The Rediff Special/J N Dixit
'By the end of 1986, Prabhakaran was disillusioned with his Indian
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
We bring you, in his own words, the inside story:
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:
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
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
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
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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