By Sugeeswara Senadhira/Ceylon Today
Colombo, April 12: Despite political hiccups, professionals in charge of security in India and Sri Lanka have underlined the imperative need for close cooperation and sharing of intelligence to curb the common threats of terrorism, religious fundamentalism, and drug and human smuggling.
It is a fact that intelligence agents of powerful countries often infiltrate underground movements to keep a close tab on their operations and strategies. However, they always share intelligence information when it is necessary to protect national interests. The decision taken by Indian Intelligence services to repeatedly warn Sri Lankan law enforcement authorities about the impending terrorist attacks by Islamist fundamentalists on April 21 Easter Sunday of 2019 is an example of sharing crucial information, though incompetent Sri Lankans fumbled badly to take preventive action.
On April 8, during the top-level Police Chiefs’ virtual dialogue, India and Sri Lanka decided to strengthen the existing cooperation mechanisms and designated ‘nodal points’ for timely and effective handling of existing, as well as emerging security challenges. The two delegation heads, Director of Indian Intelligence Bureau Arvind Kumar and the Sri Lankan Inspector General of Police C.D. Wickramaratne agreed to work jointly against terrorist entities including global terrorist groups and fugitives, wherever they are present and active.
Smuggling between South India and Sri Lanka has, for long, been a lucrative commercial enterprise, controlled, for the most part, by gangs operating from both sides of the Palk Strait. While Valvettithurai served as the foremost center of smugglers from Sri Lanka, on the Indian side, Rameswaram to Chennai and other cities and towns in Tamil Nadu and Kerala have figured prominently among smuggler bases and hideouts. While appreciating each other’s ongoing action against drug traffickers and other organized criminals operating across the Palk Strait, the two sides emphasized the need for sharing of real-time Intelligence and feedback on terrorist groups and fugitives wherever they are present and active.
The Police Chiefs’ dialogue was assisted by members of other security agencies on both sides and both sides agreed to further enhance the existing cooperation between the Police Forces of the two countries. The first delegation-level virtual meeting was marked by an environment of positivity and trust.
As both countries are faced with a major security risk from Islamist militants, the talks focused on the need to share intelligence on radical organizations. They said Sri Lanka’s decision to ban 11 Islamist radical organizations, including the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, for their links to extremist activities was a welcome move. Last week, Attorney General Dappula de Livera’s office announced that the AG had authorized proscription of 9 local extremist groups alongside Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide attacks on churches and hotels that killed 270 people, including 11 Indians, and a few other foreigners, Sri Lanka banned the local Jihadi group National Thowheed Jama’ath (NTJ) and two other groups. The special panel appointed in 2019 to probe the Easter Sunday Attacks had recommended the banning of Muslim extremist organizations which advocated radicalism.
Indian and Sri Lankan security officials also looked into the links between militant groups in the two countries. Last week, Indian Intelligence officials revealed that several leaders of Naxalites, the Indian Maoist radical movement had undergone weapons training in LTTE training camps. This disclosure was made after the Naxalite attack in Sukma in Chhattisgarh, in which 22 Indian paramilitary personnel were killed by the militants. Officials said that Basava Raju, leader of the political front of Naxalites, CPI (Maoist) led the attack. They confirmed that Basava Raju, who was also known as Nambala Keshava Rao, was trained by the LTTE in a camp in the Bastar jungles in 1987.
Although the Sri Lankan Armed Forces defeated the LTTE in 2009 and killed its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Naxalites are still active in several parts of India. The two top two leaders of the Naxalite movement, Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal, died, but the LTTE-trained Basava Raju keeps the militant group as the most powerful rebel outfit in India.
Well-known Indian author Kochery C. Shibu said in a recent interview that the operations of the LTTE were spread well beyond the subcontinent, to far corners of the world. He said the introduction of suicide terrorism as a weapon was taken by LTTE to unimaginable levels, by motivating people to give up their lives for a cause. The Islamist terrorists also inflict maximum damage by using suicide bombers.
Shibu said his latest book, Faith and the Beloved has been set on a vast canvas, both in terms of geography, time, events and people. The novel captures the gamut of operations of the LTTE, which was spread well beyond the subcontinent to the far corners of the world. The ISI and ISIS have a reputation for reaching far and wide in roping in people for masterminding their operations.
“As in all Intelligence agencies’ operations, there is always a web of deceit and plethora of characters who are used as cover and at times cannon fodder to the ends of the Intelligence agencies, which may not always be noble,” Shibu confessed.
Indian High Commissioner
Last month, the Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Gopal Baglay, emphasized the significance of addressing shared security challenges collectively by India and Sri Lanka, and in this context, he called for promoting security cooperation between the two countries.
Addressing an online workshop on ‘Intelligence and National Security’ for Sri Lankan Police and Intelligence officials, conducted by the Indian Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR and D), he said such training programs are mutually beneficial.
The High Commissioner commended the existing mechanism for sharing information and experience and specifically mentioned that in recent months Indian security agencies, on the request of Sri Lankan counterparts, apprehended Sri Lankan fugitives who had fled to India.
V.S.K. Kaumudi, Special Secretary in the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, said Sri Lankan agencies may use provisions of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty while seeking assistance from India in investigation matters.
Prabhakar Alok from India shared his experiences with over 25 Senior Police Officers including DIGs and SSPs of Sri Lanka in the online training programme which was successfully conducted with the participation of over 125 Sri Lankan Police Officers.