Operation Tasha: The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was inducted in Sri Lanka in July 1987, as per the Indo–Sri Lanka Accord, to end the ethnic struggle that claimed many lives and ruined the country’s economy. Operation Pawan started with the induction of the IPKF on 29 July 1987. The de-induction started in August 1989 and the operation terminated on 24 March 1990. When the last elements withdrew, there still had been no solution to the political problem.
Prior to the withdrawal of the IPKF5 from Sri Lanka on 23 March 1990, considerable anxiety was experienced by the State Government of Tamil Nadu in respect of likely LTTE activity in the immediate future upon termination of Ops PAWAN.
Due to the proximity of the land masses and adjacent common fishing grounds, the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar have been a haven for illegal trafficking of humans and material from both sides. The LTTE exploited this route freely for its logistical requirements.
IN and CG ships, operating ex-Visakhapatnam and Chennai, were deployed to provide continuous sea-borne patrol.
A formal request was made by the Government of Tamil Nadu to the Ministry of Home Affairs in February 1990 for central assistance through the continuation of Naval presence in the detachment at Rameshwaram and the establishment of a Naval detachment at Point Calimere.
On 30 May 1990, the Central Government ordered the IN and the CG to institute joint patrols to interdict all undesirable activities (including influx of refugees) in the Palk Bay area, in addition to law enforcement tasks already being undertaken. In execution of Government’s directive, “Operation TASHA” was instituted on 21 June 1990. The requirement was envisaged by the Navy as a short-term requirement for 3 to 6 months and the expenditure was met from within Naval resources. Accordingly,
Prevent illegal immigration and infiltration of LTTE militants to and from Sri Lanka.
- Two Naval Detachments (NAVDETs), each deploying five trawlers hired from trade, were set up at Rameshwaram and Nagapattinam.
- The Naval Air Station which had been earlier functioning at Ramanathapuram (Ramnad) in support of the IPKF operations, was reactivated and operation of both fixed wing as well as rotary wing (helicopters) aircraft recommenced.
- IN and CG ships, operating ex-Visakhapatnam and Chennai, were deployed to provide continuous sea-borne patrol.
- Regular coordination meetings were held with the State authorities and State and Central enforcement, intelligence organisations.
An assessment-visit was made by the RM to the Palk Bay in June 1991 and the Government decided to continue the operation for a period of one year. The objectives of the operation were to:-
Prevent smuggling of arms, ammunition and contraband from the Indian mainland to Sri Lanka and vice versa.
- Prevent illegal immigration and infiltration of LTTE militants to and from Sri Lanka.
- Prevent smuggling of arms, ammunition and contraband from the Indian mainland to Sri Lanka and vice versa.
- Enforce air surveillance and seaborne patrol to curb activities of Sri Lankan Tamil militants in the Palk Bay.
Patrol activities were coordinated by Naval Detachments on the Tamil Nadu coast. The detachments hired trawlers from the fishing industry, fitted them with machine guns and utilised them for investigating boat traffic across the IMBL. Marine Commandos and a Naval diving team were positioned at selected detachments.
Patrols of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in the Palk Bay were carried out by shallow draft, minor war vessels (SDBs and LCUs) of the Navy and by patrol craft of the Coast Guard. Air patrols were carried out by Naval and Coast Guard aircraft and Naval helicopters.
Enhancement of Op TASHA
Consequent to the assassination of Shri Rajiv Gandhi, the security situation in the Palk Bay region was reviewed by the state and central government authorities. At the state level, the meetings were convened and chaired by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the state Government requested for enhancement of assistance for an additional short duration in June 1991.
Consequent to the assassination of Shri Rajiv Gandhi, the security situation in the Palk Bay region was reviewed by the state and central government authorities.
The surveillance plan envisaged a layered-concept to be executed in tandem with measures adopted by the State Government and involved:-
- Functional division of the Palk Bay region into two operational areas with Nagapattinam as Area HQ, North and Rameshwaram as Area HQ, South.
- Establishment of additional five NAVDETs along the Vedaraniyam/Palk Bay coastline at:-
- Deployment of five trawlers hired from trade and fitted with MMGs, from each of the seven NAVDETs with few armed naval personnel to effect close-coast patrol around the 3-metre depth-contour line.
The Naval Detachments were tasked to capture, destroy militants at sea in the Palk Bay area and assist the Tamil Nadu Govt to prevent movements of non-bonafide personnel and smuggling of contraband items in the coastal area between Karaikal and Lands End.
- Deployment of IN/CG ships along the IBL to ensure that the five-mile “No-fishing/prohibited zone” established by the Tamil Nadu Government remained under surveillance.
- Enhancement of airborne surveillance being mounted from the Naval Air Detachment (NAVAIRDET) deployed at the Naval Air Station, Ramanathapuram (NAS Ramnad). Periodic but random aircraft sorties to be undertaken to cover the area between the 3-metre depth-contour and the IBL, as well as along the IBL.
- Augmentation of the communications network.
The Naval Detachments were tasked to capture, destroy militants at sea in the Palk Bay area and assist the Tamil Nadu Govt to prevent movements of non-bonafide personnel and smuggling of contraband items in the coastal area between Karaikal and Land’s End.
The detachments maintained the first barrier, of the three-tier surveillance of the Palk Bay area upto the IMBL, which required most intensive patrols. Each NAVDET maintained the patrol using armed trawlers in its respective area of responsibility along the three to five metre depth contour and upto six NM from the coast.
In a week, approximately 4000 trawlers were investigated and 1500 boarded by all seven detachments. The intensity of fishing operations varied from place to place but had been dense in the area around Rameshwaram.