09 December 2017

If India had not helped Prabakaran escape in June 1987…there would be no May 2009

How many are aware that Prabakaran was cornered in Vadamarachchi in June 1987? How many are aware that India actually threatened Sri Lankan Government to order its troops to set him free? How many are aware that India helicoptered Prabakaran out of Sri Lanka to India? The order came from the very man that LTTE eventually blew to pieces in India itself. Why would India want to save a terrorist leader? If India had not threatened Sri Lanka to release cornered Prabakaran in 1987 thousands of lives would have been saved. There would have been no 30year conflict. India therefore, has much to account for and not a single apology has been made for what India did to a friendly neighbor.

In 1987 JRJ was President. Lalith Athulathmudali was Minister of National Security. The Overall Operations Commander was Brig. G H de Silva while troops were led by Brig Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Col. Vijaya Wimalaratne. The offensive was launched on 26 May 1987 with 8000 troops from the Gemunu Watch, Gajaba Regiment, Sri Lanka Light Infantry. Lt. Col. Vipul Boteju, Lt. Col. Wasantha Perera, Lt. Col. Sathis Jayasundara, Maj. Gotabaya Rajapakse, Maj. Sarath Handapangoda, Lt. Col. Narada Wickramaratne & Maj. Sarath Fonseka were noteable figures in charge of the troops.

LTTE had blown up the Thondamanaru bridge to delay troops reaching Valvettithurai and area was heavily mined resulting in many soldier deaths. But troop morale was high. By early June the troops had gained control over entire zone but offensive had to be abandoned following the Indian threat and the forced dropping of food supplies on 3 June 1987 (just 25 tons of food from a country where their own citizens die daily of no food).

The importance of this revelation is that the parippu drop (Operation Poomalai) was on 3 June 1987 giving just 30 minutes notice to the Sri Lankan Government with threats not to react leading to the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord on 29 July 1987 with IPKF landing on 30th July 1987.   

Many of the key personnel who took on the first biggest military operation are sadly not alive today. Many of them killed by the very terrorists they were forced to let loose. Had Prabakaran been caught they would all be alive today.

The takeaway from this is that in 1987 our troops cornered Prabakaran and was about to capture him alive when India threatened to attack Sri Lanka unless it stopped its military onslaught against LTTE. There ended Operation Liberation that commenced on 26 May 1987. The combined troop action with several regiments joining for the offensive & use of diversionary troops was repeated and led to the final defeat of the LTTE in May 2009. Intelligence was also in place helping the Armed Forces pinpoint exactly where Prabakaran was located. Ironically, Operation Liberation mirrored the ‘hearts & minds campaign’ to win over the Tamil people repeated in the military cum humanitarian offensive that ended LTTE leader & ground cadres in May 2009. By 3 June 1987 entire Vadamarachchi area came under the Sri Lankan Security Forces including the main town Velvettithurai the birthplace of Prabakaran.

It was on 21 July 1987 that India sent 6 helicopters to Sri Lanka from India to transport Prabakaran, his wife & family to Delhi. They were kept at the Ashok Hotel in Delhi. He was flown back to Jaffna from Delhi after Rajiv returned to Delhi on 2 August 1987. Close to two weeks in Delhi, Prabakaran would have been biting his nails at his fate if India did not allow him to return! This showed that India kept its cards close to chest making sure Prabakaran had no access to his men until India got what it wanted the Indo-Lanka Accord & the 13th amendment creating the provincial council system.

However, the country that saved Prabakaran attempted to kill him according to Maj. Gen. Harkirat Singh commander of IPKF who says he was ordered to eliminate Prabakaran twice in September 1987. The order came after India & RAW had begun to train & arm ENDLF (Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front) to replace Prabakaran. ENDLF comprised splinter groups from EPRLF, PLOTE, TELO. If India assured Sri Lankan Government it would disarm militants in 72 hours what was India doing training and arming ENDLF?

India that threatened Sri Lanka not to capture Prabakaran and whisked him off to Delhi using the IPKF declares war on LTTE on 8 October 1987 exactly 70 days after landing in Sri Lanka. IPKF left Sri Lanka in March 1990 and on 21st May 1991 Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in Tamil Nadu. If Gen. Harikat had carried out orders then Prabakaran would be dead & Rajiv Gandhi would be alive too!

There are some puzzling points – India saves Prabakaran from capture by Sri Lankan troops & is transported to Delhi where Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi presents his own bullet proof vest and then India tries to bump Prabakaran off after signing the Indo-Lanka Accord & placing Indian troops in Sri Lanka! But Prabakaran beats Rajiv Gandhi at his own game and Rajiv ends up in smithereens. What does this all add upto?

It could only mean that the Tamil militancy was used as a means to justify Indian presence in Sri Lanka & the Tamil grievance issue is also being used to justify Indian interference in Sri Lanka. That Tamils are aware of this but is using it to advance their own agendas is good to take note of. Let’s all realize that the Tamils that died who were victims of LTTE were all low caste, poor or promising future leaders. Against this 1m Tamils because of LTTE terrorism found their way to live in foreign shores & have helped their families prosper from foreign remittances. Naturally, Tamils are silently thankful for the windfall. 1m Tamils would not be living overseas if not for LTTE terrorism.

If India could exert this much influence over a neighbor it would have been peanuts to influence the 1983 riots thus creating the necessary environment to bring out the LTTE into the open & use the attacks on Tamils as a global propaganda to justify LTTE existence. The Indian role in creating ground work for the 1983 riots was nicely brushed into the background & instead the propaganda channels ensured the Sinhalese were branded as murderers ignoring that the attacks were systematically done with government involvement. Many rumours still remain that Indian intelligence were also heavily involved from the background while the cream of the Tamil society were kept safe & protected.

The Indian roleplay is confusing in the light of certain discrepancies questioning who was ordering whom & who were deciding what cards to play. If Indian intelligence trained Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups clandestinely referring to them as ‘our boys’ it explains why the IPKF were not given proper maps & ill-prepared for the task that Indian Government committed to under the Indo-Lanka Accord. What was the real purpose in Indian troop presence – they did not speak Tamil, they did not know to identify Tamils, Sinhalese or Muslims or even LTTE. Therefore, when Dixit wrote to Delhi on 19 September 1987 that IPKF was totally unprepared for the task at hand we want to know what that ‘task’ actually was.

India is notorious for its poor relations with all of its South Asian neighbors. Destabalizing tactics by Indian governments has been a strategy to keep all of these neighbors under Indian rule of law & influence. India maintains its self-appointed status quo as big-brother by creating influencers for which India demands a role in its solutions. It means India is no neighbor to trust and is not a reliable friend or partner. Sri Lanka’s governments have lacked a diplomatic strategy for India, to maintain cordial relations while not allowing India to bully or bulldoze Sri Lanka or Sri Lankans. Our diplomats & advisors have failed to formulate a plan to counter act / balance & defend Sri Lanka against Indian tirades, instead all have opted to take the appeasing India formula. To deal with countries playing double games, one must also have a double game.

Be that as it may, the brave commanders & troops that led Operation Liberation cornering Prabakaran in his own birthtown and minutes away from capture was stopped by India in 1987. Working on ‘what ifs’ he Prabakaran been captured in 1987 every single person that died by LTTE suicide bomber, LTTE claymore mines, LTTE bombs and assassinations would all be living today including Rajiv Gandhi, R Premadasa, cream of the UNP leadership, Lakshman Kadiragamar, scores of Tamil children would not have been kidnapped and turned into child soldiers, scores of cadres could have done something more than taking to a gun & killing, there would have been no LTTE diaspora giving everyone a headache, there would have been no LTTE illegal international network from which they are drawing millions to buy people, Sri Lanka would not have had to spend trillions on a war budget or repairing infrastructure bombed, the country would have developed and the people would be living in better conditions than they are now. The inability to do all this was because India stopped the capture of Prabakaran in 1987 and India should not only apologize but should compensate for all of the losses.

Instead India wants to take over Trinco turn it into a naval base, take Mattala and turn it into an Indian airforce base to spy on China, force Sri Lanka to sign ETCA and flood Indians into Sri Lanka to turn it into a virtual Indian colony, take Sampur, grab our energy & food security and we have a bunch of fools in Parliament who are clueless to even imagine the consequences and dangers of India’s manoevres.

Shenali D Waduge