It was thought that the long, dark period of terror that so consumed the beautiful land of Sri Lanka had been vanquished with the complete defeat of the LTTE and the death of its leader Prabhakaran in 2009. However, since that period, a new variant of terror has emerged in Sri Lanka, as was so cruelly and starkly revealed in the blasts that hit three churches in Colombo just a little over half a year ago. Since 2009, through “scholarships” from Pakistan that clearly had the ISI’s stamp of approval, dozens of youthful Sri Lankan Muslims went to Pakistan to study in the madrasas run under the watch of GHQ Rawalpindi to churn out suicide bombers and such other destructive elements that have almost become commonplace across the world. Along with the churches, the Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury, Tropical Inn and Shangri-la hotels were also subjected to explosive blasts. The Taj Samudra in Colombo was repeatedly approached by a suicide bomber on that Easter Sunday, but the security net put in place by the hotel as a consequence of 26/11 ensured that the man could not penetrate into the hotel, otherwise there would have been a fifth hotel that saw some of its guests pay with their lives for the growth of a new kind of terror that has struck roots in Sri Lanka after the elimination of the LTTE, that of the Wahhabi variety, which has spawned Al Qaeda and ISIS. The terror factories run by the ISI are a prolific source of terrorist recruits but as yet the world seems to be doing little to dissuade them. Pakistan was once on the FATF blacklist, but was removed as a consequence of lobbying by China and the US. Its record shows clearly the need to once again place the country on the blacklist, followed by sanctions should GHQ Rawalpindi continue to give sustenance to terror groups and indeed, grow them as it were. The Easter bombings in Sri Lanka show the toxic effects of the indoctrination so expertly carried out in ISI-protected madrasas in Pakistan, each of which has become a terror factory. Young men who came from normal families suddenly turned against those who refused to accept Wahhabi tenets, and who were punished by acts of terror. In the ongoing Presidential election, both the main rivals have had experience of terrorists. Sajith Premadasa is the son of President Ranasinghe Premasada, who was killed by the very LTTE that he not very secretly helped to fight the IPKF. Had Premadasa not intervened and had Prime Minister V.P. Singh not followed the example of Nehru of forcing troops to exit the battlefield, Premadasa may have been saved from death. Son Sajith has emerged as a persuasive leader, but faces a formidable opponent in Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who was Defence Secretary during the period when the LTTE was liquidated when his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was President of Sri Lanka. His contribution to the defeat and destruction of the LTTE is second to none, and this success has made him very popular within Sri Lanka. The fact that Sri Lanka has once again become a terror target has made several voters move to the Gotabhaya Rajapaksa camp, although the reality is that Sajith Premadasa is also an attractive candidate for voters in a country whose location is so crucial to the sea routes of the Indo-Pacific.Especially among a section of the intelligentsia and officials, Pakistan has been popular and favoured simply for being a nuclear-tipped thorn in India’s flesh. Memories of the period when India sought to act the role of the Big Brother to Sri Lanka still remain. However, times have changed since the days when Gandhi family-induced regime change was on the menu of diplomats in locations such as Colombo and Kathmandu, and the High Commission of India has been scrupulous in ensuring that it adopts a non-partisan stance on political developments within Sri Lanka. Indeed, unlike the US Ambassador, who is frequently in the media as a consequence of her policy of being ever ready to give interviews, the Indian High Commissioner wisely declines such requests, even while travelling across the land to meet people. Inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been diligent in pursuing a Neighbourhood First policy, the MEA refuses to play favourites but works with whoever gets elected by voters to be their leader. In Sri Lanka, this means either Sajith Premadasa or Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, both of whom know India and its leaders well. Sri Lanka has become an important factor in the region thanks to the geopolitics surrounding the Indo-Pacific, and this is evident from the sprawling complex that houses the renovated US embassy in Colombo, which incidentally is walking distance from the High Commission of India, both of which are located close to the stately Galle Face hotel, a city landmark. The US ambassador has a ringside view of the numerous Chinese projects that even abut into the sea. China has become a major player in Sri Lanka, but the problem for India and for other countries is that GHQ Rawalpindi and its civilian flunkeys frequently seek to piggyback on the shoulder of Beijing, often to create trouble for India, but also to assist those who later morph into terrorists. Sri Lanka has joined India and Bangladesh in the frontlines of Pakistan-sponsored terror operations, and ensuring safety of citizens from this malign force will be a prime responsibility of whichever leader gets elected in November as the President of the culturally vibrant land of Sri Lanka.

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