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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2673

Tigers sink Indian boats and kill Indian fishermen while Delhi doodles

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Manmohan Singh’s government is paralyzed by Tigers ploughing into Indian fishermen in mid-sea, blowing Indian boats to bits, hijacking Indian vessels, abducting Indian fishermen and even killing some.

Once again last Sunday five Tamil Tiger boats sped across the sea between Dhanuskodi and Katchchateevu – an area controlled by the Tamil Tigers -- and attacked the Indian fishermen in mid-sea. They hurled five hand grenades and sank an Indian mechanized boat. Quoting Tamil Nadu Fisheries Department, Press Trust of India reported that the attackers also hijacked three boats along with 12 fishermen.

Indian Express said: “One of the survivors, 20-year-old R Premkumar told reporters in Rameswaram that six boats came towards them from the direction of Nachikuda in North Sri Lanka which is under LTTE control.”

Predictably, the Tamil Tigers are bound to deny any involvement in the latest attack. But the Sea Tigers who take pride in claiming that the north-west sea board is controlled by them will not allow a “third party” to fish in their area.

The latest attack took place when some of the 780 mechanised boats that left Rameshwaran on Saturday night drifted towards Sri Lanka on Sunday. Somewhere near Kachchateevu – an island belonging to Sri Lanka – unidentified men attacked them “without any provocation,” said a fisherman who escaped the attackers.

According to official reports, they attacked Irudhayaraj, a boat driver, and his boat was blown to pieces before it sank.

PTI added: “Assistant Director of Fisheries Velpandian, later told PTI that the hijacked fishermen were released in the afternoon along with their boats, though their belongings including fishing nets and catch were taken away by their Sri Lankan counterparts.”

The Indian investigators have yet to confirm whether it was done by Tamil Tigers or other fishermen. But Indian and Sri Lankan authorities argue that there are no other known suspects in the area.

The Tigers have been carrying out mid-sea attack on Indian fishermen earlier. Five Indian fishermen from Kanyakumari, Chennai, were killed on March 29, 2007. After investigating the Tamil Nadu Police accused the Sea Tigers, saying the Kanyakumari fishermen had come at a time when the Tigers were in the middle of a mid-sea weapons transfer. The Tamil fishermen told the Tamil Nadu Chief Miniser, Karunanidhi, of harrowing stories of how the Tamil Tigers abducted them and ill-treated them.

Tamil Tigers also hijacked the Indian fishing trawler “Sri Krishna” in March and fled towards the Maldives. They were intercepted by the Maldivian forces which sank the boat when the Tamil Tigers opened fire on the Maldivian Naval boat.

Earlier, on December 23, 2006 the LTTE hijacked a Jordanian ship Farah III which was in distress off the coast of Mullaitivu due to engine failure. In an act of piracy the Tamil Tigers boarded the ship and seized 14,000 tons of rice being taken to South Africa from India.

These acts challenge India’s claim to be the “Big Power” of the region. India’s spy master, M. K. Narayanan, recently declared that Sri Lanka must buy arms only from India and not go to China or Pakistan because it is the “Big Power” of the region. But the “Narayanan doctrine” has been kicked in the pants by the Tamil Tigers – and India seems to be paralyzed.

So far India has allowed the Tamil Tigers to get away without even a word of warning from Manmohan Singh’s government. India which threatened Sri Lanka for performing its legitimate duty of buying arms from its neighbours is virtually giving a nudge-and-a-wink for the Tigers to carry on their illegitimate acts of killing Indians, hijacking Indian fishing boats, abducting Indian fishermen and sinking Indian fishing trawlers. So is India’s “Big Power” posture only to restrain Sri Lanka from attacking the Tigers while India blithely allows the Tigers to attack its own territorial integrity and sovereignty? Is Manmohan Singh’s government functioning as a sovereign entity ready at all times to protect its citizens or as a dithering, weak-kneed, self-serving, turbaned uncle of Tamil Tigers who are invited to tea in Delhi and allowed to run amok in its own backyard?

Has Indian political dignity gone down the toilet in the South Bloc? When will the Indian government stand up to protect its citizens, their property and their right to ply their trade within their territorial waters? Though unbearable India has no option but to grin and bear the humiliations thrust down her throat by China. But must she also be humiliated by a gang of terrorists in the south?

Colonel R. Hariharan, a former military intelligence specialist in counter insurgency and a member of the IPKF, quite appropriately raised some fundamental issues in the Indian Defence Website regarding the threat posed by the Tigers to the India’s sea going vessels. He asked: "Is there a political angle in this issue involving national security? It should not be. If so, it would be dismal because it is at the cost of national sovereignty, and security of vessels flying the Indian colours.

"With all these happenings in proximity of Indian waters involving Indian vessels and citizens, one would have expected the Government to react more visibly. However, it had continued to follow its policy of maintaining a stony silence despite the act of piracy by an insurgent group involving a vessel flying the Indian flag," he added. Political observers have noted for some time that Manmohan Singh’s government is sacrificing Indian lives, Indian sovereignty and Indian territorial integrity just to survive in Delhi. His government’s survival depends on the votes provided by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Karunanidhi who is soft on Tamil Tigers."

Pointing a finger at the Indian government for ignoring the threats of the Tamil Tigers Col Hariharan states bluntly: “This attitude is all the more surprising, considering the readiness with which it had expressed its "concerns" as and when Indian fishing boats trespassing into Sri Lankan waters are rounded up or driven off by the Sri Lankan navy."

Temporary political alliances with the Tamil Tigers have failed to serve India’s long-term interests. Besides, Indian alliances with the Tamil Tigers have always boomeranged on India’s regional and domestic interests because their ultimate political goals are diametrically opposed to each other. Tigers are only interested in manipulating India to achieve its separatist goals. Manmohan Singh’s government is a prime example of the success of Tiger manipulations in twisting the arm of Delhi (with the help of Tamil Nadu) to gain Indian support, however limited it may be, at the expense of India’s national and security interests. Indian assumptions that it can use the Tigers to serve its regional interests are mistaken. The more Delhi supports the Tigers, either directly or indirectly, the more it will have to pay for its political sins.

What is more, Sri Lanka has never been a threat to the India the way the Tigers have been so far. Sri Lanka and India have more in common than the Tigers in its dealing with India. The claim of Indians to be the guardians of Sri Lankan Tamils also wears thin because how can India protect the Sri Lankan Tamils when it has failed to protect its own citizens? Nor is the Tiger record of protecting Tamils anything to applaud because it is on record that the Tigers have killed more Tamils than all the other forces (including IPKF) put together.

Tigers know that the biggest obstacle to achieving their goal of Eelam is India. And India is opposing the division of Sri Lanka not because they love Sri Lanka but because they fear the domino effect on India. Their politics must necessarily clash with that of India. Consequently, their political goals will drive them into confrontational politics with India. While Sri Lanka has always tried to find accommodation with India on very contentious issue the Tamil Tigers have dared to challenge India with brazen violence.

To them killing Indian fishermen is a piece of cake. If they have got away with killing Rajiv Gandhi why should they worry about killing a few Indian fishermen? They may be confident that Manmohan Singh is ever willing to invite them for another round of tea and samosas even though the panjandrums of the South Bloc moved heaven and earth to prevent President of Sri Lanka from posing for a picture with the Prime Minister of India.

When Indian pundits fail to distinguish between potential friends and potential enemies they qualify to be the permanent occupants of the simian cages of the zoo than the strategy-planning seats in the South Bloc in Delhi.

- ASian Tribune -

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