Friday, October 31, 2008



(copyright: B.Raman. Prepared for an edited volume of papers by different experts titled “Comprehensive Security For An Emerging India” being brought out next January by the Centre For Air Power Studies of New Delhi. Cannot be copied or used in any manner without my prior clearance)

Just as terrorists are constantly evolving in their thinking and ideology, in their educational background and skills, and in their modus operandi, so too the counter-terrorism strategy of the State actors has also been evolving to meet the threat posed by them.

Before 1967, counter-terrorism was seen largely as the responsibility of the Police and the civilian intelligence agencies. After the terrorist organisations took to aviation terrorism involving aircraft hijackings and blowing up aircraft in mid-air as one of their modus operandi, the need for special intervention forces trained by the army was felt. After a surge in acts of terrorism against Israeli nationals and interests in Israel and outside after the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, counter-terrorism in Israel acquired an increasingly military dimension with the role of the police subordinated to that of the armed forces.

This trend towards the increasing militarization of counter-terrorism acquired a further momentum after vehicle-borne suicide bombers, suspected to be from the Hezbollah, blew themselves up outside the barracks of the US Marines and the French paratroopers then deployed as part of an international peace-keeping force in Beirut killing 241 US servicemen and 58 French Paratroopers on October 23,1983. It was after this incident that the US started talking of a strategy to combat terrorism instead of a strategy to wage a campaign against terrorism. Al Qaeda’s attack against the US naval ship USS Cole in Aden in October, 2000, and the subsequent discovery of the plans of Al Qaeda to indulge in acts of maritime terrorism in ports and in choke points such as the Strait of Gibraltar and the Malacca Strait to disrupt international trade and the flow of energy supplies and to damage the global economy gave a naval dimension to counter-terrorism.

Even long before 9/11, counter-terrorism had acquired a scientific and technological dimension due to the increasing use by terrorists of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), but this dimension was restricted to detecting the presence of IEDs and neutralizing them. This S&T dimension has since grown in importance due to the attempts of Al Qaeda to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) material and its proclaimed readiness to use them, if necessary, to protect Islam. This dimension has further expanded due to apprehended threats to critical information infrastructure that could arise from terrorists or hackers helping terrorists, who are adept in the use of the information technology for destructive purposes.

Before 1967, terrorism was largely a uni-dimensional threat to individual lives and property. It has since evolved into a multi-dimensional threat to the lives of large numbers of people, to the economy and to the critical information infrastructure. It is no longer viewed as a purely police responsibility. It is the responsibility of the police, the armed forces, the scientific and technological community and the experts in consequence management such as psychologists, fire brigade and medical personnel and experts in disaster relief and rehabilitation. How to ensure co-ordinated and well-synchronised action by the different elements of the counter-terrorism community and what kind of counter-terrorism architecture is required is the question constantly engaging the attention of national security managers of countries affected by terrorism.

Combating terrorism military-style evolved into a war against terrorism after the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US Homeland. The new concept of a war against international terrorism in the US has had three implications. Firstly, a no-forces barred approach in combating terrorism----- whether it be the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Police or the Special Forces; secondly, an enhanced leadership role for the armed forces in the war against terrorism; and thirdly, a new criminal justice system to deal with terrorists that not only provided for special laws and special courts, but also enabled the armed forces to deal with foreign terrorists operating against US nationals and interests as war criminals liable to be detained in special military camps such as the one in the Guantanamo Bay and to be tried by military tribunals and not by civil courts.

Keeping pace with this evolution of a new strategy to combat terrorism, there has been a simultaneous evolution of the counter-terrorism architecture with the addition of many new elements to this architecture. The two most important elements in the US are the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Counter-Terrorism Centre. The DHS acts as the nodal point for co-ordinating all physical security measures against terrorism and all crisis management measures to deal with situations arising from successful acts of terrorism in US territory or on its borders as well as with natural disasters. While the Department of Defence created in 1947 is responsible for all policy-making and co-ordination relating to US military operations abroad, whether against a State or a non-State adversary, the DHS is responsible for all policy-making and inter-departmental co-ordination relating to internal security and natural disasters. A Homeland Security Council in the White House performs an advisory and policy-making role in respect of internal security and natural disasters.

The Homeland Security Council is structurally similar to the National Security Council, with a Secretariat of its own, which is headed by an official, who is designated as the Adviser to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-Terrorism. Its meetings are chaired by the President and attended by various Cabinet members having responsibilities relating to internal security.

In August 2004, President Bush established the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) to serve as the primary organization for integrating and analyzing all intelligence pertaining to terrorism and counter-terrorism (CT) and to conduct strategic operational planning by integrating all instruments of national power. In December 2004, the Congress incorporated the NCTC in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) and placed the NCTC under the supervision of the Director of National Intelligence, a newly-created post to co-ordinate and supervise the functioning of all intelligence agencies of the US.

In the UK, as in the past, the Police and the MI-5, the security service, continue to have a pre-eminent role in counter-terrorism of a classical nature such as acts involving the use of hand-held weapons and IEDs. The Armed forces and the S&T community play an enhanced role only in respect of likely terrorist strikes involving WMD material, aviation and maritime terrorism and terrorism through the Internet.

A long-term Counter-terrorism Strategy called CONTEST formulated in 2003 has four components ---- Prevention, Pursuit, Protection and Preparation. Prevention refers to the role of the political leadership in preventing British citizens and residents in the UK from joining terrorist organizations through appropriate measures for redressing grievances and for countering the ideology of the terrorists. Pursuit refers to the responsibility of the intelligence and security services and the police to collect preventive intelligence regarding planned terrorist operations and to disrupt the functioning of terrorist organizations through physical security measures and successful investigation and prosecution of terrorist incidents. Protection refers to the physical security measures required to prevent acts of terrorism based on threat or vulnerability perceptions. Preparation refers to the various agencies being in a state of readiness to meet the consequences of an act of terrorism. This is what we in India call crisis management.

Between 9/11 and July,2005, in the UK too, as in the US, the military dimension of counter-terrorism tended to acquire a greater importance than before due to the perception that the main threat to the UK would be from foreign-based Al Qaeda elements. This perception changed after the July,2005, terrorist strikes in London by four suicide bombers, who had grown up in the UK. The Intelligence and Security Committee, a Parliamentary oversight committee that reports to the Prime Minister on the performance of the intelligence agencies, which enquired into the failure to prevent the July, 2005, attacks, concluded that the police and the security agencies had failed to adjust sufficiently quickly to the growth of domestic terrorism. It said: “We remain concerned that across the whole of the counter-terrorism community the development of the home-grown threat and the radicalization of British citizens were not fully understood or applied to strategic thinking.”

The counter-terrorism strategy and architecture evolved in the UK emphasize the role of the Police working under the over-all supervision of the Home Secretary. A lesson drawn by the British from the July 2005 terrorist strikes in London is that no counter-terrorism strategy will be effective unless it is supported by the community from which the terrorists have arisen. The importance of police-Muslim community relations for preventing the radicalization of the youth and for de-radicalising those already radicalized and of police-business community relations in order to motivate and help the business community to protect itself from terrorist strikes on soft targets are now two of the important components of the British counter-terrorism strategy.

Among the new elements in the British counter-terrorism architecture, one could mention. the National Counter-Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) . The NaCTSO, which is funded and operated by the Association of Chief Police Officers, works on the 'protect and prepare' strand of the government's counter-terrorism strategy. Its aims have been defined as follows:

raise awareness of the terrorist threat, and spread the word about measures that can be taken to reduce risks and mitigate the effects of an attack;

co-ordinate security advice through the counter-terrorism security adviser (CTSA) network and monitor its effectiveness ;

build relationships between communities, police and government agencies ; and
contribute to the the national and international counter-terrorism policy

It trains, tasks and coordinates a nationwide network of centrally funded, specialist police advisers known as counter-terrorism security advisers (CTSAs). The primary role of these advisers is to provide help, advice and guidance on all aspects of counter-terrorism security to the public. It has developed and published guides on physical security against terrorism in sporting stadia and arenas, shopping centres and bars, pubs and clubs. It has undertaken the preparation of similar guides for other soft targets.

The Israeli Counter-Terrorism Strategy has three components------- defensive, operative and punitive. Defensive and operative refer to prevention through timely and precise intelligence and operations to disrupt planned terrorist strikes and punitive refers to retaliation by the State against terrorist organisations and their foreign State or non-State sponsors. No intimidation by terrorists, no succumbing to pressure by terrorists, making the terrorists and their sponsors pay heavily for their acts of terrorism, protection of the lives and property of Israeli citizens at any price and a refusal to be paralysed into inaction against terrorists due to fears of adverse reactions from the international community are the basic principles underlining the Israeli counter-terrorism strategy.

A Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 8,2006, laid down that any plan of action against terrorism should have the following four components:

Measures to address conditions which could be conducive to the spread of terrorism.

Measures to prevent and combat terrorism.

Measures to build counter-terrorism capacities and to promote international co-operation.

Measures to protect human rights and to enforce the rule of law.

While India has been facing the problem of insurgency in the North-East and left-wing extremism in Andhra Pradesh since the 1950s and political violence by the Naxalites of West Bengal from the late 1970s,it started facing terrorism as a major threat to internal security only from 1981 when the Khalistanis, backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), took to terrorism in Punjab and Delhi and also against Indian targets abroad. The Naxalite movement spread to the tribal belt across Central India. The 1980s also saw the emergence of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) as a terrorist force in Assam and the evolution of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as an insurgent-cum-terrorist organisation in Sri Lanka with a capability for suicide terrorism.

Since 1989, India has been facing threats to its national security from the ISI-backed indigenous Kashmiri organisations. The 1990s saw the ISI diverting Pakistani jihadi terrorist organisations of Afghanistan vintage initially to J&K and subsequently to other parts of India with the two fold objective of helping the terrorists in Kashmir and radicalising the Muslim youth in other parts of India to take to jihad, The March 1993 serial explosions in Mumbai were the first attempt by the ISI to strike at the developing Indian economy through surrogates.

The anger in the Muslim community over the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December,1992, led to domestic jihadi terrorism in the form of acts of reprisal by the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in the North and by Al Umma in the South. While the Al Ummah was effectively neutralised by the Tamil Nadu police, the Police in the North failed to deal equally effectively with the SIMI, which acted in concert with the Pakistani jihadi organbisations. Since 2006, one has been seeing the phenomenon of Muslim youth from well-to-do and educated backgrounds getting motivated either through the Internet or by the Pakistani organisations to take to jihadi terrorism with pan-Islamic objectives. The so-called Indian Mujahideen (IM) has been an outcome of this process. The period since 2001 has also seen the Naxalites or Maoists transforming themselves into an insurgent-cum terrorist force and establishing de facto control over large areas of our tribal belt in Central India.

Thus, whereas other democracies such as those of the US, the UK and Israel have been facing only terrorism of one or two kinds, India has been facing terrorism of multiple origin with varied objectives and different areas of operation. Our intelligence agencies and security forces have been facing cross-border terrorism and hinterland terrorism; urban jihadi terrorism and rural Maoist terrorism;ideological terrorism, religious terrorism and ethnic or separatist terrorism; indigenous jihadi and pan-Islamic jihadi terrorism; and indigenous and Pakistan and Bangladesh sponsored terrorism. The likelihood of maritime terrorism and WMD threats from Al Qaeda based in Pakistan’s tribal belt and cyber terrorism from IT-literate terrorists have added to the complexity of the scenario.

Against this background, India’s counter-terrorism strategy has to have a common core with principles applicable to all terrorism and separate modules tailor-made and suited to the different kinds of terrorism that we have been facing. The principles of this common core, some of which are in force even now, are:
A.The Police would be the weapon of first resort in dealing with hinterland terrorism of all kinds and the army would be the weapon of only last resort.
B.In dealing with cross-border terrorism in J&K and with the ULFA and the tribal insurgents in the North-East, the Army would have the leadership role---with the police operating in the interior areas and the Army operating nearer the borders. The para-military forces would be available for assistance to the Police as well as the Army.
C.Intelligence collection against hinterland terrorism would be the joint responsibility of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the State Police and in the border States of the IB, the Police and the Military intelligence. Intelligence collection regarding the external ramifications of all terrorist organisations would be the responsibility of the R&AW.
D.Physical security against hinterland terrorism would be the joint responsibility of the State Police and the central security forces such as the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). In the border areas, it will be the joint responsibility of the Army, the para-military forces and the Police.
E.The new mutations of terrorism, which could strike India one day, such as WMD, maritime and cyber terrorism have to be dealt with jointly by the Armed Forces, the scientific community and the police------ with the army having the leadership role in respect of WMD terrorism, the Navy/Coast Guard in respect of maritime terrorism and an appropriate S&T organisation in respect of cyber terrorism.
F.While dealing with jihadi terrorism calls for the strengthening of urban policing, dealing with Maoist terrorism cannot be effective without strengthening the rural policing.
G.While we should follow a no-holds barred approach to crush terrorists from Pakistan and Bangladesh operating in our territory, our strategy in respect of our own nationals who have taken to terrorism should be nuanced with a mix of the political and security strands.
H.While we should avoid the pitfalls of over-militarisation or Americanisation of our counter-terrorism strategy, which would be counter-productive in our country with the second largest Muslim population in the world and with our location in the midst of the Islamic world, we should not hesitate to adopt with suitable modifications the best counter-terrorism practices from the US, the UK and Israel. Among practices worthy of emulation one could mention empowering the police with special laws, the creation of a central agency for co-ordinated investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases, strict immigration control, strong action to stop illegal immigration and to expel illegal immigrants, action to stop the flow of funds to the terrorists from any sources----internal and external --- and the adoption of the concept of an integrated counter-terrorism staff for an integrated analysis of all terrorism-related intelligence and joint action on them. All agencies having counter-terrorism responsibilities should be represented in the staff.

The evolution of our counter-terrorism strategy has been in fits and starts as and when we faced a new kind of terrorism or faced a crisis situation. Similarly, our counter-terrorism community too has grown up in a haphazard manner. Our approach to terrorism has been more tactical than strategic, more influenced by short-term thinking than long-term projections. The time has come to set up a dedicated task force to recommend a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. The strategy has to be community-based to draw the support of all communities, political consensus-based to draw the support of all political parties and should provide for a close interaction with the private sector to benefit from its expertise and capabilities and to motivate it to protect itself in soft areas.

In 2004, the Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh created two posts of National Security Advisers---- one for external security, which was held by the late J.N.Dixit, and the other for internal security, which was held by Shri M.K.Narayanan. After the death of Dixit in January 2005, the Government reverted to the previous practice of having a single NSA to deal with internal and external security. This post is now held by Shri Narayanan. A reversion to the 2004 practice of having an NSA exclusively for internal security is necessary for improving our counter-terrorism management.

Another important step should be the reorganisation of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India. Counter-terrorism is one of its many responsibilities. While the trend in other countries has been towards having a single Ministry or Department to deal exclusively with counter-terrorism, our MHA has resisted this trend.

In any unified command and control for counter-terrorism, the Ministry responsible for counter-terrorism has to play a pivotal role. The importance of having a single leader for dealing exclusively with internal security, without being burdened with other responsibilities was realised by Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao. Instead of bifurcating the MHA, Rajiv Gandhi created a post of Minister of State For Internal Security in the MHA to handle all operational matters including waging a joint campaign against terrorism by the Centre and the States. The time has come to create an independent Ministry of Internal Security and post an energetic incumbent in charge of it.

Inadequacies in our intelligence agencies have remained unidentified and unaddressed. Every successful terrorist strike speaks of an intelligence failure. There is a lack of co-ordination not only among the agencies at the Centre, but also between the central agencies and those of the state police. How to improve the quantity and quality of the intelligence flow? How to ensure better co-ordination at the Centre and with the States? Important questions such as these were addressed by the Special Task Force for Revamping the Intelligence Apparatus headed by Shri G.C.Saxena, former head of the R&AW, appointed by the Atal Behari Vajpayee Government in 2000.

The implementation of its recommendations has not had the desired impact on the ground situation. Why? What further measures are needed? These issues have to be urgently addressed by a dedicated task force on terrorism-related intelligence capabilities.

Preventive physical security is the responsibility of central police forces and the police of different States. While the capability at the centre has improved, it has improved in certain States and declined in certain others. A strong physical security capability can thwart a terrorist strike even in the absence of intelligence. A weak capability may not be able to prevent it even if intelligence is available. Identification of weaknesses in our physical security set-up and action to remove them must receive priority.

Successful investigation and prosecution deter future terrorist strikes. Poor investigation and prosecution encourage terrorism. India has a poor record in successful prosecutions. Effective co-ordination of the police in all the States, the creation of a national data base to which the police of different States can have direct access and the quick sharing of the results of the enquiries and investigations through this data base could improve our record in investigation and prosecution. The creation of a Federal Counter-Terrorism Agency , with powers to investigate all terrorism-related cases only occurring in any part of the country, would facilitate action and prevention, but there continues to be a strong resistance from the States to proposals for the creation of such an agency. It should not be given the responsibility for investigating any other offences such as white collar crime since it could tend to get politicized and face opposition from the political class.

How to prevent attacks on soft targets? This has been a dilemma for all States. Israel, which sees many attacks on soft targets by Palestinian suicide bombers, follows a policy of reprisal attacks by the State on the leaders of the suspected organisations after every attack on a soft target, in order to demonstrate to the
terrorists that their attacks on soft targets will not be cost free. It is able to do it because the targets chosen by the State agencies for reprisal attacks are located in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority. It does not indulge in reprisal attacks in its own territory. Despite such reprisal attacks by the State agencies, Israel has not been able to stop attacks on soft targets. There is no short-term solution to attacks on soft targets except improvement in the capability of our intelligence agencies to collect timely preventive intelligence. Gradual attrition of organisations indulging in such attacks through arrests and neutralisation of their leaders could be a medium and long-term solution. That too would require precise intelligence, which is not always available.

Suicide terrorism is a lethal strategic weapon, to which no State has been able to find an effective response. While suicide terrorism against hard, heavily protected targets can be prevented through strict access control, suicide terrorism against soft targets is difficult to prevent unless the suicide terrorist is accidentally detected or the explosive device fails to function.

About 80 per cent of the acts of suicide terrorism are carried out with explosives. Strict explosives control in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorists can make the problem of suicide terrorism more manageable, but the increasing use of commonly available materials such as nitrogenous fertilisers, cosmetics used by women etc by the terrorists for fabricating explosives has added to the difficulties of the counter-terrorism agencies in preventing explosive substances from falling into the hands of terrorists. Yet, how to tighten up controls over the purchase, sale and acquisition of explosives and substances capable of being converted into explosives is a question, which needs serious attention. While considerable attention has been paid to devising measures to prevent the proliferation of small arms and ammunition, similar attention has not been paid to explosive substances.

Strategic threat analysis has undergone a significant change since 9/11. Before 9/11, analysis and assessment of threat perceptions were based on actual intelligence or information available with the intelligence and security agencies. 9/11 has brought home to policy-makers the difficulties faced by
intelligence agencies, however well-endowed they might be, in penetrating terrorist organisations to find out details of their thinking and planning. This realisation has underlined the importance of analysts serving policy-makers constantly identifying national security vulnerabilities, which might attract the attention of terrorists, and suggesting options and actions
to deny opportunities for attacks to the terrorists. Vulnerability analysis has become as important as threat analysis.

Strategic analysts can no longer confine themselves to an analysis and assessment of strategic developments of a conventional nature arising from State actors, but should pay equal attention to the strategic impact of non-State actors, such as international or trans-national terrorists, crime mafia groups and nuclear proliferators on global security in general and our own national security in particular..

India’s record in dealing with terrorism and insurgency is not as negative as it is often projected to be. We have had a successful record in Punjab, Nagaland (partial), Mizoram, Tripura and in Tamil Nadu in dealing with terrorism of Al Umma. Even in Jammu & Kashmir, the ground situation was showing signs of definite improvement till the recent avoidable controversy over facilities for the Amarnath pilgrims.

However, there are two kinds of terrorism/insurgency where our record has been poor till now---- the jihadi kind, which is essentially an urban phenomenon outside J&K, and the Maoist (Naxalite) kind, which is essentially a rural phenomenon. We have succeeded where the terrorism or insurgency was a regional phenomenon and was confined to a narrow area. We have not succeeded where the threat was pan-Indian in nature with the network extending its presence to many States in the North and the South.

A pan-Indian threat requires a co-ordinated pan-Indian response at the political and professional levels. Unfortunately, the multiplicity of political parties, the era of coalition and the tendency in our country to over-politicise terrorism come in the way of a pan-Indian political response. The tendency of the intelligence agencies and the police of different States to keep each other in the dark about what they know and not to admit to each other as to what they do not know comes in the way of a pan-Indian professional response. There has been a plethora of reports and recommendations on the need for better sharing and co-ordination, but without any effect on our agencies and the police.

The agencies and the Police are largely responsible for the absence of a co-ordinated professional response, but the political leadership at the Centre and in different States cannot escape their share of responsibility. A determined political leader, who has the national interests in mind, can use a whip and make the agencies and the police co-operate. A political leader whose policies and actions are motivated by partisan and not national interests will come in the way of professional co-operation.

Any cure to the problem of jihadi and Maoist terrorism has to start at the political level. A political leader has to play a dual role. He has to help the professionals in taking firm action against the terrorists---whatever be their community and ideology.He has to give them whatever tools they need. At the same time, he has to identify the circumstances and perceptions which drive young Muslims to take to jihadi terrorism and young tribals to take to Maoist terrorism. Anger is one of the common root causes of all terrorism. Unless this anger is addressed, professional handling of the threat alone, however effective, cannot bring about an enduring end to this threat.

An effective political handling has to start with a detailed analysis of the causes of anger and action to deal with them. Our young Muslims, who are taking to jihadi terrorism, are not bothered by issues such as lack of education and unemployment, reservation for Muslims etc. They are angry at what they consider to be the unfairness to the Muslims, which, according to them, is widely prevalent in India. Unsatisfactory political handling of the Muslim youth by all political parties is an aggravating cause of the threat from jihadi terrorism.

Similarly, it is the absence of meaningful land reforms and perceptions of suppression of the tribals by the non-tribals and the administration, which is an important cause of the tribal anger in Central India. It is the responsibility of the political class and the society as a whole to address this. They do not do so and keep nursing an illusion that more and more money, men and equipment for the agencies and the police will end this problem. It won't.

The way we kick around the problem of terrorism like a football blaming everybody else except ourselves can be seen in the TV debates and media columns. The same arguments are repeated without worrying over their validity.

The Congress (I) and the analysts supporting it ridicule the BJPs demand for the revival of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) by pointing out that despite the introduction of the POTA by the BJP-led Government, major acts of terrorism took place during its tenure. The BJP attributes the increase in jihadi terrorism since the Manmohan Singh Government assumed office in 2004 to its abolition of the POTA.

Both the arguments are partly correct and partly wrong. Yes, it is correct that despite the POTA major terrorist strikes took place during the BJP regime. So too, in Western countries, despite special powers given to the agencies and the police major incidents of terrorism took place. The Madrid blasts of March, 2004, the London blasts of July, 2005, and the Glasgow incident of June 2007, took place after special powers were given. Nobody in the West uses these incidents as an argument against special powers.

Similarly, an increase in attacks on soft targets has been faced by many countries of the world after the Bali explosion of October, 2002. So too India. This is due to the tightening of physical security for hard targets after 9/11. The new focus of the jihadi terrorists on soft targets has meant more terrorist strikes and more casualties. The undoubted fact that casualties due to jihadi terrorism have more than doubled since the Manmohan Singh Government came to power cannot be solely attributed to its abolition of the POTA.

Flow of human intelligence about jihadi terrorism is weak because of the post-9/11 phenomenon of global Islamic solidarity and the adversarial relationship between the agencies and the police on the one side and the Muslim community on the other. Feelings of Islamic solidarity prevent even law-abiding Muslims from volunteering to the agencies and the police information about their co-religionists, who have taken to terrorism and from assisting the police in their investigation. The adversarial relationship has resulted in mutual demonisation. How to come out of this syndrome is a matter for serious consideration not only by the police and the agencies, but also by the political class and the civil society, including the media.

Once we allow terrorism and insurgencies of different kinds to make their appearance in our society it takes a long time to deal with them. We took 19 years to deal with the Naga insurgency, another 19 years to deal with the Mizo insurgency, 14 years to deal with Khalistani terrorism and about 10 years to deal with Al Umma. The French took 19 years to deal with the terrorism of Carlos and his group. Even after 41 years of vigorous implementation of a no-holds-barred counter-terrorism strategy, Israel is still grappling with the terrorism of the Palestinians and the Hezbollah. The British took over 20 years to bring the Irish Republican Army under control.

The jihadi terrorism in the Indian territory outside J&K is a post-Babri Masjid demolition phenomenon. This has been rendered more difficult to handle by the post-9/11 emergence of the concept of a global jihad. Our jihadi terrorism is still only a pan-Indian phenomenon, but it has not yet become a part of the global jihadi phenomenon. Preventing it from happening is the responsibility of the political leadership and containing and rooting it out is the responsibility of the professional class. The two have to work together, with understanding and support from the civil society.

The attitude of our political class to terrorism is ambivalent. On the one hand, it is worried---rightly---over this growing threat. On the other, it continues to view this as a vote-catcher. Every political party has been firm in demanding action against terrorism when it is out of power. It becomes soft when it comes to power. That is the bane of our counter-terrorism. Only voter pressure can force the political class to stop exploiting terrorism as an electoral weapon and to start dealing with it as a major threat to national security, which should unite the political class and the civil society.

Finally, the jihadi terrorism in our territory has been able to thrive because of the support from the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Our anxiety for improved relations with them has been coming in the way of any deterrence to their continued use of terrorism against India. The deterrence has to be in the form of an effective covert action capability, which we should be prepared to use against the terrorism infrastructure in Pakistani and Bangladeshi territory, if left with no other option. The covert action capability, which was reportedly wound up in 1997 out of a misplaced sense of generosity to Pakistan, has to be revived.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India. He headed the Counter-Terrorism Division of the Research & Analysis Wing from 1988 to August 31,1994. He was a member of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India from July,2000, to December,2002. He was also a member of the Special Task force for revamping the intelligence apparatus set up by the Government of India in 2000 )

Thursday, October 30, 2008




Available police statistics of incidents involving explosions and civilian casualties caused by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)since 2002 are given below:
2002 18 218
2003 19 260 2004 103 202 2005 121 65 2006 86 59 2007 70 124
2008 (Till end of January) 6 NIL

The figures of civilians killed in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 include civilians killed by explosions as well as in attacks not involving IEDs.Thefigures for 2006 and 2007 refer to only civilians killed by IEDs. While there was a large number of incidents involving IEDs, the number ofcivilians killed per incident was low as compared to incidents involving IEDs caused by jihadi terrorists in other parts of India. This could beattributed to the fact that the explosive material used by the ULFA----much of it procured from Bangladesh--- was of low quality as comparedto the material available to the jihadi terrorists --- whether procured from Pakistan or Bangladesh--- and the expertise in the use of IEDsimparted to the ULFA in the training camps in Bangladesh was also of inferior quality as compared to the expertise imparted to the jihaditerrorists---whether in Pakistan or Bangladesh.

A defining characteristic of the incidents involving the use of IEDs targeting civilians in Assam was that many of the incidents specificallytargeted non-Assamese civilians while taking care not to target Assamese-speaking civilians and illegal Bangladeshi migrants. Jihaditerrorists in other parts of India make no distinction. They kill civilians indiscriminately---- without worrying about their religion, ethnic orlinguistic origin.

Jihadi terrorism, as distinguished from the ethnic terrorism of the ULFA kind, has also started making inroads in Assam. According to theAssam Police, the following jihadi organisations are now active in Assam: The Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA); the IndependentLiberation Army of Assam (ILAA); the People United Liberation Front (PULF); the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), whose Pakistani counterpart isa founding member of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF); and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), whose Pakistanicounterpart is also a member of the IIF. According to them, the activities of all these organisations are co-ordinated by theJamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JUM) of Bangladesh, which organised hundreds of simultaneous explosions of crude devices all over Bangladesh onAugust 17, 2005.

Some HUM cadres, along with two Pakistani nationals, were arrested in August, 1999. Forty-two HUM cadres, including some trained in thePakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), surrendered till 2006-end. Four HUJI cadres trained in Bangladesh surrendered in August, 2004. OneHUJI cadre was arrested in February, 2004. Till 2006-end, 370 jihadi terrorists belonging to different organisations had been arrested and128 had surrendered.

The Security Forces in Assam have been putting up a determined fight against the ULFA killing 1,128 cadres since 1991 and till 2006-endand arresting 11,173 during the same period. 8,465 others surrendered. The result: decrease in cadre strength; erosion of its support base inthe population; decrease in recruitment and fund collection; and shortage of arms and ammunition. In view of these developments, the ULFA started following a new modus operandi with the following features: decrease in specific targeted violence; increase in indiscriminate violence directed at soft targets; targeting of vital installations in remote areas; attacks on security forces when and wherepossible; and use of unconscious third persons not suspected by the Police for having the IEDs planted in public places. The use of suchunconscious third persons has been increasing.

However, the ULFA still has an estimated hardcore of 800 trained cadres and another 1,500 untrained cadres. There are no signs of anyweakening of its morale and motivation. Its command and control orchestrated from Bangladesh is intact.

Any effective counter-terrorism strategy in Assam has to have the conventional components such as improving intelligence collection,analysis and assessment and co-ordinated follow-up action; improving the capability and resources of the police; strengthened physicalsecurity; and a well-tested crisis management drill. In addition, it must have a strong anti-illegal immigration component---to prevent anyfurther illegal immigration from Bangladesh and the identification, arrests and deportation of those, who have already illegally entered India.Obviously for electoral reasons, there is a reluctance on the part of the Government to deal effectively with illegal immigration. This is likelyto prove suicidal. Muslims constitute about 32 per cent of the population of Assam today. If the problem of illegal immigration fromBangladesh is not tackled, there is a real danger that in another 50 years, Assam might turn into a Muslim majority State.

Pakistan, Bangladesh and China have an interest in keeping Assam destabilised---each for its own reason. The interest of Pakistan andBangladesh is in facilitating the emergence of a Muslim majority State and its ultimate secession from India. The interest of China is inweakening the Indian capability to protect Arunachal Pradesh in the likelihood of the unresolved border dispute over Arunachal Pradesh oneday leading to a confrontation between India and China.

The previous Government headed by Shri A. B. Vajpayee was strong in rhetoric relating to terrorism, but weak in action. Its successor weak in rhetoric as well as action. It seems to believe that confidence-building measures with neighbours who are sponsoring terrorismagainst India and the peace process would pay dividends in improving the terrorism situation on the ground. This is unlikely to happen. Lackof determination to act strongly and in time is already costing us heavily and will cost even more heavily in future.

---Extract from the Chapter titled ASSAM: TERRORISM & “SILENT UNARMED INVASION” in my book titled "Terrorism: Yesterday, Today &Tomorrow" published by the Lancer Publishers ( of Delhi in June,2008

More than 50 persons are feared to have died and more than a hundred injured in over 10 blasts that were simultaneously orchestrated inGuwahati, the capital of Assam, and in the Districts of Barpeta and Kokrajhar on the night of October 29,2008. The picture regarding theexact number of explosions and the places where they took place is still confusing. Some reports put the number of explosions as high as18. At least four of the blasts took place in Guwahati.

2. The people of Assam are not strangers to serial blasts carried out from time to time by the ULFA and jihadi organisations of Pakistani andBangladeshi vintage, which have made inroads into the State by taking advantage of the uncontrolled illegal immigration of Muslims into theState from Bangladesh They have been operating separately of each other when possible and in co-ordination with each other, whennecessary.

3. Assam has been the nerve-centre of a cocktail of terrorist organisations----ethnic and jihadi--- who have been systematically eating at thevitals of this State, which is key for protecting the integrity of India from the designs of Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.But nobody hashad the time to pay attention to the alarming ground situation in this key State----neither the Congress (I) nor the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) nor any other party. Taking advantage of the lack of serious attention from the Government of India and the mainstream politicalparties, this cocktail of terrorists has been spreading havoc in the State.

4. "My heart goes out to the people of Assam," said Jawaharlal Nehru in a broadcast to the people of Assam as the Chinese troops weremarching in in 1962. He did nothing to protect them before the Chinese invaded. His Government and its successors did precious little toprotect this right arm of India and its people either from the Chinese in the event of another war or from the terrorist organisations of varioushues which have come up in the State since the 1980s. Who is whose surrogate? Who is the surrogate of Pakistan? Who is the surrogate ofBangladesh? Who is the surrogate of China? Is there a joint co-ordination by Pakistan, Bangladesh and China to undermine the control of theIndian State? Nobody knows the answer.

5. Everyone is clueless---- the intelligence agencies, the police, the security forces, the political class. There is hardly any realisation of theseriousnress of the situation in Assam. One can even understand inadequacies and even incompetence, but one is alarmed by the totaldisinterest in Delhi in what is going on in Assam.

6. It is too early to say who was involved in the explosions of October 29---- the ULFA only or ULFA plus? One has to wait for the results of theinvestigation, but from the large number of casualties and the widespread nature of the attacks, one thing is already clear----there has beena worrisome increase in the lethality of the explosives available to the terrorists and their ability to use them effectively.

7. Public opinion has to force the Governments at the Centre and in the State and the political class as a whole to act before it is too late.(30-10-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

Wednesday, October 29, 2008




The air wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) carried out two attacks within an interval of about 90 minutes on a militarytarget in the North and an economic target in Colombo on the night of October 28,2008. This is the seventh operation by the LTTE's air wingsince it went into action in March last year.

2.Tamilnet, the pro-LTTE web site in the English language, which has again been giving battle front news after being silent on this subjectfor some days last week, reported as follows on the LTTE air attacks of October 28: " The LTTE carried out an air attack on the Thallaadimilitary base, the main artillery and Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) launchpad of the Sri Lanka Army in Mannaar around 10:30 p.m.,dropping three bombs on the base. The Tiger aircrafts then proceeded to Colombo and dropped two bombs on the Kelanitissa power station,while Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) bombers were searching for LTTE aircrafts in the skies over Kilinochchi between 11:00 and 11:30 a.m.The SLAF aircrafts were flying over the suburbs of Mullaiththeevu and Puthukkudiyiruppu with para lights focused on the ground from 1:30a.m. on October 29. An SLAF reconnaissance aircraft was continuously circling over Vanni from 11:00 p.m. Immediately after the Tiger airraid on the Thallaadi garrison, the SLAF fighters were circling over the suburbs of Kilinochchi, Iranaimadu, Visuvamadu and Murasumoaddaiareas between 11:00 and 11:30 p.m. The SLAF aircrafts were using para lights in their search mission over Vanni. Civilian sources said theTiger aircrafts flew back to Vanni over Mannaar. " It did not specifically mention the safe return of the aircraft to their base.

3. However,, the pro-LTTE website in the Tamil language, carried the following official announcement purporting to befrom the LTTE: " At 10-20 PM on Tuesday night, Air Tigers of the LTTE bombed the Thallaadi military base in the Mannaar region. Themilitary base sustained heavy damages. Many were killed and injured. At 11-45 PM on Tuesday the Air Tigers carried out a successful attackon the Kelanitissa power station in Colombo. After carrying out these strikes, the aircrafts returned safely to base."

4. Pro-LTTE sources have tried to give the impression that more than one LTTE aircraft were involved in the two attacks. The report of theReuters correspondent claimed that only one aircraft was involved in the attack on the military base.Sri Lankan military sources have alsospoken of only one aircraft being involved in the attack on the Colombo power station.Pro-LTTE sources have claimed that the same aircraftor aircrafts, after dropping the bombs on the military base in the Mannaar area, flew to Colombo to bomb the power station. The militarybase attacked is about 250 Kms to the north of Colombo. Would the aircraft or aircrafts, which must have been carrying at least two bombseach, have had sufficient fuel to be able to take off from the Vanni region, bomb the military base, fly to Colombo, bomb the power stationand then return to their secret base?

5. Pro-LTTE sources have claimed that there were many fatalities and severe equipment damage in the military base, but according to Armysources, there were no fatalities and very little equipment damage.Only one security forces personnel was injured, they claimed. The powerstation admitted the death of one of its employees due to shock when the bomb or bombs fell. The administrative buildings and the coolingsystem sustained some damage resulting in a fire, which was put out by the Fire Brigade. Pro-LTTE sources have claimed some damage tothe turbines, but there are so far no reports of any serious disruption of the power supply in Colombo.

6.The attacks were tactically successful in the sense that the aircraft involved in the two attacks reportedly returned safely to base afterdropping the bombs on the targets without being intercepted by planes of the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) or without being hit and broughtdown by the anti-aircraft defence. But their strategic significance is limited since they do not appear to have caused any damage of aserious nature. However, the attacks could have a psychological significance in maintaining the morale of the LTTE cadres and itssupporters in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and in the overseas diaspora.

7. These attacks and the earlier strike by two officers of the Sea Tigers, one of them a woman, on two commercial ships used by the SriLankan Army for carrying military supplies to the Sri Lankan troops in the Kilinochchi area at the Kankesanthurai port on October22,2008, show that the LTTE's command and control is functioning well despite the losses suffered by it on the ground in the Vanni region during thecurrent ground offensive by the Sri Lankan Army.

8. Military analysts have commented that since the LTTE started using its air wing in March last year, it has been emulating the tacticsfollowed by North Korea during the Korean war of the 1950s. The tactics consisted of using small planes to surprise and embarrass theSouth Korean and American Air Force planes without achieving any strategic objective. Since the LTTE started using its planes,only in twoinstances were substantial human fatalities and equipment damage inflicted. The first was during the raid on the Anuradhapura trainingbase of the SLAF in October last year and the second was during the attack on the Vavuniya military base on September 9,2008. Both theseraids were conducted jointly by the LTTE's planes from the air and suicide cadres from the ground. It is the suicide cadres on the ground,who caused the fatalities and most of the equipment damage. The role of the aircraft was essentially psychological, meant, inter alia, todivert the attention of the ground personnel of the Sri Lankan security forces . But the combined operations carried out successfully didshow good qualities of co-ordination between air-borne and ground-based cadres. Whenever the LTTE planes have operated alone and notin conjunction with ground-based cadres, the results achieved were not significant operationally.

9. Aircraft operating alone without support from ground-based elements can cause substantial damage to an economic target if the bombsare powerful enough and the bombing is precise. The LTTE has carried out two bombings of economic targets so far----one against somepetrol storage tanks in Colombo last year and the other against a power station in Colombo on the night of October 28. In both instances,the bombs were not powerful enough to cause serious equipment damage and the bombing was not precise. As a result, these twobombings failed to cause any economic dislocation.

10. The latest strikes like the previous ones once again highlighted the weak night operational capabilities of the SLAF and the weakanti-aircraft defences. They were neither able to bring the planes down through anti-aircraft fire, nor able to chase the raiding planes and force them down nor identify the place of landing of the LTTE planes as they returned to base and strike them from the air. It is reportedthat SLAF planes were patrolling in the air at the time of the return of the LTTE planes, but they failed to locate their landing place andstrike at them as they were landing. The aircraft managed to land safely and ground-based technicians of the LTTE's air wing managed todismantle them quickly and shift them to their intended place of concealment. (29-10-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Tuesday, October 28, 2008




"The reported US assurances to respect Pakistani sovereignty in its territory did not apply to air strikes, which could continue as before. In fact, the Pakistan Army itself had agreed to these air strikes when Musharraf was the President and the COAS. Kayani was a party to that decision and he could not now object to such air strikes unless the Army wanted the permission for air strikes accorded by Musharraf to be withdrawn. However, Musharraf had consistently refused to agree to unilateral ground strikes by the US special forces. The present Government cannot give the impression that it had gone even further than Musharraf in its co-operation with the US forces in their operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban ."---- from my article of September 20,2008, titled "US STRIKES IN FATA: Change In Continuity" at

The "New York Times" reported on its web site on October 26,2008, as follows: The United States is refraining from using its special forces on the Pakistani territory following a raid nearly two months ago that resulted in civilian casualties and vehement protests from Islamabad. Following the attack, National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani made an unannounced visit to Washington and expressed his country’s anger in person to top White House officials, including National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.But while the ground raids have stopped, attacks by remotely-piloted Predator aircraft, which are operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, have increased sharply in the past three months.There were at least 18 Predator strikes since the beginning of August, some deep inside the tribal areas, as compared with the five strikes during the first seven months of 2008.

2.Writing in the "News" of Pakistan (October 28,2008), Amir Mir, the well- informed Pakistani journalist, has cited a report of the Ministry of the Interior of the Government of Pakistan as indicating that the US forces based in Afghanistan carried out 32 military strikes in Pakistani territory since the beginning of 2008 as against a combined total of 10 during 2006 and 2007.These included air strikes by unmanned Predator aircraft, attacks by missiles fired from US positions in Afghan territory and ground operations. The Interior Ministry report cited by him does not give the break-up figures. If the NY Times estimate of 23 Predator strikes since the beginning of this year is taken as correct, there were nine other operations , which did not involve the Predator aircraft. Earlier, the Pakistani authorities had reported only one helicopter-borne ground attack on a suspected Al Qaeda hide-out by the US in South Waziristan on September 3,2008. If one excludes this, there would appear to have been eight cross-border missile strikes.

3. The tabulation of the Interior Ministry, as disclosed by Amir Mir, gives the following other interesting details:

355 persons were killed in these 32 US operations directed at targets in the Pakistani territory. Of these 301 were innocent civilians, 36 were alleged members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban and 18 were members of the Pakistani security forces.

Only eight of the 32 strikes were based on human intelligence, which proved to be correct. Among these eight strikes was one in which Abu Laith al-Libi, projected by the US as an important Al Qaeda operative, was killed. The remaining 24 strikes were based on human intelligence, which proved to be incorrect.

16 of the 32 US attacks were carried out between January 1 and August 31, 2008. The remaining 16 strikes were carried out between September 3 and October 26, 2008.

There were nine aerial strikes between September 3 and September 25, 2008 killing 57 people on September 3, 4, 5, 8, 12, 15, 17, 22 and 27.

Between October 1 and October 26 , seven cross-border attacks were carried out, killing at least 42 people---- mostly women and children ---- on October 1, 3, 9, 11, 16, 23 and 26.

4. After every strike, Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani, and spokesmen have been criticising the US for violating Pakistani territory and calling upon it to respect its sovereignty. Their statements and warnings have not had any effect on the US forces, which continue to indulge in Predator and cross-border missile strikes whenever they received intelligence about the suspected location of terrorist hide-outs. There seems to be an informal understanding between the two Governments on the following lines: " I will keep criticising and warning you.You keep doing whatever you have to against the suspected terrorist hide-outs, provided you do not undertake strikes involving ground troops." The intensification of Predator strikes has coincided with the forthcoming US Presidential elections.

5. Despite public criticism of the close counter-terrorism co-operation with the US initiated by Pervez Musharraf, the newly- elected Government, which took office on March 18,2008, has been continuing the policies initiated under Musharraf. Apart from turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the US air and missile strikes in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) while pretending to condemn them, the Government has also been going ahead with the implementation of proposals for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency training of officers of the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Army and the Frontier Corps by mixed teams of US and British officers. These training projects were initiated under Musharraf.

6. The text of a report carried by the "Daily Times" of Pakistan on October 19,2008, on US-aided counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency projects is attached.(29-10-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd),Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

ANNEXURE (From the "Daily Times" of Lahore dated October 19,2008)

FATA is the epicentre of the global war on terrorism, according to a US security assistance officer helping Pakistan improve both equipment and training in order to fight more effectively against extremist militants.

The observation is quoted in an assessment by the Centre for Naval Analysis (CAN) of US-funded projects in Pakistan under the rubric 1206. The focus of 1206 projects in Pakistan has been on three distinct, but inter-related sets of capabilities. The goal is to rapidly increase Pakistan’s capacity to confront terrorists operating in FATA. Specifically, the programme seeks to provide the Pakistani special operation forces the capability to conduct airborne night strike operations against terrorists in the FATA. FY06 1206 projects in Pakistan have focused on increasing the capacity and capability of the Pakistani Army’s rotary wing aviation units as well as improving the equipment and training available to the Pakistani Army’s Special Services Group (SSG). Pakistan is also to be enabled to deal with terrorist attacks in settled areas and urban centres.

Superior knowledge: The Pakistani forces, CAN said, engaged in combat with enemies in the FATA often find that their adversary has superior knowledge of the territory and is able to use this knowledge to provide tactical advantages. With that advantage, the adversary reportedly takes advantage of the night to conduct surveillance, reinforcement, withdrawal and even attacks against Pakistani forces. Between 2003 and 2008, the SSG conducted 122 separate counter terrorist operations in the FATA and the NWFP. While SSG operations resulted in 178 terrorist dead and 211 captured, the SSG suffered 42 killed and 90 wounded. Additionally, the SSG suffered 16 killed and 29 injured in a terrorist attack at the Tarbela SSG base.

After 1206 funding authorisation was passed, Pakistan requested support for spare parts, aviation body armour, night vision goggles (NVGs), a night targeting system for Cobra helicopters, and limited visibility training for pilots. While much of the 1206-funded equipment for Pakistan in financial year (FY) 2007 has arrived in Qatar, home of US Central Command’s Special Operations Component Command, it has not been distributed to the SSG. Instead, distribution of the equipment to Pakistani units is being paired with specialised training by US special operation forces under the Joint Combined Exchange Training. The goal for the FY07 1206 programme is to rapidly develop the capability of the SSG to conduct vertical insertion nighttime company-sized attack helicopter supported raids against terrorist targets in the FATA.

According to Pakistani officers the training and operational profile of the forces involved has changed as a result of the arrival of new equipment. According to a senior US officer, the number of combat operations by Pakistani military forces against terrorists has increased dramatically since the Red Mosque siege in July 2007. This increased operational tempo has compounded the strain on the Pakistani Army’s capabilities, especially aviation.

According to the commander of the SSG special operations task force, there is both an operational and psychological impact of having Cobra helicopters available to support special operations forces engaged with terrorists in NWFP and FATA. The Cobras also provide direct strike capabilities against enemy targets. According to the Pakistani director of Military Operations, the Cobra is the mainstay of their missions in the FATA. It protects logistics, it provides reconnaissance, and it allows raids on emergent targets. The FATA is very difficult terrain to operate in and the only fire support available to ground units comes from mid-range towed artillery and helicopters. Surveillance and reconnaissance are difficult, but helicopters provide the combined capabilities of surveillance, quick reaction and fire support. According to a former Pakistani company commander, when the enemy hears Cobras coming, they disappear. Actual casualties inflicted on the enemy by the helicopters are less important than the deterrent effect of having them nearby to support ground forces.




It is just one week before the US Presidential elections. We all know all that we want to know about the two candidates Senators JohnMcCain of the Republican Party and Senator Barrack Obama of the Democratic Party. We also know what the American people think of themand their ideas for the future through the public opinion polls which, without an exception, predict voter approval for Obama and hisideas----whether relating to the economy, the so-called war against terrorism or Iran's nuclear programme.

2.But there is still a missing gap in our knowledge---what Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda think of the two candidates and their proposedpolicies. On the eve of the Presidential elections of 2004 (on October29,2004), Osama entered the pre-poll scene in the US with a videomessage to the American people, which poured scorn over American claims regarding the war. Commenting on his message, I wrote: "As the date of the polls approached, there was feverish speculation as to whether Bush, helped by President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan,would produce OBL before the American people like a magician producing a rabbit out of his hat and thereby make Kerry look silly and wina thumping victory. Instead of Bush producing OBL and embarrassing Kerry, it is OBL's spin-masters who have produced him before thevoters, making Bush, Kerry and everybody else in the US look silly and confused." (

3. Is OBL planning a similar entry into the poll scene before the Americans vote? It will be out of keeping with him if he does not. Watch outduring the days to come. Will he pour scorn over McCain and Bush just as Al Qaeda web sites are already doing? What will he say about thestatements of Obama about his determination to hunt for OBL, even if he has to send the US troops into Pakistani territory to catchhim---provided he has precise intelligence? Will he talk of what the jihadis in Pakistan and Afghanistan describe as the newly opened thirdfront in the war---- in the Wall Street?

4. Or will the expected message fail to materialise? If it fails to come, that will be more significant than his message if it does come. Failureto materialise would mean that there is something wrong somewhere in the Pashtun belt from where OBL is stated to be operating. The US and the Asif Ali Zardari Government in Pakistan----while pretending to criticise in open each other's counter-terrorism policies---- have beensecretly co-operating and co-ordinating their operations even more closely than was the case under Pervez Musharraf---- the US from the airthrough repeated air strikes by pilotless drones in the two Waziristans and through aerial surveillance and the Pakistan Army and theFrontier Corps on the ground in the Bajaur Agency and the Swat Valley.

5. It is apparent that the stepped up operations both by the Americans and the Pakistanis are not unrelated to the Presidential polls. If theAmericans can get a high-value target such as OBL or his No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri before the polls, it will not only redound to the credit ofBush before he leaves office, but could also benefit McCain, who is desperately trying to avert a seeming rout in the elections.

6. Al Qaeda's foreign volunteers are on the run from village to village, from mosque to mosque and from madrasa to madrasa to protectthemselves from the air strikes of the US and Pakistan. The war against terrorism has seen intense air strikes in Afghan territory from thebeginning. Since Zardari's meeting with Bush in New York in September, it has been seeing an intense wave of air strikes in Pakistaniterritory. US planes have been flying across Pakistani air space over the tribal belt as if they are flying in US air space without worryingabout the proforma criticism from Pakistani leaders and officials and repeatedly attacking suspected Al Qaeda hide-outs. They have killedmany, but not the ones that matter.

7. What stands between the US and OBL or Zawahiri is just luck and a little bit of advance intelligence. Both have eluded the US so far. Forair strikes, the US has to be lucky only once. OBL and Zawahiri have to be lucky every time.

8. OBL must be constantly moving to deny that one stroke of luck to the US. How serious is the ground position for him? One will get ananswer either way---whether his pre-poll message materialises or does not. (28-10-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Monday, October 27, 2008


By R. Upadhyay ( From

( The writer is an eminent authority on Islam and Islamic fundamentalism, with insights born out of long years of studying the subject)

Facing the challenge of aggressive Muslim invaders since their first invasion in 712 A.D. and intervention in governance of the sub-continent from 1194 which spread for a period of over a millennium, Indian people are put on trial at every stage. Whether it was the soft attitude of Prithviraj Chouhan towards Mohammad Ghori or the alliance of Rana Sangram Singh with Babar the founder of Moghul dynasty against Ibrahim Lodi or the negotiation the Congress leaders had with Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Indians were always at receiving end. Although, they defied their civilisational extinction with valiant and ceaseless resistance against the alien tyranny and proved the song of Allama Iqbal -“Kuchh Baat hai ki hasti mitati nahin Hamaa” (There is something distinct in us which defied our extinction -correct, they ignored the second part of the above song -“Sadiyon raha hai dushman daure zaman hamaara” (For centuries we are facing our enemies) and therefore, the challenge remained.

Historically, so long the Arabian Indians or ‘Al-Arbi-al-Hind’ as the Indian Mujahideens call themselves - ruled this country; they had no problem with Hindu majority. However, after the failed Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 followed by firm grip of British rule when their former subjects took it as a change from one alien ruler to another, they launched sustained movements like Deoband, Aligarh, Nadwa, Ahl-e-Hadith, Jamaat-e-Ulema-Hind, Tabliq Jamaat and Jamaa-e-Islami not only to restore Islamic power by re-organising their foot soldiers but also to save the community from the democratic rule under the political supremacy of the religious majority. Yusuf Abbasi, a Muslim scholar in his book entitled ‘Muslim Politics and Leadership in South Asian Sub-continent’ perhaps rightly observed – ‘The Hindus looked upon the British rule as deliverance from Muslim yoke, and considered English education as a blessing, the Muslims in their eagerness to preserve their religion and religious views rejected English education”. Accordingly, the descendents of Arabian Indians mobilized their foot soldiers and partitioned the sub-continent into ‘Muslim India’ and ‘Hindu India’. However, even after the end of British rule and establishment of secular democracy their restive psyche remained a perpetual problem of this country. “

Democracy is a concept completely alien to the Muslim psyche to the extent that there is no equivalent terminology for it in Arabic or other languages spoken by Muslims (Understanding Mohammad – A psychobiography of Allah’ Prophet by Ali Sina, a Canadian Muslim of Iranian descent). After partition, people of Arab descent staying back in democratic and secular India identified themselves as Muslim Indians instead of as Indian Muslims and gradually converted the Muslim masses into a never ending demanding community. Thus, by reviving their communal politics and making it an unending reality with the support of vote-baiting political hawks, they have again pushed back the country in a socio-political environment of British India.

Since the closing decade of last century when the coalition government at the centre was confused in handling the problem of jihadi Islamists they re-visited the century old history of Aligarh and Deoband leaders who had a secret understanding against the Indian National Congress, which they had termed as a party for Hindu revivalism. Their aggravating unrest after Batala House encounter in Delhi on September 19 during which two suspected terrorists were killed and two Muslim students of Jamia Milia arrested on their suspected involvement in Delhi blast on September 13 reminds the people of the Islamists’ rage in the closing decades of nineteenth century, when prominent Islamists like Mawlawi Abu Sayed Mohammed Hussain (d.1919) of Ahl-i-Hadith and Mirza Gulam Ahmad (1839-1908), founder of Ahmadia sect – both belonging to Batala in Gurdaspur district of Punjab state had launched violent movements against Hindu renaissance led by Arya Samaj. Drawing inspiration from the puritan and military zeal of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid who had launched jihad against the non-Islamic Sikh rule of Ranjit Singh, they had given a call for communal unity of the Muslims.

Today, alarmed with the recent exposure of the net work of SIMI and its new incarnation Indian Mujahideen and the spate of arrests of Muslim youths in recent months on their suspected involvement in terror blasts the ‘Muslim Indians’ have invented a self perceived theory that innocent Muslims are victimised by the police to malign Islam. Accordingly, they have been exchanging notes in defence of terror suspects, holding meetings, visiting Batala House in Jamia Nagar, Delhi and Azamgarh and launching campaign not only to prove the innocence of terror accused but also mobilized their foot soldiers against the alleged conspiracy in blaming and targeting the entire community after every terror blast. In view of their sustained campaign, the Muslims across the country are found convinced that their community members killed in the police operation and arrested were not terrorists. They have gone to the extent of suspecting the death of Mohan Sharma by the bullet fired by his own colleague either deliberately or by accident. When the whole country applauded the Police Inspector Mohan Sharma for his martyrdom in this encounter and Government too recognised it, Indian people barring Islamists and those pretending to be ‘secularists’ are left wondering about the scheme of defending the terror accused.

The Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Delhi Syed Ahamed Buqari wrote letters to various Muslim leaders across the country regarding the “bomb blasts, blame game, illegal arrests, torture of Muslim youths” and called for suggestions to fight back this issue concerning Muslims of India. He has alleged that “The highly discriminatory actions of State police forces and central intelligence agencies have let loose a reign of terror to which Central government has turned a blind eye. This is a matter of serious concern for the entire Millat. If we don't unite by closing our ranks to meet this challenge, history will never forgive us. I suggest that all Muslim organisations and leaders must unite immediately by creating one single platform for voicing our concerns and registering protests. For this purpose it is necessary to summon an urgent meeting of all Muslim organisations and leaders at the earliest” (A translated extracts from the original letter written in Urdu which is available in internet). He also led a march against the Batala House encounter and subsequently called a meeting of All India Religious and Political Leaders of the community on 14th October 2008 at Jame Masjid and condenm the alleged fake encounters and arrests of Muslims Youths. The meeting was attended by prominent personalities like Moulana Khaled Qazipuri C/O Moulana Rabe Hassan Nadvi President All India Muslim Personal Law Board., Zafer Yaab Jeelani (Adv), Moulana Margoobur Rehman (Darul oloom, Deoband), Moulana Syed Arshad Madani President Jamaiat –e- Ulema –e- Hind, Amjed Ullah Khan Leader Majlish Bachao Tahreek (MBT) Andhra Pradesh, Maulana Anees Rahmaan, Imarat –e- Sharia, Bihar, Moulana Wali Rahmani ,Munger,Bihar, Qari Amirullah ,Bhopal and Moulana Mohd Shafiq Qasmi Kolkatta,West Bengal. Leaders like Mujtaba Farooque of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and Maulana Abdul Hamid Nomani of Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Hind are blaming the government as well as media. Similarly, another group of Muslim leaders while setting up an ad hoc Coordination Committee of Indian Muslims also expressed their concern against the police actions in Batala House encounter and issued a press statement to mobilize the Muslim masses. Instead of discussing the remedial measures to tame the home grown Islamist terrorists they demanded stringent action including ban on Hindu organizations like VHP and Bajrang Dal . The signatories of the statement are: Mujtaba Farooq, Convenor, Coordination Committee & Secretary, Jamaat-e Islami Hind, Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, President, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, Ml. Abdul Hameed Nomani, Acting General Secretary, Jamiat Ulama-I- Hind, Ml. Abdul Wahab Khilji, Asstt General Secretary, All India Milli Council, Ml. Mahmoodul Hasan, President, Jamiat Ahl-e Hadees, Delhi Pradesh, Dr Taslim Rahmani, President, Muslim Political Council, Ml. Zeeshan Hidayati, Chairman, Majlis-e Fikr-o Amal, Irfanullah Khan, Chairman Jamia Nagar Coordination Committee, Ml. Jalal Haidar Naqvi, Secretary, Majlis-e Ulama-e Islam, Gopal Rai, Convenor, Teesra Swandheemta Andolan, and Bhai Tej Singh, President, Ambedkar Samaj Party.
Surprisingly, instead of allowing the dusty storm of restive Muslim minds to settle, Jamia Milia Islamia Vice Chancellor Mashirul Hasan a widely acclaimed campaigner of ‘moderate and tolerant Islam’ through his scholarly writings against the intolerant Islamists also joined the issue by offering to provide legal assistance to the two arrested students of the university and added fuel to the fire. Being an accomplished historian he is fully aware of the politics of communal polarization between the Hindus and the Muslims which took a front seat after the collapse of Muslim rule in the country and turned even a secular intellectual like Mohammad Ali Jinnah into a most communal leader of Indian sub-continent. However, he led a street march in support of the Islamists which has no bearing on academic issues and made his liberalism questionable in the mind of intelligentsia. On what assumption he placed himself at the centre of a public debate on a communally hot issue may be best known to him but didn’t he anticipate that his action will subsume the acclaimed secular character of Jamia Milia? He might have a point to prove the possibility of the accused being innocent but the way issue is debated in and around the university, it has made the situation from bad to worse. His action has not only challenged the criminal justice system of the country but also created a controversy over the constitutionally framed public policy, university code and communal integrity in the country. After creating the storm engulfing the country, the university’s Academic Council also issued an ‘open letter’ defending its ‘modern, liberal and non-denominational’ character. The letter while highlighting the names of a number of ‘secular’ leaders behind the foundation of this institution also claims “we were in the forefront of the national movement wholeheartedly, and opposed the pernicious two-nation theory.”

Whether Jamia Milia was in forefront or rear front of the national movement is not an issue of present debate. The issue is - what prompted this central funded educational institution to provide legal support to arrested terror suspects in Delhi blast case and to join with the Islamists on the issue of terrorism? As a ‘forefront participant’ of the national movement, the academics of the university were supposed to instill confidence among the restive Muslims of the country in general and Jamia Nagar in particular in the legal system of the country. Since the university played the same politics as Aligarh had played during pre-partition Pakistan Movement people of the country has no reason to disbelieve that both the universalities are birds of the same feathers.

The whole episode is apparently a reminder to the Muslim unrest during the first decade of twentieth century. On 1st October 1906 a 35-member delegation of Muslim Indians, which included nobles, aristocracies, legal professionals and other elite section in the community mostly associated with the Aligarh movement gathered at Simla under the leadership of Aga Khan and presented an address to Lord Minto. They demanded proportionate representation of Muslims in government jobs, appointment of Muslim judges in High Courts and members in Viceroy’s council, etc. However, after failing to obtain any positive commitment from the Viceroy, they organized the All India Mohammedan Educational Conference at Dacca (27-30 December 1906) which worked as a catalyst for foundation of All India Muslim League which subsequently succeeded in partition of the sub-continent on the basis of religion.

Calling for introspection and self-assessment some of the community leaders have expressed full faith in the security establishment and have favoured co-operation to the police in nabbing terror suspects. Salim Khan, a cinema-script writer and father of actor Salman Khan has even sent a sealed envelop containing condolence message with a cheque of an undisclosed amount to the family of police inspector Sharma. Arif Mohammad Khan, a hero of Shahbano case has suggested fighting the terrorists ideologically. He said, “Terrorism itself can be fought only by challenging it on the level of ideology and thought. It cannot be curbed only by police action” (Pioneer dated 11 October, 2008). Quoting a number of verses from Quran, he has tried to counter the terrorists’ concept of Quran. However, his voice to challenge the Islamist terrorists ideologically will hardly convince the controller of the foot soldiers in the community as they are not prepared to be quiet till the country comes under Islamic rule. Ironically, liberal theologian like Maulana Wahiduddin Khan an internationally known Islamic scholar who is known for his commitment to a complete ideology of peace and quiet competent to challenge the Islamists was not invited to the meeting organized by the Coordination Committee of Indian Muslims.

The combined politics of the ‘Muslim Indians’ and their priestly class have all along been the historical reality of the sub-continent. Conforming a saying - “wheresoever the carcass, there the Vultures will be gathered together”, the Muslim vote baiting political hawks behaving like street urchins spitting at Sun also joined the issue and supported the demand of the Muslims for judicial enquiry against the encounter. Their presumption on the innocence of the arrested terror accused from Jamia Milia without any supportive evidence suggest that the oft repeated Muslim communal politics in secular India by a combined force of Left-Castiest-Islamist alliance has once again become active to disturb the social harmony in the country. Instead of fighting the menace of terrorism they are flowing sympathy for the terror accused. Such negative sparks ignited by them will only make the situation from bad to worse.
It is widely believed that the terrorists involved in the recent blasts across the country belong to one or another Islamist groups with an objective to restore the institution of Caliphate. The success of home the grown jihadists claiming themselves ‘Indian Mujahideens’in attracting some of the well-educated Muslims towards their cause has not only pushed the community into the similar predicament as prevailed after collapse of Muslim power, increased the sense of alienation among them which has a deep impact on their increasing communalized psyche.

The most unfortunate part of the scenario is the role of a significant section of ‘secular’ Indians particularly intelligentsia, journalists, writers and politicians like Amar Singh , Lalu Yadav, Ram Bilas Paswan, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Arundhati Roy whose tendency to run down the image of the country has not only adversely affected the consciousness of saner section of people but has also led to aggravate the communalized psyche of Indian society as a whole. The prevailing Muslim unrest is therefore, a dangerous sign as far as the internal security of the country is concerned. If the people of the country in general and ruling class in particular are not taking lessons from the historical wrongs committed by Indians who brought defeat and dishonour to the nation either to save their throne or skin or self-seeking political interest we are bound to fail.

(The author can be reached at e-mail

Sunday, October 26, 2008



In pursuance of my article titled "Kilinochchi: The Spectre of Stalingrad", I have been in receipt of many messages---- some complimentingme for drawing attention to the Battle of Stalingrad and others pointing out previous references to it by some LTTE cadres. I do not claimany credit for originality. For some months now, there have been reports from West Europe claiming that pro-LTTE elements in the SriLankan Tamil diaspora have been buying up all the books on the Battle of Stalingrad available in the local bookshops. This reminded one ofa pre-1994 report from the British and others that pro-LTTE Tamils in their countries were spending a lot of money buying up books on flyingand aircraft maintenance and that Flying Clubs in the UK and Switzerland had reported that some Sri Lankan Tamils were learning flying. Inrecent months, some persons , who have been following the fighting in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka closely, have been referring toKilinochchi as a "Stalingrad in the Making", the well-known Indian news web site, had also referred to the Stalingrad precedent ina report on the reactions in Tamil Nadu. The question is not whether Kilinochchi would turn out to be a Stalingrad-in-the-making. Mostprobably not. The question is how the LTTE's mind works and how it tries to draw lessons from history. It is surprising that the Sri Lankanauthorities, despite their having an inflated Deputy High Commission in Chennai---- which one fears meets the intelligence requirements ofSri Lanka as well as Pakistan---were not aware of the perceptions in Tamil Nadu. (26-10-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies,Chennai. E-mail: )

Friday, October 24, 2008



( From the "Daily Mirror" of Colombo of October 25,2008)

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein captured the world’s imagination with his prediction about the ‘Mother of all battles’ in 1991 after seizing Kuwait.
The much-awaited mother of all battles turned out to be damp squib. It was a case of beginning with a tremendous bang and ending in a pathetic whimper.

Recent hype in sections of the media about the seizure of Kilinochchi preceded by a fierce battle, brings back memories of the mother of all battles that never occurred.

If current politico – military realities are taken into account all indicators are that the anticipated mother of all battles for Kilinochchi may not take place after all.

Multiple factors such as the serious concern evinced by New Delhi about the safety and security of Tamil civilians, the onset of North – Eastern monsoon rains, the defensive measures set in motion by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the pragmatically flexible military approach adopted by the Sri Lankan armed forces are leading to a dicey situation where Kilinochchi’s fate could be uncertain.

Kilinochchi was a fast developing town in the Northern mainland until the ethnic conflict escalated. The town lies alongside the Jaffna – Kandy trunk road known as the A – 9 Highway .It was earlier part of the Jaffna administrative district. Kilinochchi was re- demarcated as a separate administrative district with Kilinochchi town as its capital.

The name Kilinochchi is derived from “kili” meaning parrot and the tree “ nochchi “ (vitex negundo). Kilinochchi district is a sprawling agrarian region extending even into the Jaffna peninsula in the form of Pachchilaipalli AGA division.

Although Kilinochchi is a separate administrative district, it is also an electoral division forming part of the Jaffna electoral district when it comes to polls.
It could be seen therefore that the name Kilinochchi refers to the town, administrative district, electoral division and in a general sense the outlying region.

In recent times, Kilinochchi shot to fame when it became the de – facto administrative “capital” of LTTE controlled territory in the North.

Kilinochchi itself was wrested back by the tigers from Government control in 1998 through phase – two of the LTTE military operation codenamed “Oyatha Alaigal” or ceaseless waves.

The ceasefire agreement of February 23rd 2002 saw a period of relative peace.
It was during this period that Kilinochchi acquired importance as the LTTE began setting up various structures like an administrative secretariat, political headquarters, military headquarters, peace secretariat etc in Kilinochchi town and its suburbs.

Many other LTTE controlled organizations like the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) also set up office in K’nochchi. Other tiger departments like the radio “voice of Tigers/Tamil Eelam Radio” and TV “ Nitharsanam/Tamil Eelam TV” also established themselves in the area.

Several Non – Governmental organizations, International NGO”s and also International agencies located their regional offices in Kilinochchi. Visiting dignitaries, official delegations and key officials also met with LTTE officials including tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran in K’nochchi.

It is against this backdrop that K’nochchi evolved into an unofficial administrative capital of the LTTE.

This phenomenon has afforded Kilinochchi a great deal of symbolic value. Militarily K’nochchi town does not have the strategic merits of even Paranthan situated four miles to its north.

Kilinochchi’s short tenure of fame or notoriety as the LTTE “capital” has made it a prize target in Colombos calculations.

An ambiguous irony in this war is the “contradiction” visible between professed intention and actual implementation.

LTTE controlled territory is deemed as rightfully coming under Sri Lankan state writ and the people in those areas are legitimate citizens of this country. “re- unification” in essence is the rationale for war.

The manner in which the war is conducted suggests otherwise. It is as if war is being waged in a hostile country against an alien people. When military plans are formulated practically no concern is displayed for the fate of civilians.
Recently Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa boasted that the Sri Lankan air force had conducted more than six thousand air raids as opposed to the six done by the LTTE.

The tragic irony of an air force bombing its own people on its own soil six thousand times seemed to be lost on the defence secretary. Thus the Tamil people are constantly reminded that the war is against the LTTE and not them, but the way in which it is conducted makes the people feel differently.

There is also a tendency to revive the atavistic past and introduce some elements of it into the current war in a spirit of conquest.

When Parayaanaalankulam was captured, former deputy defence minister Anuruddha Ratwatte who fancied himself as a latter - day Sapumal Kumaraya re-named it Sapumalpura.

Even Chandrika Kumaratunga despite her enlightened approach towards the Tamil national question re-enacted a medieval pageant of sorts when Jaffna was taken. In an elaborate ceremony, Ratwatte presented to her a scroll in a casket announcing the capture of “Yapapatuna”.

It is this mindset that is seemingly dominant when it comes to Kilinochchi. It is being projected indirectly as the tiger or Tamil capital. The hype is seemingly all about the imminent fall of an enemy capital.

Currently Kilinochchi is but an empty shell. The LTTE has withdrawn all its departments. The NGO’s and INGO’s have closed their offices. Even Government offices, departments, secretariat and hospital etc are re- located. Most people have left and it is fast turning into a ghost town.

In utilitarian terms Kilinochchi is of little practical value. It is not important even in military considerations as some other places like Paranthan, Thunukkai, Oddusuddan, Nedunkerni or Mankulam.

What it retains is the dubious prestige of having been a de – facto administrative capital of the LTTE. Given the Rajapaksa regime’s penchant for crass exhibitionism, there is a need to take Kilinochchi and flaunt its conquest to the nation at large.

It is this notion of conquest, which gives Kilinochchi its enhanced prestige and symbolic value.

Militarily it is not of great importance though sections of the Colombo media are fond of describing each military advance as being of strategic importance.
The other side of this Kilinochchi obsession is among sections of the Colombo Tamil media and Diaspora.

Like their counterparts in the English and Sinhala media, Tamil media also allots to Kilinochchi, undeserving prominence as an important Tamil capital like how Madurai was to the Pandiyans, Thanjai/Uraiyoor/Gangaikondacholapuram was to the Cholas and Nalloor was to the Arya Chakrawarthy dynasty.

So the anticipated fall of Kilinochchi by the “opposite” side is opposed by a counter – argument in Tamil media that is two – fold. On the one hand we are told that K’nochchi will not be allowed to fall and on the other that the war will continue regardless of Kilinochchi’s fate.

It is in this atmosphere pervaded by martial spirits that the fate of Kilinochchi town is being speculated upon. Great expectations have been aroused in the South about its imminent capture.

Some sections of the media have gone to the extent of stating that the armed forces are within a 1600 metre distance of Kilinochchi town limits. This news may provide a “feel good” feeling to many but ground realities are not so rosy.
The actual position seems to be this. The two closest points to K’nochchi held by the army are in the old Murugandy – new Kokkavil area and in areas south – east of the Akkarayankulam tank.

Both these locations west of the A – 9 are not along the highway though quite close to the road. The nearest villages along the A – 9 that are close to both points are either Kokkavil or Thirumurugandy.

Now Thirumurugandy is seven miles to the South of Kilinochchi. Kokkavil is nine miles to the south of K’nochchi on the A – 9. The shortest distance to K’Nochchi from Thirumurugandy and Kokkavil is along the A – 9.

As for Akkarayankulam, troops are currently in locations to the south of Akkarayan tank. The village Akkarayan is to the north of the tank. There is a C - grade road linking Akkarayankulam to Kilinochchi town. But that means a distance of 14 km.

There has also been a lot of hype about breaching the LTTE constructed bund and capturing Vannerikulam. It is certainly a military feat but again the geographical reality is that Vannerikulam is five km to the west of Akkarayankulam.

This means the distance to Kilinochchi is even greater. Likewise, Jeyapuram that was taken recently is another four km to the west of Vannerikulam. These military accomplishments do not reduce the distance to Kilinochchi in any way.
Given these geographical realities it is indeed puzzling to witness gleeful declarations of the armed forces being within kissing distance of Kilinochchi town. (Maybe it’s a flying kiss!)

Initially it was assumed that Kilinochchi would be taken by mid – October as further delay would have seen the Monsoon rains falling in late October. But the monsoon rains have begun even before the town fell.

In a bid perhaps to educate people of prevailing conditions the defence authorities released pictures of soldiers pushing vehicles bogged down on mud tracks. Since a picture is said to be worth a thousand words these demonstrated clearly the difficulties faced by soldiers in proceeding towards avowed destinations. In a sense, the bogged down vehicles were a metaphor for the war on Kilinochchi.

That the rains and weather conditions are dampening war efforts is crystal clear. This was why the armed forces wanted to take symbolic Kilinochchi by mid – October.

What went awry with these plans were two factors. One was the stiff resistance proffered by the LTTE. The other subsequent factor was India’s role.
When the armed forces began nearing Kilinochchi via Akkarayankulam and Old Murugandy – new Kokkavil, the tigers changed tactics. The women’s brigades and newly recruited/conscripted cadres were withdrawn from those frontlines.
Experienced cadres of Charles Anthony regiment under “ColAmithab were brought in. These cadres fought with dogged determination on multiple fronts in these crucial areas.

The armed forces with overwhelming superiority of numbers and military assets did manage to push through but the LTTE succeeded in holding them off for a long time thus delaying the military drive.

Even now the armed forces are close to the A – 9 at many places but are not attempting to occupy the road physically. On the other hand tiger resistance along the Pallavarayankattu – Jeyapuram – Vannerikulam, Akkarayankulam – Old Murugandy – new Kokkavil axis has been formidable.

Another development in the fighting was the use of the air force. At one stage Air Force planes and helicopters unleashed a barrage of bombs on Kilinochchi and outskirts. Several abandoned LTTE offices were hit.

Suddenly things changed. The LTTE began deploying its Radha anti aircraft unit in Kilinochchi and environs. When warehouses run by the TRO were being bombed the Radha unit allegedly engaged in anti aircraft fire.

Kanagasabapathy Harichandran alias Radha was at one time LTTE commander for Mannar and Jaffna. An alumni of Jaffna Hindu College, he was a bank employee in Colombo when July 1983 erupted. He joined the LTTE and rose up from the ranks.

Radha was killed in a bombing spree by the Air Force in 1987. The anti – aircraft unit (vimaana ethirpu ani) pioneered by Vaithilingam Sornalingam alias “ColShankar was developed further and re-named after Radha.
With Radha unit cadres converging in Kilinochchi the Air Force began targeting spots further north in Paranthan and also in areas like Viswamadhu and Puthukudiyiruppu.

It was at this juncture that India began intervening “diplomatically” on a humanitarian basis on behalf of beleaguered Tamil civilians. India did not demand that Colombo call off the war against LTTE but emphasised strongly that civilian safety and security have to be ensured.

This “benign” intervention coincided with a lull in aerial bombardment. It also brought about greater consideration for civilian plight. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was so “moved” by Indian entreaties that he announced publicly of slow progress by the armed forces due to concern showed for civilian safety.
Up to now, New Delhi has not demanded an end to war against the LTTE. No Congress dominated government can do so. What India wants is a change in the way the war is being fought ensuring civilian safety.

Since most civilians in Kilinochchi and to the South of Kilinochchi had fled the areas there is little chance of innocent non – combatants being victimised if hostilities spread towards Kilinochchi.

This provided a window of opportunity to the armed forces. If they could advance swiftly in a few days time towards Kilinochchi then the town could be taken before Tamil Nadu public opinion consolidated itself and erupted on a mass scale.

Given these imperatives there was a spurt of military activity. Some analysts described it as a “race for Kilinochchi”. If the armed forces could have taken Kilinochchi within a short time, then there was nothing anyone across the Palk straits could have done. Time was of the essence.

But the tigers fought back fiercely thus delaying and obstructing military plans. The past few days have seen enormous casualties on both sides. There are wild rumours about the figures. What is of importance here is the Defence Ministry decision not to reveal casualty figures on official websites.

The end result of all this is Kilinochchi’s fate turning dicey. It is one thing to have taken Kilinochchi quickly but a prolonged battle targeting the town is likely to have an impact in Tamil Nadu.

With a Tamil Nadu all – party resolution demanding that the Central government should take steps to end the war in Sri Lanka, it does not seem prudent for the armed forces to take symbolic Kilinochchi even if it was capable of doing so by overcoming LTTE resistance quickly.

The fall of Kilinochchi at this juncture could set off an emotional backlash in Tamil Nadu. New Delhi has been straining itself to contain Tamil Nadu passions but the capture of the “Tamil” capital Kilinochchi by “Sinhala” armed forces could trigger off much heat.

Even if the armed forces were to renew the drive towards Kilinochchi there is every chance that the LTTE would fight and resist. The tigers may even force some civilians to return to Kilinochchi.

If there were constraints on Colombo then use of Air power or artillery power would be severely curtailed. Without aerial bombardment and artillery shelling the armed forces would be at a disadvantage vis a vis the LTTE. In that event, the fight for symbolic Kilinochchi amidst adverse weather conditions would take a long, long time.

Thus a combination of four factors namely weather, tiger resistance, Indian concern and the Governments professed commitment for civilian safety has served to circumscribe Colombo’s intention of waging an all – out war to take Kilinochchi.

There was a moment when it could have done so. Colombo failed to seize the moment. That moment has now seemingly passed.

At the moment the long awaited mother of all battles for Kilinochchi taking place seems a remote possibility. Even the anticipated fall of Kilinochchi seems unlikely to occur.

But all is not lost for the Government as far as Kilinochchi is concerned. Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa made a revealing comment while briefing Editors at a meeting convened by President Rajapaksa.

The secretary compared military manoeuvres to the progress of water. Just as water moves rapidly at suitable levels to move forward the armed forces also do so, he said, according to media reports.

This in a nutshell has been the guiding military philosophy. The LTTE has been frequently outsmarted by the military strategy of circumventing tiger defences, going around and then encircling by coming up from behind.

From Vidathaltheevu to Pallavarayankattu this strategy has been the key to military success. The tigers are compelled to withdraw after being encircled to avoid being trapped.

It does appear that the armed forces could repeat the same strategy regarding Kilinochchi also. Instead of getting tied down to the Akkarayankulam – Old Murugandy – new Kokkavil front or walking into a politico – military minefield by attempting to take Kilinochchi town the armed forces can duplicate their previous strategy with appropriate innovation.

If the armed forces can take the Mannar – Pooneryn road and then the Pooneryn – Paranthan road they can reach Paranthan four miles to the north of Kilinochchi and nine miles to the south of Elephant pass. The forces could then gradually expand an arc of encirclement around Kilinochchi forcing the tigers to withdraw. But then this requires an extended time – frame that may not be feasible.

Before I conclude let me refer to the furore caused by Indian analyst. B. Raman when he compared the siege of Stalingrad to the siege of Kilinochchi. Some newspaper reports say that Gotabhaya Rajapakse has called for a comparative study of both sieges.

The siege of Stalingrad during Second World War was a historic event when the Soviet defenders and winter combined to defeat Hitler’s forces. Raman sees a parallel in Kilinochchi with monsoon rains replacing harsh Russian winter.
Interestingly the first to refer to Stalingrad was not Raman but former LTTE political commissar Yogi who is now in charge of LTTE military research unit. Yogi in an article written for LTTE journal “Eela Naatham” on July 21, compares Wanni resistance to Stalin Grad.

Then on August 15, there is a comparison with Stalin grad siege in another article written by Anbarasu. Incidently Anbarasu is the pseudonym of an Oxonian contemporary of Canadian Liberal MP Bob Rae. Anbarasu is now in the Wanni committed to the LTTE struggle.

Both Yogi and Anbarasu did not specifically refer to Kilinochchi as the equivalent of Stalingrad. The resistance on the lines of Stalingrad could be in other places east of the A – 9.

However a systematic study of the siege of Stalingrad and the besieging of Kilinochchi shows there is no parallel at all. There is only a superficial similiarity.

For one thing Mahinda Rajapaksa is not Adolph Hitler and Velupillai Prabhakaran is not Josef Stalin. More serious comparison reveals that trying to equate Stalingrad and Kilinochchi (though it may warm the cockles of LTTE hearts) is like comparing apples and oranges.

Comparing both on an equal basis and trying to draw a parallel between Stalingrad and Kilinochchi amounts to in logical terms as the fallacy of false analogy.
D.B.S. Jeyaraj can be reached at