Terrorism Update
Show/Hide Search
    Click to Enlarge

Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 1, No. 20, December 2 , 2002

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal


Fatalities in Nagaland, 1992-2002


Security Forces

                               *      Data till November 30
                                       Compiled from English language media sources.




From Secession to Regional Autonomy: LTTE Shifting Stance?
Guest Writer: G.H. Peiris
Senior Professor, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and Senior Fellow, International Centre for Ethnic Studies.

On November 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 added)

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 March Forward
Wasbir Hussain
Associate Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi; Consulting Editor, The Sentinel,Guwahati.

The ban 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 this condition.

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 down.

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 alone.

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.



Weekly Fatalities: Major conflicts in South Asia
November 25-December 1, 2002

Security Force Personnel
Jammu & Kashmir
Left-wing Extremism


Pakistani 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., 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.", 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 Durrani., November 27, 2002.


Regional self-rule 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., November 27, 2002.

The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.


South Asia Intelligence Review [SAIR]

K. P. S. Gill

Dr. Ajai Sahni

To receive FREE advance copies of SAIR by email Subscribe.

Recommend South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) to a friend.





Copyright © 2001 SATP. All rights reserved.