The modus operandi of the devastating terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka confirms that the perpetrators are an organized and trained group. This to be a handiwork of the LTTE, others point to the Islamic State (IS) or Daesh, etc. Even before these suspicions or before any terrorist group had claimed responsibility, the Indian media claimed the involvement of a local Islamist group called the National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ). Two days after the bombings Sri Lankan investigators identified Zahran Hashim, the leader of NTJ, of masterminding and executing the attacks.
With so many commentators trying to impose their own narrative on this tragedy investigations must establish who stands to benefit most? Sri Lanka’s Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told a press conference in Colombo, “We don’t see how a small organization can do all of this so we are now investigating international support for the group and their other links.” The Sri Lanka National Tawheed Jamaath (SLTJ) is an associate arm of Indian Tamil Nadu Tawheed Jamaath (TNTJ) founded in 2005. Claiming to be a non-political organization preaching Islam, it is involved in social activities, runs orphanages, mosques, etc. TNTJ held peaceful protests across Tamil Nadu including for the reconstruction of Babri Masjid, etc. It quickly disassociated itself from the Sri Lankan group claiming that it had nothing to do with the alleged NTJ bombings.
Not only the Indian newspaper, The Hindu, but simultaneously a top military source confirmed that the alleged mastermind of the Sri Lankan bombings Zahran Hashim spent “substantial time” training in “southern India”. That the NJT received training in the same part of India’s Tamil Nadu that was once home base to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is no coincidence that it was formed and openly backed prior to 1987 by India’s intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the anti-Sri Lankan terror organization. The Indian PeaceKeeping Force (IPKF) occupied Sri Lanka to rescue LTTE from the Sri Lankan Army. LTTE continued to covertly backed by RAW even after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE in 1991 and IPKF and LTTE fell apart. Sri Lankan officials concluded that all the other suicide bombers involved in the attack were indoctrinated and trained in Tamil Nadu with RAW not only facilitating Hashim’s trips to and from India but also providing logistical support.
How can someone known to be a leader of a Muslim organization involved in protests and demonstrations within India and looked at with suspicion in Sri Lanka, operate so freely unless he was being facilitated to do so? According to NDTV Sri Lankan intelligence officials were tipped off by Indian intelligence officers about an imminent attack by terrorists just hours before the attacks. Indeed India was the first country to provide detailed information to Sri Lanka about the impending attacks, this was passed on to the US. By providing this tip but knowing there was no time to react. RAW thus tried to create the perception it was not involved. Instead of passing on so-called “real-time” intelligence to Sri Lanka in the face of imminent terrorist action, why did Indian security agencies simply not intercept Hashim and interrogate him or hand him over to Sri Lanka?
RAW has a recorded history of using non-state activists to their bidding, in all the countries on its periphery. The Sri Lankan attacks have all signs of being a classic “false” flag operation. One has only to read the many books written by former RAW operatives boasting about their success. Remember the two hijackers in the Ganga incident in Feb 1971, how come was one of them was an Indian Intelligence agent and later feted as such? In fact the Fokker-27 used was taken out of mothballs for a one-time flight, coincidence all the passengers were BSF and other service personnel and/or families? The end motive is to malign and further demonize Muslims the world over, at the same time goad the Muslims emotionally into further reaction so that they can be confirmed labelled as a terrorist religion. Consider a section of the Indian media very irresponsibly reporting immediately about some Pakistanis in Sri Lanka being held by the police, they were only detained overnight along with an unspecified number of foreign nationals for overstaying their visas, they had nothing to do with the bombings. In the classic version of kinetic mode of hybrid warfare, in which India now excels, non-state actors who are in pursuit of their own ideology and agenda but do not have the means to achieve the same, are provided training, instigated to carry out acts of violence and provided money and logistics to do so. Why is the world blind to all this? Was India-sponsored LTTE a terrorist organization or not and if that is not state sponsored terrorism, what is? How many times have we seen non-state actors being used by India such a manner while they themselves feel they are pursuing their own cause and do not know they are actually being used for someone’s else’s objectives? One of the major factors of conducting hybrid warfare is non-attribution.
Major powers have historically sponsored irregular fighters and non-state actors in the execution of broader military campaigns, India regularly interferes in the internal affairs of all states on its periphery to assert its hegemony in the region. In this new hybrid war, India is being inadvertently encouraged by her strategic allies who view South Asia through the prism of a new Cold War about containing China and look the other way. India encouraged the Soviets, and later the US to fight a kinetic war in Afghanistan using Russian and American lives and money (and Afghanistan’s destruction) while themselves using this Afghanistan platform to engage in kinetic/non-kinetic war against Pakistan. It is very convenient for India to blame the bombing on Muslims, this is in line with Indian Prime Minister Nardendra Modi’s anti-Muslim election campaign narrative that paints Muslims as being terrorists. An attempt was even made by the Indian media to show this as the muslims’ retaliation for Christchurch!
The 2009 attacks on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore was another example of a “false-flag operation” by India, albeit one that went sour. The LTTE Chief, Prabhakharan, alongwith some members of the terror group, was cornered by the Sri Lankan Army at Killonochi. India’s Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee had tried desperately for weeks to persuade the Sri Lankans to let Prabhakharan go both to no avail. The timing and target of the Lahore attack was not an amazing coincidence. If one takes into account the amount of food and water instead of ammunition carried in the terrorists’ backpacks, and their firing pattern of aiming high (and at the driver rather than the Sri Lankan cricketers) confirms that their primary aim was not to kill but to hold the cricketers hostage, and then negotiate their release against that of Prabhakhan’s. If Prabhakharan, a confirmed terrorist who was trained and funded by India but now was an enemy of India, why was India so concerned about his safety?
The “false flag operation” being outsourced to local terrorists has RAW’s bloody finger prints all over it. One should also not forget that RAW was pivotal in having Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa, perceived by India as the pro-Chinese, replaced with the President Maithripala Sirisena who was largely believed to be pro-Indian. To Indian’s surprise Sirisena did not toe the Indian line of rolling back Chinese influence, etc hence Sri Lanka had to be taken to task. The Easter “false flag operation” went into effect to politically discredit the present government. Sirisena has even claimed that RAW is planning to assassinate him. India wants to keep Sri Lanka aflame and under its tutelage. In the meantime as the remains of Christians worshippers killed by the Easter Sunday bomb attacks were being buried, Muslim in Sri Lanka, including hundreds of Muslim refugees fled their homes in western Sri Lanka fearful of retaliatory attacks and facing intimidation. For civil war conditions one must first create refugees. Thriving on chaos in the nations on its periphery, this false-flag operation is clearly another Indian attempt to bring murder and mayhem back to the Sri Lankan paradise.
The writer is a defense and security analyst