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The Rediff Special/J N Dixit

'By the end of 1986, Prabhakaran was disillusioned with his Indian connection'

Prabhakaran Ten years ago, LTTE boss Velupillai Prabhakaran gave his assent -- some say, he was forced to -- to an Indo-Sri Lankan accord in Delhi.

The accord was intended to normalise relations between India and Sri Lanka and, more to the point, bring peace to the troubled Emerald Isle.

Did it, hell! In the aftermath, hundreds of Indian soldiers lost their lives -- ironically, trying to keep the peace!

And in one catacylsmic explosion on May 21, 1991, Rajiv Gandhi himself was killed.

J N Dixit, as India's high commissioner to Sri Lanka, was the man who was there. Who saw it all. Who lived through that critical -- and, through the lens of hindsight, crucial -- phase in India's contemporary history.

We bring you, in his own words, the inside story:

Rajiv Gandhi In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi decided to stop all training and assistance to Sri Lankan Tamil groups to ensure the success of the mediatory efforts he had initiated. An aircraft carrying military equipment for Tamil militants in Madras was intercepted. Another important step was the capture of an equally large consignment of arms by Indian authorities from a ship which had docked at the Madras port late in 1985. It was apparently meant for the Tamil militants in Sri Lanka.

As Indian material assistance stopped, the Tamil militants sought linkages further afield. Tamil expatriate communities in different parts of the world provided funds and also arranged the purchase of arms and equipment.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was the most effective and successful amongst Tamil groups in expanding these worldwide connections. We had information about the LTTE having sent their cadres for training with Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Libya, Lebanon and Syria. To cap it all, the LTTE even sent its cadres for training with Mossad in Israel, the details of which are available in the book By Way of Deception by Victory Ostrovsky and Claire Hoy, with the description of a hilarious situation when Ostrovsky faced the problem of preventing the LTTE cadres and Sri Lankan security personnel from coming face to face in an Israeli training camp where the opposing parties were being trained simultaneously.

By 1986, the LTTE had also acquired a couple of sea-going ships with foreign registration, which brought in supplies and equipment for them to Tamil Nadu or off the port of Trincomalee, from where these were transshipped on small boats equipped with powerful outboard motors to various point on the coast of north-western, northern and north-eastern Sri Lanka. The LTTE's emergence as the most dominant and effective politico-military force representing Tamil interests was due to the following factors:

LTTE militants First, the character and personality of its leader V Prabhakaran who is disciplined, austere and passionately committed to the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils's liberation. Whatever he may be criticised for, it cannot be denied that the man has an inner fire and dedication and he is endowed with natural military abilities, both strategic and tactical. He has also proved that he is a keen observer of the nature of competitive and critical politics. He has proved his abilities in judging political events and his adroitness in responding to them.

Secondly, he has created a highly disciplined, and dedicated cadres, a manifestation of which is inherent in what is called the 'cyanide cult.' Each regular member of the LTTE carries a cyanide pill and is pledged to committing suicide rather than being captured by the enemy.

The third factor is the cult and creed of honesty in the disbursement and utilisation of resources. Despite long years spent in struggle, the LTTE cadres were known for their simple living, lack of any tendency to exploit the people and their operational preparedness.

The fourth factor has been the LTTE's ability to upgrade its political and military capacities including technological inputs despite the constraints imposed on it by Sri Lankan forces and later by India.

The fifth factor is a totally amoral and deadly violent approach in dealing with those the LTTE considers as enemies.

The sixth factor is Prabhakaran's success in gathering around him senior advisers with diverse political, administrative and technological capacities, which contributed to effective training of his cadres, optimum utilisation of the military equipment which he had, and the structuring of an efficient command and control system.

Jayawardane with Rajiv Gandhi By the end of 1986, Prabhakaran was disillusioned with his Indian connection. The pressure generated on the LTTE after the Bangalore SAARC summit made him decide that he must shift his base to Sri Lanka for a long struggle. His judgment has been proved correct with the passage of time. When he shifted to Jaffna by January 1987, the anti-Tamil lobby in the Jayewardene government got a strong point to argue against any compromises with the Tamil minority.

Excerpted from Assignment Colombo, by J N Dixit, Konarak Publishers, 1998, Rs 400, with the publisher's permission.
Readers interested in obtaining a copy of the book may direct their enquiries to Mr K P R Nair, Konarak Publishers, A-149, Main Vikas Marg, New Delhi 110 001.

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J N Dixit, continued

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