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terrorismfinalpaper - The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam...

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The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and State Sponsorship On May 21, 1991, a woman stood in wait, with flowery garlands in her hands as Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi approached. As the woman – referred to simply as Dhanu – bent to touch Gandhi’s feet to pay respects, her belt bomb detonated, killing herself, Prime Minister Gandhi, and sixteen other innocent bystanders in the immediate area. (Subramanian, 1998) One could simply categorize the assassination as merely the desperate actions of a crazed woman, severely discontented with Prime Minister Gandhi’s policies; there were certainly many Indian and Sri Lankan citizens who would not have grieved at the news of Gandhi’s assassination. However, the circumstances surrounding the assassination are not so simple. The fact that Dhanu was in fact a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a Sri Lankan insurgency group, infinitely complicates Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. Prime Minister Gandhi’s assassination was the direct result of a former Indian relationship with the LTTE movement in Sri Lanka. The Indian government - years prior to Gandhi’s death – was a sponsor and source of support for the Tamil Tigers’ goal to secede from Sri Lanka to form a separate Tamil state. As the Tigers’ tactics grew more radical, the Indian government’s support started to wane – until the point when PM Gandhi abandoned India’s alliance with the LTTE, signed a peace accord with Sri Lanka, and launched an Indian invasion into Sri Lanka to squelch LTTE forces. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi brought to the forefront the risks involved for nations that decide to intervene in civil conflicts between a target state and a terrorist or insurgent group. Many states decide to host or sponsor terrorist organizations for a 1
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variety of perceived benefits. However, in international conflict, it is not just the insurgents and the target states that risk harm. Very often, state sponsors also stand to lose a lot when they intervene in a civil conflict. The case of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Indian government demonstrates a major drawback to state sponsorship of terrorist groups. From the LTTE example we see that, despite what India may have perceived as certain valuable benefits that result from sponsoring the LTTE in the 1970s and 1980s, host or sponsor states have much more to lose as a result of their intervention in civil conflicts. This particular civil conflict serves as an ideal guidepost to third parties (state sponsors) considering internationalizing a conflict by aligning with insurgent groups. It is of course true that each civil conflict that has escalated to international war due to the entrance of a state sponsor or host state is different in its particulars. However, the conflict between the LTTE, Sri Lanka, and India is a paradigm of a “typical” conflict that involves a target state, an insurgent group, and a state sponsor. If we explore in detail
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