Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Fishing in Troubled Lanka

by Tushar Charan, Central Chronicle, Bhopal, India, August 28, 2006

However, it can be surmised that the ISI is now concentrating on Sri Lanka in order to 'encircle' India and give force to its nefarious games aimed at destabilising India by arming and helping various insurgent groups.

It has been reported that the target of the Colombo suicide bomber on a three-wheeler was the Pakistani high commissioner in Sri Lanka, Bashir Wali Mohammed, who escaped unhurt; altogether seven persons, including three security personnel guarding the high commissioner's convoy, were killed on Aug 14. Reports also suggest that the attack was almost certainly the work of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) who are angry with Pakistan for having supplied offensive weapons to Sri Lanka army engaged in a long battle with Tamil rebels in the island. The Tigers' ire was directed towards the diplomat because he personally played a leading role in the transfer of Pak arms to Colombo. The Sri Lankan defence spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella, confirmed this when he admitted that the Pakistani envoy had arranged the arms for his country's 'war' against LTTE. He added, while addressing a press conference, that Pakistan was 'working closely with our defence authorities' in the war against 'terror'. The minister was annoyed with reports that had published the 'shopping list' sent to Pakistan for supply of arms.

While the acts of terror by the LTTE cannot be condoned, the Colombo bombing incident has brought to focus the growing ties between the armies of Pakistan and Sri Lanka with its implications for India, particularly in light of the fact that Pak army's ISI has already succeeded in establishing safe bases in Nepal and Bangladesh. That the August 14 attack was the first time that a Pakistani diplomat had been made the target in Sri Lanka is a development of note.

However, it can be surmised that the ISI is now concentrating on Sri Lanka in order to 'encircle' India and give force to its nefarious games aimed at destabilising India by arming and helping various insurgent groups. The ISI seems to be able to direct its operation against India out of Nepal and Bangladesh with complete ease.

It may be mentioned here that Pakistan is trying to send as its envoy to India (after the end of present envoy's tenure in New Delhi in a few weeks time) one of its career diplomats who had played a crucial role in consolidating an ISI and anti-India network in Nepal. His name had figured in the conspiracy that led to the hijack of an Indian Airlines plane in December 1999, leading to the release of three top Pakistani terrorist leaders. This particular diplomat is rabidly anti-Indian as is his brother who earned 'fame' about a year ago when his 'girlfriend' had alleged that she was physical assaulted by the Pakistani diplomat then posted in New York, Bashir Wali Mohammed was posted in Colombo in June 2004 and is returning home after completing his tour of duty in Sri Lanka. Presumably he has completed the task or tasks assigned to him. Arms supply was perhaps only a part of the task; the bigger Pakistani game plan was obviously to work for enlarging the ISI network in Sri Lanka for use as much against the Tamil Tigers as against India. The Pakistani colonel is a former director of the Pakistani intelligence bureau. In the early 1990s he had headed the Pakistani intelligence operations in Colombo. It is not often that such an out and out intelligence man is sent to head the diplomatic mission in a 'friendly' country.

During his Colombo stint as the head of the mission he was more active in promoting not only military ties between Sri Lanka and Pakistan but also bringing the intelligence in the two countries closer. One offshoot of this diligence by the Pakistani spymaster has been the radicalisation of sections of Muslims in Sri Lanka. Pakistan is believed to have assured Sri Lanka all help in raising the first Muslim regiment in Sri Lanka. That it will create further divisions among the non-Buddhist minorities in Sri Lanka suits very well Islamabad's strategy of creating dissensions in neighbouring countries.

When India turned down a Lankan request for specific arms supply, Pakistan, ever looking for opportunities to embarrass or create trouble for India, immediately saw an opening and rushed $150 million worth of weapons that included a fleet of battle tanks with heavy guns and air defence system. For almost five years Pakistan has been supplying weapons and equipment suited for counter-insurgency operations against the Tamil rebels in the north and east of the island. Some of the deadly Pakistani cargo reaches there as 'gift'.

There are reports that the Pakistanis have been transferring their 'expertise' to the Sri Lankan army in air-mounted operations that they use against the so-called 'miscreants' in their own country like the Baloch nationalists. Sri Lanka used the Pakistani model in recent 'successful' strikes against Tamil rebels on ground as well as their navy. One of these 'successes' saw an orphanage being strafed by the Sri Lankan air force, resulting in the killing of 61 girls. Of course, Colombo says the target was not an orphanage but an LTTE-run 'training' centre for young children.

Whether the Pakistani tactics, currently on display in Balochistan, will help Sri Lanka subdue the long insurgency in the island nation is not sure but the increasing visibility of Pakistani 'cooperation' with the Sri Lankan military will certainly harden the rebels more.

In the long years of Tamil insurgency there were hardly any reports of a rift between Muslims and the LTTE. But after Pakistan stepped in with 'help', this rift started becoming serious. About two months back, Anton Balasingham of the LTTE had warned Pakistan against arming Muslim fundamentalists in Trincomalee and Batticaloa. He had openly accused Islamabad of arming groups like 'Jihad'.

The gulf between Muslims and other minorities in eastern and northern Sri Lanka has been increasing rapidly. Muslims were 'expelled' from Jaffna and now they are said to be fleeing from Muthur. The LTTE had captured 40 Muslim youth who were allegedly members of the 'Jihad'. Lack of communal harmony is not exactly a new phenomenon in Sri Lanka. Many analysts have said that Tamil extremists were created by Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism. It is no secret that in Sri Lanka Buddhist monks, whose job makes it mandatory on them to be pacifist, are not exactly doves who are willing to accept a peaceful coexistence with the Tamil minority. Tamils in Sri Lanka responded to the combined effect of Buddhist chauvinism, state discrimination and army atrocities in the form of extremism of the fiercest kind. Suicide squads were almost an LTTE monopoly till the other day.

The 2002 'truce' between the government and the LTTE has made prospects of peace appear bright after years of strife. But with Pakistan keen to stoke communal fires in the island the return to happy days in the emerald islands does look close.

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