India not to remove ban on LTTE

November 28th, 2008 - 1:38 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 28 (IANS) India has no intention of lifting the ban on Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers, official sources said Friday.The sources were responding to a plea to this effect that Velupillai Prabhakaran, the founder leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), made Thursday evening as part of his annual speech.

The sources, speaking to IANS on the condition of anonymity, said the question of acceding to the request did not arise since the ban, first imposed in 1992, had been extended for another two years only now.

India was the first country to outlaw the LTTE, which is fighting for a separate homeland to be carved out of Sri Lanka’s northeast, following the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Since then, several countries have followed suit.

In his ritualistic Nov 27 address from an undisclosed destination, Prabhakaran said that he wanted to “build a constructive relationship” with India, which he described as a “superpower”.

The LTTE chief also thanked the Indian people, particularly those from Tamil Nadu, for raising their voice against the dragging war in Sri Lanka as well as in support of an immediate ceasefire.

“Great changes are taking place in India,” he said. “The voices of support for our struggle that were stifled are again being heard loudly.”

In an apparent reference to India, he underlined that the Tigers never came in the way of the “national, geopolitical or economic welfare of any country” and urged New Delhi to remove the ban on his group.

This year’s speech was devoid of any venom against India, which Prabhakaran accused last year of abetting the “genocide” of Tamils blamed on the Sri Lankan government.

Officials in the home ministry and those who follow Sri Lanka closely, however, insisted that Prabhakaran’s comments must be seen in the light of the serious reverses the LTTE has suffered in recent years.

“Yes, the usual bluster was absent (in the speech). But that is because the LTTE has its back to the wall,” said one official. “There is no question of us lifting the ban (on LTTE).”

The officials pointed out that it was wrong to think that the LTTE was put on the list of terrorist groups only because one of its members blew up Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991. The LTTE denies it killed Gandhi.

They said that the LTTE had in the early 1990s trained and armed a militant group in Tamil Nadu called the Tamil National Retrieval Front (TNRF) and also formed links with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the People’s War Group (PWG).

One official said that while India did have differences with Sri Lanka on ways of resolving the dragging ethnic conflict, it would prefer to keep a safe distance from the LTTE.

The LTTE and other Tamil militant groups once enjoyed sanctuary in Tamil Nadu and often met Indian officials and leaders.

The situation began to change in 1987 when fighting erupted between the LTTE and Indian troops deployed in Sri Lanka’s northeast. And the situation took a dramatic turn after Gandhi’s assassination.

In recent weeks, the Indian foreign ministry has politely turned down requests for meetings sought by pro-LTTE Tamil MPs from Sri Lanka and told them instead to keep in touch with New Delhi’s envoy in Colombo.

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