Prabhakaran is dead. Baitullah Mehsud is not. And Naxals are a threat we are not even waking up to. Sri Lanka's war on LTTE will perhaps be a lesson in what not to do in a counter insurgency situation. I cannot imagine the Indian armed forces go after terrorists in either J&K or the north east in a similar manner. It is just not done. Except perhaps in Sri Lanka where the media and independent aid agencies were shut out to achieve the end - even if the collateral damage was immense and completely unacceptable in any civilized country.
My friends in the Sri Lankan security forces tell me Prabhakaran was no civilised man. He deserved to be killed at all cost. They recount how his 34 year reign of terror resulted in over 1,00,000 deaths - right from the time he killed the mayor of Jaffna and the `four-four-bravo' patrol ambush.
But Prabhakaran was a terrorist. The state cannot resort to terror to kill a terrorist. the state under no circumstances can justify the killing of thousands of innocent Tamils. Prabhakaran was a terrorist. So was Charles Antony who studied aeronautical engineering and helped rig the aircraft that launched an attack on the Katyunaike air base. The LTTE had earlier launched a ground attack on the Bhandaranayake international airport and destroyed 3 Airbus, 1 MiG 27, 2 Mi 17s - in all 11 aircraft of Sri Lanka on July 24, 01.
My Sri Lankan friends says Indians should be happy. They killed the man who was responsible for the death of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and the killing of over 1,200 IPKF personnel. But how can we be happy when thousands of innocent Tamils have been killed, maimed or are now in a `Nazi' concentration camp like environment.
Of Course, Sri Lanka's determination and will to eliminate the Tiger at all cost needs to be appreciated. Here was a man who controlled almost one third of Sri Lankan territory. He struck at will. He perfected the concept of suicide attacks. He killed a president, a former prime minister (of India), a defence minister, a national security minister, tried to kill another president, an army chief. Prabhakaran was a man the country feared. Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajpakse, his brothers Gothbaya and Basil made it their personal agenda to ensure the LTTE was wiped out. they had the will and they did it.
DOES PAKISTAN HAVE THE WILL TO ELIMINATE TALIBAN
Even if Taliban are as bad if not worse than the LTTE collateral damage will be unacceptable in Pakistan's war on terror. If Pakistan has to win this war, the way Sri Lanka did (at least they have killed the entire top leadership and broken the back of LTTE militarily) it has to show the same determination. If Pakistan has the will they will succeed. It took the Sri Lankan army three long years of sustained operations.
Sri Lankan army fought four wars with LTTE. Three ended in a stalemate, the fouth in LTTE defeat. What did the Sri Lankan army do. They doubled their strength militarily, got better training and weapons and then courtesy Colonel Karuna (Prabhakaran's trusted lieutenant who defected) they got great intelligence on LTTE's strengths and weaknesses. Then the Sri Lankan army launched a sustained tri services offensive. They kept their reverses a secret, told the world to climb a tree and went after Prabhakaran.
Is Pakistan willing to show the same commitment. Come what may - kill the terrorists and their leadership. At least in Pakistan's war the world is with them. For Sri Lanka it was a war for their survival. For Pakistan it soon will be. An all out war between the terrorists and the security forces. Pakistani security forces cannot afford to pull wool over the eyes of the international community.
Like the Sri Lankan army they need to go after the terrorist leadership - Baitullah Mehsud, Mullah Omar, Jalaluddin Haqqani and the other Taliban commanders and Al qaeda leaders. Once that is done can they focus on removing the reasons for terror. But first the terror commanders need to be eliminated.
LESSONS FOR INDIA
Elections are over. the government has popular mandate and the focus as the prime minister has spelt out himself is internal security. the army appears in control of the situation both in J&K and the north east. The burning issue the nation is not waking up to is the Naxal threat - far more dangerous and lethal than the LTTE and the Taliban.
THE NAXAL THREAT
this is a cancer that is fast spreading. A corridor from Nepal down Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Bengal, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh down to Karnataka. The Red Corridor if exploited by the enemies of the country will explode. Neither our police nor our armed forces are geared for this war.
We all saw what happened when an ill-prepared and underequipped Indian army went to Sri Lanka to fight the LTTE. We lost over 1,200 soldiers and more than 3,000 were injured apart from Sri Lanka being called India's Vietnam. The naxal war should not be our Vietnam within. Look how naxals strike at will - the latest being the attack in Maharashtra where for the first time even women constables were not spared. My sources in the police tell me the naxal training, tactics and weapons are improving steadily. Apart from the weapons snatched and looted from police armoury, the naxals now have access to sophesticated automatic weapons from across the eastern borders in Bangladesh.
DOES INDIA HAVE THE WILL
And this brings me to the last point - does India have the will to deal with the naxal issue. It is not a problem of one state or one director general of police. It is not a political problem. It is a national problem. We may love to criticise Pakistan for being soft on Taliban but how firm are we in tackling the Naxal issue. This is a cancer that will spread so fast that Sri Lanka's war on LTTE will look like picnic in comparison. This is a wake up call.