LankaDissent Hot Topic : Kusal Perera

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Jihad, India and war in Sri Lanka

Tamil Nadu has taken almost every one on its stride, politically. The Delhi government did not anticipate the Sri Lankan Tamil issue would provoke such a ruckus in TN to catch it off guard. Although the DMK and the AIADMK still don’t sit together on the SL Tamil issue, the two rival leaders simply can not stop agreeing the SL Tamil conflict across the Palk Straits is of Tamilean concern. Thus it has compelled the Indian government to overtly intervene in stopping the war in favour of a peaceful political solution to appease TN politics.

Can India meet that challenge today ?

The government of SL has the advantage in having an India that’s different from the Nehru-Gandhi era. Present India has broken away from the traditional anti-American bloc. Therefore it makes easy alliances with all those who see this new Indian stand as a new threat. Therefore the GoSL worked towards a new foreign alliance primarily with Iran, Pakistan, China and Russia that’s comfortable without queries on HR violations allowed with impunity and a war that bleeds the public coffers blue, while the Delhi government was extremely cautious in developing open support to the Rajapaksa regime. It did not openly provide military assistance to this Rajapaksa government to carry on with its war, careful not to upset its TN partners in government. Meanwhile it could not ignore the possibility of Pakistan becoming a major influence with the Sri Lankan military establishment. Pakistan for India is a serious and a sensitive subject.

There is an unacknowledged yet a growing issue of Pakistani support for armed Islamic fundamentalists both in India and in Bangladesh. Almost six years ago in 2002, the Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) an armed group from the Indian State of Assam was reported affiliated with Rohingya armed Muslim groups in a Bangladeshi Islamic umbrella organisation. Rohingyans have close ties with Al-Qaeda and the Harkat-Ul-Jihad-Al-Islami (Huji) of Pakistan. Huji is reported active in South India from as long ago as 1995. Though complex and complicated, India has its own reservations on how the Pakistani ISI works with Islamic Fundamentalists, ever since it expelled, Brig. Zahir-ul-Islam-Abbasi in 1988. He was ISI Station Chief at the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi. Abbasi was reportedly having direct links with the Huji. Pakistani army’s links with different Islamic fundamentalist groups including Huji too have become a serious issue for India.

Pakistani presence in SL is not merely an ego issue for India. It has its long term politico – military reasons that for SL too should be very relevant and serious too. The issue is about intricate Jihadi webs that develop with Pakistani connections. Here’s a quote on that. “It was Hamid Bakri (was arrested by the TN police during their investigation into the activities of the Muslim Defence Force), accompanied by one Zakkaria, who had met Abu Hamsa in Saudi Arabia and subsequently gone to Sri Lanka for another meeting, which did not materialise…….It should be evident that for some years now there have been indicators of the clandestine creation of a Jihadi web in Mumbai, South India and possibly in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, with the SIMI and the LET (both operating in Pakistan)  playing an active role in this matter, either in tandem or separately of each other. It is also evident that much of the inspiration and financial support for this came from Indian and Pakistani Jihadi activists in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.(Intelibriefs – ‘Jihadi Terrorism in South India – External Motivators’ / Paper 271 – B. Raman)

That political necessity was tied to the Indian government’s psyche of being anti – LTTE, or more precisely anti – Prabha in all calculations regarding SL. The Indian government thus tried to ride two horses at the same time and in opposite directions. It wanted the Rajapaksa regime to militarily finish off the LTTE and also devolve power. They therefore tried to tie up covert military and intelligence support to power devolution. The Indian experts perhaps took for granted they could compel the Rajapaksa government to compromise for full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution with their covert support for the war. This whole project once again is a disaster.

That’s perhaps what covert interventions with governments like the Rajapaksa government eventually lead to. No covert assistance would leave any binding on any government, for that matter. None could openly admit giving or receiving such military and intelligence support. Thus it gave this Rajapaksa government the opportunity to bargain with India when necessary and then ignore the Indians too. This was very evident on the way the GoSL treated India with the signing of CEPA during the Indian PM Dr. Singh’s visit to Colombo for the SAARC. It is evident also by the way GoSL plays between Pakistan and India now, with a quick visit to Pakistan by its Defence Secretary and only an invitation extended to Indian External Affairs Minister.

But the present Manmohan Singh government can not air drop or send humanitarian aid by boats as Rajiv Gandhi did in 1987 May. It can not intervene openly and in the manner it did with the Indo-SL Accord. It is very doubtful the Indian government could even resort to a “demarche” as in 1987 February. The Rajapaksa government, unlike JRJ’s, has truly trapped the Indian government on the diplomatic front by keeping its doors open for dialogue with Indian counterpart(s). That approach helps this Rajapaksa government to kill time for its own agenda.

But TN pressure keeps pulling the Delhi leaders out of their covert support to the GoSL, to instead support a cease fire to save what TN says is a “genocide against SL Tamils”. What now ? Can the Delhi experts carry that baggage as well ? What Indian experts on SL did not understand when they compromised covertly for war, is that any crushing of the LTTE militarily, has to have a hyped anti – LTTE campaign that rejects devolution and stands for a strong Unitary State. It thus becomes a Sinhala campaign for war and automatically leaves out the Tamils and the Muslims from its ownership of the State.

A government that installs itself on such a Sinhalised promise, when supported even covertly for war could only become politically stubborn. With a politically impotent Opposition, it carries the Sinhala society too with it, for its own advantage. Thus the very Indian logic of pushing Pakistani interests out of the island State and having the LTTE militarily crushed on the way, has caught them on the pincers of TN politics and a shrewd SL government.

Therefore for any compromise in TN, there has to be some watering down of the military thrust on ground here in SL, forgetting the “Prabhakaran” factor. That can not be achieved even by working through the Tamil politicians who are with the government. It’s very plain; all of them from Devananda to Sangaree and from Pilleyan to Karuna Amman are mere “victims” of political manipulations by the Rajapaksa government. They have been effectively reduced to pawns, moved from square to square in safeguarding the Rajapaksa government.

The only way out for India now is definitely not the way it came all these years by taking the LTTE as its common denominator in all calculations. It would now have to leave those petty politics aside and think regionally in how our societies in South Asia could be re-democratised to eliminate what most including India would wish to call “terrorism”. It thus needs a strong and open dialogue instead of behind doors and closed room manoeuvrings.

– Kusal Perera


One Response

  1. […] A quote from an article by Kusal Perera, published on 28 October, 2008 in the news and features website – “LankaDissent” [Now accessed at […]

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