Snaring a Tiger

The capture of the elusive LTTE leader Kumaran Pathmanathan or KP, as he is popularly known,  from Kuala Lumpur by the Sri Lankan intelligence and Malaysian detectives strikes at the root of the terrorist organisation. Coming on the heels of Vellupilai Prabhakaran’s killing by the Lankan army, KP’s neutralisation means that the LTTE has lost its sole surviving strategist who specialised in transnational gun running, drug trafficking and shipping activity so critical for terrorist operations. Considering he was the de facto successor to the slain LTTE chief, KP filled the vacuum at the apex of the terrorist organisation. But to what extent the Tamil diaspora around the globe backed KP in the manner that they supported Prabhakran is not clear. Also, whether or not the LTTE’s second line of leadership whole heartedly accepted KP’s status as numero uno will remain a question mark. All the same, with KP’s capture, the chances of the LTTE’s resurgence becomes that much more difficult considering he laid a strong foundation of arms procurement and financial network.

From an Indian perspective, the LTTE posed a threat to regional security that spilled over beyond Sri Lanka. As Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksha recently highlighted, the LTTE’s sophisticated arsenal went beyond the need to fight the Lankan army. This has security implications for the region in general and India in particular. KP’s capture has relevance to India because he provided the logistics support for Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. Whether or not New Delhi would seek his extradition is not known yet.

The fact that Colombo was able to clandestinely capture an LTTE leader from a Southeast Asian capital speaks volumes of the security cooperation between regional countries in the war against terrorism. Clearly, KP’s capture is reminiscent of the Israeli intelligence operation to kidnap Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann from Buenos Aires in 1961. The only difference is that Israel did not have an extradition treaty with Argentina, whereas Sri Lanka appears to have done so with the host country’s consent. KP’s interrogation should yield a lot of information about the modalities of how trans-national terrorist organisations procure sophisticated arms and finance them. Certainly Operation KP is one more step towards victory in the fight against terrorism.

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