The man who was behind the shutting down of a first LTTE-Ship

“What applies to India , Pakistan , Afghanistan , Bangladesh similarly applies to Srilanka –the source of LTTE’s funding was from Europe and UK based expatriates as well as other organizations . A policy to keep the pot boiling by extremist, fundamentalist groups and continue tensions and violence through fostering so called ethnic differences keeps us from a peaceful, harmonious society.”
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By Nilantha Ilangamuwa

(October 12, Mumbai, Sri Lanka Guardian) There is no need to tell much about who Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat is - a former chief of Naval staff ( India) and remarkable person who is well known on military, political and strategic relations commentary. Admiral Vishnu Bagawat is the person who hunted down the first ship which belonged to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. According to the press statement released by the former Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha in 1999 when Admiral Bagawat was sacked by the Government of India, “Admiral. Bhagwat had in 1994 done a "national service" by tracking down the vessel Ahat which was clandestinely bringing Krishnaswamy alias Kittu, the second most important LTTE leader, along with arms and narcotics, to India. So, he said, it needs to be probed if there was LTTE pressure on the minister to remove Bhagwat."

When I asked the reason behind this claim, the Admiral replied: “The short answer to your question is that one of the Ministers was closely associated with the LTTE, Narcotics and arms smuggling for them as well as into our North East.”

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat has openly shared his thoughts on the present political and military developments in Sri Lanka, India as well as Asia in general, with the Sri Lanka Guardian. Here is the full text of the interview;

Q. What are the current maritime security challenges in South Asia today? Is there any progress on training, join patrols, and join exercises?

A. Just as in 1991 when the political capitulation of the Soviet Union became an ‘inflexion point’ in the contemporary period of the historical process, and US Finance Capital and allied interests proclaimed the “Project for the New American Century’’ and the ‘New World Order’ ( following such discourses as the ‘End of History’ and ‘The Clash of Civilisations’) dominated by ‘unilateralist’ interventions , invasions , threats of war, including attack, occupation to capture / control the oil and strategic mineral resources for monopolistic exploitation by their MNCs under a predominant culture of global militarisation underpinned by more than 700 military bases , plans to completely take over the oceans and the seabed as well as Space-----2007-08 mark the beginning of the terminal decline of the Western Alliance system –and all trends indicate a rapid descent and the end of the Asian Security Architecture they had planned and dreamt of for integrating the periphery with the Center, also widely refered to as ‘Globalisation’, another code-word for neo- colonialism and neo-imperialism or accumulation of the surpluses and savings on a world scale . Today we are witnessing the resurgence of Asia- West , South , South-East and East economically , politically and, therefore, in this context its security perspectives . South Asia is no longer a region to be viewed in isolation and ‘disconnected’, in geo-political terms from West Asia or East-South East- Asia .

Freed from its imperialist or globalist lenses , South Asia, enjoying as it does a geographical location right at the center of the east-west oil arteries and trade routes , can and must play a vital role in ensuring the security of these sea lanes for the benefit of all ,posing a threat to none . The same applies to the choke points in the Gulf of Hormuz , Aden , Cape of Good Hope and the Malacca Straits (including the narrows of the Lakshdweep/Maldives and South Srilanka) . This calls for mutual goodwill and reciprocity of economic relations between West Asia , South Asia , South East Asia and East Asia which would strengthen all and add to every one’s security, rather than foster mutual suspicions which is currently the order of the day as far as the Western media and other speculative reports are concerned .

Incidents of piracy whether in the Malacca Straits or off the Gulf of Aden / Somalian coast, much hyped in the media can be easily managed by low –profile measures ( remembering that the history of piracy is sourced to England ) . Srilanka , India and the Indian Ocean littoral nations look forward to operationalistion of such a co-operative arrangement the dialogue for which was initiated in the New Delhi meeting of Heads of Navies of the littoral in recent months . I do not believe that extra –regional navies with their constant proposals for joint exercises and inter-operability banners help in peace and security in our region and neighborhood , when nations who are our immediate neighbors are under US- NATO occupation, daily bombings and threats of nuclear attack and war, all in gross violation of the UN Charter . India , despite the inclinations of its current dispensation in power has no ambition or basic national interest in working with any foreign power to formulate any joint plans for joint operations as has been demonstrated by a firm NO by the people to two Governments in Delhi, with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan and to the lobbies in support of US-Israeli planning for military action on Iran against a non-existent ‘nuclear’Iran , proved to be a lie both by the IAEA and the NIEs of US Intelligence Agencies themselves in their October 1998 findings .

Q. How would you identify the concept of terrorism? What role has the West played in developing terrorism, especially in the light of their role in Afghanistan during the Soviet Occupation?

A. The New world order and the PNAC , such neo-con projects as ‘Pre-emptive’ unilateral Wars/ invasions and occupations need the camouflage or smoke-screen of Islamists terrorist creations like Osama bin Laden , Al Qaeda, all mythical para /pseudo agent-provacateurs in the service of US designed invasions/occupations . Brzezinski’s “ The Grand Chessboard” and Robert Gates’ (former Director CIA) and currently US Defense Secretary’s book, ‘From the Shadows’, substantiate the setting up of the insurgent Mujahideen groups with the Pakistan ISI’s cooperation , at least six months ahead of the invitation to the Soviet Union for military assistance by the democratically elected Govt of Afghanistan , the MEK in Iran .Almost all the terrorist groups in India, past and present, in the North –East , LTTE, Khalistan (Sikh ) insurgent groups in Punjab, various fundamentalist groups from amongst the majority and minority affiliations –all have been trained and funded( directly or covertly), in Europe , UK ,US , Canada and advised by their agencies from time to time. Lately the Mossad has been playing a deep, covert game.

Q. Please comment on the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka. Who in your opinion is behind it? Why have we been unable to find out a sustainable solution during the last three decades?

A. What applies to India , Pakistan , Afghanistan , Bangladesh similarly applies to Srilanka –the source of LTTE’s funding was from Europe and UK based expatriates as well as other organizations . A policy to keep the pot boiling by extremist , fundamentalist groups and continue tensions and violence through fostering so called ethnic differences keeps us from a peaceful , harmonious society . Susan George in her remarkable book ‘The Lugano Report” (1996-Pluto Press ) describes the project for nurturing “Identity and Hate politics” as central to the furtherance of neo-liberal corporate globalisation in the ‘countries of the ‘Periphery’, for control and dominance by the Imperial Center. When governments work for the benefit only of the oligarchy and big –business ,abandoning the slow but steady welfare state concept and the social contract implicit in electoral democracies they must find diversions , and therefore discriminate against national minorities to start with, hence the opportunities and solutions for reconciliation and harmony recede replaced by a chauvinism which feeds on itself.

Q. In the past, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) provided training and arms to the Bangladeshi seperatists known as Mukti Bahini. The R&AW's aid was instrumental in Bangladesh gaining her independence from Pakistan in 1971. India has been also giving arms to opponents in Pakistan. Does it mean that India is playing a double game in the region of South Asia?

A. It would be recalled that Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Party, the Awami League,won the majority in the elections in Pakistan ,but he was not allowed to form a government and become the Prime Minister of Pakistan . Thereafter Pakistan unleashed a reign of terror and genocide in East Pakistan ( East Bengal ) which gave rise to the formation of the Mukti Bahini . India was also overwhelmed with 4 million refugees fleeing from East Pakistan into India . The Mukti Bahini’s was a People’s Army and the Indian armed forces went into Bangladesh after an unprovoked attack by the Pakistan Airforce on the evening of 3rd December 1971 . It is the Mukti Bahini that defeated the Pak forces in Bangladesh as documented by Lawrence Lifshultz in his brilliant history of events “The Unfinished Revolution”. The Indian Armed Forces accepted the surrender of 90,000 Pakistani Army officers and soldiers , brought them to POW camps ,saved them from massacre by the Mukti Bahini and fed them ,till they were generously repatriated after the Shimla Agreement march 1972. The rest is history . The role of R&AW, if any, was only marginal. As far as Pakistan is concerned India’s agencies have not been responsible for any arms supplies to any groups inside Pakistan .Other foreign agencies are playing dubious games.

Q. India gave arms and training to Sri Lankan Tamil military groups in the early 80s, but never supported separation in Sri Lanka. Why?

A. That was integral to India’s policy which fortunately still continues in tact.

Q. There is no doubt the Government of India has given their full strength to eliminate the Tamil Tigers in the final battle which ended last May. Meanwhile some security analysts claim that the present Government has failed over the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. Others say India is more concerned about economic benefits than humanitarian issues in the Island nation. What do you think about the present political and security developments in both countries?

A. I have tried to summarise the political and security developments in Srilanka and India in response to your first two questions , they have also been analysed in the article,” The Storm Sweeping South Asia “ , by Niloufer Bhagwat published recently in your esteemed daily.

Q. I would like to know your experiences on counter-terrorism in India and more generally South Asia in your military career as a security officer.

A. This would require an expansive response . Very briefly ‘counter intelligence’ is the sanctum sanctorum of Intelligence agencies in pursuing counter terrorism and they must never allow entry of foreign intelligence personnel into CI, no matter how much their influence over the political apparatus of the State . If this happens the State and the government are subverted and suborned, leading to loss of sovereignty and even civil war. Our experience with terrorist outfits overall in the North –East , the South (DMK initially was separatist) , in Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir is that political dialogue /negotiations ,democratic elections , delegating administrative powers and a certain level of autonomy , development , dignity and respect as equal citizens of the country , removal of genuine grievances, respecting local customs , traditions and cultures is absolutely vital to enhance unity and integration of erstwhile separatist and terrorist groups . Trying a military solution is no solution at all in the long run for achieving stability and progress as a united people . Religion or ethnic origins do not form the basis of a modern nation state. Common interests ,a just and fair society woven by historical bonds is the basis for harmonious , happy peoples .

Q. Could you please explain to us the importance of espionage networks for counter terrorism within South Asia and the governments and military?

A. Espionage networks or the intelligence apparatus of the State is an essential element of a sovereign state because the security of the country is underpinned by its information on the moves and plans of its adversaries , both state and non-state actors . Hence, the most important and vital need is to protect the integrity of the personnel staffing these agencies , because if they get subverted and the agencies themselves get infiltrated, the State’s vital and key institutions get hollowed out , slowly but surely.

Q. Chief Minister M Karunanidhi announced that the government of Tamil Nadu wants to offer citizenship to about 100,000 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka who have been living in the State for years. He said he had already submitted a request to that effect to the central government in New Delhi. Even Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said that the Centre would consider a proposal by the TN Government to grant Indian citizenship to all Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in the state. Meanwhile some state politicians have been against the proposal. What comments do you have on this issue?

A. I have no comments about your information regarding Chief Minister of Tamilnadu’s proposals to the Home Minister as I do not know of this.

Q. What advice do you have for our military, Tamil politicians, and the people of Sri Lanka?

A. I am not competent to advise the SL military , Tamil politicians or the people of Srilanka. We have historical bonds going over millennia. India’s security and well being are bound with Srilanka and if I may say so , so is Srilanka’s, as it is always so with neighbours . In fact one famous strategic thinker some centuries ago described Srilanka as the ‘Center’ of the Indian sub-continent in the maritime context .
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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