You are on page 1of 15

The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18


The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon

Part 18

Sachi Sri Kantha

[13 October 2001]

A Ramanujan in Military Science

First, read this short passage of what Bertrand Russell wrote in Chapter 5
entitled ‘Science and War’, his short tract, The Impact of Science on
Society (1952).

“The greatest men of the Renaissance commended themselves to the

powerful by their skill in scientific warfare. When Leonardo [da
Vinci] wanted to get a job from the Duke of Milan, he wrote the Duke
a long letter about his improvements in the art of fortification, and
in the last sentence mentioned briefly that he could also paint a bit.
He got the job, though I doubt if the Duke read as far as the last
sentence. When Galileo wanted employment under the Grand Duke of
Tuscany, it was on his calculations of the trajectories of
cannon-balls that he relied. In the French Revolution, such men of
science as were not guillotined owed their immunity to their
contributions to the war effort.”

da Vinci (1452-1519) and Galileo (1564-1642) – the two brains who set the
tone for the dominance of science in the Western hemisphere – were
contract scientists whose thoughts enriched the military science of their eras.
This trend has continued until now. Enrico Fermi (1901-54) and his
colleagues, who split the atom 60 years ago, were intellectual descendants
of da Vinci and Galileo. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in dabbling with
military science. The downfall of Tamils during the past 500 years in the
Indian subcontinent is due to the fact that Tamils were not encouraged by
external (colonial and missionary) and internal (societal and religious)
forces to think in terms of military science. Pirabhakaran made a change in
Tamil thinking.

I measure my words when I state that Pirabhakaran is a scientist – albeit an

unconventional scientist. Pirabhakaran’s speciality is military science.
Being a practising scientist for over two decades, I can comprehend the

1 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

‘scientist mind’ in Pirabhakaran. A stale wisecrack on Pirabhakaran is that

he did not have a tertiary education. But corollary to that wisecrack is that,
the island where Pirabhakaran was born did not have (and even now doesn’t
have) a proper military science program at the university level.

Ceylon had its ceremonial army of course, but the cerebral power of its
ranking leaders was so abysmal that they couldn’t even execute successful
military coup d'état, not once but twice in the 1960s. When Pirabhakaran
came of age in 1972, there were no ranking military thinkers (or defence
analysts in current parlor) in the island to brag about. Here is the history of
the post-independent period’s Sri Lankan army until 1972, as it appears
currently in the Sri Lankan army website:

“The Army Act was enacted in parliament on the 10th of October 1949
which is recognized as the day, the Ceylon Army was raised. The Army
was to be comprised of a Regular and a Volunteer force and the initial
requirement was to raise the following units in the Regular and
Volunteer Forces.
The Regular Force:
An artillery Regiment to guard the coast and the airspace of the

An Infantry Battalion to mainly assist the police in internal security

duties, for static guards and ceremonial duties.

A small detachment of Signals to provide communications.

An element of the Service Crops [sic!] for supply transport and
barrack services.
A new ordnance Depot
An Electrical and Mechanical Engineer Workshop
A Medical element to handle the British Army hospital in
Colombo and the Medical Reception Centre at Diyatalawa.
A Works Services element for repair and maintenance of buildings.
A small Military Police section to maintain discipline
A Recruit Training Depot
The Volunteer Force:
An Artillery Regiment
An Engineer Squadron
An Infantry Battalion
A Medical Unit

2 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

A Service Corps Company

There were no formations and all units were directly functioning under
Army Headquarters. Temporary field headquarters formed at the time
of a requirement as it was done during the 1958 communal riots. The
first field formation was raised in 1963, to prevent illicit immigration
from South India. This headquarters was known as Task Force Anti
Illicit Immigration (TAFII), which was disbanded in 1981. In May
1972, when Ceylon became the Republic of Sri Lanka, all Army units
were renamed accordingly.”

In this ‘chronological history of the Sri Lankan army’, the unsuccessful

1962 and 1966 coups did not happen. So much for the factual accuracy and
integrity of the Sri Lankan armed forces!

Thus, Pirabhakaran was a self-taught military scientist, like what Ramanujan

was for mathematics. Ramanujan is renowned for his mathematical
calculations. Similarly Pirabhakaran has proved his mettle in military
calculations. Ramanujan’s mathematical caliber couldn’t be assessed by his
ordinary peers. The same was true for Pirabhakaran’s military caliber.

Neither Ceylon nor the greater India (encompassing both Pakistan and
Bangladesh) did generate a ranking military leader, of international caliber,
in the past 200 years. I substantiate this statement with the statistic provided
in the reference book, Who’s Who in Military History: from 1453 to the
Present Day, authored by John Keegan and Andrew Wheatcroft (Routledge,
1996). This source book lists 699 names. Among these, only four Indian
military leaders appear, namely Babur (1483-1530), Akbar (1542-1605),
Sivaji (1627-80) and Tippu Sultan (1749-99). Thus, the last military leader
of rank from the Indian subcontinent, died in 1799.

Pirabhakaran has been called names by his tub-thumbing political

adversaries and power-peddling journalists; a ‘megalomaniac’, ‘a ruthless
killer’, ‘a tyrant’, and ‘a terrorist’ are few of these. Ignoramuses in military
science fail to note that these labels apply to 99 percent of the 699 names
recognized as the great military men, the world has seen since 1453. Also,
these labels fit perfectly even to democratic, street-smart politicians like
Truman, Johnson, Nixon, J.R.Jayewardene and Premadasa when they waged

Watson’s rules for success in science

Why I assert Pirabhakaran’s unusual science acumen is that, he seems to be
adhering to more than a couple of rules of success (for a scientist) proposed
by James Watson. But, I cannot verify whether Pirabhakaran knows these

3 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

Watson’s rules, or even whether he knows who Watson is.

Watson is a revered name in biomedical sciences, since he was one of the

co-discoverers of the double helical structure of deoxyribonucleic acid
(DNA) in 1953. He also gained a reputation as a brash, no-nonsense guy
who broke the accepted norms and conventions of scientific world. In a talk
delivered on March 2, 1993, to honor the 40th anniversary of his famous
discovery, he was in his flair. He introduced his five rules for success, as a
scientist. To excerpt from his lecture script which appeared in the Science
magazine of Sept.24, 1993, Watson’s five rules are as follows:

Rule 1: To succeed in science, you have to avoid dumb people. In the

game of science – or life – the highest goal isn’t simply to win, it’s to win at
something really difficult. Put another way, it’s to go somewhere beyond
your ability and come out on top.

Rule 2: To make a huge success, a scientist has to be prepared to get into

deep trouble. Sometime or another, people will tell you that you’re not
ready to do something. If you are going to make a big jump in science, you
will very likely be unqualified to succeed by definition. The truth, however,
won’t save you from criticism. Your very willingness to take on a very big
goal will offend some people who will think that you are too big for your
britches and crazy to boot.

Rule 3: Be sure you always have someone up your sleeve who will save
you when you find yourself in deep s…(four-letter word, rhyming with

Rule 4: Never do anything that bores you. Constantly exposing your ideas
to informed criticism is very important.

Rule 5: If you can’t stand to be with your real peers, get out of science.
It’s very hard to succeed in science if you don’t want to be with other
scientists. You have to go to key meetings where you may spot key facts that
would have escaped you. And you have to chat with your competitors, even
if you find them objectionable.

Of these five rules for success proposed by Watson, from the past 15 years
of Pirabhakaran’s deeds, one could infer that he has adhered to Rules 1, 2, 3
and 4 with conviction. His adherence to Rule 5 is a toss up. Now, I explain
what I mean by these assertions.

Avoiding dumb people: Pirabhakaran routinely avoided the dumb people

such as those who represented the Indian Intelligence Agencies and the Sri
Lankan politicians.

4 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

Getting into deep trouble: Pirabhakaran got into deep trouble by deciding
to ‘test’ the skills of his LTTE against the Indian army.

Having someone at hand for protection: Pirabhakaran had two great

patrons to protect him in his war against the Indian army. They were MGR
(an individual) and the Tamils (a population) living in the North and East

Not doing anything that is boring: Pirabhakaran has learnt by historical

experience that the round table conferences, ‘All Party Colloquia’,
Constitutional amendments, Commissions and peace negotiations with the
third degree politicians are time-wasting strategies which deny and postpone
the political rights of people whom he represents and thus they have been
boring for him.

Baptism by Fire in 1987-90

One tough decision Pirabhakaran took to gain stature among his peer
military scientists was the one he made in October 1987 to confront the
Indian army which had landed in Eelam, following the Jayewardene-Rajiv
Gandhi Agreement of July 1987. That was the war which heralded
Pirabhakaran’s arrival among the elite ranks as one of the top military
strategists of his era. It was baptism by fire. None of the Sri Lankan army’s
generals has the distinction of fighting a foreign army and emerging as a
victor in such an encounter. Thus, the source of anti-Pirabhakaran venom
spilled by the Sinhalese analysts since 1990 derives from Pirabhakaran’s
success in puncturing the armor of the Indian army.

Ten years ago, I wrote an analysis of the LTTE’s war against the Indian army
which appeared in the Tamil Nation monthly (Aug.15, 1991). That was
before the appearance of Internet as an information medium. During the past
5-6 years, the LTTE’s war against the Indian army has been presented in the
Internet from many angles by interested parties. These parties include,
Indian army professionals who directly took part in the war with LTTE, Sri
Lankan army professionals (Major General Lucky Algama, Major General
Sarath Munasinghe for instance) who were mere spectators of this war, and
India’s partisan analysts like Subramanian Swamy, S.D.Muni, N.Ram, as
well as the friends of Indian army. Quite a number of these observations are
biased against the LTTE and obviously made to tarnish Pirabhakaran’s
acumen in leading an army. Thus, there is a need to reproduce my analysis
in entirety to reach the wider audience.

First I present what I thought (in 1991) about the LTTE’s performance
against the Indian army, between October 1987 and March 1989. Then, I

5 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

will comment on (a) how it was substantiated by the later observations of

other participants who played direct roles in this war and had contact with
Pirabhakaran, and also (b) how the outcome of Indian army’s confrontation
with LTTE, affected the LTTE’s performance in the 1990s.

LTTE’s War with the Indian Army

[Tamil Nation, August 15, 1991]

“George Kohn, the compiler of the standard reference book, Dictionary of

Wars (Facts on File Publications, New York, 1986) wrote in his
introduction, ‘War has a long and intriguing history and has been a
prominent feature of human existence ever since the day when rival men –
and women – decided to settle their differences by use of force. In many
instances, this history of a people is the history of its wars”. Only the naïve
can doubt the truth of these statements.

India’s first military encounter against a foreign adversary was recorded as

that of Alexander’s Asiatic campaign (329-325 BC). The Northern and
Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka became the battlefield for India’s latest
military encounter in 1987. Since the Indian army’s war against
Prabhakaran’s Tamil Tigers lasted almost two and a half years (October
1987 to March 1990), it is time to review the outcome of this war. Already
so many military experts, political pundits and journalists from India have
presented ‘India’s version’ of the most unexpected military encounter the
Indian army had to face in its post-independence era.

The performance of the Indian army in Sri Lanka was no better than the
performances of India’s hundreds of athletes who have participated in the
Olympic Games since 1948. Both the athletes and the Indian army men in
Sri Lanka shared one common denominator. They failed to produce, gold,
silver or even bronze-medal winning performances. But the lack luster
performances of India’s athletes and army men have never deterred the
post-mortem specialists in India to offer face-saving excuses, reasons etc. etc.
to hide their agony.

To analyze the performance of the Indian army (I prefer this usage than the
euphemistic, Indian Peace Keeping Force) in Sri Lanka, we first have to
reminisce on how this army fared in the earlier wars it faced since 1947. A
capsule summary of India’s wars, culled from the authoritative book, War in
Peace: Conventional and Guerrilla Warfare since 1945 (edited by Sir
Robert Thompson, 1985) is given below.

(1) Sino-Indian War of 1962

Date: October-November 1962

Outcome: Chinese seizure of disputed border region.

6 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

Casualties: India; 1,400 killed and 4,013 captured. China;


(2) Indo-Pakistan War of 1965

Date: April – September 27, 1965.

Main engagements: Lahore.
Outcome: UN policed ceasefire.
Casualties: India; 2,212 dead, 7,636 wounded and 1,500 missing.
Pakistan: estimated 5,800 plus dead.

(3) Indo-Pakistan War of 1971

Date: December 3-16, 1971.

Main engagements: Dacca.
Outcome: Independence for Bangladesh.
Casualties: India; 1,426 dead, 3,611 wounded and 2,149 missing.
Pakistan; unknown.

To these three, should be added the Siege of Sikh Golden Temple, which
occurred on June 6, 1984. Casualties: Indian troops, 55 killed. Sikh
militants, 500 plus killed and 1,500 plus captured.

Compared to these short military encounters of the Indian army, their

mission against Prabhakaran’s Tamil Tigers became the most protracted one.
Though it is a bitter pill to swallow for many, Prabhakaran emerged as a
victorious military commander in the most vigorous and mentally bruising
battle he faced till 1989.

Between October and December 1987 (the first three months of the war),
after a bloody fighting, the Indian forces took military control of the Jaffna
region and the Tamil Tigers retreated to the jungle hideouts in the
Mullaitivu, Vavuniya, Mannar and Trincomalee districts. Yves de Saint
Jabob’s AFP news report from New Delhi published in the Mainichi Daily
News of Japan (27 January 1988) informed that by January 1988, 350
troops had died and that the war against Tamil Tigers was costing India
‘some 4 million dollars a day’. After another 15 months of war, Barbara
Crossette of the New York Times (May 10, 1989) informed the world that,
‘more than 900 Indians have been killed and many thousands wounded’.
And these were the ‘official figures’ released from the Indian side.

The secret of Prabhakaran’s survival in times of turbulence (against

mind-numbing odds stacked against him) was dependent on three important
factors. These are,

1. his uncanny knack of outsmarting the adversaries in most

7 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

unpredictable ways.

2. patronage of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MGR

3. his support and rapport from the Tamil masses in the Northern and
Eastern provinces.

Let me expand on these three factors which helped Prabhakaran to fight the
Indian army with confidence.

Outsmarting the adversaries

Only outstanding leaders are blessed with this character trait. In this century
(20th), leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Mao Tse Tung, Marshal Tito, Fidel
Castro and Yaser Arafat had this character trait. They were able to survive
so many depressing moments (which would have sapped the vigor of
ordinary mortals) because they were blessed with this trait.

When fighting a war with an adversary, one has to bring the enemy to your
own terms to manipulate the events thereby turning the disadvantages to
one’s strengths. Imagine, if Mahatmaji had played according to the rules set
by the British high command in London, he would never have won
independence for India. Instead, Mahatmaji set his own rules of combat with
his adversaries and outsmarted the mighty fire power of the British army.

Prabhakaran dictated his own terms of combat in dealing with his

adversaries. As a result he was able to bruise the bloated egos of so many
politicians as well as career soldiers during the past 7 years. Who have not
bitten the dust against the tactical manoeuvres of Prabhakaran? – Rajiv
Gandhi, J.R.Jayewardene, J.N.Dixit (ex-Indian High Commissioner in Sri
Lanka), Lalith Athulathmudali, Gen.L.Sundarji (India’s Chief of Army
staff), Maj.Gen.Harkirat Singh (Commander of the Indian troops in
Oct.1987), Lt.Gen.Depinder Singh, the manipulating officers of the Indian
Intelligence (Research and Analysis Wing), the Chiefs of Sri Lankan Armed
Forces and the Officers of the Sri Lankan Intelligence Service.

Patronage of MGR
MGR’s patronage was vital for Prabhakaran’s strategy against his Sri Lankan
adversaries and Indian army. During the first three months of the intense
combat against the Indian army, the Tamil Tigers fought valiantly with the
moral support provided by MGR. Regarding MGR’s critical support for
Prabhakaran, one of the reliable Indian journalists, Salamat Ali wrote in the
Far Eastern Economic Review (February 4, 1988) as follows:

“ While supporting New Delhi’s policies, MGR continued to back the

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, much to the dismay of the Indian
Government… MGR also persuaded New Delhi that because of its size

8 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

the LTTE should not be totally ignored. In carrying out New Delhi’s
instructions on the militant groups, MGR went far beyond his brief in
the local handling of the LTTE. However, the central government did
not consider it prudent to antagonize MGR over the issue of his special
favours to the LTTE.
When MGR learned that the July 1987 Indo-Sri Lankan peace accord
was nearing completion, he tipped the LTTE which moved most of its
arsenal to secret hideouts in northern Sri Lanka. MGR also told the
LTTE that all militant groups would be disarmed by the Indian Peace-
Keeping Force, so they too hid their arms, which later had to be
searched out by the Indian troops after a prolonged campaign.
Although the LTTE has been engaged in combat with Indian troops
since October, MGR kept his close links with it. His statements on
India’s Sri Lanka policy were deliberately vague enough to yield
differing interpretations by the LTTE and New Delhi. Until MGR’s
death, the LTTE’s speed boats used to hurtle between Tamil Nadu and
Jaffna’s northern coast with impunity almost every night.”

All the parties involved in the Eelam conflict (Tamil Tigers, Sri Lankan and
Indian Tamils, UNP politicians and the Indian decision-makers) were aware
that MGR would not last long following his debilitating stroke in October
1984. But they also did not anticipate the unexpected turn of events in
MGR’s failing health within a couple of days prior to his death on
December 24, 1987. The death of MGR was indeed a major blow to

Following MGR’s death, even J.R.Jayewardene cocksurely predicted the

demise of Tamil Tigers. The Time (January 11, 1988; Asian edition)
reported that, ‘he (Jayewardene) is confident that the 35,000 Indian troops
brought in under a joint accord with India will soon ‘finish’ the Tigers’. But
Prabhakaran’s rebels recovered from the loss of MGR and they survived the
whole of 1988, while Jayewardene retired in disgrace.

3) Support of Tamil people

How much support and rapport, Prabhakaran and his youthful rebels had
among the Tamils of Northern and Eastern provinces is distinctly visible
when we compare the two reports published, one at the beginning of the war
(October 1987) and the second one after 18 months, in March 1989.

Angus Deming and Ron Moreau reporting for the Newsweek (October 26,
1987) wrote,

“ …they [Tamil Tigers] may also have lost the battle for the hearts and
minds of Jaffna Tamils, many of whom support the peace accord and
have grown weary of the Tigers’ violent ways. As a result, says one

9 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

Western diplomat in Colombo, ‘the Tigers don’t have a long-term

defensible position in Jaffna city. It’s only a matter of days before they
either have to surrender or try to escape’. That was the view of the
Indian military tacticians. But, their expectations did not materialize
even after pounding the lives and limbs of tens of thousands of
non-combatant Tamils living in the Eelam territory.”

Barbara Crossette’s article entitled, ‘If the War has ended, why are so many
dying?’, published in the New York Times of March 9, 1989, told the
continued support Prabhakaran’s rebels enjoyed amongst the Tamils.

“ …The Tigers, almost unbelievably, have not lost public sympathy,

despite their terrorist tactics and the destructions that came in their
wake. Over and over again, a visitor to Jaffna hears the Tigers
complimented for ‘never letting us down’. Quietly, the Tigers are still a
presence in Jaffna town, in villages elsewhere on the peninsula and on
surrounding islands. If Indians control the roads by day, Tigers have
the ability to cut them by night… Indian troops, fearful of driving
alone on the peninsula’s road, roar along in convoys, scattering local
people with angry glares and the brandishing of automatic weapons.”

The Outcome
Prabhakaran and his rebels had to tackle the Indian army in three phases.

(a) open warfare

(b) guerrilla operations

(c) a political campaign for popular support

Based on the initial outcome of the open warfare (October-November 1987),

the Indian army and Indian news media announced ‘victories’ and now it is
apparent that their boast was premature and a hollow one. Once the Indian
army gained military control during day time (while losing the popular
support of the Tamil masses) in the Jaffna region by firepower and air-strike,
they were lost about their next move. They presumed that mere show of tank
strength could cage the Tamil Tigers but they were sadly mistaken. On
paper, it looked like that the Indian army would have disarmed the Tamil
Tigers within five days (That was the original estimate of Rajiv Gandhi). The
Indian military brains estimated this on the duration of their Indo-Pakistan
Wars of 1965 and 1971.

The strength of Tamil Tigers, on paper, amounted to 5,000 plus. Hence the
initial landing of 15,000 Indian soldiers in August 1987. This was based on
the accepted rules of conventional war that the Indian army needed a 3:1
advantage in manpower and equipment to take on a garrison in prepared

10 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

positions. Then the agony of the Indian military tacticians became evident
when they had to bring reinforcement in excess of 100,000 men. Even this
proved futile.

What Rajiv Gandhi’s military advisers failed to calculate was that

Prabhakaran’s hard-core army of 5,000 plus was given solid cover by more
than a million non-combatant Tamils of Northern and Eastern provinces.
Prabhakaran also followed another maxim of Mao’s guerrilla warfare:
‘Strategy is to pit one man against ten, but the tactics are to pit ten men
against one.’

In the final analysis, the Indian army was outwitted and out-fought by
Prabhakaran’s Tigers. Who will disagree with the comments of one Theepan,
a Tamil Tiger field commander:

“We are elated to fight the Indians; the whole world admired us for
the fight we have given the world’s fourth largest armed forces?”
(Time: Dec.19, 1988).

The British weekly Economist harbors no love for the Tamil Tigers. It’s Sri
Lankan correspondent always reports with contempt about the mission on
which Prabhakaran has embarked. However, on the first anniversary of the
LTTE-Indian war, the Economist (October 22, 1988) came to its senses and
presented a somewhat accurate appraisal of the result. Otherwise it would
have lost it’s credibility as a critical commentator of contemporary events.
The title of the story was, ‘Rajiv gets lost on a Tiger hunt’. Some excerpts
are worth recording for the benefit of those who have not read it.

“More than 500 of its [India’s] 50,000 soldiers have been killed,
almost all of them by the Tamil Tiger guerrillas. Three times that
number have been wounded… And there is the incalculable damage to
the army’s pride from its failure, despite more than a year of effort and
a vast superiority of arms, to subdue the Tigers…The Tigers have lost
some 350 men since the fighting resumed in earnest last October, and
now have around 2,000 in the field…
Tigers are not alone in believing that one day they will get their Tamil
Eelam. Some of the Indian officers fighting them believe so too. They
have experienced the Tigers’ tenacity in battle and have interrogated
Tiger prisoners. They reckon the guerrillas could go on fighting

The Economist continued its analysis further.

“Even those who do not accept that bleak view now suspect that the
Tigers cannot simply be wiped out, as it was once thought they could
be. If the Indians cannot do it, the Sri Lankan army, which is half the

11 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

size of the Indian force in Sri Lanka, seems unlikely to.”

In recent decades (if not centuries), no military general from Sri Lanka had
the courage to take on the might of an Indian army. But Prabhakaran took
the challenge in a most daring manner and had surprised many of his critics.
The Time magazine (April 3, 1989; Asian edition) had written the
non-partisan verdict of this war. In its cover story on ‘Super India: The next
military power’, there appeared a box-feature, with the caption, ‘Sri Lanka:
Case Study of a Disaster’. The last three sentences of the analysis read:

“Some 800 Indian soldiers have died at the hands of the Tigers. India
still has 100,000 troops and paramilitary forces committed to the Sri
Lanka operation, yet it has failed to put down the guerrillas. The
simmering conflict may not be India’s Viet Nam, but it provides the
lesson for New Delhi that even an emerging superpower must recognize
its limits.”

That certainly was grudging acknowledgement of the victory for

Prabhakaran’s army.

Almost a year later, when India withdrew the last of its troops from Sri
Lanka on March 24, 1990, Barbara Crossette of the New York Times openly
acknowledged the LTTE’s victory over the Indian Army (March 25, 1990).
She wrote,

“The defeat of New Delhi’s policy is now complete. Not only has India
lost the battle with the Tamil Tigers, at the cost of about 1,200 Indian
lives, but it has also lost any hope of direct influence over the Sri
Lankan northeast, particularly the strategic port of Trincomalee, whom
an Indian-installed provincial government, intended to blunt the
Tigers’ political potential, collapsed this month.”

So, in the final verdict, of the three phases which consisted the Indo-LTTE
war (1987-90), the LTTE won the two phases (guerrilla campaign and the
popular support for political campaign) after back-tracking in the first phase
(open warfare). It was the longest war the Indian army has fought since
India’s independence. However, the Tamils cannot feel happy about the
victory, since it has been achieved at too great cost. The tragedy of the
Indo-LTTE war summed up in statistics (only a partial one) should read as

India: 1,200 plus killed and many thousands injured (‘official

LTTE: 1,000 plus killed and an equal number injured.
Tamil civilians: 5,000 plus killed and injured.”

12 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

Thus ended my 1991 analysis on LTTE’s war against the Indian army. In
sum, I would like to reiterate that, I identified three factors which were
important for Pirabhakaran and LTTE’s survival against the Indian army’s
campaign. These were, Pirabhakaran’s innate intelligence, patronage of
MGR, and the mass support from the Eelam Tamil population residing in
the North and East of the island. To my satisfaction, J.N.Dixit (Indian High
Commissioner to Sri Lanka from 1985 to 1989), who was one of the chief
Indian protagonists in charge of organizing the Indian army’s campaign, also
confirmed the significance of all three factors in his memoirs, Assignment
Colombo, in 1998. Though I stated in 1991 that the number of Tamil
civilians dead was 5,000 plus, subsequent research shows that this figure
need to be upwardly revised to 6,000 plus.

J.N.Dixit’s Assessment
Among a dozen of books which have appeared describing the Indo-Sri
Lankan affairs of the 1980s, Dixit’s book stands out prominently for more
than one reason. First, it appeared in 1998, after the deaths of many of the
prominent players of that period. These include (in chronological order of
death), MGR, Amirthalingam, Uma Maheswaran, Rohana Wijeweera,
Ranjan Wijeratne, Rajiv Gandhi, Athulathmudali, Premadasa, Gamini
Dissanayake and J.R.Jayewardene. Secondly, Dixit’s rank as one of the main
protagonists of that era as well as his frankness in penning the political
motives of such dead political players provide gravitas to his book, which
are not found in other books authored by academics and analysts. Of course,
Dixit’s book has its spins and fakes; it has its serious omissions, the most
glaring one being the non-mention of civilian causalities in Eelam during the
Indian army’s offensives; it has its minor factual errors; and it also has its
garnish of ‘We did the best thing – We did the right thing’ bombast. Despite
these limitations, Dixit did not mince his words, in describing Pirabhakaran’s
blessings. He has noted the talent of Pirabhakaran – the leading military
scientist of Tamils – as follows:

“The LTTE’s emergence as the most dominant and effective politico-

military force representing Tamil interests was due to the following
[Dixit lists six] factors. First, the character and personality of
Prabhakaran who is disciplined, austere and passionately committed to
the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils’ liberation. Whatever he may be
criticized for, it cannot be denied that the man has an inner fire and
dedication and he is endowed with natural military abilities, both
strategic and tactical. He has also proved that he is a keen observer of
the nature of competitive and critical politics. He has proved his
abilities in judging political events and his adroitness in responding
them.” [Book: Assignment Colombo, 1988, pp.79-80]

13 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

What makes a great scientist is the possession of keen observational powers

and Dixit’s assessment of Pirabhakaran is nothing but accurate. Later in the
book, Dixit again reiterated the success of Pirabhakaran in the following

“I met the leaders of practically all Tamil militant groups during my

four years in Colombo. Prabhakaran naturally stands out among them.
Regardless of the criticisms and prejudices that I may have about this
young man, I cannot help but acknowledge his deep idealism and his
political and military skills. His commitment to the creation of a Tamil
Eelam, in my judgement, is unalterable. He is taciturn not terribly
articulate, but he is clear in his sense of priorities and precise in
speech. Events over the years have shown him as an accomplished
political strategist and military tactician, qualities strengthened further
by his forbearance and his capacity for survival. The only time during
the last one-and-a-half decades or so when his leadership and political
survival was really in danger was when he was confronted by the IPKF.
His surviving the IPKF operations was more due to the political
contradictions affecting Sri Lankan and Indian policies than his
personal capacities. But his surviving the IPKF and carrying on his
struggle has made him a folk hero among his people. His hold on Sri
Lankan Tamils may be partially due to the fear of the LTTE, but in
recent years he has had widespread political support from Sri Lankan
Tamils. In personal life he is austere, highly disciplined and totally
committed. He is incapable of compromises and if he does, it has been
and it is only for interim tactical purposes. He does not tolerate
opposition and he has proved himself to be an accomplished guerilla
commander. His political stature and credibility amongst the Tamils
have increased over the years. He also has considerable support in
Tamil Nadu. I do not see any prospect of his accepting a compromise
with the Sinhalese government.” [ibid, pp.320-321]

On the significance of MGR’s patronage to Pirabhakaran’s LTTE, Dixit had

emphasized this vital point three times in his book, and Rajiv Gandhi’s
disappointment to this phenomenon, as follows:

(1) “Despite having supported Rajiv Gandhi in signing the Indo-Sri

Lanka Agreement, he [MGR] remained committed to assisting the
LTTE. This inclination of MGR was so fundamental that he
continued to provide finances and logistical facilities to
Prabhakaran even after the IPKF launched operations against the
LTTE.” [ibid, p.219]
(2) “He [Rajiv Gandhi] was disappointed that the late
M.G.Ramachandran also continued to provide financial and

14 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM
The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon Part 18

logistical support to the LTTE, even after the IPKF launched

operations against this organization.” [ibid, pp.227-228]
(3) “It is a fact that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.G.Ramachandran
provided sufficient finances to the LTTE to purchase arms and
supplies even after IPKF was launched against this militant group.”
[ibid, p.232]

I wish to stress this fact that, Pirabhakaran was blessed in having a great and
powerful patron in MGR between 1983 and 1987, which satisfied Watson’s
rule no.3 for success in science, which in case of Pirabhakaran was military
science. Though LTTE has survived for 14 years since MGR’s death, many
of its road-blocks in the Indian political arena has to be attributed to the
lack of having a powerful patron in the mold of MGR. (Continued).

15 of 15 12/12/2008 5:58 PM