Sri Lanka mistook Indian alert

Sri Lanka had refused to pay heed to India’s alert on possible suicide attacks and the involvement of extremists based on its belief that New Delhi is trying to pit Colombo against Pakistan by pointing fingers at the island’s Muslim community.

Senior Lankan officials (defence secretary and police chief who have now been sacked) had claimed that India is trying to instigate Colombo against Islamabad by proposing counter-terror operations among the minority community in the island nation, sources told ETfrom Colombo on the condition of anonymity.

But this Easter Sunday, suicide bombers killed at least 253 people and injured some 500 at churches and top-end hotels across Sri Lanka, leaving the nation stunned.

It is no secret that Sri Lanka had maintained cordial relations with Pakistan for decades that also saw ISI officers supporting the Lankan Army in its fight against the LTTE. ISI, the intelligence wing of the Pakistani Army, had become active through Pakistan’s High Commission in Colombo when Mahinda Rajapaksa was in power as the Lankan Army was seeking support to crush the LTTE. ISI, allegedly, was recruiting from the minority community in Lanka. It may be recalled that Lanka had allowed Pakistan Air Force refuelling facilities during the 1971 War.

Sri Lanka does not want to be dragged into what it claims “India-led alliance” against Pakistan and felt that India is raising a bogey against Islamabad by claiming that Lanka could face suicide attacks, one of the above-mentioned sources claimed.

The Lankan security apparatus was also apparently casual with the Indian alert as they did not comprehend any threat from jihadists after defeating the LTTE, rued the above-mentioned person.

The Lankan government had been warned for the past couple of years to crack down against extremist elements but the political leadership feared that any such step will alienate the community. The Lankan political leadership was extremely cautious of any move that will pit Buddhists against Muslims and thereby disturb the communal harmony of the nation.

EThas learnt that India had provided very specific inputs to Lankan security apparatus about that attacks, including names of perpetrators, their modus operandi and movement of terrorists and places which were targeted on Easter Sunday.

In South Asia, Sri Lanka is Pakistan’s security partner, and had started buying arms and ammunition from Pakistan in a big way from 1999.

The total purchases until December 2007 were worth $50 million while there has been a sudden jump in the quantity of merchandise ordered in 2009 and the amount has been trebled.

In April 2009, Sri Lanka requested $25 million worth ammunition to be delivered within a month.  (Economic Times)

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