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Indian Express, Thursday, November 13 1997

LTTE's India links were far more dubious than are made out to be

Manvendra Singh

NEW DELHI, November 12: Soldiers are the only innocents in politics. So it seems from the tale of a distraught father looking for his Army-officer son, evacuated with a head wound. The father walked into a hospital room only to be told by the nurse that, ``These four injured are cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and your son is in the next room''.

This was in November 1987, the injured Army officer served in the Indian Peace Keeping Force, and the mistaken hospital room was in Chennai, India! In the truest sense of non-alignment, the Government of India and its state government in Tamil Nadu were simultaneously treating the LTTE cadres injured by the IPKF; and the IPKF personnel injured by the LTTE.

A cross-section of officials who dealt with India's crisis in Sri Lanka are clear about New Delhi's duplicity in dealing with the LTTE. The furore, therefore, over portions of the Jain Commission report pointing fingers at one of the Dravidian political parties is misplaced on account of one basic fact, every political organisation in Tamil Nadu, national or regional, was involved in promoting and sustaining activities of the LTTE and they were aided by the intelligence agencies of the Centre as well as the State Government.

``So much of this mish-mash, cross wiring of political and military decisions left us wondering as to who was actually in charge of policy'', says Major General (Retd) Ashok Mehta, a division commander during IPKF operations.

From the beginning of India's involvement with militant Sri Lankan Tamil groups in 1981, until late 1993, its intelligence agencies were actively involved with, and in the promotion of, the LTTE; and for most of this period, the Congress was the ruling party.

The recently published book Assignment Colombo by J N Dixit, the former Foreign Secretary and the then High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, is replete with instances of active contact maintained by agencies of the governments of India and Tamil Nadu with the LTTE, even after the commencement of `Operation Pawan' by the IPKF. Dixit is explicit in stating that, but for the armed forces, no other Indian agency conducted itself with honour and integrity during the entire involvement with the Sri Lankan Tamil problem.

``As a result, what we had in Sri Lanka was a mess and Delhi was neck-deep in what it had created'' said a serving officer. ``So we don't even know whether, first, information about the IPKF was being passed on to the LTTE, and secondly, how much help is given to them after all that has happened'', he added.

Even while Indian soldiers were dying in the jungles of north and eastern Sri Lanka, New Delhi was still engaging the LTTE in talks, and Chennai was allowing the militants to rest, recoup and refit in Tamil Nadu. And some intelligence agents were ambushed in the company of LTTE by the IPKF, unaware that New Delhi's operatives were even there and, above all, moving with the militants.

Similarly, the intelligence agencies even organised an ambush in Amparai by the Indian-raised Tamil National Army on a Sri Lankan Army brigade commander without the knowledge of the IPKF leadership. There is even the case of detailed maps made available to the intelligence agencies, but locked away in dusty cupboards, while the IPKF casualties mounted because of insufficient information.

While a senior intelligence official was arrested for passing information to a western country, officials closely involved with the crisis declared unequivocally that each agency was pursuing its own agenda in Sri Lanka and each kept the government informed, but only from its parochial perspective.

``So while its soldiers were fighting in the jungles, its diplomats managing the crisis, New Delhi continued to hobnob with the LTTE through its intelligence operatives'', said a serving official, once closely involved with the crisis. Such contacts, therefore, resulted in Rajiv Gandhi meeting Kasi Anandan, a senior LTTE functionary, at his 10 Janpath residence months before he was assassinated.


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