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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2343

The war plan that backfired

By Vasantha Raja

The Rajapaksa-administration, misguided by JVP theoreticians and a section of the military leadership, has driven Sri Lanka towards an unwinnable war already inflicting untold suffering on people. Hopes for a quick victory are fast receding, and Sri Lanka is getting bogged down in a long, atrocious conflict with catastrophic economic consequences to follow.

The Tigers, on the other hand, may see the developing scenario as a God-given opportunity to get rid of the Sinhala troops stationed in Jaffna, restore its dented image following the 'Karuna rebellion' and win much-needed global sympathy for its cause.

Recent LTTE attacks have virtually cut off aerial/naval supply routes to some 40,000 troops in the Jaffna peninsula. (The Tiger-controlled Vanni belt of jungle terrain effectively blocks all land links to the north). The Tigers’ overall scheme is apparent in their rocketing of the Palaly airbase and the Trincomalee harbour.

Disconnecting all lifelines to Jaffna troops from the south, opening up several warfronts to confuse and drain them, and forcing the military to overstretch its capacity in the south –all appear parts of a well-thought-out strategy.

Successful attacks within high-security zones have shown the vulnerability of southern military/economic targets to Black Tiger strikes. The LTTE attack on the Pakistan ambassador’s military convoy allegedly engaged in a "suspicious mission" to see Sri Lanka’s president and the bombing of the military high command before that are all indicative of an effective intelligence network in place.

These are ominous signs indeed of what could be in store for the Colombo administration in the coming period.

The tense atmosphere engulfing the entire country will only deepen the economic mess and exacerbate spiralling living costs. In this climate, the JVP’s efforts to keep the lid on smouldering trade union unease may not work for long.

The labour unrest that broke out just before the military’s 'Watershed Operation' was temporarily halted thanks to JVP intervention. The president threatened to bring in troops to break up the strike wave in the energy sector.

How long the JVP would be able to control growing trade union discontent remains to be seen. If strikes eventually do break out and troop-mobilisation to counter a labour unrest becomes indispensable, then the military’s burden could reach unbearable heights.

The message is simple: The JVP-guided government strategy to reap quick results with pin-point aerial bombing is clearly failing; in all probability, the war will drag on. And the implications for the JVP and the Rajapaksa administration are dire.

If, on the other hand, global pressure forces both sides to revive the ceasefire agreement and negotiate, the LTTE is likely to emerge with an enhanced image, having overcome the reversals Karuna split had caused.

By contrast, the government’s way of handling the peace process - with an overtly hostile attitude towards the global players – has considerably damaged its image internationally. The whole world knows the government wanted to push the Tigers to the limit and start the war with ulterior motives.

The president's trusted ally, the JVP, has publicly said everything the president was reluctant to say. But then the government's actions have spoken louder than the JVP’s words.

Clearly, the government is loosing the propaganda war in relation to the present conflict, just like what happened to the Israeli government recently. And if there is going to be a globally-sponsored ceasefire and talks, the Tigers will emerge triumphantly, just as the Hezbollah did.

Whether in Lebanon, Iraq or Sri Lanka, wars perpetrated with hidden agendas are bound to backfire. Honest efforts to tackle the root causes of social conflicts are the key to peace – just as the efforts of Mandela and De Klerk once proved in South Africa.

- Asian Tribune -

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