19th March 2000

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LTTE: keep an eye on it

The LTTE, positioning itself in the big league, has now been identified in US intelligence reports as the foremost threat to US President Bill Clinton on his tour of India. The LTTE leader is said to be smarting from the decision of the US State department to categorize the LTTE as a terrorist group.

It's the LTTE's style to exterminate any person who crosses its path. US leader Clinton, though in the fag end of his Presidential term is no exception. The threat aimed at the US President exemplifies the paradox of the power of not so small time terrorist in the brave new world.

On the one hand, in a globalised world order, technology reigns and there is supposed to be unipolar hegemony by the United States. The US can de-fang the most potent and irascible enemy, such as Saddam Hussein for instance.

Or so the theory goes. But, globalisation is also witnessing the phenomenon of the fragmenting world order, from the Balkans to the Asian subcontinent, which incidentally has been named by US Secretary General Madeline Albright as the "tinderbox of the world.'' In such a fragmenting and fissiparous scheme of things,people such as Vellupillai Prabhakaran seem to have acquired disproportionate clout. Prabhakaran's photograph sits side by side with statues of the Virgin Mary or the Hindu god Shiva in many homes of the Tamil diaspora and in Tamilnadu boutiques, at least in certain areas of this populous state.

Prabhakarans of this world therefore seem to be seen as antidotes to a burgeoning global system in which might is right goes as the prevailing diktat. The United States is the mightiest in this pantheon of big daddy dispensations; in the region Pakistan and India take the honours.

A reflex human reaction to rebel against pervasive hegemony of big powers is probably as old as civilization, and therefore the need for smaller entities to assert themselves and their individual identities is manifest.

Perhaps, allegiance to the likes of Prabhakaran is a product of this primeval human instinct.

But, groups like the LTTE , with a little misplaced support, can metamorphose into big time organisations , and this is what has happened to Velupillai Prabhakaran.

But, at least in a ridiculously oblique way, the exposure of world dignitaries such as Clinton at least momentarily to Prabhakaran's threat serves as a wake up call to world leaders who underestimate or choose to ignore the power of regional toughs. Several world leaders such as Tony Blair, who almost comically advance the cause of the United States and follow Presidents Clinton's act (refer Kosovo ) have not banned the LTTE even though the US has.

This is in consonance with the general tendency among European nations to treat Prabhakaran with kid gloves. Unless the vital interests of these countries are threatened, by swelling refugee populations for example, there is no palpable reaction from European powers against the use of their territory by Prabhakaran's brigands.

Whenever a peace pantomime is enacted, on the contrary, these nations make their considerable presence felt. There is no cavil with the peace effort, especially at a time when the country's two most powerful political leaders are locked in some form of earnest and hopefully sincere dialogue.

But, what's important is to fathom the size and the proportion of the quantity that they are dealing with. That's best exemplified by the fact that the US security monolith takes the LTTE threat seriously, a fact that should be self evidently pertinent to anybody who contemplates negotiations with Prabhakaran's Tigers.

Incidentally, President Clinton has neglected to include Colombo in his tour itinerary in his South Asian tour . Perhaps the LTTE security threat aimed at Clinton is more pronounced in Colombo; perhaps Colombo is not important though we are equal partners in SAARC. But, if Colombo was good enough for Hillary Clinton, why not for Bill?

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