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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 1, No. 41, April 28, 2003

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



Peace Process: A Little Arm-twisting
Guest Writer: Jehan Perera
Media Director, National Peace Council of Sri Lanka

If the sudden decision, announced on April 21, 2003, by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to pull out of the peace process caught most observers by surprise, it was because they had failed to heed the direct and indirect warning signals. The direct warning signals came from the LTTE, which had expressed its unhappiness at being left out of the international donor conference in Washington on April 14. But ironically, the indirect warning signals came from the satisfaction of the Sri Lanka Government that it had achieved success at the same Washington aid conference from which the LTTE had been barred. Up to the time of the Washington meeting, the Government and the LTTE had made joint appeals to the international community.

By stating that it was suspending the peace talks and would not be attending the donor aid conference in Tokyo scheduled in June, the LTTE has sought to apply a maximum of pressure on the Government. It is aware that the Government is banking a great deal on the Tokyo conference, to revive the economy and offer a substantial peace dividend to the people. The consensual approach between the government and LTTE had been the key factor in the mobilisation of international aid to reconstruct the country. Any conflict between them could lead to a weakening of this international support.

The LTTE has, however, also been careful in the statement it issued regarding its decision to suspend its participation in the peace negotiations, which was qualified by announcement that it would continue with the peace process and honour the ceasefire agreement. It is clear, consequently, that there is no danger of the ceasefire collapsing and war breaking out. Unfortunately, there is a considerable apprehension among the people that the peace process is indeed breaking down, and that this will be exploited by opponents of the peace process. Thus, President Chandrika Kumaratunga's decision to put the troops on high alert may have been a legitimate use of her constitutional powers as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, but it was also given wide publicity by the media, and added to the agitation of the people.

In the last couple of weeks the media had been giving mixed messages regarding the peace process. On the one hand, there is a focus on disruptions to the process, of which there were many. Some of the most threatening incidents included the sinking of an LTTE cargo vessel, suspected of carrying arms, by the Sri Lanka navy, which resulted in the loss of over a dozen LTTE lives on March 10. This was followed by the brutal hacking to death of nearly 20 Chinese civilian sailors on board a shipping vessel flying the Sri Lankan flag, on March 20. More recently, between April 16 and 21, there have been clashes in the multi ethnic eastern region of the country, where there has been widespread violence between Tamils and Muslims, with several hundred Muslims fleeing their homes.

On the other hand, the media has also given prominence to the remarkable success of the government in raising international donor funding. The World Bank and IMF have together pledged over USD 800 million in aid for the next three years, granting Sri Lanka 100 percent of what it was able to receive. Government spokespersons also spoke confidently of obtaining a total of USD 1 billion for three consecutive years from donor countries and multilateral agencies, exceeding all previous fund raising efforts. But a perceptive observer would have noted the absence of the LTTE from these claims of success and anticipatory rejoicing.

Being invited to Washington for the donor meeting at a time when the United States was focussed on the Iraq situation was an undoubted triumph for the Sri Lankan Government. But in seeking to project itself as having secured a great success in order to pander to its voter base, the Government has evidently alienated the LTTE. In the government's highly publicised achievement in Washington, the LTTE may have seen its future exclusion from other important events and decisions; its belief in an equal partnership with the Government has been sundered. The LTTE's action of pulling out from the peace talks needs to be seen in this light.

In announcing its withdrawal from the peace negotiations, the LTTE is making it clear that its cooperation is essential if the Government is to attain its aid target. In fact, by threatening to boycott the Tokyo donor conference, the LTTE is also making the larger point that everything the country has achieved in the course of the last 16 months of peace is contingent on its cooperation. And indeed, the government and the LTTE have been partners in making Sri Lanka a unique and textbook case of a successful peace process, at least, till this point. If this success is to continue, so must that partnership.

In its letter of April 21 to the Government, the LTTE said, "During the early negotiating sessions it was agreed that the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE should work together and approach the international community in partnership." There are, of course, difficult questions to be asked and answered about the nature of this partnership. There are partnerships that are equal and others that are not. There could be equality in some aspects and inequality in other aspects of a relationship. Where the ceasefire agreement is concerned, the government and the LTTE are equals. They were the two parties at war and without their joint collaboration and commitment the war would not have ended.

On the other hand, when the LTTE agreed to a federal solution, they recognised there would be only one central government in Sri Lanka. Foreign governments and multilateral donor agencies give their funds to the central government because they can seek repayment from it. There is accountability when dealing with a national government. Such accountability is not possible with a militant organisation that has not yet contested an election or formed an internationally recognised government. The LTTE has to accept the reality that it will not be treated as equal to the Sri Lankan government when it comes to accessing international donor funding.

However, the LTTE's sense of being marginalised in the peace process, especially during the Washington donor conference, needs to be appreciated. The LTTE said, "We view the exclusion of the LTTE, the principal partner to peace and the authentic representatives of the Tamil people, from discussions on critical matters affecting the economic and social welfare of the Tamil nation, as a grave breach of good faith." The LTTE is justified in feeling that it contributed in equal part to the success of the peace process and it is unfairly being left out at the end, when the rewards are being handed out. The government should assure the LTTE that this would not happen again, and that the LTTE will be an equal partner in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the north and east. During the course of the war, the LTTE built up various institutions of an administrative and military nature. There is no denying the existence today of LTTE courts, police, administrators, and army and navy. They are a de facto reality. However, this is not the rule of law, and it is important that the political negotiations should be speeded up so that a final settlement is reached, at which time democratic regional institutions can be put in place.

For its part, the LTTE needs to recognise the difficulties it puts the Government into by some of its actions. It is not acceptable behaviour by a partner to a peace process to engage in a build up of it military strength by arms smuggling over the seas, and by forcibly recruiting even children into its armed ranks. The LTTE's human rights record continues to be poor, and the organisation played a key role in the Tamil-Muslim clashes that have forced hundreds of Muslims from their homes. There is an ongoing campaign of political assassinations of members of Tamil political parties opposed to the LTTE. There are also credible reports of LTTE prisons and torture camps to which no one, not even the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has access.

In its statement explaining its reasons for withdrawing from the peace talks, the LTTE has claimed that its exclusion from the aid conference in the United States, the continued suffering of the displaced Tamil people, the problems of the heavy Army presence in civilian areas of the north and east, and the lack of special attention to the economic devastation of the north and east, are reasons that have undermined its confidence in the negotiations. But the restoration of normal life in the north and east that the LTTE avowedly seeks, must apply to non-Tamils and to non-LTTE parties as well. For Sri Lanka's peace process to succeed, and for the country to be an example to the world, there is only one appropriate basis for a successful and long term working partnership. This is a commitment to transparency, human rights and democracy. Both the Government and the LTTE have a long way to go in their journey to such a partnership.



The Northeast: Groping for Peace in a Policy Vacuum
Wasbir Hussain
Associate Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi; Consulting Editor, The Sentinel, Guwahati

Yet another separatist rebel group in India's Northeast has now confirmed that it is engaged in peace negotiations with New Delhi. General Secretary of the outlawed Achik National Volunteers' Council (ANVC), Wanding K. Marak, disclosed during a rare interaction with the media last fortnight that his group had a meeting at Bangkok in January with Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director K.P. Singh and Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga, who has emerged as one of the region's key peace brokers. The rebel leader also acknowledged the role played by former Speaker of the Lower House of Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) and a veteran leader of the Garo tribe, P.A. Sangma, in acting as a bridge between the Government and the ANVC, and in preparing the ground for the talks.

Formed in December 1995, the ANVC is active in the Garo Hills districts in western Meghalaya, on the border with Assam and Bangladesh. The group is engaged in an armed struggle for a separate Garo State (Achik land) comprising the Garo dominated areas in Meghalaya and in adjoining Assam's Kamrup and Goalpara districts. In a way, the ANVC is pursuing a 'greater Garoland' dream in much the same way as the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM), which has entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Indian Government and is currently holding peace talks, and which harbours plans for a 'greater Nagaland' by merging all Naga-inhabited areas in the Northeast into a broader Naga homeland.

The Government keeping its doors open for peace negotiations is fine, but it has, of late, been found that insurgent groups in the region, many of them no better than ragtag bands of armed men, have been successful in arm-twisting both the Union and State authorities, to lend them the required legitimacy by first declaring them 'unlawful organizations' and then holding so-called peace talks with them. On November 16, 2000, within five years of its formation, the ANVC was declared a banned organization by the Union Government in accordance with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Till this time, the ANVC's list of violent activities included killing a dozen policemen and looting cash amounting to about one million rupees from banks in the area. Till last year, police officials in Meghalaya sought to dismiss the ANVC as an outfit that had, if anything, no more than a nuisance value, but that did not constitute a significant security threat. But, the group soon stepped up its attack on soft targets, kidnapping people, including doctors and engineers, for ransom and keeping up with the odd attacks on policemen on duty. None of this, in any way, increased the ANVC's threat potential. Then comes the confirmation of the IB chief holding talks with leaders of the group in Bangkok.

Arm-twisting as a strategy appears to have been perfected by rebel groups in India's Northeast. The ANVC is now agitated over the fact that the Union Government has not bothered to take the talks forward after the January interaction in Bangkok, suggesting that the ANVC was in bit of a hurry to clinch some kind of a deal with New Delhi. What is surprising is the group's stand that it would not enter into any ceasefire agreement with the Government, even while it was talking peace with it. ANVC leader, Marak, for instance, pointed out that there was no truce between the Mizo National Front (MNF) of legendary guerrilla leader Laldenga in Mizoram, and the Indian Government, when the two sides were engaged in peace negotiations in the mid-eighties. A small group like the ANVC is perhaps aware of the fact that it could disintegrate once it calls a truce with the authorities.

The question, however, is whether the ANVC is that dangerous a rebel group that it should have been declared unlawful in the first place within years of its formation, and whether having the 'unlawful' stamp on it was, in fact, one of the ANVC's objectives (or, for that matter, the goal of many other rebel groups in the region), which could improve its status and linkages with other more powerful rebel groups with international connections, or even to keep its cadres together. It is said that the NSCN-IM had initially backed the ANVC while it was still a nascent group. The ANVC then went on to establish links with the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), a separatist group fighting for an independent Bodo homeland in western Assam. Now, however, the ANVC has severed its ties with the NDFB and has slapped a quit notice to the latter, asking its cadres to pull out from the Garo Hills in Meghalaya after a bitter turf war.

Insurgent politics in India's Northeast seems to have fallen into a pattern. Any ethnic group, however small it might be, begins by encouraging the formation of a rebel group that establishes links with bigger outfits. The group then manages to procure access to weapons, launch a few noticeable attacks, use the media to put across its so-called political agenda and demands, catch hold of a peace broker and force willing federal officials to travel to a neighbouring Southeast Asian nation to talk peace. This is happening primarily because neither New Delhi nor the State governments address the grievances, fears and apprehensions of the ethnic groups unless the demands are raised through the barrel of their guns.

In February, the Indian Government signed an agreement with the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), ending the agitation in Assam's Bodo heartland for a separate State. The Bodos have been given an elective political-administrative structure called the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) with 'maximum autonomy.' However, another Bodo rebel group, the NDFB, remains recalcitrant, and continues with its demand for an independent Bodo homeland, outside the Indian Union. The NDFB has now also indicated that it is keen to enter into negotiations with New Delhi. Similarly, two small rebel groups, the Dima Halim Daogah (DHD), active in Southern Assam's North Cachar Hills and a faction of the United People's Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) in the hills of Karbi Anglong, are in the 'peace mode' and have entered into a truce with the government. Talks with 'big brother' NSCN-IM are already on, and the rival Khaplang faction of the NSCN, too, is on the verge of joining the peace process.

The issue is whether there is enough political space to accommodate these groups and their leaders who have 'made a mark' much sooner by their violent activities than most mainstream political leaders can through years, if not decades, of service among the masses. What has been created is, in fact, a method that allows violent individuals and groups to 'short circuit' the democratic process, putting those who remain committed to the constitution and to lawful politics at a distinct disadvantage. What is more, the proliferation of groups also creates difficulties of accommodation where rival rebel groupings seek to occupy and dominate the same political space. Where, for instance, will New Delhi accommodate the NDFB leaders and cadres in case, like the BLT, this group also agrees to sign a peace deal and come overground? Where will the NSCN-K fit in a peace agreement signed with the NSCN-IM? Can New Delhi sign two or more peace accords with rival groups to solve a single problem? And what of the insidious impact on democratic political parties that the increasing political role of ex-rebel factions inevitably would have? It is time the Indian government formulated a clear, coherent and internally consistent policy to deal with insurgent groups, and put the brakes on the multiplicity of internally conflicting 'peace processes' with all and sundry groups that pass off as insurgent organizations.



Weekly Fatalities: Major conflicts in South Asia
April 21-27, 2003

Security Force Personnel






     Jammu &








Total (INDIA)



*   Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Three terrorists, two SF personnel killed in suicide attack on Srinagar radio station: Three terrorists and two security force (SF) personnel were killed and eight others injured as a group of fidayeen (suicide squad) attacked the local station of All India Radio (AIR) in Srinagar, capital of Jammu and Kashmir, on April 26, 2003. The suicide terrorists drove an explosive-laden car towards the AIR station and later exploded the same with a remote control. While one terrorist and a SF personnel nearby were killed instantly, two other terrorists, who reportedly got off the car earlier took shelter in a mosque nearby and began firing from automatic rifles. The SF personnel guarding the complex returned fire killing both the terrorists who had come out of the mosque. Later, a spokesperson of the Al Madeena Regiment called up a local news agency and claimed responsibility for the attack. Daily Excelsior, April 27, 2003.

14 terrorists killed in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir: In a major counter-insurgency operation, security forces (SFs) killed 14 terrorists in the Surankote area of Poonch district on April 22, 2003. An SF personnel was also killed in the encounter. Official sources said that the terrorists, including some 'commanders' of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), were engaged in "crucial parleys" in Hill Kaka area, to intensify activities in the Pir Panjal range. Most of the slain terrorists were reported to be foreign mercenaries of the LeT and JeM. Daily Excelsior, April 23, 2003.

LeT, Jaish and HuM at forefront of terrorist attacks in J&K, says British Premier Blair: British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that the proscribed Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) have been at the forefront of "terrorist attacks" in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and their violent activities would only "prolong" the resolution of the Kashmir issue. "During the last decade, the nature of the conflict has changed as a result of the armed incursions of militants across of the Line of Control (LoC). Terrorist organisations including LeT, JeM and HuM have been at the forefront of terrorist attacks in the restive state and violence will never resolve the Kashmir issue, it will only get prolonged," he said in an interview to the Lahore-based weekly Friday Times. Blair added that ending infiltration is essential to stopping violence in J&K. Daily Excelsior, April 23, 2003.


Maoists resume peace talks with Government: Maoist insurgent leaders resumed peace talks with the Government on April 27, 2003. Those who participated in the talks included, among others, Maoists leaders Baburam Bhattarai, Krishna Bahadur Mahara and Ram Bahadur Thapa, and Government negotiators, Minister for Physical Planning Narayan Singh Pun and Communications Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey. The Maoists had withdrawn from the 'introductory talks' on April 21 demanding discussions on 'substitutive issues'. The two sides also nominated two persons each to act as facilitators during the talks. A team of both the sides would decide on the date and venue of the next round of talks. Nepal News, April 27, 2003.


Lashkar-e-Jhangvi chief Akram Lahori sentenced to death: An Anti-terrorism court in Karachi on April 26, 2003, sentenced to death Akram Lahori, chief of the proscribed Sunni group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), and his two associates on three counts of sectarian murders. The court further directed the three convicts to pay Rupees 200,000 each in compensation to the family of the victims for "the mental anguish caused to them due to callous act committed by the accused". Lahori and the two associates were arrested in Karachi on June 29, 2002. Dawn, April 27, 2003.

Support to terrorist groups in J&K continues, says CIA Director: The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has said that Pakistan continues to support terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). According to a media report, in a recent speech before the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA Director George Tenet has said that even though India's recent military redeployment away from the border reduced the danger of imminent war, the underlying cause of tension is unchanged. Hindustan Times, April 24, 2003.


LTTE withdraws from peace talks: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said on April 21, 2003, that it is 'suspending' its participation in the peace talks for the moment, but said it is firmly committed to the peace process. In a letter to Premier Ranil Wickremasinghe, LTTE chief negotiator and ideologue Anton Balasingham said the LTTE has been compelled to make this 'painful' and 'regretful' decision and called upon the Government to restore confidence in the peace process. According to him, this could be achieved by implementing, 'without further delay', the normalisation aspects of the cease-fire agreement that was signed in February 2002. The LTTE also said that it has decided not to participate in the forthcoming international donor conference due to be held in Tokyo. Daily News, April 22, 2003.


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.


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