SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 1, No. 20, December 2 , 2002
assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form
with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal
in Nagaland, 1992-2002
Data till November 30
from English language media sources.
Secession to Regional Autonomy: LTTE Shifting Stance?
Senior Professor, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and
Senior Fellow, International Centre for Ethnic Studies.
27 each year, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),
delivers a "Heroes' Day Message" to climax a week-long series
of events intended to honour the Tiger cadres who have died
in the course of their secessionist campaign of war and
terrorism. This routine event, staged on the day following
the leader's birthday, tends to be looked upon by most observers
as part and parcel of the cult-perpetuating ritual on which
the LTTE has always placed great emphasis. The annual message,
regularly published in journals espousing Tamil nationalism,
has also been occasionally scrutinised for guidelines it
could provide to the thinking among the LTTE leadership.
Prabhakaran's message this year has attracted greater media
attention than it usually does. Broadcast in the context
of the on-going peace negotiations - a process that began
in December 2001 with the suspension of the military confrontation
between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE - the message
was expected to contain clues on the extent to which the
LTTE would deviate from its secessionist commitments in
order to reach a compromise with the government. It derived
special significance from the fact that, two days earlier,
representatives of about 40 countries had met in Oslo at
a forum named the 'Sri Lanka Peace Process Support Conference'
to urge both the Sri Lanka government as well as the LTTE
to persist with their peace efforts, and pledged assistance
totaling to about US $70 million for rehabilitation and
reconstruction of the war-ravaged areas in the northern
and eastern parts of the country.
Despite appearances to the contrary, the 'Oslo Conference'
was not a meeting convened to decide on aid commitments
- such decisions seldom are extempore responses to ceremonial
statements by prospective recipients of aid. Nor could it
be regarded as an elaborate gesture of international support
for the peace efforts, because the existence of such support
was already well known. Considered in the context of the
current global tide against terrorism, and the fact that
the LTTE has remained a proscribed terrorist organisation
in several participant countries, the significance of the
conference lay mainly in the fact that it represented a
collective effort to pressurise the LTTE to abandon not
only the violence with which its campaign of secessionism
has been associated, but even its seemingly intransigent
secessionist stance. In addition, the conference could be
perceived as being aimed at strengthening the segment of
the Sri Lankan government led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe
to deal with the increasingly vehement domestic opposition
to its approach on negotiations with the LTTE.
The foregoing considerations are the backdrop against which
Prabhakaran's recent message must be examined for any implicit
or explicit novelty it might contain. The most widely publicised
response to this message has been that it does reflect a
significant shift from the LTTE's earlier separatist stance.
Reuters, for example, reported that the "leader of
Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers made the clearest statement yet
that the Tigers had given up their demand for a separate
state saying he was willing to settle for regional autonomy."
Again, Prime Minister Wickremasinghe interpreted the message
as a "paradigm shift reflecting that the LTTE no longer
relentlessly pursues the idea of a separate state but is
content to consider substantial power-sharing within a framework
of a unified Sri Lanka." Several pro-negotiation groups
in Sri Lanka responded almost ecstatically to the message,
seeing in it "a vitally significant breakthrough" for peace.
The 'message' is, as usual, quite lengthy and elaborate
in its scope and content. The essence of the LTTE's demand
as it stands at present, however, is encapsulated in the
following passage extracted from the English translation.
Tamil homeland, Tamil nationality and Tamils' right to self-determination
are the fundamentals underlying our political struggle.
We have been insisting on these fundamentals from Thimpu
to Thailand. Our position is that the Tamil national question
should be resolved on the basis of these core principles...
As a distinct people they (the Tamils) are entitled to the
right to self-determination. The right to self-determination
has two aspects: internal and external. The internal self-determination
entitles a people to regional self-rule.
The Tamil people want to live in freedom and dignity in
their own lands without the domination of external forces.
They want to protect their national identity pursuing the
development of their language, culture and economy. They
want to live in their homeland under a system of self-rule.
This is the political aspiration of our people. We are prepared
to consider favourably a political framework that offers
substantial regional autonomy and self-government in our
homeland on the basis of the right to internal self-determination.
But if our people's right to self-determination is denied
and our demand for self-rule is rejected we have no alternative
other than to secede and form an independent state". (emphasis
Is there, in fact, a tangible shift in the negotiating stance
of the LTTE leadership identifiable here? In order to seek
an answer to this question, it is necessary to compare the
'demand' contained in the cited extract with pronouncements
made by the LTTE leadership in the past, not only on what
they demand and the extent to which they might be persuaded
to compromise on their demand, but also the principles on
which they claim to base their demands, and what they would
do if the demands are not conceded. The answer to the question
of whether there has been any change in the principles to
which the LTTE claims adherence is an emphatic 'no'. Indeed,
the 'fundamentals' postulated in the present extract as
providing the basis of the LTTE stance are identical to
the first three 'Principles' enunciated at Thimpu seventeen
years ago, and repeated thereafter on innumerable occasions
almost as litany. These 'Principles', announced by the Tamil
delegation at the Thimpu Talks facilitated by the Government
of India are (to cite verbatim):
1. Recognition of the Tamils of Ceylon as a nation;
2. Recognition of the existence of an identified homeland
for the Tamils in Ceylon;
3. Recognition of the right of self-determination of the
Tamil nation; and
4. Recognition of the right of citizenship and the fundamental
rights of all Tamils in Ceylon.
Is it possible to attribute significance to the distinction
that has been made between 'internal' and 'external' self-determination
and what it is intended to imply? It is significant that
in Prabhakaran's latest message, while the former is explained
as 'regional autonomy', the latter has been left unexplained.
Admittedly, the concept of 'external self-determination'
of a national group (as the Tamils of Sri Lanka are referred
to in the message) is not easy to define, specially in the
context of the fact that about 50 per cent of this group
live outside the 'region' for which self-rule (i.e. internal
self-determination) is being demanded - unless the differentiation
is intended to pertain to matters of internal government
of the expected autonomous region and those of foreign relations
of the country as a whole. Whether the maintenance of such
a distinction in affairs of governance would be feasible
is an issue that will obviously loom large in any future
negotiations. Regarding self-determination in its un-differentiated
form, it is significant that many of the LTTE's earlier
pronouncements contained the proviso that "...self-determination
includes the right to determine the degree of autonomy which
the Tamil nation could exercise" (which implies that it
would include the right to secession). Such a qualification
is not found in the present statement. [Citation from the
opening statement by the spokesman for the Tamil delegation
at Thimpu at the commencement of the talks in July 1985].
What stands out most prominently as a similarity between
Prabkakaran's recent message and the LTTE's earlier statements
of policy and intent is the conditionality attached to an
abandonment of the goal of secession. In the present statement,
as in almost all previous ones, one finds the daring ultimatum
that, if the Tamils are denied the right to self-determination,
the LTTE would secede. The related qualifications are, explicitly,
that the degree of self-determination granted must satisfy
the "aspirations of the Tamil people", and, implicitly,
that it would be the LTTE that would decide on whether the
aspirations have been satisfied.
To sum-up, the only conclusion which can be reached is that,
in terms of substance, there is still no tangible change
in the LTTE's stance on secessionism. This conclusion finds
support from the actual record of the LTTE's performance
in Sri Lanka's 'north-east' since the commencement of the
peace negotiations. It is also vividly reinforced by Anton
Balasingham's (leader of the LTTE delegation at Oslo) response
to the gentle request made by Richard Armitage (delegate
of the United States government) for the LTTE to formally
renounce violence and terrorism. In a show of brinkmanship
which only a very few leaders of terrorist organisations
would dare display in the prevailing ethos, but has all
along been LTTE's forte, Balasingham said (admittedly in
more polite terms), 'Go, fly a kite!'
There is, of course, a change in tone, though that too is
not entirely new. For example, the 'Heroes Day Message'
of 1999, as the Tamil Times (15 December 1999: 9) observed,
was "peppered with vitriolic attacks against President Chandrika
Kumaratunga's regime (and) reflected the extent of the Tiger
leader's hatred and anger" (which found expression in an
attempt on her life about three weeks later). In the following
year, the crux of the message was a scathing criticism of
the President's policy statement at the opening of the Parliament
elected in October that year. The 'message' of 2001 (the
Norwegians were active by this time, and the country was
preparing for a parliamentary election and a possible change
of regime) was mild in tone, but almost identical in substance
to the present one, except for the sophistry on the subject
of "self-determination". In sum, the Tigers have systematically
tailored their rhetoric to the imperatives and expedients
of the moment. There is little current evidence of substantive
change on this count.
Naga Peace: A Good
Associate Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management, New
Delhi; Consulting Editor, The Sentinel,Guwahati.
on the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council
of Nagalim (NSCN-IM)
was finally lifted, twelve years after the organization
was declared 'unlawful' as it led a separatist insurgency
in the Northeast Indian State of Nagaland. On November 26,
2002, New Delhi simply allowed the ban to lapse after its
current period expired. This means that the NSCN-IM is now
a legitimate organisation, free to open offices anywhere
in the country, and to contest or back candidates or political
parties, as it pleases, in the forthcoming State Legislative
Assembly elections in Nagaland.
The NSCN-IM, however, continues to hold on to a substantial
cache of weapons, and its armed cadres reside in 'designated
camps', of which there are seven (and another seven for
its rival group, the Khaplang faction, the NSCN-K).
NSCN-IM cadres are not permitted to enter 'inhabited areas'
with weapons, and the lifting of the ban does not alter
The then Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda's unorthodox initiative
in 1996 - when he handpicked an opposition Congress leader
Rajesh Pilot to make contact with the NSCN-IM leaders -
is, in fact, responsible for whatever progress the Naga
peace process has made today. For the five years since New
Delhi and the NSCN-IM signed a ceasefire agreement, which
came into effect from August 1, 1997, the two sides have
primarily been engaged in finalising the modalities of what
the rebel leaders call 'substantive talks' to work out an
acceptable solution. First, the dispute was over the jurisdiction
of the truce, whether it should be applicable only in the
State of Nagaland, or should extend to all the Naga inhabited
areas in other northeastern Indian States, as demanded by
the NSCN-IM. Eventually, after the uprising in neighbouring
Manipur in June 2001 - protesting the extension of the ceasefire
to areas outside Nagaland - that saw 18 Meitei protestors
die in police firing, it was 'decided' that the ceasefire
would confine itself only to Nagaland.
Unlike in the mid-Sixties, when the peace talks between
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the Naga rebel leaders
broke down over the intransigence of the two sides on their
respective positions - the Nagas insisting on nothing less
than a sovereign Naga homeland and New Delhi simply rejecting
the possibility - it is the general mood for peace within
the Naga civil society and the general population that has
made the two sides push ahead to evolve a solution. This
will to peace has survived several hiccups, like the bitter
controversy over the ceasefire jurisdiction. Like the NSCN-IM,
the Vajpayee government, too, appears committed to resolving
the issue and not repeating mistakes that New Delhi may
have made in the past, over 55 years of the Naga insurrection.
Consequently, when Prime Minister Vajpayee extended an invitation
to the NSCM-IM leaders to come to New Delhi and continue
the process of dialogue anywhere in India, the rebel leadership
immediately accepted the proposal, but put up a few conditions,
including the lifting of the ban on the group, withdrawal
of the non-bailable arrest warrants issued by the Nagaland
Police in February 2000 against NSCN-IM general secretary
Thuingaleng Muivah and others after a failed assassination
bid on Chief Minister S.C.Jamir's life, and a safe passage
to return to their foreign locations should the talks break
At least two major conditions have now been met by New Delhi
- the ban on NSCN-IM no longer exists and the arrest warrants,
too, have been withdrawn by the Nagaland Police in June
this year. It can safely be assumed that, the request for
safe passage will also be conceded by the government. The
stage is finally set for NSCN-IM general secretary Muivah,
its chairman Isak Chishi Swu, and others, to visit India
for 'political talks' that are slated for mid-December.
New Delhi's chief negotiator in the Naga talks, K. Padmanabhiah,
met with the NSCN-IM leaders in Italy last week to brief
them about the Indian government's decision to lift the
ban and also finalised the details of the rebel leaders'
travel plans. Before that, however, Muivah, Swu and the
NSCN-IM top brass would like to have a quick interaction
with Naga representatives and Church leaders from Nagaland
and other Naga inhabited areas in northeastern India to
exchange ideas and receive suggestions on the shape of the
possible agreement that can be reached with New Delhi. This
exercise is to begin soon.
A visible sincerity in approach by the two sides, and deepening
trust in each other, hold the key to the future progress
of this now-or-never peace process. There is still a gulf
of suspicion between the parties in negotiation, and Mizoram
Chief Minister Zoramthanga, a former rebel leader himself,
has said that the NSCN-IM leaders were wary of New Delhi's
response in the event of the talks breaking down. Zoramthanga
said that, in 1978, he was part of an eight-member Mizo
National Front (MNF) team that had come to New Delhi for
talks with Prime Minister Morarji Desai. "The talks failed,
and we were forcibly detained for as long as nine months
in New Delhi," he said. Zoramthanga, who has emerged as
another key government negotiator on the Naga issue, however,
ruled out the possibility of New Delhi repeating the same
mistake, saying, that the present process "was too good
an opportunity to be missed."
The Nagas want peace and the NSCN-IM triumvirate of Muivah,
Swu and vice-chairman Khodao Yanthan, are all in their sixties
and are naturally in a hurry to assume the leadership of
their people. But, New Delhi cannot afford to do things
in haste. The exact contours of a settlement will only be
defined during the negotiation process itself, but certain
issues, like the demand for the integration of Naga-inhabited
areas in States like Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh
into Nagaland, cannot be decided by the two talking sides
More than this, New Delhi must try to ascertain whether
peace will actually return to Nagaland or the Naga areas
with a deal that includes only the NSCN-IM, without the
concurrence of rival Naga rebel factions such as the NSCN-K
or the Naga National Council (NNC). That is a question that
will eventually have to be confronted. As of now, however,
New Delhi's biggest challenge is to keep the NSCN-IM cadres
in Nagaland under check; put an end to the internecine group
clashes between the NSCN-IM and the NSCN-K (between August
1, 1997 and November 26, 2002, a total of 96 NSCN-IM cadres
and 246 NSCN-K men were killed in this factional feud);
and see that the Congress government in Nagaland headed
by S.C. Jamir does not whip up unnecessary fears. Jamir
has already met Prime Minister Vajpayee in New Delhi (on
November 27) and sought a guarantee that the NSCN-IM will
not intimidate voters during the forthcoming State Assembly
elections. The lifting of the ban on the NSCN-IM at a time
when the polls are due could well change the course of Nagaland's
electoral history, with a new force emerging on the scene.
Peace, of course, must remain the priority on all sides.
Major conflicts in South Asia
November 25-December 1, 2002
High Commission in Dhaka is nerve centre for terrorist activity,
says Foreign Minister: While indicating that Pakistan was
misusing territories of other countries for activities inimical
to Indian interests, the Government on November 27, 2002, said
that the Pakistani High Commission in the Bangladeshi capital
Dhaka, had become the "nerve centre" of Inter Services Intelligence
(ISI) activities promoting terrorism and insurgency in India.
"Some al-Qaeda elements have taken shelter in Bangladesh. Though
foreign media has also reported several such instances, our
own sources have also confirmed many of these reports," External
Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha told the Lok Sabha (Lower House
of Indian Parliament) while replying to a short notice question.
November 28, 2002.
Pakistani suicide squads trying to derail peace process,
says J&K Chief Minister: Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Chief
Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed said, during the ongoing Legislative
Assembly session in Jammu, on November 27, 2002, that Pakistani
fidayeen (suicide cadres) were attempting to derail the peace
process initiated by his government. He also said the coalition
government has a 'complete understanding' with the Union government
on the 'security concerns' of the State. www.dailyexcelsior.com,
November 28, 2002.
Ban on NSCN-IM lifted; Naga peace talks-next round in Delhi:Minister
of State for Home, I.D. Swami, announced on November 26, 2002,
that the Union government has decided not to renew the ban on
the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM),
even as the ban lapsed at midnight on November 26. He reiterated
that the decision followed the NSCN-IM leaderships' consent
to come to India to participate in the ongoing peace talks.
According to Union Home Ministry sources, the talks are likely
to take place in the second week of December in New Delhi. The
two Naga leaders would be returning to India after 37 years.
November 26, 2002.
Canada designates Jaish, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen
as terrorist groups: The Canadian government, according
to media reports of November 29, 2002, acting after sustained
pressure from the parliamentary opposition, designated the Pakistan-based
Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) as terrorist
groups. Solicitor-General Wayne Easter told Parliament, "This
list is just one example of the many steps this government has
taken in the global effort to shut down terrorism financing.
And we will keep adding to this list, as we have done today…
The decision to list an entity is a very serious one and listing
carries severe consequences - not only for terrorists, but also
for their supporters." www.dailytimes.com.pk,
November 29, 2002.
MMA to block hunt for Al Qaeda operatives in NWFP: The
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an electoral alliance of six
Islamist fundamentalist parties, indicated on November 26, 2002,
that it would block the manhunt for Al Qaeda cadres in the tribal-dominated
North West Frontier Province (NWFP) region, where the US military
believes hundreds of operatives are hiding. "We have opposed
the government's pro-US policies, particularly operations aided
by (the US) and we shall maintain our opposition," Akram Durrani,
chief minister-elect of NWFP, said in an interview. "We will
neither allow our land to be used for terrorist activities,
nor will we allow any operation particularly involving FBI agents.
People who voted for the MMA voted against such actions," added
November 27, 2002.
is Tamils' right, says LTTE chief Prabhakaran: Delivering
the customary Annual Heroes Days address on November 27, 2002,
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran
said the LTTE is in favour of a peaceful resolution of the protracted
conflict. Asking for a 'reasonable' solution, he declared, "If
our demand for regional self-rule on the right to internal self-determination
is rejected, we have no alternative than to secede and form
an independent state." He called for an immediate withdrawal
of the security forces from Jaffna peninsula for 'normalcy and
social peace' to return. He also asked the international community
to render financial assistance for reconstruction and rehabilitation.
, November 27, 2002.
Donor countries promise financial, political support to peace
process at Oslo meet: Financial and political support was
promised to the peace process in Sri Lanka at Oslo, on November
25, 2002, at a meeting attended by 35 countries including the
US, the UK, Japan and the European Union. Donor countries promised
to immediately give US$ 60 to 70 million in 'emergency aid'
and said more would be extended after a meeting in early 2003
in Tokyo. The aid would be utilised for the entire country and
is not limited to the conflict-afflicted Northeast. www.dailynews.com.lk,
November 27, 2002.
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