. He either did not know how terrorists operated or sought to play politics with the issue.
On Saturday, terrorists struck in New Delhi. A string of bomb blasts left about 30 persons dead and many others injured. Earlier in 2001, the Indian Parliament had come under a terrorist attack, where 12 persons died and 20 others sustained injuries. The Indian defence establishment had been taken unawares. That is the way with terrorism! Luck is always on the side of terrorists.
Terrorists have demonstrated their ability to take targets in any country, if they so desire. The mighty US and the UK had been kept in the dark about the 9/11 and the London bombings. Terrorists have thus turned big cities of powerful nations into dangerous places to live in.
Not even the world`s best armed forces have been able to ensure the safety of Baghdad and Kabul. They have the best trained personnel and the most powerful equipment at their disposal but terrorists continue to strike at will. In Afghanistan the US-led forces are resorting to more and more air strikes in a bid to neutralise terrorists, regardless of the huge collateral damage. The high incidence of civilian casualties has given the lie to their precision bombing capability. The Human Rights Watch has pointed out that the number of civilian deaths in the US and NATO air strikes in Afghanistan has tripled since 2006. Recently, the US-led forces hunting for terrorists made a foray into a Pakistani village on the Afghan border and put to death 15 civilians including children.
The predicament of the world powers engaged in fighting terrorism being such, the vulnerability of Vavuniya or Colombo to terror strikes goes without saying. If the nuclear capable nations with huge defence budgets several times the size of Sri Lanka`s GDP and arsenals of the most lethal weapons that mankind has ever seen cannot forestall terror attacks, how can aid-dependent small countries achieve that feat?
In the aftermath of the attack on the Indian parliamentary building in 2001, the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, in his address to the nation, stressed the need to meet the threat of terrorism head on. He said, `This was not just an attack on the building it was a warning to the entire nation. We accept the challenge.`
That is how a democratic nation should respond to terrorism, which has become a threat to the entire world.
Sri Lanka, too, accepted the challenge of facing terrorism in her small way. The outfit it has undertaken to defeat and is in the process of routing is described as the world`s most ruthless terrorist organisation. Sri Lanka, which has made rapid progress in its war on terror during the last two years, is a source of inspiration to the powerful countries fumbling about on their much advertised crusade against terrorism.
Sri Lanka`s success story is sure to send a clear message to the terrorists the world over: The civilised world is capable of effectively neutralising the scourge of mindless violence. The defeat of the `most ruthless terrorist organisation` at the hands of a small country after twenty five years of fighting will have a devastating impact on the morale of the other terrorists including bin Laden who have taken a leaf out of the LTTE`s book, where suicidal terror is concerned.
But, the assistance that Sri Lanka is receiving from its powerful counterparts is woefully inadequate. That Sri Lanka couldn`t have progressed this far in its war without India`s cooperation is too obvious to merit elaboration. However, the Indian assistance would have been more meaningful and effective, if it had been less half-hearted. The air defence system that India forced on Sri Lanka is a case in point.
When Sri Lanka desperately approached countries like China to obtain air defence systems, after the LTTE had unveiled its crude air wing, India stood in its way by objecting to sophisticated Chinese radars and offering 2D radar systems which, it said, were sufficient to meet the LTTE`s air threat. It was a case of Hobson`s choice for Sri Lanka, which really needed 3D radars but could not antagonise India, which was more concerned about its own security interests than helping counter the latest LTTE threat. As a result, the LTTE had succeeded in flying a number of sorties safely until last Tuesday, when it lost one of its aircraft which were fleeing after attacking Vavuniya. Had there been 3D radar systems in operation, the LTTE would not have dared take out its light aircraft or all of them would have been downed a long time ago.
So far, the western countries have not interfered with Sri Lanka`s war effort direct, though it is believed that they are bent on taking the cornered Tigers off the hook. Instead, some of them have extended indirect support to Sri Lanka, despite the anti-Sri Lanka stance of their envoys based in Colombo. But, Sri Lanka needs much more than half-hearted indirect support at this hour. It needs the unstinted backing from the civilised world. Strangely, over Sri Lanka`s conflict, the UN is acting in such a way that one may wonder whether it is really backing a terrorist group on its List of Shame against a democratic member state.
Sri Lanka, which is courageously fighting terrorism, certainly deserves better.