B. Raman is an expert on security and anti-terrorism operations. He headed the Counter-Terrorism Division of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) for six years. He has been a member of various special task forces related to security and intelligence issues. An internationally acclaimed writer and lecturer, he regularly contributes articles to various national and international publications on security-related topics.
The reports regarding the plight of about 1,50,000 Sri Lankan Tamils caught between an advancing Sri Lankan Army and the retreating Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Wanni area of northern Sri Lanka are confusing.
Many have reportedly died and many others, including children, have been injured in the exchange of artillery fire between the two sides. In a situation like this, it is impossible to establish whose artillery killed whom. All one can say is that innocent civilians are paying a heavy price for the heavy exchange of artillery.
The Sri Lankan Army is disinclined to agree to a ceasefire to let the civilians be evacuated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) lest the LTTE take advantage of it to regroup. The LTTE is not inclined to let the civilians move to the safety zones set up by the Government lest this facilitate the advance of the Army.
The international community, including the Government of India, is unable to effectively bring pressure on both sides to help out the civilians. The Sri Lankan Army has estimated that it is only a few weeks away from totally eliminating the capability of the LTTE for conventional fighting and it is determined to achieve that objective even at the risk of some collateral damage to the civilians. The LTTE is afraid that if it lets the civilians go, it will have a face-to-face confrontation with the Army in which it is unlikely to do well.
Prabakaran, who is believed to be still commanding the retreating LTTE fighters, does not seem to realise that the chances of the LTTE staging a spectacular come-back as it did in the 1990s and recaptured Kilinochchi and Mulaittivu are remote. The loss of control over territory in the Northern Province is not so devastating for him as the loss of control over the Tamil population in the Eastern Province. In the past, many of the conventional fighters of the LTTE came from the Eastern Province and many of the terrorists from the Northern Province. It is no longer possible for him to get new recruits from the Eastern Province.
The recent fighting in the North has indicated that the LTTE's shortages in arm and ammunition and explosives are much more serious than originally estimated. With the rapidly decreasing possibility of finding replacement of human and material resources, his chances of staging a come-back conventionally are much less than what they were in the 1990s.
The terrorist wing of the LTTE also seems to be facing severe problems due to a shortage of explosive material, drop in volunteers for suicide terrorism and the lack of time and space in the midst of a furious conventional war to motivate and train new volunteers and mount operations.
The use of the civilians to avert an impending final defeat on the ground should be condemned by all the political parties in Tamil Nadu, the Government of India and the international community.
Prabakaran has been living in a world of illusions just as Hitler was in the final days of the defeat of the Nazi Army before he and his mistress committed suicide in a Berlin bunker to avoid being captured by the advancing Soviet Army. Till he decided to kill himself, Hitler was fondly hoping that a reversal of fortunes was still possible. So too, Prabakaran seems to be having a fond hope that he and his men can stage a come-back even at this stage.
It is time for the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora to assert itself and call upon the LTTE cadres to overthrow Prabakaran and other leaders, arrest them, hand them over to the Sri Lankan authorities and proclaim a unilateral ceasefire. It is time for the diaspora to come to terms with the reality and act before more civilians are killed. If they fail to do so and continue to encourage Prabakaran in his irrational illusions, history will judge them harshly.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s and not of Sify.com