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KPS Gill to advise Lanka on security

New Delhi, May 16: Sri Lanka has invited top anti-terrorism expert and former Director-General of the Punjab Police K P S Gill to advise the government on security measures, especially in the capital, Colombo.

The significance of Gill's appointment lies not only in the fact that he has been amongst the few Indian officials successful in fighting terrorism in Punjab and earlier in Assam, but also because Sri Lanka wanted to ask an Indian to ``help'' draw up a comprehensive anti-terrorism strategy at home.

Gill was first approached for the job by Sri Lankan foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar a couple of weeks ago, about the time Kadirgamar met Prime Minister A B Vajpayee and Home minister L K Advani in the capital. With both the PM and Advani, Kadirgamar is believed to have asked for Gill to be sent to Colombo.

``I have been invited in my personal capacity by the Sri Lankan government, under the aegis of its ministry of foreign affairs,'' Gill told The Indian Express today, adding that he would be meeting ``government officials, policy makers and academics'' who are concerned with the ongoing ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

``The agenda is informal and is intended to share our perceptions with those of diverse streams of opinion in that country,'' he said.

Having received his appointment letter from Colombo yesterday, Gill will now leave for the Sri Lankan capital on May 21, on an initial reconnaissance trip.

Clearly, though, the timing of Gill's appointment -- even if the nomenclature of the job is to look after ``VVIP security in Colombo'' -- is significant. It comes at a time when the Sri Lankan armed forces are battling the LTTE in the war for Jaffna and Colombo has put out a desperate plea internationally for material and moral help.

The appointment also comes in the wake of Colombo's offer to India to use its deepwater port of Trincomalee. Altogether, some analysts now think that Sri Lanka is extremely keen that India, in its capacity as a regional power, help resolve the 17-year conflict with the LTTE.

Gill is also believed to have met External Affairs minister Jaswant Singh to seek his blessings. And even though New Delhi has refused to get militarily involved in Sri Lanka, keeping in mind the supreme sensitivity of the situation at home in Tamil Nadu, it appears as if the government is not averse to providing ``advice'' to a close friend and ally.

In the last few weeks, Jaswant Singh has repeatedly stressed that short of military intervention, India was ready to help out Sri Lanka in its hour of need. An offer to mediate has also been made, on the condition that both sides in the conflict ask for such mediation.

In Colombo, Gill is likely to meet President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who apparently is very impressed with Gill's anti-militancy work in Punjab. It may be recalled that she lost an eye in an asssassination attempt by the LTTE in the heart of the capital some months ago.

The former D-G's role in Operation Black Thunder in 1988, when Sikh terrorists holed up in the Golden Temple in Amritsar were flushed out after three days, is said to have been instrumental in breaking the back of militancy in Punjab.

A few years ago, Gill's name was being considered as an advisor for Jammu and Kashmir. At the moment he heads a study centre on managing conflict, called the Institute for Conflict Management, under which aegis he runs a website on terrorism in South Asia.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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