|Sri Lanka: War after the fall of Vidattalthivu|
Apparently the LTTE gesture was laudable and would be welcomed by the people of Vanni who have been suffering immensely in the conflict. Tactically it would be unacceptable to the security forces when their offensive had made substantial progress and pose a real threat to the LTTE stronghold at Pooneryn/ Kilinochchi in the near future. A ceasefire even for 10 days would break the momentum of Sri Lankan advance. That would provide a vital breathing space for the LTTE forces now under tremendous pressure to recuperate their losses, tighten up defences and be prepared to respond to the security forces better. So it came as no surprise that the Sri Lanka government rejected the LTTE's unilateral ceasefire announcement.
In any case past experience of the LTTE misusing such ceasefire periods does not endear anyone fighting it to accept such offers. (Even Indian army experience of such 'LTTE ceasefire' was similar). When the LTTE was fighting the earlier episode of the Eelam War, it declared one such unilateral ceasefire on December 24, 2000 that continued up to April 2001. Even then the Sri Lanka government was cautious in its response, despite international efforts to initiate mediation. Barely three months later, in July 2001 came the daring LTTE Black Tiger raid on Katunayake airport crippling the civilian airlines and destroying substantial air force assets shocking the whole nation. Armies the world over go by lessons of war learned with their own blood and sweat. And Sri Lanka is no exception.
As far as the international audience is concerned, the number of ears sympathetic to the LTTE is dwindling. The global attitude to terrorism has changed. For all intents and purposes many nations consider the LTTE a terrorist organisation regardless of semantic arguments. Its international credibility is perhaps at the lowest now thanks to the nerve wracking experience of nations in handling terrorists of various kinds. Even those nations that do not call or consider the LTTE a terrorist body are cautious about coming out in support of the LTTE as they used to do in the 90s. So in reality the LTTE probably had no great expectations of any positive international response to its announcement.
The LTTE's strategic campaign among expatriates works best on an audience prone to be sympathetic to its cause. To augment its support base the LTTE will have to win over those who respond to the cause of Tamil autonomy but find the LTTE style of working abhorrent. This is what the LTTE is attempting among the Tamil expatriates at the large Pongu Thamizh public gatherings marshalled in key European capitals with strategically positioned LTTE flags and Prabhakaran portraits to catch the visual media. To make this strategy work the LTTE will have to do more than use its muscle power it had exercised among the expatriates all these years.
The LTTE's autocratic style has limited political appeal for expatriates who are enjoying the fruits freedom in democratic societies where they live. However, all these years they were impressed with its innovative conventional and unconventional operational skill. However, that fundamental military credibility on which the LTTE's reputation is built has now been shaken in the Eelam War-4. So the LTTE has to prove its military muscle in the war; and so far this is being weakened further with every success of the security
The best option for the LTTE is to look for an external power to bale it out of the war mess. In the past India, which has been sympathetic to the cause of Sri Lanka Tamil autonomy, did intervene in their favour till the LTTE shot itself in the foot when its assassin exploded the suicide bomb to kill Rajiv Gandhi. There were reports of India planning to induct substantial strength of Indian forces for the security of its Prime Minister during the SAARC conference. Immediately, the anti Indian lobby in Sri Lanka became vocal in their objection. Though the LTTE did not do so, it must have been really worried because Indian military intrevention for whatever apparent reason was the last thing it would like. So the LTTE's unilateral ceasefire announcement was also probably prompted by this desire ease India's apprehensions.
The ceasefire was also timed to coincide with the increasing incidents of Indian fishermen coming under the attack of Sri Lanka navy reported in Tamil Nadu. Such reports are stirring up the sentiments of Tamil population in India. When public sentiments are roused the technicalities of Tamil Nadu fishermen poaching in Sri Lanka waters or smuggling essential goods for the LTTE in the war zone are not considered germane to the larger interests of Tamils. So the LTTE stands to gain as long as this issue is on the boil. And as the battle progresses, we can expect the LTTE to offer more incentives for Tamil Nadu fishermen to lure them to smuggle supplies vital to survive and fight. With the security forces dominating the Mannar coast more and more such efforts could spark more flashpoints of attack on fishermen. How the Tamil Nadu government responds to such incidents is going to become crucial in the coming weeks.
The Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi extended the whole hearted support of the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) to the ruling coalition in Delhi when the recent vote of confidence for the Manmohan Singh government came up in Indian parliament. Having proved his credentials as a dependable ally, with the parliamentary polls coming up after four months the DMK leader can be expected to retain his strong links with the Congress party to fight his bệte noire Miss J Jayalalitha of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK). As the elections get closer, he will have to reiterate his credentials as a leader of the Tamils sympathetic to Sri Lanka Tamil cause. So the LTTE will have a difficult task to do the extra mile to enrol even his covert support unless it looks like the winning side in the war.
So the LTTE's war is looking loaded against it both strategically, and tactically. Can Prabhakaran pull the rabbit out of his hat to turn the war? And it is a tough take for anyone because that is a 64 dollar question.
Posted by R Hariharan