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Cablegate: Sri Lanka Conflict: Spillover Into India Continues

VZCZCXRO3990
RR RUEHBI RUEHCI
DE RUEHCG #0280/01 1031134
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131134Z APR 07
FM AMCONSUL CHENNAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0835
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 2434
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0749
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 5015
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 1318

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CHENNAI 000280

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER EFIS MOPS IN CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA CONFLICT: SPILLOVER INTO INDIA CONTINUES

REFS: (A) CHENNAI 00198; (B) CHENNAI 0143; (C) CHENNAI 0086

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The effects of the intensifying conflict between
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan forces
continue to spillover into India's southern state of Tamil Nadu.
The death of five Indian Tamil fishermen on March 29, gunned down by
unknown assailants, has raised anti-Sri Lankan sentiment yet again
in Tamil Nadu. Indian defense forces have stepped up patrolling and
monitoring activity in the wake of appeals by Tamil Nadu's DMK-led
government. Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu police continue to seize large
quantities of supplies likely meant to be smuggled across to Sri
Lanka. END SUMMARY

-------------------------------------------
WORST ATTACK TO DATE ON INDIAN FISHERMEN
-------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On March 29, five Tamil Nadu fishermen were shot dead by
unknown assailants in the Gulf of Mannar. Initial media reports
alleged that the attack took place in Indian waters and that the
assailants were Sri Lankan Navy personnel who were not in uniform.
Chief Minister Karunanidhi, however, referred to them as an
"unidentified group" in his March 31 letter to Prime Minister Singh
urging the Prime Minister to find out the "identity of the attackers
and their international connections." The Chief Minister demanded
enhanced Indian air and sea patrols in the area. This incident, the
bloodiest in a series of recent attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen (Ref
A), raised protests in Tamil Nadu with fishermen holding rallies and
strikes in the coastal districts.

3. (SBU) Confusion prevails in Tamil Nadu over the identity of the
killers. Chief of the Indian Naval Staff Admiral Suresh Mehta
commented to the media that the attack could be a tactic by the
Tamil Tigers to create a rift between India and Sri Lanka. A source
with close connections to the Coast Guard agreed that that the
Tigers could have been behind the attack. But sources with the
Tamil Nadu police believe the assailants may have been from the Sri
Lankan Navy, which uses hired fishing boats to monitor activity on
Sri Lanka's northwest coast. Media reports that the surviving
fishermen told investigating officers that the assailants had looked
like Indians only add to the confusion.

-------------------------------
MORE SHIPS ARRIVE, RADAR SET UP
-------------------------------

4. (SBU) The Indian Navy and Coast Guard, meanwhile, have responded
to calls for a stepped up presence in the region. With the recent
arrival of two naval vessels, media reports indicate that the Navy
and Coast Guard are currently operating at least four ships and
several patrol boats and hovercraft in the Palk Strait and Gulf of
Mannar. The Indian Navy has also reportedly begun discussions with
the government of Tamil Nadu to set up a permanent naval station in
Rameswaram (the point in India closest to Sri Lanka). South Indian
media widely reported on March 29 that the Indian Air Force has set
up a radar system near the coastal village of Sundaramudayan in the
wake of the the Tamil Tigers' first-ever air attack in Colombo on
March 26.

-----------------------------------
ARMS SMUGGLING ATTEMPT BUSTED AGAIN
-----------------------------------

5. (SBU) Tamil Nadu police, meanwhile continue efforts to disrupt
the alleged Tamil Tiger smuggling network in Tamil Nadu. On March
28, the police seized 1,950 detonators from the Irumeni coastal
village. Deputy Inspector General of Police S.S. Krishnamurthi
informed post that the detonators were obviously meant to be
smuggled to Sri Lanka. He said they had been procured in India and
were of the kind commonly used in rock quarries. The detonators
were hidden in a sand mound in a coconut grove, close to the largest
Sri Lankan refugee camp in India. No arrests have been made in the
case so far although several people are being questioned by the
Tamil Nadu police's anti-terrorism unit.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: With the virtual collapse of the ceasefire in Sri
Lanka, post's interlocutors feel that the Tamil Tigers perceive the
need to reactivate their smuggling network. Our contacts believe
that increased intelligence and law enforcement activity directed at
the Tamil Tigers by the U.S. and EU countries is forcing the Tigers
to look to their contacts in South India for supplies. Tamil Nadu's
fishermen, taking to the waters between India and Sri Lanka in
thousands of small boats each day, present an almost insurmountable
smuggling problem for both governments. Even while showing alacrity
in pursing recent cases of arms smuggling and in stepping up
patrolling by the Navy and Coast Guard, Indian officials recognize
that the problem will continue to exist so long as the conflict
continues on the island. Our contacts in South India do not want

CHENNAI 00000280 002 OF 002


India to pursue the Sri Lankan proposal to hold joint patrolling:
being caught in a direct military conflict with either the Tamil
Tigers or the Sri Lankan Navy is the last thing they would want
given the political complexities of the region. END COMMENT

HOPPER

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