Even as India’s ties with Sri Lanka come under increasing criticism from Tamil Nadu politicians, a new terror alert has highlighted a big reason why it is important for the two countries to remain on friendly terms. According to a report in the Times of India, the Maharashtra police have received a terror alert from central intelligence agencies warning that eight militants are undergoing training in Pakistan-based camps to attack targets in south India from Sri Lanka. According to the TOI report: “Sent by the joint director of VIP Security (under the Union home ministry) in New Delhi in mid-August, the nine-page alert states that four of the terror trainees are “Punjabis and the remaining Kashmiris or Pathans”. Their “drop-off point” is expected to be around 28km off Jaffna and their target could be Mayiladuthurai or Madurai in Tamil Nadu, according to the alert.”
The veracity of this information and the likelihood of an actual attack is not known at present. Such intelligence alerts usually come out of weekly multi-agency meetings that process thousands of alerts and tip offs from sources, says Firstpost editor Praveen Swami. In many cases, the information or ‘alert’ turns out to be baseless. But what it does highlight is the clear and present danger that terror attacks could be launched from any of India’s neighbours, including Sri Lanka.
So how can India deal with the situation? In 2010, the Indian government ruled that anyone visiting India on a tourist visa would have to wait 60 days before applying for a tourist visa to visit the country again. The rule applied to all categories of tourist visas including five and ten year category visas. The new restrictions were reportedly put in place after it was revealed that 26/11 mastermind David Headley had made repeated visits to Mumbai on a long-term visa to scout sites for the attacks.
But as pointed out in this Hindu report, the move was mystifying, not least because the restrictions were imposed on tourist visas whereas Headley came to India on a business visa. “While the restriction did nothing to deter would-be terrorists, the two month rule affected thousands of tourists who would have wanted to use India as a base to travel through South Asia,” says the report.
What will be more effective, apart from vigilant internal security, is close cooperation with neighbours like Sri Lanka who are not overtly antagonistic towards India and can help aid the Indian government in catching and halting terrorist plots that are being hatched on its soil.
For this to happen however, the Indian government will have to tread a fine line between maintaining good relations even as it refuses to condone the government’s actions against its own Tamil population in the last stages of the 2009 civil war.
Given this context, it is extremely important that India participates in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to be held in Colombo in November “at the highest level”. Sri Lanka has made it very clear that a refusal by India to participate would be tantamount to a massive snub, which could deeply impact bilateral cooperation in important matters like terrorism.
India’s best interest will be served by putting our national security first.
Lankan detained in Rameswaram on suspicion
ISLAND, August 25, 2013, 10:36 pm
Rameswaram, August 25, 2013: Amid heightened security following intelligence that terrorists might sneak into this island from Sri Lanka, Police today detained a 32-year-old man from Andhra Pradesh on suspicion. Gopi was picked up by “Q” Branch police at Pisasu Munai (Ghost Point) during the intensified patrol. They found him having a mobile phone with ‘enormous contact numbers’, police said but did not elaborate. He was detained after his replies during the initial questioning were contradictory and created suspicion about him, police said adding further interrogation was on.
Security has been put on high alert in the island since last week following an alert from the Intelligence Bureau that terrorists plan to sneak in through the Palk Strait from Jaffna in Sri Lanka and attack Madurai and Mayiladuthurai in the state. According to the alert, eight terrorists plan to infiltrate into the country by sea and coastal people have been advised to inform police in case they noticed any strangers.
Patrolling of coastal areas has been intensified since August 21 night. (PTI)