With India largely refraining from supplying weapon systems and platforms with "offensive capabilities'' to Sri Lanka in its bloody
fight against the Tamil Tigers, Pakistan and China deftly stepped into the vacuum.
In fact, Sri Lankan defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, during a visit to Islamabad on January 19-20, profusely thanked Pakistan for its "continued support'' to his country's armed forces which had helped in virtually breaking the backbone of LTTE.
So, when Sri Lanka jumped in to send its cricket team to Pakistan after India refused to do so in the 26/11 blowback, it was seen in some quarters as "a thank-you'' message from Colombo to Islamabad.
Over the last few years, Sri Lanka has increasingly turned to Pakistan and China for weapon supplies, which has left India wringing its hands in despair at the strategic manoeuvring by Islamabad and Beijing in what it considers its backyard.
So much so that national security adviser M K Narayanan once even went public with the palpable unease in the Indian defence establishment over the matter, by stating that Sri Lanka should not seek weapons from China or Pakistan since India as the "big power in the region'' would fulfil its needs.
The remarks expectedly created a furore in Sri Lanka, especially since Narayanan added that India would not provide weapons with offensive capabilities to the island nation due to political sensitivities in Tamil Nadu.
India, on its part, has supplied "defensive or non-lethal'' weapon systems like automatic 40mm L-70 close range anti-aircraft guns and `Indra' low-flying detection radars to the island nation, apart from training hundreds of Sri Lankan military personnel.
But this twin-pronged strategy of arms supplies and military training, coupled with intelligence sharing and "coordinated'' naval patrolling, however, has failed to effectively counter Pakistan and China's ever-growing strategic inroads into Sri Lanka.
Both Pakistan and China have assiduously forged deep military links with Sri Lanka, coming to its aid with emergency military supplies whenever the need arose.
Even as India dithered, Pakistan has transferred huge amounts of automatic rifles, heavy mortars, multi-barrel rocket launchers, artillery and tank shells to Sri Lanka in recent years.
Sri Lanka is also getting JY-11 3D air surveillance radars, armoured personnel carriers, T-56 assault rifles, machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, missiles, bombs and the like from China.
Some sections of the Indian defence establishment have even called for India to bolster arms supplies to Sri Lanka to prevent a repeat of what happened in Myanmar, where too Pakistan and China stepped in with military and other supplies after India initially rebuffed the military junta there.
Washington: Holding the Tamil Tigers responsible for the "increasing sufferings" of civilians in Sri Lanka's embattled north, the US on Friday asked the outlawed LTTE to stop lobbying shells and shooting guns out of the safe zone declared by the government.
US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher also called on the LTTE to stop the violence and allow the innocent Tamil civilians to flee the shrinking war zone.
"Tigers have been shooting shells out of the safe zone. We call upon the government not to shoot back, but first and foremost the Tamil Tigers have to stop shooting.
Lanka urges civilians to flee war zone
"That is where we are asking to stop the violence, let the people find safety, and then talk about how to end hostilities," said Boucher, who heads the South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department.
Talking to a group of South Asian journalists, Boucher insisted that the US call to stop fighting is to both the LTTE and Sri Lankan Government.
"The Tamil Tigers by trapping them (civilians), by continuing the conflict, are just increasing the sufferings of the Tamil people. So it is very much time for them to allow safe passage for them to allow these people to leave," Boucher said.
Lankan troops move further into last LTTE territory
While the Government says there are only 70,000 people trapped in the war zone, aid agencies contradict the figure and say the number could 200,000.
COLOMBO: A medical team from India will arrive here on Monday to provide emergency care to civilians displaced by the fighting between security forces and LTTE in the north.
India is sending the team based on an agreement made during the recent visit of the Foreign Secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon, to participate in the SAARC Standing Committee meeting.
The Indian High Commission here said the team would establish an emergency medical unit, including a hospital at Pulmodai in the eastern district of Trincomalee, to supplement the existing medical facilities in that area.
“In addition, a consignment of urgently needed medicines and other supplies worth approximately Sri Lankan 70 million will also be brought by the team and handed over to the Health Ministry,” it said.
Separately, the military said troops were hunting LTTE infiltrators who made a desperate attempt to breach the security force defences during the early hours on Friday. The Defence Ministry said the LTTE cadre attempted to breach the defences of the security forces south of Chalai.
With the Sri Lankan forces close to finishing off the LTTE, the implications of the civilian problem is being felt in India.
Tamil political parties are upping the ante over this and trying to play the Tamil pride card in this election season.
Should India intervene and ask SL to hold back which would mean an indirect support to LTTE, or sit back and make necessary noises.
CHENNAI, India, April 23 (Reuters) - India asked Sri Lanka on Thursday to stop its military campaign against the Tamil Tigers, while the issue forced a regional party to shut down a key electoral swing state in the middle of India's election.
India said it would send two special emissaries to Sri Lanka, to convey the government's concern about more trapped civilians in the war zone and demand an end to the war.
"We are very unhappy at the continued killing in Sri Lanka. All killing must stop. There must be an immediate cessation of all hostilities," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Indian politicians face pressure to protect Sri Lankan Tamils, who are closely linked to about 60 million Tamils in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu across a narrow strait from Sri Lanka.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which rules Tamil Nadu state and is an ally of India's ruling coalition, called a 12-hour strike in the state, but experts said it was an attempt to garner votes with a show of sympathy for Sri Lankan Tamils.
DMK has upped the rhetoric against the Sri Lankan military ahead of voting in Tamil Nadu next month. India is now voting to form a government in a staggered month-long general election.
On Thursday, shops and business remained closed in Tamil Nadu and traffic stayed off the road, a shutdown experts said had more to do with the polls than concern for Tamil refugees.
"The strike call is a feeble attempt by (DMK chief) Karunanidhi to show the people that he is concerned about the happenings in Sri Lanka," Cho S. Ramaswamy, a political commentator, said in Chennai.
The Sri Lankan war has caught India's ruling Congress party in a bind. It needs to please ally DMK and win voters, without being seen as going soft on the Tamil Tigers who are blamed for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
With 39 parliamentary seats, Tamil Nadu is a big prize in the general election, and the DMK swept the state in 2004, a performance the Congress hopes Karunanidhi's party will repeat.
Sri Lanka's military said troops now control all but 13 sq km (5 sq miles) of the island, where the LTTE and founder-leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran are fighting a last stand in their war to create a separate state for the Tamil minority.
More than 100,000 refugees have emerged from the war zone this week, overloading the relief efforts. (Writing by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and Jeremy Laurence)
Well its election season so Karunanidhi will try to get maximum mileage from the situation, but I think its best to let the SL Army finish off the LTTE properly this time, and render humanitarian assistance to the civilians who are trapped from India's side.
The LTTE is on its deathbed, and it wouldn't be good strategy to stop now.
The whole Tamil Eelam demand started because of the racist policies of the Sinhalese government, so hopefully they've learnt a lesson and will give equal rights to the Tamil minority.
NEW DELHI: China's declaration of support for the Sri Lankan government against the LTTE, apart from sticking out like a sore thumb in the eyes
of the world, has further fuelled India's mortal distrust of its largest and most powerful neighbour. While India has a much more nuanced position over the issue owing to its domestic compulsions, an unfettered China is supporting Colombo and, in the process, authenticating India's fear about Beijing extending its influence in the Indian Ocean.
According to government sources, Beijing's support to Colombo cannot be viewed in isolation because it follows a series of initiatives aimed at influencing the Sri Lankan government. These include selling huge quantities of arms to Colombo last year and boosting aid almost five times to $1 billion. In fact, China is now the largest donor to Lanka. Its Jian-7 fighter jets, anti-aircraft guns and JY-11 3D air surveillance radars played a key role in the Sri Lankan military successes.
China came to rescue of Colombo after the US stopped direct aid to Sri Lanka because of its dismal human rights record. What's worse, said strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney, Beijing has also roped in its ally Pakistan for providing military assistance to Lanka. Pakistan's own economy is in tatters, but it has increased its annual military assistance to Sri Lanka to $100 million at Beijing's behest. It is also well known that its air force trained its Sri Lankan counterpart in precision-guided attacks.
"The Chinese are courting Sri Lanka because of its location in the Indian Ocean -- a crucial international passageway for trade and oil. Chinese engineers are currently building a billion-dollar port in the country's southeast, Hambantota, and this is the latest `pearl' in China's strategy to control vital sea-lanes of communication between the Indian and Pacific Oceans by assembling a `string of pearls' in the form of listening posts, special naval arrangements and access to ports,'' said Chellaney.
The Chinese are building a highway, developing two power plants and putting up a new port in the hometown of President Mahinda Rajapakse. Delhi is also feeling hard done-by by Beijing's support to Colombo over the issue of LTTE because it believes China is driving home an unfair advantage it has over India in the crisis. "Unlike in our case, there is no moral dimension to the crisis for China. We have to think about the humanitarian situation and conditions after the offensive is over. There is no domestic compulsion for China but our involvement is much more intricate,'' said a source.
China, in fact, continues to aggressively pursue its strategic interests by building ports in the Indian Ocean rim, including in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. According to Chellaney, Beijing has sought naval and commercial links with the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar. "However, none of the port-building projects it has bagged in recent years can match the strategic value of Hambantota,'' said Chellaney.
India is prone to commit one straegic blunder after the other. Itscall because of the bloody political classes who are more bothered about their votes than national interest. They will probably wake up the day a Chinese SSBN harbors in the new port they are building.
COLOMBO: Sri Lankan government today said the combat operations in the northern parts of the island have concluded and security forces have been
instructed to end the use of heavy calibre guns, combat aircraft and aerial fire. ( Watch )
"The government of Sri Lanka has decided that combat operations have reached their conclusion. Our security forces have been instructed to end the use of heavy calibre guns, combat aircraft and aerial fire which could cause civilian casualties.
"Our security forces will confine their attempts to rescuing civilians who are held hostage and give foremost priority to saving the civilians," a statement from the President Mahinda Rajapaksa's Office said on Monday.
The ongoing war between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has displaced lakhs of civilians from the war zone.
Sri Lankan army claimed that LTTE resistance would collapse within the next 48 hours. Army's 58 and 53 Divisions have linked up trapping LTTE in a six-square km area.
The army pointed out that only five km of Mullaitivu coastline remains to be liberated from LTTE, which in a last ditch attempt also used two armour plated trucks to smash through advancing forces.
Meanwhile, the civilians have been forced to leave their homes and take shelter in relief camps as the war in northern Sri Lanka rages on. Even as camps are packed to their capacity, thousands of people are continuously seeking shelter in at various places.
At an IDP (Internally displaced persons) camp in Vavuniya's Manik Farms in Sri Lanka the biggest concern is congestion, though the government in coordination with the United Nations and other countries is trying to provide food, shelter and medicines to all those displaced.
Sri Lankan Tamils rescued off Andhra coast
No truce, no ending war with LTTE: Sri Lanka
LTTE still holding civilians as human shields: Lanka
However, access to the camps is still a problem. Humanitarian agencies had also requested to allow freedom of movement of IDPs and vulnerable populations.
Sri Lankan government has now released 111 elderly IDPs from Manik Farms and Vavuniya camps.
According to reports an estimated 50,000 civilians are still trapped in the six square km area controlled by the LTTE. The United Nations says nearly 6,500 civilians have already been killed in the recent fighting.
International mediators have appealed to the government to safeguard the estimated 50,000 civilians trapped by the fighting, but the government has ruled out a halt in the military offensive against LTTE.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes claimed there are 50,000 civilians still trapped in the combat zone in Sri Lanka with the LTTE refusing to let them leave.
"We believe there are some 50,000 civilians still trapped there. It may be more, it may be less; the government figures are much less but we think 50,000 is a reasonable figure for an estimate of how many are there and is certainly a significant number. And of course these people are in great danger from the continuing fighting; the numbers of civilian casualties hither too has been pretty horrific in the last three months," said Holmes
CNN-IBN Senior Editor VK Shashikumar, who has been tracking the situation in Sri Lanka, reported that Sri Lankan forces have sealed all the escape routes of the LTTE.
"Nearly 3000 LTTE cadres have been caught by the Lankan army as they tried to flee into the safe zone along with the civilians. The question is will Prabhakaran (LTTE chief V Prabhakaran) be able to hold out in the small pocket into which they are bottled into by the Lankan forces. On Thursday one of the top LTTE leaders who surrendered to the Lankan forces said that Prabhakaran has three options. The first is to commit suicide by consuming cyanide, secondly he may surrender and lay down arms and thirdly he might use civilians trapped in the six square km stretch as human shield and escape by the sea route."
But Sri Lankan army and navy are determined that LTTE leaders must stand trial and therefore all attempts are being made to apprehend them.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has also denied reports that a proposed loan from the International Monetary Fund is being delayed by the US apparently to pressurise Colombo to do more to help civilians trapped in the war zone.
Refugees who managed to escape the fighting in SL and reach India are saying that the LTTE is firing on the civilians fleeing the fighting.
Shows that the LTTE has the least of regards for the Tamil life it is championing.