China’s presence in Sri Lanka raises concerns

Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, including former cadre of the defunct LTTE concerned, say probe agencies

October 11, 2021 07:23 am | Updated 07:38 am IST - CHENNAI

Tamil Nadu DGP, C. Sylendra Babu

Tamil Nadu DGP, C. Sylendra Babu

The Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, including some former cadre of the defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), are “seriously concerned” over the large-scale and long-term investments by the Chinese Government in Sri Lanka, Indian intelligence agencies have said.

Also read: Sri Lankan vessel seized off Lakshadweep | LTTE involved in arms, drugs smuggling, says NIA

In a note to States, a Central agency referred to a conclave of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora held in London recently and said the delegates felt that India had not taken it seriously to safeguard the interests of the Sri Lankan Tamils and even lost its influence over the island nation. The conclave was convinced that the fate of the Sri Lankan Tamils would be in jeopardy if the Chinese established their presence in northern Sri Lanka.

Contact with Beijing

Noting that “inaction” on the part of the Government of India had paved the way for China to gain prominence in Sri Lanka, the conclave decided to take all out efforts to establish contact with the Chinese Government to create a political and economic base for Sri Lankan Tamils.

“They assume that the Chinese will welcome such initiatives as it would assist them in northern Sri Lanka to have a hassle-free presence, besides facilitate them in their stance against India,” the note on security preparedness said, adding that the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora was deploying its global resources to tap Chinese intellectuals to gain a groundswell of opinion favouring their efforts. However, the conclave had strong dissenters to the strategy as they believed that the Sri Lankan Tamils would lose the support of the Indian Tamils.

Adding to the Central inputs, Tamil Nadu Director-General of Police (DGP) C. Sylendra Babu wrote to the Commissioners/Superintendents of Police (SPs) on reliable information about the LTTE remnants regrouping and holding meetings near Thiruvanmiyur in Chennai “very often”. The alert was given days before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested former LTTE intelligence operative Satkunam, alias Sabesa, 47, on charges of indulging in drug trafficking with international links and also funding the revival of the defunct organisation in Sri Lanka. Materials seized from his premises in Valasaravakkam, Iyyappathangal, etc., revealed evidence of a huge transfer of money to his contacts in Sri Lanka, investigators said.

At the meetings held in Chennai, the participants chalked out strategies for further course of action in the backdrop of the developments relating to the increasing presence of Chinese defence personnel in Sri Lanka. Since the Chinese presence in the neighbourhood could pose a threat to India, the DGP called for enhanced surveillance along the coastal districts.

The State intelligence, relying on the Central agency inputs, said some radicalised Muslims were brought from Pakistan and Turkey by senior Sri Lankan political leaders and made to settle in Batticaloa, Mutur and Kalpatti. They had started madrasas to spread their ideology in eastern Sri Lanka and had planned to infiltrate into India, police sources told The Hindu on Sunday.

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