Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Tamilnation > Library > Eelam Section > Assignment Jaffna - Lt General S.C.Sardeshpande


  • *Assignment Jaffna - IPKF in Sri Lanka - Lt General S.C.Sardeshpande
    Lancer Publishers Pvt.Ltd, New Delhi, 1992

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Book Notes

from the back flap:

Lt Gen SC Sardeshpande, UYSM, AVSM was the Divisional Commander of 54 Infantry Division in Sri Lanka. Thereafter he held the appointment of Deputy GOC, Headquarters IPKF, Madras. He was awarded the UYSM for his services in Sri Lanka. Commissioned into the Kumaon Regiment on 3 June 1956, he held a number of command and staff appointments. He commanded the 12th Battalion, the Kumaon Regiment during the Indo-Pak war in 1971. He served for a long duration in the insurgency areas of NE India.

from the Preface:

This book is an attempt to present to the reader an account of Operation (OP) PAWAN, our considerable endeavour on a military diplomatic-political front in Sri Lanka from 1987 to 1989, a period of over two and a half years. I lay no claim to scholarship and research on the subject. Nor have I had ready-at-hand documentary backup to substantiate my remarks and conclusions. I have not attempted to consult others who were closer to the decision makers or the decision-making process itself. I kept no notes, no diary; not even compared notes with my peers, colleagues or subordinates. With my seniors I had the normal, all too human quota of professional animus. I did my job as I understood, perceived and thought it appropriate. In my post-retirement glow I simply reminisced. Memories resurged as I did so, not always with precise contextual precision perhaps, but with sufficient clarity to heat up, illuminate, and see through this effort.

It is an account of the happenings as seen through the eyes of a Divisional Commander, who in war, in my opinion and experience, is the main link between strategy and tactics and the main difference between perception and insight. In counter-insurgency war his job content weighs in more and more with strategy and insight assumes greater importance, for the simple reasons that that type of war is almost wholly about human beings on both sides; in fact on three sides: the insurgents, the people and own troops. While it is true that insurgents play to a well worked out strategy even more than tactics, counter-insurgency operations and their planner generally concentrate on tactics military tactics at that and promptly expose weaknesses in tackling the strategic aspects.

On Comparison with Counter Insurgency Operations in Nagaland-Mizoram:

There was a good deal of difference between the CI operations conducted in our country and those that confronted us in Sri Lanka. They can be listed under politico-economic aspects and military aspects.

Politico-economic Aspects

� Nagaland - Mizoram have their own district councils, State and Central Governments, all of which are helpful, positive and ensure constitutional guarantees provided for the tribal people of the region. In Sri Lanka there were no district councils, nor was the provincial government effective. The people had no faith in it while the Sri Lankan Central Government was hostile to the PC and obstructed every move by India, the IPKF and the PC to get the NEPC going.

� State and Central Governments in India have undertaken massive economic development activities in the subject states and are ever ready to pour in money and resources. In Sri Lanka, it was exactly the opposite; the government was tardy, if not reluctant, to supply even the essential sustenance, leave aside economic reconstruction. Neither did the Indian Government do anything worthwhile to provide tangible relief to the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

� Above all, Nagaland and Mizoram are part of our own country; Sri Lanka was not. Security forces in insurgency infested states and State and Central Government agencies do cooperate with each other in various fields; this was not so in Sri Lanka.

Military Aspects

It would be difficult to come by a more motivated, educated, dedicated and politicised insurgent or militant group than the LTTE. Theirs is a far more formidable insurrection than the Naga or Mizo ones.

� Technical expertise, training, wherewithal and innovativeness of the LTTE was of a far higher degree than those of our Northeastern insurgents, whose methods (though effective) were rather primitive in comparison.

� The level of people's education, politicisation, sentimental attachment and psychological surrender to the LTTE far outstripped those of the Nagas and Mizos. Basic (fulfilment of) needs of food, medicine, etc., which substantially satisfied the simple Naga-Mizos, had very little impact on the highly strung Tamils of Sri Lanka.

� Eelam and the LTTE had strong appeal to the Sri Lankan Tamils. In India over the decades certain counter-ideas and alternatives to secession and militancy had gotten the better of the idea and sentiment of the insurgents.

� In Sri Lanka, we had a formidable problem with the language which adversely affected our communication with the people and collection of intelligence. In our Northeastern states it is not so bad.

� The Tamil Nadu factor worked against the IPKF's interests, such situations in Nagaland-Mizoram, where our own countrymen or our own government agencies obstructed security forces, were few.

� Intelligence as a system and a requisite of the first order remained organisationally ad-hoc and qualitatively weak in Sri Lanka; in our insurgency areas, it is not that bad.

In essence, the CI operations conducted by the IPKF in Sri Lanka were far more exacting, tough and difficult. The odds were too many, supportive factors too few, complications numerous and the motivational factor reduced to almost the lone one - that we were professional soldiers and our duty, therefore, was to do what our Government ordered us to do...

...we were not very clear about our aim - destruction of the LTTE or weakening it. If the latter, then to what degree? We had not thought through the eventuality of the Sri Lankan Government refusing to fulfil its part of the Accord obligations; we did not know what to do with a warring LTTE, hostile population and a recalcitrant Sri Lankan Government; and, as it finally turned out, we were not even sure of what our national interests were and what military intervention and, later, military operations were required to achieve....  The IPKF could not do anything about politico-social or strategic aspects. In the tactical field it was unable to match the LTTE, mainly because of the lack of innovation and serious application of all our professional acumen to stymie the LTTE. Our methods, largely remained conventional.

On Our Performance

Used as we are to wars of a fortnight or three weeks, the CI Ops against the LTTE in Sri Lanka, which went on for nearly two and a half years, proved indeed tough - and to many, too much. Careerists suffered a great deal. Calculations of many went awry and many were 'found out' if not found wanting. Large numbers felt uncomfortable, dissipated, disheartened. Some were dispirited, on the verge of tears. The contagion spread to the families of not only officers but jawans also. One common question most earnestly asked was: 'When will our husbands return?' People, village elders, old veterans, friends back home asked: `What are you doing in Sri Lanka'? We quietly asked ourselves: `What are we achieving?' ......

Communication facilities fortunately, in Op PAWAN were indeed well engineered and quite a few could talk to their families at various locations from where formations had moved. This carried some to the other extreme. Talking every day to the families became a fashion. Eyebrows would be raised if this was not done. And families would gathered at central places where telephone facilities existed and talk to their husbands. If he did not call twice or thrice a week, the wife would be in tears. Some wives specialised in finding out details of not only their husbands' activities but also those of their superiors: Where they went, what they did, when, in what manner etc..."

The Army's character and outlook needed a push, a jolt and an awakening to wider national and professional issues. That the Army responded clumsily and conducted the business of war with less than desirable efficiency, effect and elan is not the fault of the decision but of the system. It is the system that has been becoming, over the years, callous, cynical and moribund. Views and visits of senior generals and their interaction with field commanders and troops did little to inspire us subordinates, provided little worthwhile guidance and clarified little as to what the whole game plan was about. Everybody lived and thought from one day to the next. Our wait for pearls of wisdom remained endless! What increasingly showed up instead was the political eye and bluster of the GOC IPKF, the tentativeness and uncertainty of the Army Commander above him and the Army Chief's loquaciousness which did little to change systemic incongruities and tackle the hidden rot, in all those two years and more of our military venture...




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