Sri Lanka: No Signs of Peace

The capture of Sampur by the Sri Lankan Armed forces was the first regular operation which has been launched after the Cease Fire of 2002 with coordinated employment of all three services.

This is a major transformation in conduct of operations by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. The army and air operations were very effectively synchronized and artillery fire played a major role in causing heavy casualties to the LTTE. On the other hand the Sri Lankan Navy has been deterring attacks from the sea by the Tigers.

This new found confidence of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces seems to have come from improved planning, training and coordination of operations at all levels. Induction of Kfir fighter aircraft from Israel and multiple rocket launchers has considerably enhanced the fire power and the LTTE devoid of anti air craft missiles or weapon systems has been severely affected by the air strikes in particular. Sampur is the key to the Trincomalee harbor and hence both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Armed Forces were keen to secure it.

Now that it has fallen to the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, it is unlikely that the LTTE will let the issue be settled without a counter attack and it is reported that orders for the same have already been issued by LTTE Supremo Prabhakaran to retake Sampur despite his open declaration of willingness for peace. The Muslims in the East fear renewed attacks by the LTTE as they are suspected by the outfit to be aligned with the government and against an Ealam.

The Ealam movement has been weakened in the Eastern part of the Island after defection of the Karuna faction; hence the LTTE is particularly sensitive to the Muslim issue in the area. The losses in Muttur and Sampur have added to the hostility between the LTTE and the Muslims leading to large scale migration from the area by Muslims.

The SLMM has blamed the Sri Lankan Armed Forces for violation of the 2002 cease fire by opening a new front. The LTTE as well as the SLAF have been violating the cease fire regularly. The battle has since been rejoined with the Sri Lankan navy claiming to have sunk 11 Tamil Tiger vessels and killed a large number of rebels in fierce sea battles on 25 September. The A 9 Highway connecting Vavuniya and Jaffna via Killinochchi and Muhamalai will be one of the key issues as it enables the LTTE in tax collection on the extremely busy road.

Simultaneously peace moves have been seen with the agenda being set by both sides. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Indian spiritual leader and master of the Art of Living is reported to have met the LTTE Chief Prabhakaran in his jungle hide out recently, flown in by a Sri Lankan helicopter. Thus it is apparent that there are vigorous efforts to get the LTTE and the Sri Lankan governments to agree to peace.

Members of Parliament of the Tamil National Alliance in Sri Lanka close to the LTTE were reportedly in New Delhi to meet the India Prime Minister. They however had to return to the Island disappointed. India is probably continuing its wait and watch policy as total casualties in the current phase of the war have overshot 3000 this year.

Rahul K. Bhonsle is a Strategic Risk and Knowledge Management Consultant and writer with specific focus on defence and security, especially in South Asia.