Thursday, June 30, 2005

BANGLADESH: Appearance and reality in Dhaka-Delhi relations

As things stand, India's foreign policy does not seem likely to ease off on the use of psychological pressure on Bangladesh, especially when the BNP-led government is in power. And that will continue to engender resentment against India and Indians among a sizeable section of Bangladeshis. India's relations with Bangladesh had started on a wrong footing almost as soon as the liberation war had ended. The issues were many and varied, but all boiled down to a patronizing Indian attitude that demanded Dhaka's eternal subservience to New Delhi for the part it played in its liberation struggle. One would be a fool not to recognize the vital role that India played in this country's war of independence, but that does not automatically translate into an eternal debt of gratitude and deference. India had its own national interest in mind, rather than any great love for the people of East Bengal, in actively supporting, if not actually orchestrating, the struggle for Bangladesh. If eternal gratitude and deference are the price to pay for another country's act out of pure self-interest, then the United States should be kowtowing to France till eternity. That the actual scenario has been somewhat different is an acknowledgement of the reality of inter-state relations.

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ANALYSIS: India's Afghan Nightmare

New Delhi believes the American proposal is a backhanded way to get India's approval to bring Pakistani troops into Afghanistan. India, which did not supply troops to aid the US in Iraq, will not send its troops to Afghanistan under the US banner either. According to New Delhi, the situation has become worse along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border than it was during Taliban rule. This area is under the control of anti-American and anti-Indian militia which are protected by the Pakistani army. US troops have no capability to break this stranglehold: Washington is dependent on Islamabad to produce an "extremist" as and when they choose. According to one Indian official, Pakistan will certainly revive its old intelligence and jihadi networks in the region, rolling back the political gains the Indians made since the Taliban were ousted from the areas in and around Kandahar and Jalalabad, among other places, following the US attack in late 2001. This official also believes that Pakistan could be planning outright military offensives to take control of the area once the Americans give them the proverbial green light. To run an effective operation to flush out the anti-American Islamic groups from this area requires full cooperation from Pakistan, which, Washington has come to realize, Islamabad will never extend. As a result, all of eastern and southeastern Afghanistan is heading back under control of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and, indirectly, the Pakistan army, who will keep the orthodox anti-American and anti-Indian Taliban in tow.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

INDIA: A history of Intelligence failure

After the war of 1971, I was deputed by defence secretary K B Lall to write a history of the war for the Annual Report of the Ministry of Defence of 1972. I was briefed by Maj General I S Gill who was then Director of Military Operations. The operational directives did not include such war aims as Kissinger claimed Indira Gandhi spelt out. In fact, they were very modest. In the East it was to capture as much territory as possible. In the West it was restricted to carry out the fighting to the extent possible on Pakistani soil. General Jacob, who was then Chief of Staff of our Eastern Command, has brought out in his book, Surrender at Dacca, that the war aim did not specifically include the capture of Dacca.

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U.S. State Department Report Focuses on 1971 India-Pakistan War

This e-volume documents the foreign policy of the Nixon administration toward South Asia, 1969-1972, and should be read in conjunction with Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971 (GPO: Washington, March 2005; IBSN 0-16-072401-5), which documents in depth the period from March to December 1971. Together, these two volumes provide full coverage of U.S. policy toward the larger countries of South Asia. For the period January 1969 to February 1971 and all of 1972, the e-volume released today provides full coverage of U.S. policy toward India and Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the newly created state of Bangladesh. The e-volume also contains documentation that supplements the print volume XI. These additional documents on India and Pakistan for the period March to December 1971 include intelligence assessments, key messages from the U.S. Embassies in Islamabad and New Delhi and the Consulate General in Dacca, responses to National Security Study Memoranda, and full transcripts of Presidential tape recordings that are summarized and excerpted in editorial notes in volume XI.


ANALYSIS: India-US tango becomes more intimate

The Indo-US relationship has survived the Bush administration’s obsession with the "war on terror" in which Pakistan stole the role from India as a close and strategic ally because of its proximity to Afghanistan and also because of President Pervez Musharraf’s enthusiasm in pursuing the American agenda. On India’s part, there is little doubt that its intelligentsia has transformed from being non- aligned and anti-US during the Cold War era to being open to Western overtures and close ties with the US. It questions the US involvement in Iraq — the vehemence among the Muslims is understandably greater than the others — but that has not prevented the burgeoning defence ties being pushed by the Bush administration. What is significant is that there is a measure of consensus. It is still not all hunky dory. Both India and the US still have to live down 40 years of estrangement and misunderstanding. The US has a record of being apathetic and India, plainly hostile. There’s still the deep problem of each side’s inability to listen to the other. A major recent issue is India’s agreeing to be part of the proposed gas pipeline network emanating from Iran. Iran is deeply into it and the US does not like India and Pakistan getting into it. Yet, Indians seem cool about it.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

BANGLADESH: Pondering over Gissing's surprise and a later development

Gissing has placed four alternative proposals for New Delhi and the West Bengal government to mull over. He wants autonomy for his ethnic district of Darjeeling in West Bengal, or a separate state, or integration with Bihar, or unification with Bangladesh. If none of these are granted, then he has demanded a sovereign independent state of "Gorkhaland". The head of the Gorkha Hill Council has advanced several arguments for his extraordinary proposal of integration with Bangladesh: that a hundred years ago Darjeeling was part of Rajshahi, now in Bangladesh, and that the indigenous hill people of Bangladesh lead a happy life in that country. Geesing's demands have the backing of the GNLF's performance in the 22 May 2005 Gorkha Hill Council election, where its candidates bagged all of the available seats. The West Bengal government and New Delhi have some thinking to do, and reportedly are engaged in some serious thinking.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

BANGLADESH: India , US and Bangladesh Puzzle

US apprehension has been based on several recent arms recoveries in Bangladesh , which it thinks were destined for radical groups. Admiral Fallon said, "There have been several seizures of arms. There were some arms shipments. They were not going to the military, they were not going to any group that is up to do good. I don't think arms are very helpful in agriculture, I don't think arms are helping people to come out of poverty." He added, "We know there are people who preach radicalism, who use religion for their own method. We just want to make sure that we are sharing the right information, so that we can work together and make sure that these organizations do not gain a foothold and use the environment to spread their ideas." But the Bangladesh government did not give much attention to the issue. In fact, its foreign minister tried to use the US concern for extracting goodies for Bangladesh . He asked for things which can strengthen the Bangladesh navy.Similarly, India has also expressed its concern over the issue of illegal immigration and support of Bangladesh to insurgents operating in northeast. Bangladesh has been completely insensitive to India ’s worries. The government says that no illegal immigration is taking from Bangladesh . It has the temerity to say that a few thousand Indians are staying illegally in Bangladesh . Similarly, it also denies the presence of northeast insurgents in its territory, though on a number of occasions Indian insurgents have been shot or killed in factional fighting inside Bangladesh . Some of them have been arrested by Bangladesh police. A prominent insurgent leader in Bangladesh police custody is Anup Chetia.

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ASSESSMENT: Renewed Thrust of ISI and Al-Qaeda in Northeast

While the political leaders of the state kept changing their stance over an issue of national importance, the ISI made constant effort to increase its activities in the state. Last year, Indian security forces had arrested Md Hasifuddin, a suspected ISI agent, who is believed to have supplied explosives to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) for the Dhemaji blast in August. This arrest brought to notice the effort of Pakistani agency to step up subversive activities in the region. It is also suspected that a huge quantity of explosives has been smuggled into certain places in Meghalaya. Agencies inimical to India have begun a “renewed thrust” in the Northeast. It is also evident from the activities in the madarssas along the Indo-Bangla border. Agents have been specifically asked to recruit cadres and expand their network in the region. After the US attack on Afghanistan nearly three years ago, reports have been appearing at regular interval regarding the presence of al Qaeda militants in Bangladesh . It is believed that Myanmarese Rohingya militants were trained in camps under the Taliban. Though Dhaka has always been rejecting allegations of a growing fundamentalist network in Bangladesh , a massive network of madarsas that impart religious and arms training to recruits have surfaced in the neighbouring country with the epicenter at Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Islamists from Bangladesh cross over to northeast India and West Bengal and maintain contacts with similar organizations in this region.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

BANGLADESH: No abatement of India's non-military warfare

On June 3 the PTI, the Indian state-run news agency, circulated a report at a news conference in Shillong by the BSF Inspector General of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland, SC Srivastava. The agency quoted him as claiming that the rebel United Liberation Front of Assam is running seven international standard hotels in Bangladesh, and also operating accounts in two private banks in Bangladesh, to fund its insurgent activities in northeast India. It was a new type of pinpointed accusation after a previous list was given by the Indian BSF to the Bangladesh Rifles about the existence of 195 Indian rebel camps in Bangladesh for arms training in different parts of the country including Dhaka city. Most of the places mentioned in the list on investigation turned out to be in densely populated areas and open to public access including government offices and semi-government properties, and all the allegations proved to be false. On the publication of the PTI news about alleged ULFA hotel operations and bank accounts in Bangladesh, there was a prompt government investigation and a denial was issued by the Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh, calling the allegations baseless and unfortunate, as it came at a time when Bangladesh was taking strong action against border-crossing Indians with suspect connections located in Bangladesh. Several newspapers of Bangladesh sent their own investigative reporters to independently probe the alleged ULFA activities in Bangladesh. Here is what they found.

Infiltration Menace - Part 2- Diplomacy Needed To Enlighten World Community

Western analysts and immigration experts have identified two distinct strategies for affecting the behaviour of delinquent states. One strategy can be to compel a state to cease violating the human rights of its citizens. On the other hand, a deterrent strategy is useful to prevent a state from violating the human rights of its citizens. Ordinarily, in dealing with a recalcitrant state, a deterrent policy is considered more effective because the latter is likely to induce an intense and nationalist response. In the case of Bangladesh, which has consistently refused to be reasonable and acknowledge the fact of immigration, it is open to serious doubt if a deterrent strategy will work. The success or otherwise of any form of intervention will depend on how sustained and aggressive South Block diplomacy can be to enlighten the international community of the growing threat this country is facing from the unmitigated demographic invasion from the east. Do our diplomats have the necessary expertise and motivation to enlist the sympathy and support of the international community? Does the government have the political will to tackle the problem to the finish? Going by their track record so far, the answer to these questions regrettably has to be an emphatic “no’’.

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NUPTIALS: India-Pakistan: Not a happy marriage

Indeed, the Ibrahim-Miandad matrimonials are a real googly (in cricketing parlance, a ball that is difficult to read). If Miandad represented the peak of cricketing excellence, Ibrahim is the man India wants the most for the series of crimes he has allegedly committed and supposedly continues to orchestrate.The fact file on Ibrahim is impressive in the hierarchy of terrorists. He has been declared India's Osama bin Laden by New Delhi. In 2003, the US labeled Ibrahim a "global terrorist". He is wanted by India for the March 12, 1993, Mumbai stock exchange bombings, which killed hundreds of Indians and injured over a thousand more. Ibrahim's syndicate is reportedly involved in large-scale shipments of narcotics in the UK and Western Europe. Not a week goes by without speculation about Ibrahim in the Indian media - that he lives a lavish life in Karachi, enjoys the hospitality of the top bosses in Pakistan, has married an Indian Bollywood actress, is still close to the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI), or has fallen out of favor. The latest, that his daughter is getting married to Miandad's son, has New Delhi smarting, though there has been no official response yet. Reports suggest that Ibrahim's daughter Mahrukh and Miandad's son Junaid grew up together in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Junaid studied at Oxford University in London, where Mahrukh is also based, and the two reportedly became engaged last year. It was a fairy-tale love story in which they should live happily ever after, until the ISI got involved. The contention of the ISI was that the marriage did not reflect well on Pakistan, which has held all along that it did not know anything about Ibrahim's whereabouts. Reports say it took some cajoling of higher-ups by ISI officials known to Miandad that allowed the marriage to happen. A happy ending, one should say.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rewind to 1971: 'Indians are bastards anyway'

Indians are "a slippery, treacherous people", said president Richard Nixon. "The Indians are bastards anyway. They are the most aggressive goddamn people around," echoed his assistant for national security affairs, Henry Kissinger. The setting: a White House meeting on July 16, 1971, during the run-up to the India-Pakistan war which ultimately led to the birth of Bangladesh, erstwhile East Pakistan. The US State Department recently declassified some of the Nixon White House tapes and secret documents that bring to light the way in which the Nixon administration went about the Bangladesh saga, reflecting the potential of mindsets and personal equations taking precedence over ground realities in White House decisionmaking. In 1971, some 3 million people are estimated to have been killed in the genocide unleashed by Pakistan's military government on East Pakistan, leading to a rush of refugees into India, drawing India into a swift and decisive war that eventually forced Pakistan's hand. But all along, the Nixon administration sided with the military establishment of Pakistan over democratic India because of Nixon's "special relationship" with Pakistan's handsome military dictator, General Yahya Khan, and his uncontrolled revulsion at the "old witch" Indira Gandhi, India's then prime minister.

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INDIA: Inflitration Menace - Part 1-:Fear Of Socio-Political Tensions In The North-East

Video cassettes containing inflammable communal propaganda material imported by Bangladeshi migrants openly circulate in the border districts of West Bengal and the Barak Valley of Assam, boosting Islamic fundamentalism in the regions. Mullahs in Murshidabad district have imposed social and economic boycott against Sufi bauls who sing paeans of humanism, but the state administration has turned a blind eye to such acts of intransigence lest action against the miscreants affect Left Front vote bank. Bangladeshi infiltrators in collusion with local CPI-M cadres and mafia dons have unleashed a reign of terror in the outlying panchayats of Nadia, Murshidabad and Malda districts. Many migrants openly cultivate ganja in border areas on land bought from local Hindus who are fleeing to towns for security. The contraband is smuggled to Bangladesh in exchange for firearms and explosives that land at ethnic and Maoist insurgent bases in North Bengal, Assam and Nepal. Needless to say, the CPI-M-underworld nexus helps fill the party coffers. In the backdrop of these stark realities, the dilly-dallying by the state and Union governments in addressing the problem of illegal immigration has produced backlash in the Upper Assam districts. A hitherto unknown organisation called Chiring Chapori Yuva Morcha in Dibrugarh has imposed economic sanctions against migrants, including denial of employment. As the blockade got under way, Bangladeshi workers began fleeing away from the Upper Assam districts to the immigrants-dominated five districts of Dhubri, Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Morigaon and Nowgaon, aggravating, in the process, the existing communal imbalance in the Lower Assam region.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

ASSESSMENT: Exploitation in Northeastern India

Bangladesh should now ask UN and other international forums to form an international committee, which should also include the Indians to investigate the Indian allegations. Anand Kumar said," The question which now arises is why ULFA is so reluctant to come to the negotiating table." Then Anand Kumar himself answered, "The answer probably lies in the business interests that ULFA has developed in Bangladesh during the course of insurgency in the state." This argument is totally baseless. The main reason of ULFA's reluctance to sit in a negotiating table is very clear and the Indians also know it. Anand Kumar also mentioned it in the outset of his article saying, " To start negotiations, ULFA has kept conditions, which most people know would be difficult for New Delhi to accept. It wants to discuss the issue of sovereignty, which everybody knows cannot be discussed beyond a point",ibid. Why should the Indians blame Bangladesh for their own problem?

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GLOBAL JIHAD: “I see now you have no liberty

In March, a dozen federal agents raided her home before dawn, seizing her diary, schoolwork, phone book and computer. They took Tashnuba, too--on the pretext that her mother’s immigration papers had expired. For the next two weeks, she was held at a Pennsylvania detention center, where as many as three agents at a time grilled her: about her friends, her notes and essays for school--even the way she decorated her bedroom. “They had their little tactics--start with nice questions, try to get more severe,” Tashnuba told the New York Times. “In the end, when I did cry they were, like, mocking me.” After a public outcry, Tashnuba was finally released after six weeks behind bars--on the condition that her mother agree to “voluntary departure” with her daughter back to Bangladesh. Now, Tashnuba’s father and 14-year-old brother are in hiding in New York City, trying to avoid deportation while the boy finishes school. Tashnuba, her mother, baby brother and little sister are sharing a bed at her grandmother’s cramped apartment in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Tashnuba Hayder is one of hundreds of immigrants rounded up as part of the Bush administration’s “war on terror.” According to the Washington Post, in the past two years alone, officials have filed immigration charges against more than 500 people who have come under scrutiny in national security investigations.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

INTERVIEW: The pawns who pay as powers play

The biggest curse in Pakistan is things done in the name of patriotism. I do not buy this theory. Patriotism is a vague term until it is allied with a proper ideology. I remember Colonel [Syed] Farooq's words [Farooq was a Bangladeshi officer who took part in the killing of Sheikh Mujib Rehman - Bangladesh's founding father - and his family in 1975] when he visited Pakistan in the late 1980s. He said that before the partition of British India [1947] he was a loyal citizen of the East India Company, then Pakistan, and even joined the Pakistan army. Then he became a loyal citizen of Bangladesh, and he said he may become loyal to something else in the future. Therefore, patriotism for a piece of land is nonsense............Read Full Commentary

Friday, June 17, 2005

BANGLADESH: State of denial

Bangladesh could export some of its large natural gas reserves to India, but nationalist sentiment and deteriorating relations between the neighbours makes this politically unpalatable. After September 11th, Bangladesh has been accused of harbouring Islamic terrorists: the chaotic political scene both undermines democracy and encourages extremism. The most densely populated of the world's big countries, Bangladesh is also among the most sparsely covered by the international press. This is in part the government's choice: it makes it hard for foreign journalists to visit. When they do, it tends not to like what they write, especially recent suggestions that Bangladesh is witnessing a rise in Islamic extremism, and becoming a haven for international terrorists. The government is right that claims of “Talibanisation” are exaggerated. Bangladesh remains a relatively liberal and tolerant place. But it is becoming less so, and that is a concern.

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BANGLADESH: Questions, Bitterness and Exile for Queens Girl in Terror Case

The story of how it happened - how Tashnuba, the pious, headstrong daughter of Muslim immigrants living in a neighborhood of tidy lawns and American flags, was labeled an imminent threat to national security - is still shrouded in government secrecy. After nearly seven weeks in detention, she was released in May on the condition that she leave the country immediately. Only immigration charges were brought against her and another 16-year-old New York girl, who was detained and released. Federal officials will not discuss the matter. But as the first terror investigation in the United States known to involve minors, the case reveals how deeply concerned the government is that a teenager might become a terrorist, and the lengths to which federal agents will go if they get even a whiff of that possibility. And it has drawn widespread attention, stoking the debate over the right balance between government vigilance and the protection of individual freedoms. It is not known what prompted the authorities to investigate Tashnuba, who says the accusations are false. But in a series of interviews - her first - she said the government had apparently discovered her visits to an Internet chat room where she took notes on sermons by a charismatic Islamic cleric in London, a sheik who has long been accused of encouraging suicide bombings.

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BANGLADESH: A letter from a friend of Israel

In Bangladesh and certainly elsewhere in the Muslim world many of us have a blind spot. And I am ashamed to say that it is with regard to the Jewish people and Israel that too many conveniently ignore the nobler, and even essential, principles of Islam and of basic human decency. The Islamic missionaries who have taken root in Bangladesh recently have, of course, a very different agenda than their Christian counterparts. Funded by shadowy sources in the Middle East and Africa, they operate under charitable-sounding names like Islamic Hospital, Free Ambulance Service, and Kindergarten madrassa. But charitable they are not. Whispered allegations for louder objections place you at considerable risk that Islamic kindergarten madrassas train children for guerrilla war found support when many of their graduates went on to real battlegrounds in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some even volunteered to fight alongside the PLO and other terrorist organizations here. Repatriated Soldiers from Palestine, an organization in Bangladesh, cares for "soldiers" wounded in the fighting here, and then recruits a fresh batch of terrorists to take their place. You might think such revelations would place these organizations in a bad light. Yet, if anything, to my chagrin, it improves their standing in the eyes of many Bangladeshi citizens.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

GLOBAL JIHAD: Osama's Road to Riches and Terror

Mohammed bin Laden had no quarrels with either the preachers or the princes; his only goal was to make it to the top, and the construction business was the ideal launching pad. The kingdom needed roads, railroads and airports. Bin Laden senior built ramps in the palace for the handicapped King Abd al-Aziz's wheelchair and highways into the mountains for his luxury cars. Bin Laden was later named Minister of Public Spending, and the royal family even awarded him the contract to renovate the country's holy sites. The family business, SBG, quickly developed into the court builder for the entire Saudi infrastructure. Following an old Islamic tradition, the bin Laden senior kept numerous wives. In 1956, he sired child number 17 with a Syrian woman from Latakia, and the boy was named Osama. It must have been difficult for the patriarch to keep track of his family; ten years later, child number 54 was born -- Mohammed bin Laden's last offspring. In 1968, the patriarch was killed when his Cessna, piloted by an American, crashed -- a foreshadowing of things to come. The king placed the family business, SBG, under the management of a trustee, making the bin Laden sons the de facto wards of the monarch. Osama was ten years old at the time and he was occasionally allowed to ride along on the company's bulldozers. But he had hardly known his father -- a deficit he recognized only later in life when he elevated the family's patriarch to the status of Spiritus Rector in matters of Islamic fundamentalism. Even as a boy, Osama was always considered the "holy one" in the family. He drew attention to himself when he denounced school soccer tournaments as a godless waste of time and assiduously monitored the houses of neighbors, taking it upon himself to enforce the state's prohibition of music. He enrolled in the economics program at Jeddah's King Abd al-Aziz University, where the curriculum was determined by anti-Western agitators from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

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INDIA: The ULFA Business

On the issue of Bangladeshi immigration ULFA says that it is against all foreigners that include Indians who have come from other parts of India . It knows this kind of condition would be difficult for the Indian state to meet. The question which now arises is why ULFA is so reluctant to come to the negotiating table. The answer probably lies in the business interests that ULFA has developed in Bangladesh during the course of insurgency in the state. In the last week of May, Bangladesh had claimed that it has started a crackdown against the insurgent groups active in northeast India . Its security forces reportedly killed five militants of the National Liberation Front of Tripura in an encounter on May 27. Immediately, after this so called crackdown, India on June 3 unveiled a list of hotels and other assets allegedly owned by the ULFA in Bangladesh . The Border Security Force’s top official in the Northeast, S.C. Shrivastava disclosed that ULFA leaders based in Bangladesh were managing as many as seven hotels of “international standard.” Besides, they also owned some nursing homes. He alleged that the militant group owned Surma International, Hotel Mohammadia and Padma International in Dhaka, Keya International and Hotel Yamuna in Sylhet and Hotel Basundhara and Hotel Raj King in Chittagong . He said the managers of these hotels were ULFA militants who operated under aliases such as Ahmed, Kamal Hossain, Saidul, Shoal, Humayun and Rubel.

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ASSESSMENT: US Hegemony In The Far East Under Seige

The Indians pretty much are up to the same tricks and are a bit louder about their success at creating friction with the United States. "None of us in Asia should fall victim to the strategies of outsiders. The only way to counter the geopolitics of others is to have our own geopolitics" said Aiyer. His country is making headway in sidestepping old rivalries -like the one with Myanmar- in the region and securing access to energy resources way ahead of when it needs them. Although India is home to more than 15 percent of the world's population, it accounts for only 3 percent of world oil consumption. China, by contrast, consumes 7.6 percent of the world's oil. By 2020 India is expected to have to import 80 percent of its energy needs. Even though India is not a huge consumer of energy yet, its one billion population will soon be and India's decision to make oil central to its foreign policy evidences it is looking ahead more than most powers in this region. This is mainly because the country feels it cannot afford to lose out to China, which has been snatching oil deals from under its nose continuously, notably in Africa and Indonesia during times oil prices were way lower. Indian negotiations with Iran over a pipeline to India via Pakistan are the main source of friction with the US, which is pursuing a policy of isolating Iran. India, replicating US logic, says that by having the pipeline pass through Pakistan, it can ameliorate relations with this country in one move. The rhetoric falls just about short of talk of democracy. The deal with Iran is expected to be signed in June. Russia is also part of it.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

INDIA: ULFA Wants to Talk - Or Does it?

ULFA 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Baruah has reportedly endorsed the negotiation process initiated by Goswami, but his statements to the media remain mired in histrionics and follow an escalatory trajectory. There has been a great deal of formalism regarding the character of the formal invitation from the Government, with ULFA insisting that it would not consider an offer of talks unless it received a letter "with official seal and signature". Six months later, after receiving the scanned version of the letter provided by the National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan to mediator Indira Goswami by e-mail on May 24, Baruah said that a letter "sent through the internet" would not suffice, insisting, "The original has not come as yet. We want a letter in the format in which we had sent our offer to the Centre," a position that was reiterated on June 10 by ULFA 'chairman' Arabinda Rajkhowa. Quickly thereafter, ULFA has demanded the release of the group's arrested 'central committee' members on the grounds that a 'quorum' needs to be completed to discuss the Union Government's invitation. Four of ULFA's top leaders, including 'vice chairman' Pradip Gogoi, 'advisor' Bhimkanta Buragohain, 'cultural secretary' Pranati Deka and 'publicity secretary' Mithinga Daimari are presently behind bars.

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ISLAM: Search for a Muslim Ideal in South Asia- The Path to Inclusion

When Islam emerged from the Arabian peninsula in the 7th century and first engaged the peoples of what is now the Middle East, North Africa and Spain, it interacted with populations that were largely Jewish or Christian. In short, it was interacting with peoples who were still within the Abrahamic traditions -- the idea of an invisible omnipotent God, of common prophets and of a list of commandments were familiar. Within this tradition, some figures were shared like Abraham who was considered as both patriarch and prophet. In spite of their differences, the Abrahamic faiths had remarkable similarities and points of contact. But in South Asia, Islam met Hinduism, a completely different religious system. Not only was the notion of the divine very different and it took very different forms but here was a civilization which was both ancient and sophisticated. It was a civilization, which had already created great works of architecture, art and literature. Everything was inspired by religion and yet everything was cultural. Even the name, Hinduism, was not a religious name, but derived from the river Indus and the word itself goes back to the time when invaders who came to the subcontinent arrived at the river Indus -- or Ind -- and called the people "Hindi" or the people of the Indus.

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INDIA: Messing up with the Naxalites

How is it that naxalites have thrived despite the effort of law enforcing agencies for all these years in over 11 states? What is so unique about them? Experts like Dr Ramana have already written about them. In all analyses on naxalites a few things come out clear: they thrive on existing anomalies of governance, political system and social disparities that are the weaknesses of our democratic system. Another thing that emerges is that qualitatively they are different from the ideological dreamers and founding fathers of Naxalism of the 60s like Charu Mazumdar. The present generation of naxalites are cynical products of a civilization that has adopted coercive persuasion by any means as part of its life style. (This is the same life style that has bred psychological persuaders such as advertorials of well-known newspapers and physical persuaders like gun-toting goons of political-criminals masquerading as policy-makers). So if the society wants to handle this problem successfully, it has to look for solutions within existing environment rather than depending purely on law books of Lord Macaulay’s vintage or selective parliamentary practices of Westminster system.

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

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NEPAL: Maoist leaders in Delhi: An inside story

The Indian intelligence department, RAW, has had its hands soiled in many political episodes in South Asia right from Sikkim’s integration (into India) to the establishment of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka’s Tamil rebellion. P. K. Hermiz Tarakan who was appointed chief of RAW early this year is reputed to have an in-depth knowledge about Nepal’s politics. Under the garb of an Indian diplomat, he was the RAW chief in Nepal until May/June 2001. Has Tarakan, who was set to retire this month had he not been promoted, chosen to make some political maneuverings so as to make his importance felt? Some do think along this line. But Dr. Bhattarai has flatly denied the fact that the Indian intelligence officers had a role in his Delhi mission. Irrespective of whoever he met through whatever medium, it is clear that after Bhattarai’s latest Delhi tour, the Maoists have received political recognition from the Indian government, in an undeclared fashion though. It is worth mentioning here that it was India, before the Nepal government itself, which declared the Maoists as terrorists way back in 2001. Prachanda has used Baburam, who is said to have “Indian leaning”, with a conscious effort of making India positive towards himself. On his part, to that end, Bhattarai is giving more emphasis on trying his luck through the Indian leftists who are in the government.

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PAKISTAN: Ayub And The Fog Of '65

He was keen to tell me something which was not complimentary to our armed forces. His story was that our armour had chinks. I was sure it had. But I was taken aback when he said that a copy of topmost secret papers from India's military headquarters would be "with us before they reached Nehru's table". The Indian military headquarters and its prime minister's office were located in the South Block—as they still are. Those days you could talk through corridors from one end to the other. Security requirements had not yet blocked passages. Nor had gates been built within gates. How could a paper conceivably reach Pakistan intelligence agencies before a messenger covered a few yards to deliver it at Nehru's office?

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Friday, June 10, 2005

INDIA: A Failed State

The two instances are part of a pattern: Bangladesh’s espousal of lebensraum policy to push its nationals to India and its promotion of the Islamist cause. In an interview with, Lt Gen SK Sinha (Retd), former governor of the Indian state of Assam bordering Bangladesh, said in July 2000, “Even a friend of India like Sheikh Mujibur Rehman [father of Bangladesh, erstwhile known as East Pakistan] wrote in his book that East Pakistan should be given more space and the mineral wealth of Assam for his people to improve their lot. And in the 1990s, intellectuals in Dhaka began talking about lebensraum, which in German means living space, and they have been targeting Assam and the northeast. They have even been saying that with globalization, you have free movement of goods across international boundaries. There should also be free movement of labor, which means movement of population.”

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NEW: About South Asian Open Source Intelligence

This is to update readers to the newest offering from DBISM, the South Asian Open Source Intelligence Feed which commenced today. Within the new 48 hours the live feeds should appear in the main page on TOP RIGHT > and do keep yours EYES on the section.

This is what we have for today:

Uzbek uprising was planned in Afghanistan: Russian Defence Minister
Russian defense minister comes out for military operations in Afghanistan to suppress terrorists
Iran helped overthrow Taliban, candidate says

Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary General touring the US, lobbying Congress
Policy for the defence of Bangladesh
Arms smuggling in B’desh refugee camps
Bidisha scared to narrate police 'torture'

Comrades in Delhi
PM flexible on holding talks with ULFA: Gogoi
U.S. drug crackdown: 45 Indian Americans arrested
Did the ISI lay a trap for Advani?
North East - NSCN- ULFA
‘Leaders of India, Pak are US agents’
Indo-US military agreement in offing
Army upset with PLA intrusions in Arunachal


Nepal floats global tender to procure arms
US considering delay of rifle shipment


Millions for madarsas Pakistan reform plan
US House committee rejects move to block F-16 sale to Pakistan
Sleeper Cells Waiting To Strike?
FBI agents help Pakistan probe shrine blast

NEPAL: Ominous Activism Across The Southern Border

The next phase of New Delhi's plan involves the mobilization of the Indian army against the Maoist faction outside the peace process. For this, India will seek the full cooperation of the United States, Britain and China. The crisis in Nepal would be raised at the United Nations Security Council. If a resolution mandating an international stabilizing force were to be adopted, India's insistence would be that the bulk of the peacekeepers come from South Asian nations with experience of international peacekeeping operations.

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INDIA: When a hawk turns dove

The good news emerging from the Advani visit is that there is unanimity among the political parties, including the ruling Congress, that the peace process has to be persisted with. The BJP can always have a stake in it for having initiated the process when former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee met Musharraf last January.The issue of the politics of the region taking an about-turn is more complex. Some observers have gone to the extent of saying that Advani has written his political epitaph in Pakistan. Other say the change is only skin deep and that Advani has gotten carried away by the emotion of his trip, as he was born in Karachi. He will soon be back to his old "hawkish" self, they say.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

BANGLADESH : Crackdown on Terror or Image-building Exercise?

The relationship between the BSF and the BDR had dipped to a new low after the killing of the BSF officer Jiban Kumar at Lankamura in Tripura on April 16 this year. This incident had done damage to the image of the BDR which was seen as an organization involved in promoting smuggling in the bordering areas. To improve its image, BDR wanted to take some action which can put the force in a positive light. Besides, the aim was also to reduce to the hostility generated after the killing of the BSF officer. Similarly, the elite anti-crime force, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) involved in the operation is also suffering from a poor image. Inside Bangladesh , RAB has become notorious for human rights violation for alleged extra-judicial killings in the name of 'crossfire'. For this the organization was criticized by the international community and human rights organizations. The operation in Moulvibazar could have been conducted single-handedly by BDR. But, the assistance of RAB was also sought so that the success of operation would boost its image.

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ANALYSIS: India - Eastern Disturbances

An invitation to talks imparts some legitimacy to a secessionist outfit. But what can be the result of such talks? These outfits should be treated solely as a law and order problem. Surely nobody will buy the argument that even with all its might, the Centre cannot effectively deal with it. The problem is that political parties in India have always believed in patching up secret deals with troublemakers to gain political mileage later. Rajiv Gandhi had tried this with the AASU. The ploy failed, and now there seems to be an attempt to play the same game with the ULFA. In the meantime, Pakistan has got the ULFA exactly where it wants.

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BANGLADESH: Trash is Cash

At the Green Road Government Colony in downtown Dhaka, five Waste Concern employees go door to door collecting refuse from 800 households, hauling it by rickshaw vans to a nearby shed. There they sort out any inorganic material before placing the trash into five brick bins. With a little help from microorganisms, the natural climate here takes care of the rest, turning the heaps of rotting garbage into a valuable product: biofertilizer. Each month, the plant produces 3 million tons of bio-fertilizer, which sells for about $4 per kilogram. The revenue is enough to make the operation self-sustaining, covering production costs and providing well-paying jobs to employees.

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MYANMAR: US based studnts warns India on deceptive Chinese moves

Since 1988, in the aftermath of the failed nationwide uprisings in Burma, the Co Co Islands and Hine-gyi Island, strategically placed in the Indian Ocean and commanding the sea lanes from the Indian Ocean to the Far East and the Pacific, are in China’s hands, courtesy of the present ruling military oligarchy in Rangoon. Air strips and naval bases are being built and Chinese vessels manned by ethnic Chinese, flying Burmese flags and fitted with modern day hi-tech gears are snooping on India at all times, as you might very well know. This certainly posed a clear and present danger on India, the world’s largest democracy, by the world’s remaining largest communist country.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

DIASPORA: Fake Stories of Bangladeshis Intruding Into India

Groups like All Assam Students Union (AASU), Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad, Tai Ahom Students Union and Motok Students Union also joined the campaign. As it is well known in Assam these student organisatons are directly or indirectly controlled by RAW. ASSU, the prophet of anti-immigrant campaign in Assam, now uses the anti-outsider sentiment against the Muslims, who are in the truest sense of the term are not outsiders, as they have assimilated with the Ahoms, the sons of the soil. It is not the Muslims who capture and control the key positions of Assam, but the outsiders who came from West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajsthan, Punjab and other states of India. Now the common people of Assam want to get rid of these Indians. To frustrate this sentiment and divert the attention of the people from the real outsiders, the vested quarters let loose its operatives and agents in Assam and elsewhere in the region to create anti-Muslim sentiment mainly for two reasons.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

BANGLADESH: An Open Letter to Professor Muhammad Yunus

You would like to keep the Commission corruption free. I would like congratulating you for this noble intention. However, the reality is such that you would be a helpless swimmer in the ocean of corruption, eventually to drown and die unlamented. Your close associates would call you a stupid and an idiot, “who despite having the opportunity to make a fortune remained honest and died a pauper.” Don’t you know Professor Yunus that the average Bangladeshi rich and powerful, poor and helpless, educated and others believe in the maxim: “Churi bidya baro bidya, jadi na paro dhara” [Stealing is a big art provided you do not get caught red handed]? And they also know that only the pilferers and pick pockets are caught red handed and punished while the big thugs involved in the purchase of civil and military hardware and disbursement of foreign aid and grants as ministers, bureaucrats and NGO-Wallas not only remain unpunished but glorified as patriots and as “the only honest person among his/her peers”. I am surprised at your total indifference to the prevalent culture that glorifies, justifies and legitimises corruption.

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GLOBAL JIHAD: Hot on the trail of al-Qaeda

In Shabkadar and Bajur especially, the Pakistani military increased its presence and conducted exhaustive search operations. These activities did not meet with any resistance as the local tribals, though sympathetic to Arab fighters, would not put themselves in a conflict situation with the Pakistani army. (This in stark contrast with the South and North Waziristan tribal areas, where similar military intervention has met with fierce and bloody resistance.) Al-Qaeda sympathizers, nevertheless, might have spread the word in advance of the operations. According to analysis based on information extracted from detainees and ground checks in the Pakistani tribal areas, bin Laden was likely recently in Nooristan in Afghanistan for meetings with close aides. Nooristan is a rugged, remote mountainous region where the population is Salafi. The area was previously the stronghold of a famous commander of the anti-Soviet resistance of the 1980s, Abdul Aziz Nooristani, who later also fought in Bosnia. Veteran Afghan mujahideen leader and former Afghan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar also dwelled in Nooristan for some time after returning from exile in Iran in 2002.

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INDIA: The Jinnah tangle - It is a tamasha that could turn very dangerous

Now to the question in the beginning, which is, what is this tamasha all about? If you consider the obviously separate but similar stands taken by the Congress and RSS, that Jinnah is not secular, there is an internal consistency about it. The RSS and the Sangha Parivar, including the forerunner of the BJP, the Jana Sangha, have stood for Akhand Bharat. By forcefully advancing the Two-Nation Theory, that Hindus and Muslim are two nations that cannot co-exit, Jinnah won a separate Pakistan, but after the partitioning of the sub-continent. This Partition the RSS does not accept. It may still accept Partition as a reality, who does not but some cranks, but it cannot forgive Jinnah for precipitating it. Never. Thus Advani’s defence of Jinnah is unacceptable.

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BANGLADESH: Rantburg on the Bidisha saga!

On today's Jerry: Gold-digging Banglababes and the ex-dictators who love them!

A day after landing his wife in court on charges of theft, former Bangladesh dictator Hussain Mohammad Ershad flew out of the country Monday, denouncing the mother of his only son as a bigamist. “She cheated me. She has got two husbands,” the one-time military strongman, now 77, told a large crowd of reporters at Dhaka’s Zia International airport en route to Saudia Arabia.

"I am going to Arabia, and you all can go to hell!"

Ershad said he believed his wife was a bigamist because she had named her former husband as her spouse in a 2002 passport application. “She didn’t divorce her former husband ... I divorced her on June 3,” he added, without giving details of any official divorce proceedings.

"I never even knew I had a husband-in-law! I'm an ex-dictator! She can't do that to me!"

Ershad’s secretary Khaled Akhter told AFP that Ershad believed his second wife had not divorced her British husband, Peter Wilson. “He (Ershad) divorced her on Friday,” he said, also declining to elaborate. On Sunday, Bidisha Ershad, 35, collapsed in court when she appeared to face allegations of theft, criminal damage, and making threats to Ershad’s life. Police arrested her on Saturday after Ershad accused her of stealing money and ornaments, damaging property, and threatening to kill him. Her lawyers said the second wife of the former president was the victim of a “deep conspiracy”.

"Yeah! It's a deep-laid plot if I ever saw one!

Television newscasts on Saturday showed dramatic scenes of her threatening to throw herself from an upper storey of her apartment building before police managed to take her into custody.

"Jump! Jump!"

Their deteriorating relationship has been making headlines in recent weeks in Bangladeshi newspapers. On Thursday, Ershad, Bangladesh’s military ruler between 1982 and 1990, expelled his wife from his centrist Jatiya Party, the third largest party in parliament. The couple married five years ago after a long affair. As well as a young son with Ershad, Bidisha Ershad has two sons with her former husband Wilson.

"Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!"

Saturday, June 04, 2005

ISLAM: A Bold Voice From Indonesia

The issue of Islamist radicalism is often seen in a sociological vacuum, as if it comes out of nowhere. The fact, however, is that Islamist radicalism cannot be understood without situating it in the context of the broader political economy, and as resulting from certain local and global social, economic, cultural and political structures and processes of domination and exclusion. There can be no smoke without fire. So, unless these structures and processes are tackled, how can you expect radicalism to disappear? Focusing only on the phenomenon of radicalism and ignoring its underlying structural causes will only exacerbate the problem and delay and further complicate its solution. Of course, dominant elites, both in Indonesia and in the West, do not want to recognize this as they themselves are deeply implicated in these structures that give rise to the phenomenon of radicalism as a reaction or response, and that is why you will find that many among them would insist that Islamist radicalism is a result simply a deviant understanding of Islam and that it has nothing to do with exploitation, predatory capitalism, western consumerist culture, or imperialism and so on. And then one must also remember that extremism and terrorism are not easily defined, and it all depends on who does the defining and why. So, one must ask, how and why does Saddam Hussain come to be defined as a 'terrorist', while America's brutal invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan (where I just spent six months), which has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people, does not qualify to be called an act of terror?

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Friday, June 03, 2005

INDIA: Enemy attack

Gohar Ayub’s intentions may be suspect. He could be promoting his forthcoming book, which makes the allegation, by creating a controversy, he could be trying to build up his late father, the self-promoted Field Marshal Ayub Khan, he could be trying to scuttle the peace process between India and Pakistan, because he has visceral hatred for India, or he could be acting on an ISI plan to hit at General Pervez Musharraf. Anything and everything is possible, including that he is lying, or alternatively telling the truth, but to say that an Indian brigadier won’t sell out is to shut your eyes to reality. But was there a sell-out? By the so-called clues provided by Gohar Ayub, the field narrows to two men who were director of military operations (DMOs) with the rank of brigadier, unlike the DGMO now who is a lieutenant-general, and they are Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and Major-General (retired) D.K.Palit. The other brigadier DMOs of the rough period upto the 1965 war are no longer alive.

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NEPAL: Maoists put India on the spot

According to S D Muni, a widely acknowledged expert on Himalayan affairs, engaging the Maoists is "a good idea". He pointed out that India's ruling elite had initially shied away from the communists, who are in an armed struggle to create a kingless republic, because of pressure from various right-wing lobbies that "are working on behalf of Nepal's King Gyanendra and his coterie". Speaking to Inter Press Service in an interview, Muni - who teaches international relations at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University - identified these lobbies as "the Indian army, the United States [with which New Delhi works closely on the Nepal crisis] and members of India's high society, some of whom have blood ties with the Nepalese monarchy". Yet another lobby that has been vocal in supporting the king against the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) are Hindu fundamentalists that belong to various organizations affiliated to the powerful Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that leads the national opposition in India's parliament.

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INDIA: The Arbiters Of Hindutva

While Hindutva ideologues present themselves as saviours of Muslim women from what they describe as the ‘tyranny’ of Islam, they are fiercely opposed to any measures that might threaten Brahminical Hindu patriarchy. Thus, the cover story of the last issue of Organiser, the RSS’ official English weekly, protesting against a move to reform Hindu marriage, should come as no surprise. Titled, ‘A Mischievous Proposal to Tinker With Hindu Faith’, and written by a certain R. Balashankar, the article furiously denounces the proposal put forward by the Tamil politician, M. Karunanidhi, leader of the anti-Brahmin Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham, to allow for ‘self-respect’ marriages that do without a mandatory priest, who is generally a Brahmin.

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