Monday, January 31, 2005

FLASH: Bangladesh opposition strike during SAARC summit:

+ At the end of a three-day nationwide strike Monday, Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina said: "We'll go for another series of protests Feb 3-6." +

Bangladesh opposition strike during SAARC summit:

Dhaka, Jan 31 : Awami League, the main opposition party in Bangladesh, Monday announced a three-day strike coinciding with the beginning of the SAARC summit here on Feb 6.

At the end of a three-day nationwide strike Monday, Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina said: "We'll go for another series of protests Feb 3-6."

The Awami League launched protests after a grenade attack on its Jan 27 rally killed former finance minister Shah A.M.S. Kibria and four others in Habiganj district, over 260 km from here.

Violence in the general strike that ended Monday left two people dead and hundreds injured. The Awami League claimed police had arrested at least 500 of its workers since Jan 29.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan assured the strike would not affect the two-day 13th SAARC summit. "It may tarnish the country's image," he said.

The government has already stepped up security here as pre-summit meetings are scheduled Feb 1. A senior police officer said 20,000 security personnel are being deployed.

BANGLADESH: General Strike - Day 3 - 31 JAN [3 News Clippings]

01. India 'deeply concerned' about Bangladesh situation: officials:
02. More clashes in Bangladesh strike
03. Bangladesh opposition calls for fresh strike

01. India 'deeply concerned' about Bangladesh situation: officials:

New Delhi, Jan 31 : Ahead of a visit this week to Dhaka by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India said Monday that it is "deeply concerned" about the situation in Bangladesh and sees a pattern in the attempts to assassinate opposition leaders.

Describing the situation in that country as "grave," a senior official told journalists: "Anyone who is concerned about democracy in Bangladesh will be concerned about what is happening there."

He was referring to Thursday's attack on a public meeting of the opposition

Awami League at Habiganj, in which a former finance minister and four other party workers were killed and nearly 100 injured.

The attack came five months after Awami League leader and former prime minister Sheikh Hasina escaped an assassination attempt when grenades were thrown at a meeting addressed by her in Dhaka.

About the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Dhaka (Feb 6-7), the official said: "As of now we are committed to go for the summit".

Manmohan Singh is expected to arrive in Dhaka Feb 5 and would have talks with Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

The official said the situation in Bangladesh would figure in the bilateral talks on the sidelines of the summit. "We will express our concern in our bilateral talks."

Asked whether his comments would not be interpreted by Dhaka as interference in its internal affairs, the official shot back: "How can you say it has nothing to do with India?"

He said that developments in that country have an "immediate impact" on India. "If there is a trend towards fundamentalism taking root there, it is naturally a matter of concern to us."



02. More clashes in Bangladesh strike

Tensions have soared after a bomb attack on an opposition rally

At least 50 people have been hurt in clashes between police and protesters on the third day of a general strike in Bangladesh, the opposition says.

The stoppage closed the stock market, and shops and schools nationwide.

The main opposition Awami League party called the strike in protest at a grenade attack last Thursday, which killed one of its leaders.

No arrests have been made. Awami League supporters blame the government for the death - a charge it denies.

The 60-hour strike began on Saturday morning and was due to end on Monday evening.

On Monday, security forces used batons to disperse opposition demonstrators at various places in the capital.

Most businesses were closed and vehicles were off the otherwise busy streets in Dhaka, a city of nearly 10 million people.

Protesters chanted anti-government slogans and demanded the immediate arrest of those who carried out the grenade attack on the opposition rally in north-eastern Habiganj district.

The blast killed former Finance Minister Shah AMS Kibria, and four other Awami League officials.

FBI help requested

Opposition leaders say the three-day strike was observed in all cities and towns across the country as a mark of protest at the killings of the opposition leaders.

Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina, who herself escaped a grenade attack last August, has blamed the government for the killings - a charge dismissed by the authorities.

The government has asked the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to help find the killer.

But the US authorities say they would consider sending investigators only if measures were taken to ensure they had access to all the evidence.



03. Bangladesh opposition calls for fresh strike

DHAKA - The main Bangladesh opposition party, the Awami league, called on Monday for more strikes later this week in its anti-government campaign as the country emerged from a three-day nationwide stoppage.

The strike, backed by several smaller opposition parties, drove most transport off Dhaka's usually teeming streets, closed shops, schools and stock exchanges and disrupted activity at the country's main port in Chittagong.

Clashes between police and strikers over the three days injured more than 200 people and damaged about 40 vehicles, police and witnesses said.

"We are calling for more strikes next Thursday, Saturday and Sunday in our continuing effort to force the government to step down," Awami chief Sheikh Hasina told a news conference.

She thanked supporters for making the latest strike a success. "I hope they will make the next strike even more successful," Hasina said.

The planned strikes would partly coincide with a meeting of South Asian leaders in Dhaka on Sunday and Monday.

The summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), delayed by about a month after the Dec. 26 tsunami hit several member countries, is due to end on Feb. 7.

Foreign ministers of SAARC are to meet on Saturday. Friday is the weekend in mainly Muslim Bangladesh.

No comment was immediately available from the government on the Awami call, supported by several smaller opposition parties.

The Awami League called last week's strike -- a common form of protest in Bangladesh -- after a grenade attack at a party rally in the northeast on Thursday.

The attack, the latest in a series to rock the country over the last year, killed senior Awami leader Shah Abu Mohammad Shamsul Kibria, 73, a former finance minister, UN official and diplomat. Kibria's nephew was among four others killed.

Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia condemned the attack and vowed to bring Kibria's killers to justice. The government has formed a commission and sought help from the FBI and Interpol.

But Awami chief Sheikh Hasina, who herself narrowly escaped injury in a grenade attack at a rally in Dhaka last August, said she did not believe the government.

Kibria's family said in a statement on Sunday they did not believe an investigation with government participation would be fair.

"Unless it is a truly independent probe only by international agencies it is likely to end up in a whitewash," the family said.

Political analysts said the opposition's activities were unlikely to disrupt Khaleda's rule because her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) remains popular.


INDIA: North East Insurgency Report 29-31JAN [11 News Clippings]


01. India, New Delhi offers talks with ULFA abroad
02. 57 militants lay down arms in Assam
03. North-East CMs Conference to discuss security, other issues
04. Army poised for Guwahati debut
05. Opposition protests poor security in Assam
06. Probe exonerates SP
07. NSCN leaders in Delhi for next round of talks
08. NSCN leaders in Delhi to further talks
09. Congress, BJP delegates meet NSCN leaders
10. KNF rejects Muivah 'offer'
11. [PERSPECTIVE] Through developments, wean away militancy



01. India, New Delhi offers talks with ULFA abroad

Guwahati,New Delhi has offered to hold talks with the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) outside India to end more than 25 years of insurgency in the region, a rebel mediator Monday said.

"India's National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan made the offer during a meeting with me last week to hold talks with the ULFA somewhere in a third country," said Assamese writer Mamoni Goswami, who was sought by the outfit to mediate for talks with the Indian government.

"I had conveyed the government's fresh offer to the ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah. The ULFA leadership is going to deliberate on the offer and respond soon," he told journalists in Assam's main city of Guwahati.

The outlawed ULFA, fighting for an independent Assamese homeland, had earlier rejected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's offer for unconditional talks with the government. Singh made the offer for talks during his visit to Assam in November.

"I am still very confident and positive that something is going to happen soon," Goswami, who teaches modern Indian languages at Delhi University, said on the sidelines of a seminar on security here.

The ULFA is blamed for a series of explosions in Assam in the past week, including two blasts at the central parade ground in Guwahati on Republic Day.

"They (ULFA) are our own boys although they are now angry boys."

The ULFA was founded in 1979. According to intelligence officials, there are about 3,000 fighters in the group, one of the most powerful rebel armies in the northeast.



02. 57 militants lay down arms in Assam

Rangiya (Assam), Jan 31: Fifty-seven ultras, including 34 ULFA militants, today laid down arms at the headquarters of the 21 Mountain Division of the army here today.

The ULFA ultras led by Sachinandatara deposited 46 assorted ammunition to General Officer Four corps Lt Gen A S Jamwal at a simple function.

The militants in their speech voiced their desire to make Assam developed and ensure security of the people.

Jamwal in his speech emphasised that army and the security forces have a commitment towards the NE region for which it was always engaged in the overall development of the state and the region. (Agencies)



03. North-East CMs Conference to discuss security, other issues

Agartala, Jan 31 (UNI) The security situation in the North-East, modernisation of security forces and implementation of development projects would be the main subjects for discussion at the Conference of Chief Ministers of eight North-Eastern states to be held in Guwahati tomorrow.

The meeting, to be participated by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, would put more thrust on carrying on the dual approach of anti-insurgency measures and executing development schemes, official sources said.

While implementation of schemes for modernisation of state police forces would be a major subject for discussion, the other issues likely to come up would be raising of the Indian Reserve Battalion, fencing along the Indo-Bangla border, border area development programmes and security related expenditure reimbursement schemes.

The meeting would also review the progress of implementation of projects under non-lapsable central pool of resources, the sources said.



04. Army poised for Guwahati debut

Police personnel examine the second blast site.

Guwahati, Jan. 30: Jolted by the twin blasts at Judges Field here on Republic Day, the Tarun Gogoi government has decided — at least in principle — to bring the Assam capital under the purview of the unified command for counter-insurgency operations.

The unified command is a joint formation of the army, police and paramilitary forces. Only Jorhat and Guwahati are at present outside the ambit of the command structure. Day-to-day law and order problems, including those connected to insurgency, have been left to the police to handle. They are helped by the paramilitary forces, as and when required.

"The decision is as good as taken," an official source said of the possibility of the unified command being extended to Guwahati.

Home commissioner B.K. Gohain was, however, non-committal. He said the proposal was under "active examination" and Delhi would have to be consulted before taking a decision.

The proposal is likely to be taken up with Union home minister Shivraj Patil when he arrives here on Tuesday for a conclave to be attended by all the chief ministers of the Northeast. The chief of the eastern command, too, is expected to attend the meeting.

The source said if everything goes according to plan, the army could be out in Guwahati within a week or a fortnight at the most. The subject was discussed at a meeting of the council of ministers a day after the blasts.

"The ministers agreed that Guwahati could no longer be left outside the purview of the unified command given the string of blasts the city has witnessed in recent times," the source said.

He said Guwahati and Jorhat had so far been left out of the ambit of the unified command because insurgent activity in the two cities was not as intense when the structure was first put in place.

A senior Congress leader, however, said efforts to step up security in Guwahati could backfire on the ruling party if army excesses occur. "That could be detrimental to the party's interests when elections are only about a year away," he said.

In Agartala, Patil urged the Ulfa to come forward for talks. He told a news conference there this evening that the Centre believed the problem could not be solved by using force. The minister said the government was pursuing a two-pronged strategy. On one hand, measures would be taken to ensure that no violent activities occur while on the other, efforts would be made to draw the outfit to the negotiating table.



05. Opposition protests poor security in Assam

Hundreds of opposition activists in Assam took to the streets on Saturday demanding resignation of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who they say has been unable to control increasing violence in the insurgency-hit region.

The protest in Guwahati comes three days after suspected members of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) set off two bombs at a heavily guarded parade ground during Republic Day celebrations. Though no one was wounded in the blasts and officials went ahead with the ceremonies, protestors say the act laid bare the state's extremely poor law and order.

Police blamed the attacks on the outlawed rebel group, which had called for a boycott of Republic Day ceremonies in the oil- and tea-rich state in its campaign for an independent homeland.

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has submitted a memorandum to the state governor demanding action against the chief minister.

"We seek the immediate dismissal of the Congress-led state government. The public also wants the government to go," said Brindaban Goswami, the AGP president.

In another incident on Wednesday, soldiers shot dead 10 people mistaking them for militants. Soldiers fired on a crowd of about 5,000 people after they attacked the troops with knives, sticks and stones in the village of Hajo on the outskirts of Guwahati.

Troops had gone to the Muslim-dominated village on the banks of the Brahmaputra River to hunt for the insurgents believed to be hiding there.



06. Probe exonerates SP

Guwahati, Jan. 29: The probe into the twin blasts in the Assam capital on Republic Day has exonerated city superintendent of police Hiren Chandra Nath, who in a knee-jerk reaction was held responsible for "security lapse" and shunted out of office the following day.

The probe by additional director-general of police (CID) Sankar Barua to find out whether there was any security lapse, has put the Tarun Gogoi government on a sticky wicket by giving a clean chit to Nath amid accusations of witch-hunt.

Along with Nath, the government also transferred Kamrup (metropolitan) deputy commissioner A.K. Absar Hazarika, holding the duo responsible for "serious security lapses."

The state government was accused of looking for scapegoats by several quarters for its stringent action on January 27, which came even before Barua submitted his report.

Though Barua in his report exonerated Nath and senior officers, he indicted officer in-charge of the Panbazar police station Holiram Bora. However, no action has been taken against him as yet.

"I'll place the report before the appropriate authority first," said home commissioner B.K. Gohain.

Three other junior police officials were also suspended yesterday.

Gohain said the report has stressed the need to increase the strength of city police.

While asserting that the blasts were a handiwork of the Ulfa, the report also recommended steps to ensure security in Judges Field.

It suggested a 24-hour vigil of the ground, permanent fencing by a brick wall, sufficient lighting, installation of close-circuit television and constructing a concrete floor of the drain which runs along the perimeter of the field.

The report was submitted late last night by Barua. He told The Telegraph today that last night's report was an "interim one" and he has sent another part to the government today.

"More addendum may follow," he said.

Sources said Barua was hurried into submitting the report as the chief minister had declared on Thursday that that it would be submitted by yesterday and he did not want to fail on his word on a matter which has already put him in a tight spot politically.

The probe also found that the bomb was planted after January 10, Gohain said.

A pipe bomb was recovered at Narengi area this evening. Two persons were picked up for interrogation.




07. NSCN leaders in Delhi for next round of talks

NEW DELHI, JANUARY 30: NSCN (I-M) leaders are in Delhi for the next round of talks with the Government to find a solution to the Nagaland problem. The talks will go on from February 3 to February 5.

Chairman of NSCN (I-M) Isak Chisi Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah arrived here late last night. It is learnt that Swu is scheduled to leave India after the talks while Muivah is expected to go back to Nagaland to hold consultations with his people.

Talks will be opened by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil. He will introduce the three-member ministerial team representing the Centre to the Naga leaders. The ministerial team is assisted by National Security Advisor (NSA) M.K. Narayanan, Home Secretary D. Singh and Centre's interlocutor K. Padmanabhaiah. The Naga leadership is also likely to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the talks.

It is understood that in this round of talks the two sides — the Government and the NSCN (I-M) — will present their positions on key issue like sovereignty of Nagaland and integration of Naga inhabited areas.

Senior officials said though ''historic'' in nature, the talks are unlikely to achieve a major breakthrough. According to them the Goverment's strategy would be to first discuss issues where a compromise is possible and leave the difficult issues to the later stages of the talks. It is understood that the Government is not against considering issues that relate to special status for Nagaland, a special financial package and sovereignty of Nagaland within the Constitution of India.

On the other hand, Naga leaders will state their position on the substantive issues and are likely to use the two-day Naga People's Consultative meet at Camp Hebron as the backdrop to this. Government sources, however,indicated that the Naga leadership is unlikely to adopt a hardline approach. Officials argued that Naga leadership is aware of the ground realities, the possibilities and the desires of the people of Nagaland. ''Both sides are keen that talks succeed paving the way for solution to the longstanding problem,'' said a senior government official.

The Naga leaders have already consulted a cross-section of people back home to assess their views. It held a two-day Naga People's consultative meet on the on-going peace process at Camp Hebron, the headquarters of the NSCN(I-M).

The forces and NCSN (I-M) had reached a ceasefire accord in 1997 that has been holding since then.



08. NSCN leaders in Delhi to further talks
Source: The Sangai Express

New Delhi, January 30: Top NSCN (IM) leaders returned to Delhi after consultations with a cross-section of people in Nagaland for their next round of talks with the Centre's representatives for finding a solution to the vexed Naga political problem.

The NSCN (IM) delegation led by its chairman Issac Chisi Swu and general secretary Th.

Muivah arrived here late last night.

The schedule for the talks, in which the Centre would be represented by a group of Ministers led by Union Minister Oscar Fernandes, is likely to be made known tomorrow, official sources said.

The Naga leaders are in Delhi after more than a month of consultation with a large cross-section of people in Nagaland.

The senior NSCN (IM) leaders, who have been in India for over a month at the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, were given what the leaders call a 'mandate' by a two-day Naga people's consultative meet on the on-going peace process at the organisation's headquarters 'Camp Hebron', off Dimapur recently.

The consultative meeting, attended by over 6,000 people representing Naga villages of Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, in a declaration said the protracted conflict must be resolved by NSCN (I-M) and Government of India by peaceful means.

It also asserted that no solution can be found without bringing Naga-inhabited areas of the North-East under a single administrative set-up.

During their nearly seven-week stay in Nagaland, Swu and Muivah interacted with the cadres of the insurgent groups and spent Christmas with them.

The two Naga leaders, who had arrived here from Amsterdam in the last week of November, had met the Prime Minister, Home Minister Shivraj Patil and had held parleys with the Centre's representatives for the Naga peace process K Padmanabhaiah and top officials.

This is the second time that Swu and Muivah have come to India for taking the Naga peace process forward.

The duo had held peace parleys with the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his deputy L K Advani and top officials in January last year during their first visit to this country in over three decades.

The security forces and NSCN (IM) had reached a ceasefire accord in 1997 and this has been holding since then.

The accord will come up for review in July, this year.-P



09. Congress, BJP delegates meet NSCN leaders
Source: Manipur Mail

Kohima, January 30: Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) and the Nagaland unit of BJP have met NSCN(IM) leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah at camp Hebron recently.

Party sources said the Congress delegation was led by leader of the opposition I Imkong and other senior leaders, while the BJP delegation was led by state unit president MC Konyak.

Both the delegations met the NSCN(IM) leaders separately and discussed on the matters of the ongoing peace process between the centre and the NSCN(IM) on Thursday last.

Party sources said the discussions were cordial and they touched upon many aspects on the ongoing peace process.

The leaders of NSCN(IM) were scheduled to leave for New Delhi today for an another round of discussion on the Naga political problem to hammer out a solution on the issue.

Meanwhile, The Ao Senden (Hoho) in Dimapur has appealed to NSCN(IM) President Isak Chishi Swu to take action against the NSCN(IM) cadres allegedly involved in the attempt on the life of Dr Maongwati atDimapur on May 27 last year.

The Ao Senden, in a representation to the NSCN(IM) leader, urged him to look into the matter and issue suitable directions so that justice could be done.

The representatives said some persons arrested in the assassination attempt on Dr Maongwati had admitted their involvement and named some NSCN(IM) cadres involved in the crime.

The Ao Senden called upon the NSCN leader to stop such practices and allow the persons involved in the crime to face a trial.

The Ao Senden has agreed that the crime was the 'individual act of some persons from the NSCN for their personal gains' and urged upon the leader not to allow any individual to bring such unwarranted bad image to it, the representation added.



10. KNF rejects Muivah 'offer'

The Imphal Free Press

IMPHAL, Jan 29: The T Samuel led Kuki National Front has rejected the recent invitation extended by the NSCN(IM) leader to Kukis, Dimasas, Karbi, Hmars and Meiteis to live with the Nagas if they so wished, asserting that Kukis will not under any circumstances live together with the Nagas.

The group, in a statement issued to the media, recalled Kuki history, and accused the Manipur Nagas of acts of betrayal in the Anglo-Kuki War of 1917-19 that led to the occupation of Kuki territories by the British and now India.

The KNF further questioned why the NSCN(IM) had launched a genocidal war against the Kukis in 1995-96. Will the IM leaders seek apology for their wrong deeds and rehabilitate those Kukis killed in their genocidal war, the group asked.

Terming Muivah's statement as 'hush a baby cry', the KNF asserted that the NSCN(IM) may go their own way but should not interfere in the Kukis political struggle.

The KNF also strongly criticised the government of India for its lackadaisical dealings with those insurgents groups which are seeking statehood under the Indian constitution.



11.[PERSPECTIVE] Through developments--wean away militancy

Through developments---not by pulling out the developments---wean away militancy
Oken Jeet Sandham

Since India attained her independence in 1947, we hardly heard of pulling out developments or shifting Government institutions, industries, factories, etc. from one State to another just because some underground elements started interfering into its functioning. But we kept hearing that the Government used to reinforce its security
to protect the public properties---be it educational institutions or hospitals or markets, etc---whenever there was a militant threat.

The one central idea of evolving to give more funds for the developments like opening factories, industries, educational institutions, road communications and construction of new roads especially to the insurgency-infested northeastern region was to wean away insurgencies. Because lack of developmental activity in the northeastern region was one of the root causes of militancy.

There are two schools of thought came up sometimes in various seminars, symposia and public discussions about the importance of development and peace. There are arguments that without developments, there can be no peace, while somebody is firm that without peace, there can be no development. Actually both development and peace are interrelated and should go side by side. But in reality, development should be the central theme to earn for peace, which in turn will pave the way for any solution. Because you cannot organize peace when there is vacuum, which has to be filled up first for any next step to go. With this concept, the Government of India, State Governments in the region and various agencies started pumping funds and formulating different kind of strategies to develop the region.

Paradoxically, there is a reported move by the authorities of the North Eastern Council (NEC) to shift one of the oldest premier Regional Medical Colleges---popularly known as Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS)---from its present location, Imphal (capital of Manipur), to Shillong (capital of Meghalaya), on the ground that some underground elements started interfering into its functioning.

True, Manipur (one of the States of India bordering Myanmar) is one of the worst insurgency hit States in the northeastern region and the prevailing environment is not conducive at all for any kind of developmental activities. And the people of Manipur is going to pay a heavy price in future because of their children's missing of considerable amount of study period over the years due to frequent bandhs, strikes, agitations, etc.

It will not be far off to see the real outcome of what is happening today in Manipur.

But do we study how insurgency had happened in the region and why it continues till date? Do we really try to diagnose the syndrome of the region?

I don't mind the ignorance of the mandarins in Delhi but it is ridiculous if the officers of the NEC have become scatterbrained on the reality. They are supposed to fight and convince Delhi to sanction more funds, more medical colleges, engineering colleges, factories and industries because the NEC was formed with the sole idea of bridging
the economic imbalances between the north eastern region and the mainland India. Why not every State in the region has Medical college, more engineering colleges, etc. instead of trying to shift one from one State to another.

When the whole country and even the think tank of this country in collaboration with various personalities of the region tried to come up with certain policy and programs to find ways to bring the region more closer and solve its protracted insurgency problem, how could the NEC think to take such decision. Are we not giving chance to those elements tending to weaken the social and democratic fabric of the country. Let them disturb but it should be the policy of authorities to defeat them through continuous developments. In such a way, we can win over the hearts of the common men.

Undergrounds? interference in public functioning was not an exception to Manipur. We have seen this in many parts of the region. We have witnessed how ULFA had blasted many oil pipelines and even Bodo militants exploded passenger trains, bridges, etc. in Assam. Should we threaten to pull out train services and stop oil explorations in Assam just because militant organizations disturbed and caused harms?

One should be extremely careful while dealing, writing and talking about the northeastern region because it is too sensitive. It is multi-faceted problems and whoever assigned for the region should be thorough of the area.

At the same time, we should also remember that there are peoples who have been striving hard to bring some solutions, although it is the responsibility of those who are at the helms of affairs. It is also Constitutional obligation for those who are in power to protect the lives and properties of the publics. They cannot shirk their responsibilities---be it in any situation.

We should always fight for more medical colleges, universities, industries, factories, sports complexes, construction of new roads, for not only the State of Manipur but also all the northeastern States generally affected by insurgencies. But philosophy of shifting one medical College from Manipur to elsewhere in the region is not going to solve the problem of insurgency; rather it will be doing more harm than repairing to the crippled Manipur.


MYANMAR: Assessment - Drugs Trafficking, Power stuggle [2 News Clippings]


01. Today's Burma funded by drugs
02. Power struggle increases uncertainty
01. Today's Burma funded by drugs

Thailand and the United States have taken legal steps against the biggest, richest druglords in Asia. A US federal court accepted a case against eight leaders and drug peddlers with the United Wa State Army for making, smuggling and selling opium, heroin and amphetamines.

Thailand, which already has criminal cases against several of the Wa, took a direct and active interest in the US case. This case is not just a symbol but an important milestone in a crucial battle. The single reason these dangerous, long-term drug traffickers continue to run drug cartels for profit is because of the protection of the
Burmese dictatorship.

The indictment was announced at parallel news conferences in New York district by the US attorney Roslynn Mauskopf and in Bangkok by deputy national police chief Pol Gen Priewpan Damapong. Both had senior drug officials by their side. The two big names on the indictment were Wei Hsueh Lung and Pao Yu Hsiang. Mr Wei is by far the more notorious. He was arrested in Thailand in November 1988 on charges involving 680kg of heroin, but jumped bail. Mr Pao is the lesser known but more
infamous of the leaders. In Burma, Mr Pao is not just a drug trafficker for the government and Wa army commander; he is one of the country's top businessmen and investors.

Mr Pao recently estimated he is the owner outright or is a member of the board of directors of 43 large Burmese companies. They include many firms under the umbrella of the large and influential May Flower Group, which includes Burma's third largest bank. He is the head of Yangon Airlines, one of two domestic airlines in Burma. According to recent visitors to the Wa region, Mr Pao has an estimated 20,000 men under military arms, has taken over and industrialised the jade mines once controlled by Shan and national Chinese groups, and is the overseer of all Wa drug-growing and manufacturing, which is to say all important drug trafficking in Burma.

According to Mr Pao, the decision to eradicate opium growing and heroin trafficking this year _ the current harvest is to be the last was easy from a financial viewpoint. He made ``only $5 million [192 million baht]'' from opiate sales last year, just a relative drop in his still growing business empire. Much of this empire is considered legal and, in some circles, even respectable. Mr Pao and his partners frequently dine and do business deals with not just the government but other businessmen from abroad, including from Thailand.

In this, Mr Pao and the other accused and indicted Wa leaders are following past precedent. The original opium warlord, Lo Hsing-han, is one of the biggest businessmen in Burma. He recently opened an entire port in Rangoon, the rough equivalent of a Chon Buri province mafia gangster chief building a rival port to Laem Chabang on the eastern seaboard. Mr Lo's successor as opiate trafficker, the heroin king Khun Sa, also has been turned into a supposedly respectable businessman, based in Rangoon and as safe as Mr Lo from the many foreign warrants for his arrest, including in Thailand.

All of this happens, of course, thanks to the government of Burma. For the past 43 years, military dictators have nurtured close relations with drug traffickers, and encouraged them to grow, make and smuggle opium, heroin and methamphetamines to the world. The Golden Triangle of old has long shrunk to just one country. As Mr Lo, Khun Sa and then the Wa built and ran vicious drug cartels, the Rangoon regimes from Ne Win's in 1962 to Than Shwe's today have profited from the drug trade.

A notation after each name in the drug indictment is telling: ``Residence Burma''. Anyone or any government doing deals with Rangoon should realise that most local investment in that country is laundered drug money. Some five-star hotels, many finance houses and a large percentage of all tourist facilities are built by money from
druglords. It is unacceptable that Burma should protect some of the world's top drug traffickers just because they pass some of their profits through the generals.


02. Power struggle increases uncertainty

War appears to have broken out between the junta's top generals with there being talk of mental instability


Rangoon is rife with rumours and speculation of coups and gun battles within the country's secretive military leadership. These rumours have been fuelled by the mysterious and unexplained death over a week ago of Lieutenant-Colonel Bo Win Tun, the personal assistant to the country's second most powerful general, Maung Aye.

The streets of the capital city though are comparatively calm. There is little evidence of extra security, except around the notorious Insein prison. But this apparent atmosphere of normality belies the reality _ a bitter power struggle is taking place between Burma's top generals.

Burma's top two military leaders Senior General Than Shwe and the number two, Vice Senior General Maung Aye, are locked in a struggle for control. ``It's a struggle for supremacy,'' according to an Asian diplomat based in Rangoon.

In recent months, Gen Maung Aye appears to have been upset because he was being sidelined and overshadowed by Gen Than Shwe's protege, Lieutenant-General Soe Win. Lt-Gen Soe Win was recently appointed prime minister to replace General Khin Nyunt, who was purged last October largely because of his opposition to Gen Than Shwe's hardline views.

Gen Maung Aye has persistently accused Lt-Gen Soe Win of being incompetent, said a Burmese businessman.

There may also have been a disagreement between the two over how to deal with Burma's ethnic groups, especially those which have ceasefire agreements with Rangoon. With the National Convention drafting the new constitution about to resume, there is increasing pressure on the groups to surrender their arms. Gen Maung Aye is keen to have this done as soon as possible.

But the prime minister's greatest fault in Gen Maung Aye's eyes was most likely to be his unbending loyalty to the senior general.

Lt-Gen Soe Win's promotion to prime minister was always seen as a stop-gap measure. ``Soe Win was a buffer and scapegoat from the start,'' said a senior Southeast Asian diplomat who closely follows the Burmese political scene. The new prime minister recently confided to a close family friend that he was powerless.

Lt-Gen Soe Win has already been told he has been sacked as prime minister, according to reliable military sources. The problem is that the two top generals cannot agree on who should replace him.

Over the last four months, there have been several major shake-ups of the cabinet. These were mainly aimed at purging ministers who were close to the former intelligence chief and prime minister Gen Khin Nyunt.

Most of them have been allowed to retire quietly, including the former foreign minister, Win Aung. But two other Khin Nyunt confidants were less fortunate, according to Burmese officials in Rangoon. Former home minister Tin Hlaing is in Insein facing charges, while former labour minister Tin Winn is under house arrest.

But more cabinet changes are imminent, a senior Burmese foreign ministry official, Than Tun, told journalists in Phuket last week when he was there for an international tsunami meeting. Diplomats in Rangoon believe a new prime minister and cabinet are likely to be announced within the next few weeks.

Changes to the ruling State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC, and the powerful regional commanders are also in the pipeline, according to Burmese government officials. All these changes will almost certainly see more of Gen Maung Aye's people replacing Than Shwe loyalists, but maintaining a fine balance of power.

``The present delay means that the two top men cannot agree on who should get the key positions,'' said a Southeast Asian diplomat who has dealt with Burma's leaders for years.

Diplomats in Rangoon believe that Gen Maung Aye is not anxious to have a high profile battle with the country's top leader. But angered by Gen Than Shwe's self-appointment as a Burmese monarch and his Ne Win policies _ adopted from the former Burmese dictator _ Gen Maung Aye is anxious to reduce the senior general's influence.

``Maung Aye does not want Than Shwe to feel openly threatened, he does not want to confront him outright, but he does want to clip his powerbase,'' said a senior Asian diplomat with strong ties to the Burmese junta.

Burma's military leaders of course have been quick to deny any suggestion of attempted coups or a power struggle in Rangoon. ``It's all just rumours; everything there is fine,'' Foreign Minister Nyan Win told journalists on Friday in Phuket.

The speculation of a possible coup has been fuelled by the apparent absence of the top generals from the official media. This led to rumours that Gen Maung Aye had been killed in a fatal shootout amongst the top brass and that Prime Minister Soe Win was under house arrest.

To counter these reports, Burma's state-controlled television and newspapers began at the weekend to show the top military leaders, including Gen Maung Aye and Lt-Gen Soe Win, attending official functions. ``They were shown in unusual circumstances and it was broadcast to dispel the rumours,'' a Western diplomat in Rangoon said.

Burma's top military leader is a master at political intrigue and counter-intelligence. He studied psychological warfare in depth as a junior officer in the Burmese army. It will not be the first time the generals have taken pains to publicly show unity when there is a major internal battle going on.

There is also increasing concern within the ranks of the army over the future of the country. The start of the mass trials of the former military intelligence officers has caused disquiet within the military, particularly in the navy and air force. More than 300 former soldiers and civilians are on trial in courts especially formed inside Insein prison accused of economic crimes and corruption. Most are expected to be sentenced to more than 30 years jail.

``It's a form of cannibalism, the army is eating its own flesh,'' a retired Burmese military officer said about the witch-hunt that is being conducted against the former military intelligence chief and his soldiers.

Anything to do with Gen Khin Nyunt has been purged. Photographs, posters and billboards showing him have been taken down. The spire in the famous Shwedagon temple in Rangoon, which Gen Khin Nyunt had covered in gold, has been boarded up. The authorities have also scoured the civil service and sacked anyone who got his post as a result of a recommendation from a military intelligence officer.

This has all contributed to a growing resentment within military and government. Many are convinced it is all a pretext to destroy Gen Khin Nyunt and his men. ``All we are doing is putting innocent people in jail,'' a policeman investigating one the Gen Khin Nyunt's senior generals recently confided to friends.

The fear is Gen Than Shwe may be losing his grip. Some military men are beginning to wonder whether he is mentally unstable. Comparisons are being drawn with the former military leader General Saw Maung, who had a mental breakdown and was removed by the triumvirate of Gen Than Shwe, Gen Maung Aye and Gen Khun Nyunt in 1992.

The longer the battle between Burma's two top generals is unresolved, the greater the uncertainty about the country's future.

Diplomats in the region are wary about the outcome. ``If Gen Maung Aye is fully in control, it will be a severe setback for the ethnic groups and the international community,'' said a senior Asean diplomat responsible for policy towards Burma.

The fear is Gen Maung Aye would be even more isolationist, chauvinistic and xenophobic than the senior general.


BANGLADESH: Crossfire extravaganza: Mindless playing with fire?

Crossfire extravaganza: Mindless playing with fire?
CAF Dowlah


+ Like a gentleman's word, their story, however, does not change — they get tip-offs from secret sources, rush to the spot in the small hours, recover illegal arms, and the 'criminals' die in shoot-outs. They, however, hardly die in cross-fires. The story is downright consistent — and therefore, perhaps, can easily be dismissed as outright lies — as only blatant lies are always consistent, the hard truth hardly is. +

Not very long ago, people used to be dragged out of their homes, at midnight or in broad daylight, then ruthlessly beaten to death or given other sorts of brutal 'punishment', mostly in public, and almost always in a lawless and despicable manner. The assets and belongings of the luckless victims would invariably be looted, and often their daughters, sisters and better halves would be raped or assaulted. Those were the days when a newly liberated land, now known as Bangladesh, fondly called Sonar Bangla, had emerged in the global map after a bloodbath.

The perpetrator 'acted like a storm-trooper, a crack force for a lightning strike', who 'would enter any house, arrest anyone, detain any number of people including women and children', wrote Barrister Moudud Ahmed in his book, Era of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. They would 'surround a whole village combing for arms, miscreants, and political opponents' and in the process 'they would kill, loot, and even rape', he noted. An American scholar who focussed on the Indian subcontinent, Lawrence Ziring, echoed Moudud in his book, Bangladesh: Mujib to
Ershad, describing the perpetrators as 'gangs of thugs… (who) roamed the countryside, looting the poor villagers and committing bodily harm on those resisting their demands'. Above all, the perpetrators had virtually nothing to worry about — they were completely immune to any prosecution, any accountability, any regulation, and any lawful recourse.

Yes, I am talking about the infamous Rakkhi Bahini — a paramilitary force that the founding president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, raised in the immediate aftermath of the Liberation War, with the professed objective of assisting the civil authorities in the maintenance of the internal security of the country. Raised under the watchful eyes of Indian military advisers, and manned with his staunchest confidants, the Rakkhi Bahini, however, soon turned out to be a private force personally loyal to Mujib himself. Mujib and his party, the Awami League, if history is any guide, deployed this 'private army of bully boys not far removed from the Nazi Brown Shirts' to crush political opponents, wrote Anthony Mascarenhas, a Pakistani journalist who fled to London after his account of genocide 1971 in the Sunday Times, in his book Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood. A key motive behind the formation of the Rakkhi Bahini was to root out opposition, from the 'Naxalites' in the far left to the 'Razakars' in the far right, Rounaq Jahan, a noted political scientist, pointed out in her book, Bangladesh Politics: Problems and Issues.

Unfortunately, nobody will ever know the exact number of the killings and atrocities committed by the Rakkhi Bahini, as ours is not exactly a well-recorded society, and understandably it was much less so three decades ago. The Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), which perhaps bore the major brunt of the brute force of the Rakkhi Bahini when it emerged as a formidable opposition to the Mujib regime, put the number of Rakkhi Bahini killings at 60,000. Most recently a BNP minister, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, told the parliament that about 30,000 political workers and leaders opposed to the Awami League were killed by the Rakkhi Bahini. Earlier BNP secretary-general, Abdul Mannan Bhuyian, accused the Mujib regime of killing 35,000 opposition workers and detaining 65,000 others on false and politically motivated charges (Independent, March 1, 2001). Such is the fate of our society that the extent of killings and atrocities of the Rakkhi Bahini will never be known for sure, let alone bringing the perpetrators and their sponsors to justice.

As if history must repeat itself, the BNP-led coalition government has recently introduced something called the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has already earned quite a reputation for picking up anybody from anywhere, and killing a pretty good number of them in the so-called 'cross-fires'. Reports suggest that so far the RAB has already killed more than 150 persons in such 'cross-fires'. Like a gentleman's word, their story, however, does not change — they get tip-offs from secret sources, rush to the spot in the small hours, recover illegal arms, and the 'criminals' die in shoot-outs. They, however, hardly die in cross-fires. The story is downright consistent — and therefore, perhaps, can easily be dismissed as outright lies — as only blatant lies are always consistent, the hard truth hardly is.

Of course, the brutalities and extra-legal killings of the RAB have already succeeded in restoring some semblance of law and order in the country, and quite understandably the vast majority of the people, including some human rights advocacy groups, are pleased that people can now breathe relatively freely. This is the second time that the ordinary people have been lucky to enjoy such a breathing space since the current government assumed power. Earlier, Operation Clean Heart,
in spite of causing at least 140 deaths in custody, 'succeeded' in restoring law and order. Of course, after a brief lull, killing, mugging, looting and other gruesome criminal acts began to make regular headlines once again, prompting the government to deploy the RAB with renewed urgency.

Yes, desperate problems often require desperate solutions. The Mujib regime also had its rationale for launching the infamous Rakkhi Bahini — it faced a formidable challenge from armed hooligans, especially from unruly freedom-fighters who refused to lay down their arms and turned themselves into tiny warlords in their respective areas, and also from countless hoarders, smugglers, anti-liberation forces, leftist outfits and outright criminals. The Rakkhi Bahini was allowed to operate above the law, and the government simply overlooked, if not actively encouraged, extra-legal killings and torture of criminals and political opponents alike. And, of course, it had to pay a rather heavy price for this — when the curtain eventually fell, few in the country had sympathy enough to shed tears for someone who had commanded near-absolute loyalty only a couple of years ago.

If a towering personality like Sheikh Mujib could be trampled down, perhaps it would be a grave mistake for the BNP-led coalition government to presume that it might not have to pay any price for the extra-legal killings and torture by the military and paramilitary forces during its rule. Yes, indiscriminate arrests, torture and killing of people under Operation Clean Heart (OCH) has been given legal cover by the Joint Drive Indemnity Bill, 2003. The Indemnity Act provides impunity to the security forces involved in the OCH from prosecution for 'any casualty, damage to life and property, violation of rights, physical or mental damage' between October, 2002 and January, 2003. Given the legislative majority of the ruling coalition, a similar indemnity protection can well be given to the RAB as well, but as the fate of the country's first indemnity act demonstrates, the guarantee of such indemnity acts can hardly be taken as granted, and with the swing of the pendulum of history anything can happen.

Of course, the state-terrorism unleashed by the RAB or the OCH can hardly be compared with that of the Rakkhi Bahini, which was, indeed, a completely different breed. It worked above the law, it was officially loyal to Mujib himself, and it had no rules of business to make it accountable. Neither the RAB nor the OCH was expected to serve as bully boys loyal to Khaleda Zia, or her party, or her coalition. Also, the killings and tortures of the RAB or the OCH have not been of the same magnitude as that of the Rakkhi Bahini. Moreover, as current law minister Moudud Ahmed is well aware of Rakkhi Bahini's operational details, it can perhaps be safely assumed that these forces were given clear legal guidelines for their operation.

At the same time, however, none can deny that the extra-legal killings and tortures of the RAB are hardly defensible in a law-based society, and most certainly not in a society that also claims to be a democratic one. Any law-based society, as anybody knows, presumes the innocence of any citizen before he is found to be guilty in a court of law, and guarantees a due process of law even to notorious criminals. A government with a commitment to the rule of law cannot allow its law-enforcing agencies to kill anybody — no matter how heinous the criminals are and how gruesome the crimes are. The current government, perhaps, cannot easily absolve itself of the legal responsibility for failing to restrain its law-enforcing agencies from meting out brute 'justice' on the spot.

The Khaleda Zia regime is further disadvantaged by the fact that a society that found the Rakkhi Bahini's tortures and killings intolerable three decades ago, can hardly have the stomach to digest extra-legal killings and state-terrorism now, when the society is presumably more educated, more enlightened, more globalised, and much
more sensitive to human rights. Moreover, however dysfunctional the state may be, there is a parliament in the country now. On the other hand, much of the Mujib regime was undemocratic — there was no functioning parliament for the first and last year of Mujib's three and a half year rule.

There may well be still another looming danger for the coalition government, stemming from modernisation of the country's outdated legal system, which will be expedited by changes of legal norms around the world as well as by the pressure of a more assertive judiciary at home. As demonstrated most recently by the conviction of former Chilean junta leader, Augusto Pinochet, the long hand of the law can haunt tyrannical rulers for decades. His Operation Candour was responsible for killing several thousand people, mostly political opponents. If Pinochet can be tried and convicted today, three decades after those massacres, perhaps the victims of the tortures and killings of the Rakkhi Bahini and the RAB might well be able to seek justice some day under a refined legal system and independent judiciary.

The policy-makers of the coalition government should also realise that with the almost instantaneous flow of information and communication in the contemporary world, the task of running a state has been becoming ever more complex and difficult — ordinary people around the world are increasingly demanding conscientiousness and rationality from their governments. And there are scores of ever vigilant non-governmental organisations — with domestic and international agenda — and as well as powerful foreign capitals closely watching events and developments all over the world. The current rulers of Bangladesh, now honeymooning with the cross-fire extravaganza, will be well-advised to read the handwriting on the wall.


INDIA: Religious fundamentalists are threat in Kerala- RAW Chief

Religious fundamentalists are threat in Kerala: Tharakan

P K Hormese Tharakan, outgoing Kerala DGP said that Kerala did not face any serious threat from extremist forces but there was need for a united fight against religious fundamentalism.

"There had been no political interference in the police department during his tenure. The training for police personnel had been modernised, he said.

Tharakan, a 1968-batch IPS officer, succeeds C D Sahay as the head of the country's external intelligence agency.

Earlier, he had served for 11 years with the RAW and has the experience of handling a variety of assignments ranging from Sri Lanka and Nepal to Rome. He also handled the case of hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar in 1999. He is due to retire in June.

He took over as the Chief of Kerala Police in June 2003 and gave a new face to the police force.

The State Cabinet is likely to name a successor to Tharakan on Wednesday. According to informed sources, Vigilance Director Upendra Verma, Jail Superintendent M G A Raman, Transport Commissioner Raman Sreevastava and Fire Force Chief K Sukumaran Nair were among the front runners for the post. Among them, Upendra Verma is the senior most.


BANGLADESH: SAARC on schedule - 30 JAN [3 News Clippings]


01. 'Time inappropriate for holding SAARC summit in Dhaka': says Reza Kibria
02. Dhaka rules out postponement of Saarc summit
03. SAARC summit as planned: Bangladesh


01. 'Time inappropriate for holding SAARC summit in Dhaka': says Reza Kibria

Dhaka, Jan 30 : Castigating what he says the 'government's lying'on tragic death of Shah AMS Kibria, Reza Kibria, son of the slainformer finance minister, has said the time was inappropriate to hold the upcoming SAARC summit hosted by a 'failed government'.

"We feel that at this time it is inappropriate to hold such a summit meeting, hosted by a failed government led by a group of people who have lost the moral authority to govern this country," Reza told a pres conference Sunday referring that his father, during his tenure as foreign secretary, had written the original position paper for the SAARC in 1978.

Bangladesh is now prepared to host the 13th summit of the seven- nation forum, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation scheduled for February 6-7 in Dhaka.

"I don't know how the people be benefited from the upcoming summit, but we think it would hardly bring any progress," he told the conference, also attended by his mother Asma Kibria and sister Nazli Kibria, at his Dhanmondi residence.

He his family was saddened and distressed that the tragedy of his father's assassination was being used by the BNP-Jamaat government to spread more lies. He denied a press report that prime minister's request for visiting them did not receive any response.

"We did not know any such request," he said adding that no permission is required to visit a bereaved family and it is much more important than any such gesture and a few meaningless phrase would be real action on the prime minister's part to bring the killer of his father to justice.

He accused the government and the Speaker of parliament for not providing with proper treatment after the blast that led death of the sitting MP Shah AMS Kibria. "It is very sad the Speaker appears to regard his position as that of the Speaker of the BNP."

Regarding investigation, Raza raised doubt whether the government would provide genuine probe into his father's killing.

"Any such investigation should be genuinely independent with no participation by any government agency in its management or supervision," he added referring to the investigations into past bomb blasts, in which the investigators failed to make any headway.

He said the killing of his father goes beyond the world of politics. "No one is safe under this government -and there is real fear in every house."

Nazli Kibria, the daughter of slain leader, said that she would continue campaign internationally to bring the perpetrators of her father's killing to justice. (ANI)



02. Dhaka rules out postponement of Saarc summit

DHAKA — Bangladesh yesterday described as baseless reports in a section of Indian Press that the 13th summit of the seven-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) would be postponed because of Thursday’s grenade attacks in Habiganj district in which five persons including former Finance Minister Shah A.M.S Kibria were killed.

Zahirul Haque, Foreign Ministry spokesman, said, “Bangladesh has finalised all preparations to hold the summit and there is no threat nor do we apprehend any such thing during next month’s Saarc summit in Dhaka.”

"We didn’t receive any threat, nor do we apprehend any such thing," the Director-General of the External Publicity Wing, said. He said special security arrangements were being taken to ensure foolproof security for the Saarc leaders who will be attending the 13th summit in Dhaka.

Meanwhile, sources said an advance team from India is now in the capital to see the security and other arrangements for the summit. Similar teams had come from other SAARC countries before the postponement of the summit due to Tsunami catastrophe. Seven bulletproof cars have been kept ready for the South Asian leaders.

Three new bulletproof cars have joined the VVIP vehicles. India will bring its own bulletproof car for Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.



03. SAARC summit as planned: Bangladesh

DHAKA, January 31 (Online): Bangladesh sought to downplay the apprehensions in the holding of the 13th SAARC summit here on February 6 to 7.

"We don't think that the present political development would adversely affect the holding of the SAARC summit,'' Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan said .

The senior officials from SAARC countries are on their way to Dhaka to attend the SAARC programming committee meeting on February 1 to 2, the Minister said.

The country is in the midst of agitations following last Thursday's blasts in which four people including a former finance minister died.

The statement of the Finance Minister comes in wake of the hostile political development as the main opposition has enforced a three-day country-wide strike from today to protest the blasts.

The opposition is pressing for the resignation of the Government and has threatened to continue the agitation.


INDIA: Bangladesh to crackdown on rebel bases 30-31JAN [3 News Clippings]


01. Bangladesh may launch crackdown on anti-India rebel bases
02. Positive response from Bangladesh on checking militancy: Patil
03. Patil visits Bangladesh border for confidence building:

01. Bangladesh may launch crackdown on anti-India rebel bases

India says it is inching closer to convincing Dhaka to crack down on anti-India militant bases in Bangladesh and that the two countries are in negotiations to combat cross-border terrorism.

"In recent months there have been meetings at the bureaucratic and political level between the two countries on the issue of evicting militants from (Indian) northeastern states taking shelter in Bangladesh," Home Minister Shivraj Patil said in this Tripura capital.

"I would say there has been some positive action taken by Bangladesh to share our concern. We hope Bangladesh will soon take appropriate measures to flush out militants from their country," he said late on Sunday.

Patil said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was likely to take up the matter with his Bangladeshi counterpart on the sidelines of the upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Dhaka next month.

New Delhi maintains there could be at least 150 camps of rebel groups from India in Bangladesh. Dhaka has in the past denied harbouring any militants.

"The two countries are already exchanging information on the matter and the need now is to work out a comprehensive mechanism to deal with the problem more effectively," Patil said.

The minister is on a four-day visit to the restive northeast to review internal security and matters related to cross-border terrorism. He visited some border areas and a Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border post as part of confidence building exercise.

Patil will chair a meeting of all chief ministers here on Tuesday.

In Mizoram, the minister will review security measures along the state's border with Myanmar and Bangladesh following reports that the area has become a gunrunner's paradise.

"We shall apprise the minister of regular forays being made by militant groups from Myanmar entering Mizoram taking advantage of the unfenced border," a government spokesman said.



02. Positive response from Bangladesh on checking militancy: Patil

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said on Sunday that India had received a positive response from Bangladesh over curbing militant activities from that country and hoped that the issue would be resolved through further discussions between the two sides.

''There have been some positive steps by Bangladesh in this regard. The Home Secretary, after his talks in Bangladesh, has given me a report. However, there are certain areas which require more attention,'' he told reporters at the end of his programme here on the first day of his four-day visit to three Northeastern states.

The Home Minister expressed optimism that the talks between India and Bangladesh would be fruitful after the issue is discussed at the next SAARC summit to be held in Dhaka.

He said after the Secretary-level talks between the two countries, the issue was to have been taken up by the Prime Ministers of both the nations at the SAARC summit, which had been postponed following the tsunami disaster.

''But we have already created a mechanism in which both the sides would talk to each other and exchange information regularly on the problem of militancy,'' he said.

Describing terrorism as a ''double-edged weapon'', Mr Patil said such activities would pose problems also to Bangladesh in the future.

''Terrorism is a problem also for our neighbour. We hope this realisation will dawn upon Dhaka to produce better results. This problem has to be tackled by both of us.'' Expressing concern over the long, porous India-Bangladesh border in Tripura, Mr Patil said the fencing of the entire stretch would be completed as early as possible. ''We plan to carry on the task without creating any dispute. To make it more effective, we will go for modificatioin, if necessary, in the way we carried out the project earlier,'' he said.

Mr Patil, who visited two border outposts near Agartala during the day, was accompanied by Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar at the press conference.

He said he had a detailed discussion with the Chief Minister on this issues and other problems and exchanged ideas.

''The Chief Minister has made some very good suggestions. We will see how we can implement them,'' he said.

Denying that border fencing would sour India's relations with Bangladesh, the Home Minister said the border problem was a concern for both India and its neighbour, as it had a cascading effect on both sides. ''I do not see any reason why Bangladesh should be unhappy if it is solved.'' The Home Minister said he had discussed with Mr
Sarkar, a wide range of other issues, including disaster management and utilisation of genetic wealth.



03. Patil visits Bangladesh border for confidence building

Akhaura (India-Bangladesh Border), Jan 30 : India's Home Minister Shivraj Patil Sunday stressed the need for improved relations with Bangladesh to check cross-border terrorism along the country's northeastern frontiers.

"Let us work hand in hand and help each other," Patil said.

The minister was talking to Bangladeshi soldiers and officials at a Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border post in Akhaura, two kilometres from Tripura's capital Agartala.

Col. Jahangir Alam led the BDR side during the meeting with Patil. The Bangladeshi soldiers gave Patil a military reception at the outpost and sweets were exchanged between the two sides.

A senior official of India's Border Security Force (BSF) said the visit was a courtesy call aimed at confidence building between the two countries.

"The minister's visit to the BDR post is part of our efforts at building an atmosphere of goodwill where the two countries can help each other in combating militancy and crime," the official said.

The minister arrived in Agartala Sunday afternoon on the first leg of his four-day visit to the northeast to review the internal security situation and matters pertaining to cross-border terrorism.

Patil, accompanied by the Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal and BSF Director General R. Mooshahary, earlier visited an airbase of the BSF at Jaichandrapara and another border outpost at Lankapura.

"The minister reviewed the progress made in the construction of a barbed wire fence in the border areas, besides talking to villagers," the BSF official said.

Tripura shares a 856-km border with Bangladesh, most of the area being unfenced with concrete pillars separating the two nations.

Patil is to hold a high-level security meeting Sunday night with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and top civil and police officials.

He will visit Mizoram Monday and reach Assam's main city of Guwahati Tuesday, when he will chair a meeting of chief ministers of the eight northeastern states, including Sikkim.

"The focus of the meeting will be to work out a coordinated approach to deal with militancy in the region," a home ministry official said.

Patil's visit assumes significance in view of a stepped-up offensive by militants in Assam and Manipur, besides intelligence reports of an increase in cross-border movement of militants along the India-Bangladesh border.

"There are some very disturbing reports indicating a rise in terrorist activities along the Bangladesh border and hence the need to chalk out new strategies to combat the menace," the official said.

The northeastern states have been demanding a unified effort in dealing with insurgency in the region.

"Some strategies are likely to be worked out for better coordination among the northeastern states during the meeting of chief ministers," the official said.