INDIA
PAKISTAN
NEPAL
BHUTAN
BANGLADESH
SRI LANKA
Terrorism Update
Latest
S.A.Overview
Publication
Show/Hide Search
HomePrint
 
    Click to Enlarge
   

SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 2, No. 26, January 12, 2004

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal



ASSESSMENT

INDIA
PAKISTAN

Another Peace Gambit
K.P.S. Gill
Publisher, SAIR; President, Institute for Conflict Management

It would be tedious to list out how many times India and Pakistan have 'agreed to talk', and the disastrous record of failure and recurrent violence. The Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, noted rightly, at the South Asian Association for Regional Summit Cooperation (SAARC) at Islamabad last week, "History can remind us, guide us, teach us or warn us. It should not shackle us."

It is, however, not history that 'shackles' India and Pakistan to violence in Kashmir, but ideology: the unrelenting ideology of extremist Islam that underlies the creation and existence of Pakistan - expressed in the two-nation theory that holds that Muslims and non-Muslims cannot coexist within the same political order - and that fuels the jehad factories that continue to feed the supply lines of terror across much of the world. This ideology, and no other legal or historical entitlement, is the basis of Pakistan's 'claim' on Kashmir; this again, is why the violence does not end.

Cynicism, however, is not a particularly productive perspective, and it is useful to examine how the rhetoric of the unscheduled joint Indo-Pakistan Press Statement, which hijacked the agenda at the SAARC Summit, is to be assessed. What, realistically, should be our expectations from the current 'peace process'?

An examination of the harsh realities of the ground in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) provides insufficient evidence of a radical discontinuity with past trends in terrorist violence. Violence did, of course, decline in year 2003, as compared to 2002, even as 2002 represented a decline against 2001 (Total fatalities, 2001: 4507; 2002: 3022; 2003: 2542). This downward trend is overwhelmingly seen as a consequence of a radically altered international context, and the increasing difficulty of managing the internal contradictions of the situation in Pakistan. There is sufficient evidence in the actions and statements of the Pakistani state and its leadership, which demonstrates no fundamental change in ideology, perspective or strategic intent.

Nevertheless, for those who focus intently and exclusively on the 'ground realities', it is sometimes useful to remember that sentiment itself is part of this ground reality. And there are many, particularly in the English language Press in India and Pakistan, who believe that the sentiment has changed in South Asia, and that there is a genuine desire for peace and coexistence between the people of the two countries. Little of this was evidenced in the commentaries of the various Pakistani 'experts' who were allowed to swamp the Indian media during the SAARC summit, and who exhibited no dilution of the rigidity and stridency of their positions.

Nor, indeed, does the average Indian believe that there is a possibility of a lasting peace between the two countries, given the track record of the past over five and a half decades. Indeed, with the large number of security personnel who have been dying in action against the Pakistan-sponsored terrorists in J&K, anger against Pakistan is high particularly among the rural population, from where most of India's soldiers are drawn. With each returning coffin, stories about those who die are repeated in the villages and in marketplaces across the countryside, and these have deeply influenced the thinking of common folk.

There are, of course, some voices for peace in Pakistan, and the new 'doves' are most voluble in the English language media. But what is, again, ignored, is the sentiment of the masses, which finds more accurate expression in the vernacular Press. Thus, writing after the Islamabad Summit, one commentator in the Urdu daily, Nawa-e-Waqt, fumed: "We took a u-turn in Afghanistan to please America; we got our old friends killed by the Americans, and also killed them ourselves; but the whole advantage is going to India, and we are being pushed against the wall… we are going to take another (u-turn) on Kashmir, then, perhaps, our atomic programme (God forbid) will also be sacrificed to the u-turn. After so many u-turns, what will the people get?" The author's 'solution', in brief, was a 'thousand cuts', an old theme in the strategic community in Pakistan. These are sentiments that have been widely repeated in the Urdu media in that country. The assembly lines of the jehad, moreover, are still to be dismantled in Pakistan, and for the average Pakistani, the country's nuclear arsenal still remains its primary national asset, reflecting the degree of perversion the national psyche has undergone.

But the strategy of a 'thousand cuts' against India has failed, and will hopefully fail wherever else it is tried. The truth is, there have been very significant transformations in South Asia, though the most momentous of these may not be the ones that the euphoria of the 'peace process' carries our attention to.

For one, Musharraf, it must be explicitly recognised, has for some time now, been in dire need of relief. The international pressure - particularly after a continuing succession of disclosures relating to Pakistan's role in nuclear proliferation in North Korea, Iran and Libya, as well as on the potential leakage of such technologies to non-state terrorist entities - was becoming unbearable. There is, at present, almost a report, editorial or article a day in some of the most prominent American newspapers focusing on Pakistan's transgressions, both in connection with nuclear proliferation and international terrorism, as well as on Pakistan's deceit and duplicity with regard to its purported 'cooperation' with America in the 'global war against terrorism'. Internally, moreover, a range of economic and political pressures have been acting on Musharraf, and these peaked in two apparent attempts at assassination, which seem to have shaken the dictator's confidence in staying the course on Pakistan's enterprise of strategic overextension and sponsorship of terrorism.

Under the circumstances, unfortunately, the deal at Islamabad has virtually let Pakistan off the hook, abruptly restoring a legitimacy that had steadily been eroded over the past more than two years. Indeed, the case that India had built against Pakistan over this period has virtually been dismantled through this single action, and it would be possible (though he may not choose this course of action in the immediate future) for Musharraf to continue his support to terrorism in J&K, even as he projects himself as the first target and victim of terrorism, creating an impenetrable veil of 'credible deniability' that will only be gradually worn away by repeated and extreme transgressions. Worse, it is now clear that, even if there are major acts of terrorism on Indian soil and their source identified to be located in Pakistan, the possibility or legitimacy of any strong reaction by India - including the suspension of talks and 'confidence building measures' - has substantially been eliminated. Musharraf would simply argue, as he has in the past, but more credibly now since his position has in some sense been validated by a 'peace process' with India, that these are lawless jehadis, acting without any official support, and that Pakistan and he personally were also targets of the same extremist elements.

In this, it is useful to understand the degree to which India has yielded its past position, starting from the 'hardline' adopted during Operation Parakram. The Prime Minister had said that there would be no negotiations till Pakistan demonstrably ended support to terrorism and stopped cross border infiltration; till the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan had been dismantled; till those who were on India's 'list of 20 most wanted' had been handed over by Pakistan. Not one of these conditions has been fulfilled. But India has entered into talks with Pakistan now.

Clearly, both parties in the process are, in the main, buying time, and there is little by way of a concrete strategy for resolution. The most significant element in this process, in fact, is not any possible set of 'solutions' that may be defined, but essentially the passage of time and the possible de-escalation of violence in the region while the two countries engage in 'confidence building measures'. Eventually, Kashmir will be resolved, not by good intentions and neighbourly values, but by the necessity of changing circumstances in a world that is growing impatient with terrorism. There is now at least some evidence of fatigue and fear in the Pakistani leadership, and an increasing conviction that the adventurism of the past is not only unsustainable, but would, indeed, attract extreme penalties. The very existence of Pakistan is, today, under threat. This, and not the absurd and artificial 'formulae' that have, from time to time, been proposed for the resolution of the 'Kashmir issue', is the key to the future.

BANGLADESH

Increasing Pressure
Wasbir Hussain
Associate Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi; Consulting Editor, The Sentinel, Guwahati

The presence of Indian insurgents in safe havens in Bangladesh has never been in doubt, considering the volumes of hard intelligence input that New Delhi has. If confirmation was needed, a spate of reports relating to multiple incidents on January 2, 2004, and Dhaka's subsequent responses, gave confirmation to India's long standing complaint that its neighbour was being less than honest on the issue.

  • On January 2, Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) raided a hideout of the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and captured six of its cadres and seized some weapons and a mobile telephone set. According to media reports originating from Bangladesh, the NLFT camp that was raided was located near Karisapunji village under Chunarughat upa-zilla (sub-district) in Habiganj district. The United News of Bangladesh (UNB) identified those arrested as Kokek Tripura (22), Philip Debbarma (24), Manjak Debbarma (20), Bukhuk Debbarma (24), Satish Debbarma (25) and Shoilen Debbarma (25).
  • In another incident on January 2, the rebel All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) chief Ranjit Debbarma's residence in Dhaka was attacked by rocket propelled grenades (RPG). Indian media reports said five ATTF rebels were killed in that attack and eight others, including Debbarma, were wounded.
  • On January 2, Bangladeshi security forces reportedly arrested as many as 34 rebels belonging to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) from different parts of Dhaka. Some Bangladeshi newspapers, including Jugantar, quoted police officials as saying the militants were arrested after raids at different places including Mohammedpur, Green Road and Gulshan, all upmarket localities in Dhaka. According to Jugantar, four people who were caught while making bombs at a house in the city's Mohammedpur area, had received treatment at the Suhrawardy Hospital, under concealed identities.
  • Intelligence sources indicated that the January 2 'rocket attack' - actually two grenades lobbed into Debbarma's residence - took place in the Shamoli building apparently owned by a leading Bangladeshi political figure. The chiefs of the ATTF and ULFA were reportedly staying in this highly secure building. After the attack on the building's 2nd floor, where the ATTF chief was allegedly staying, the local police swung into action and rounded up almost everyone in the building. Some of those picked up were supposed to have been Bangladeshi intelligence operatives. Four injured persons were taken to hospital. Later, all those picked up were released by the police. Sources claim that top officials of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI, Bangladesh's Military intelligence agency) intervened to secure the release of these men. It is claimed that many of those arrested were ULFA cadres, and that this is the same incident that the local media reports in Dhaka were referring to, when they mentioned the arrest of 34 ULFA men. It is also claimed that members of a local mafia group called 'Seven Star' were behind the rocket attack. No independent confirmation of this incident was immediately available.

How did Dhaka respond to these media reports? While it preferred to remain silent on the reports relating to the raid and the arrest of six NLFT rebels as well as the bomb attack on the residence of the ATTF chief, Bangladesh came out with a formal denial of reports about the arrest of 34 ULFA militants from Dhaka. "We would like to categorically state that the reports (about the ULFA rebels' capture) are false, baseless and concocted and have been fabricated to strain the friendly relations between Bangladesh and India. No such incidents took place in the capital city of Dhaka," a Home Ministry Press Release issued in Dhaka on January 3 said. The Bangladesh Home Ministry statement added: "We would also like to reassert the well-known position of the government of Bangladesh that Bangladesh has never allowed or assisted insurgent groups of any country for acts against that country and this policy was being pursued by the government consistently and rigorously."

Bangladesh certainly is on the back-foot, and its official position vis-a-vis the Indian insurgents is not coming in handy anymore in view of the changing global and South Asian counter-terrorism scenario. Further, the case against its support to Indian insurgent groups is gradually being independently validated. For instance, the location of the NLFT hideout that was raided by the BDR on January 2 tallies with a location mentioned in the latest list of 194 Indian insurgent camps inside Bangladesh submitted by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) to the visiting BDR team in New Delhi only last week (during the meeting between the two border forces from January 6 to 9, 2004). The Indian list says that the NLFT has a transit camp at Thakurgaon under Chunarughat Police Station in the Habiganj district of Bangladesh. Again, the very fact that Dhaka has not denied the raid and subsequent capture of six NLFT rebels goes against its official position that there are neither camps nor any Indian insurgent cadres operating from within the territory of Bangladesh.

Denials aside, Bangladesh, by reliable accounts, may in fact be waking up to the need to rein in these foreign militants. This report in a leading English daily from Dhaka, The Daily Star (Internet edition, January 5, 2004), makes interesting reading: "The Home Ministry at a high level meeting with paramilitary BDR and intelligence agencies yesterday (January 4, 2004) asked them to step up border security and watch on Dhaka to stem infiltration of Indian terrorists. The Ministry officially denied discussion on steps to tackle infiltration of the operatives of the ULFA and other outfits, but meeting sources confirmed the agenda. They said Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury and State Minister Lutfozzaman Babar asked the DGFI and NSI (National Security Intelligence) agencies to keep an eye on suspicious people in hotels and rest houses in Dhaka. The ministers also asked the agencies to strengthen vigilance in the porous bordering areas of Cox's Bazar, Bandarban, Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Sylhet."

There is some speculation that Dhaka may, in fact, have been stung by Bhutan's year-end crackdown on anti-India separatist camps on its territory, a move for which the Royal Government in Thimphu has received widespread appreciation from nations in the forefront of the global war on terror. But any actions that Dhaka may be initiating, do not appear to have been triggered off simply because another South Asian neighbour has shown the way by launching an assault on anti-India rebels in the Kingdom, or because New Delhi has been persistent in its claim that an increasing number of camps of Indian insurgents are located inside Bangladesh. It is, rather, the rising pressure of international opinion that is forcing a reassessment in Dhaka.

The publication in part, on December 10, 2003, of a report on Bangladesh, prepared by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and an advisory issued by the US State Department to its citizens and officials posted at or visiting Bangladesh, have been particularly embarrassing for Dhaka. The CSIS report prepared in December 2003, said that the Bangladesh Government was not taking enough measures to prevent the country from becoming a haven for Islamist terror groups in South Asia. The report expressed concern over the activities of terrorists suspected to be connected with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network. The CSIS report added that Dhaka was not willing to crack down on terror, and expressed fear of dangers to Canadian aid workers in Bangladesh. Significantly, the report also said, there have been a number of serious terrorist attacks on cultural groups and recreational facilities in Bangladesh, but Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been blaming the opposition party (the Awami League of former Premier Sheikh Hasina) for such criminal activities as a matter of routine, rather than zeroing in on the real people or group behind such acts of violence.

Dhaka has rejected the observations made in the CSIS report and has been consistently denying that Bangladesh has become the latest hub of Islamist terror groups, including the Al Qaeda. The fact remains, however, that a local terror group, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Bangladesh (HUJI-BD), led by Shauqat Osman, with the avowed objective of establishing 'Islamic rule' in Bangladesh, is indeed active in the country. Western media reports suggest this group has an estimated 15,000 cadres.

With increasing international attention focused on terrorist and insurgent activities in Bangladesh, Dhaka's past pretence is becoming progressively unsustainable. Nevertheless, the flow of insurgents from India to safe havens in Bangladesh continues. Indeed, with ULFA having lost its bases and once-secure staging areas inside Bhutan, it is expected to turn to two obvious alternate locations, Myanmar and Bangladesh. But Yangon is already supposed to have turned on the heat on Indian insurgents in the country, leaving Bangladesh the only place that rebels like those of the ULFA have to hold on to. This , too, may not be easy anymore. Dhaka might continue to push ahead with its stand that no Indian insurgents are located or operating from the country, but may have to move as quietly as possible to neutralize these rebels and choke them off within its territory to escape a possible foolproof indictment by the international community as a nation that has not done enough to combat terror.




 

NEWS BRIEFS


Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
January 5-11, 2004

 
Civilian
Security Force Personnel
Terrorist
Total

BANGLADESH

2
0
3
5

INDIA

     Assam

2
1
0
3

     Jammu &
     Kashmir

9
0
23
32

     Left-wing
     Extremism

0
0
2
2

     Manipur

0
0
4
4

     Tripura

1
0
0
1

Total (INDIA)

12
1
29
42

NEPAL

2
7
19
28

PAKISTAN

0
4
0
4
*      Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.



BANGLADESH


Government bans books published by the Ahmadiyya sect: The Home Ministry banned all publications of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Bangladesh, a day before the end of an ultimatum given by the anti-Ahmadiyya alliance, Hifazate Khatme Nabuwat Andolon (HKNA), to declare the Ahmadiyya's 'non-muslims'. In a press release, the Ministry said that the ban was imposed "in view of objectionable materials in such (Ahmadiyya) publications, which hurt or might hurt the sentiments of the majority Muslim population of Bangladesh." Daily Star, January 9, 2004

No terrorist camps exists in the country, claims BDR Director-General: On the second day of the annual conference between the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and India's Border Security Force (BSF) that began in New Delhi on January 6, 2004, Bangladesh maintained that no terrorist groups from India's Northeast operated from its soil. "We have no camps of any insurgent outfit in our territory," claimed Major General Mohammed Jahangir Alam Chowdhury, the BDR chief. "If you can pinpoint a single camp, I will personally ensure it is destroyed," he added. He has also reportedly asked the BSF Director General Ajay Raj Sharma to provide any map indicating areas that India alleges to have been used to run terrorist training camps. Meanwhile, BSF Director General Ajai Sharma was quoted as saying that he has given BDR a list of 194 camps, which is an increase from the last time the two sides met. At least 40 new camps have reportedly been added to the earlier list given to BDR. However, Bangladesh, while denying the claim, has alleged that India was operating 39 terrorist camps for Bangladeshi insurgents, on its soil. Telegraph India, January 10, 2004; Daily Star, January 7, 2004.

34 United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) cadres arrested in Dhaka: Delayed media reports stated that, on January 2, security forces arrested atleast 34 terrorists belonging to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) from different parts of Dhaka. The terrorists were arrested after raids at different places including Mohammedpur, Green Road and Gulshan in Dhaka. On the same day, the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) raided a hideout of the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) located near Karisapunji village under Chunarughat upazilla (sub-district) in Habiganj district and captured six of its cadres and seized some weapons and a mobile telephone set. Daily Star, Jugantar, January 3, 2004.


INDIA


National Liberation Front of Tripura - Nayanbasi faction expresses willingness for talks and surrender: The National Liberation Front of Tripura - Nayanbasi faction (NLFT-N) has reportedly sent a proposal to the Tripura Government to start a dialogue for surrender of arms and to come overground. Additional Director General of Police (ADG) Pranoy Sahaya, confirmed that that the State Home Department received the letter from Nayanbasi Jamatiya, chief of the faction, on January 10, in which he expressed his desire to participate in peace talks. Telegraph India, January 12, 2004

78 persons killed in Naxalite violence in 2003, says Chhattisgarh Police report: According to the Annual Report of the Chhattisgarh Police, at least 78 persons, including 31 police personnel, were killed in 103 encounters in the State in Naxalite-related violence during year 2003. "A total of 103 encounters took place between Naxalites and police in the year 2003, in which 31 security men, three government employees and 35 civilians were killed,'' police sources said. The People's War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Center (MCC) were active in 96 police station areas of the State spread over about seven districts, and there was an increase in Naxalite activities in 2003 compared to the previous year, the report added. The Hindu, January 7, 2004


NEPAL

'Brigadier Commander' of the Maoist outfit surrenders: A 'brigadier commander' of the Maoist 'People's Liberation Army', Hom Prakash Shrestha, surrendered to the administration in Bheri-Karnali division of western Nepal on January 11, 2004. Shrestha, so far, is the senior most Maoist insurgent to give up arms. He was involved in Maoist attacks on various police posts and security camps in different parts of Western Nepal. Along with Shrestha, Janu Chhantyal, the Maoist 'company commander' in the Seti-Mahakali division, has also surrendered with arms. Nepal News, January 12, 2004


PAKISTAN


Intelligence official and 11 others arrested in connection with assassination attempt on President Musharraf: Police officials arrested a local intelligence official, Muhammad Naeem, for allegedly tipping off the two suicide bombers who tried to crash their explosive laden vehicles into President Musharraf's convoy at Rawalpindi on December 25, 2003. Naeem, an official of the Islamabad Special Branch who was detailed for Musharraf's security at the Convention Centre, where he addressed a meeting on science and technology on December 25, allegedly tipped off the suicide bomber regarding the timing of the departure of the Presidential convoy, on his cell phone. Special forces also raided a mosque in Lahore and detained 10 persons believed to be activists of a banned terrorist outfit after the arrest of the intelligence official. A Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist was also taken into custody in Bahawalpur in connection with the assassination attempt. Nation, The Hindu, January 12, 2004

35 persons arrested from seminaries in Punjab: Police officials raided several seminaries in Punjab and picked up about three dozen suspects in connection with the assassination attempt on President Musharraf. The raids were carried out on seminaries at Lahore, Faisalabad, Sargodha and Bahawalnagar. Sources said that the raids were conducted on information received from some suspects already in the custody. Two seminaries, belonging to the Jamaat-e-Ullema Islam (JUI), were raided in Lahore on January 10. Seventeen people were arrested in three raids in Sargodha and seven suspects were arrested during a midnight operation in Faisalabad. Dawn, January 12, 2004

Cabinet approves amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997: The cabinet approved amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and increased the minimum and maximum punishment for financiers of terrorism, besides making it a non-bailable offence. Giving details of the amendments, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said that any individual or entity involved in financing of terrorism shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment ranging from four to ten years. Financing of terrorism has been made a non-bailable offence and societies and other institutions, which have a potential to act as conduits for such financing, shall be obliged to establish bank accounts and maintain information about their employees and clients, failing which they will face fine and revocation of license, according to the amendments. Dawn, January 11, 2004

Hizb chief Salahuddin rejects India-Pakistan peace process as 'paperwork': Syed Salahuddin, chief of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), was quoted as saying in a statement from Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) on January 7, 2004, that the decision by India and Pakistan to resume composite dialogue in February 2004 was "paperwork" and that it would not stop the violence in Jammu and Kashmir. According to the Hizb chief, "Tuesday's development is nothing but paperwork… We have seen dozens of such announcements and agreements in the past, but unfortunately India never honoured a single one… It seems India wants to gain time, during which it would ... employ every possible resource to crush the freedom struggle in the occupied territory." Jang, January 8, 2004.

India and Pakistan agree to commence composite dialogue from February 2004: India and Pakistan have agreed to commence the process of composite dialogue from February 2004 to resolve all outstanding bilateral issues, including Kashmir. The Indian External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, at separate press conferences in Islamabad on January 6, 2004, read out to the media a joint press statement on the talks between Indian Premier Atal Behari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf. The statement said, "To carry the process of normalisation forward the president of Pakistan and the prime minister of India agreed to commence the process of the composite dialogue in February 2004." It said the two leaders were confident that the resumption of the composite dialogue would lead to a peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. According to the joint statement, President Musharraf assured India that "he would not permit any territory under Pakistan's control to be used to support terrorism in any manner." The Hindu, January 7, 2004.

SAARC member-states sign Anti-terrorism protocol: Countries attending the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) Summit meeting which concluded in Islamabad on January 6, 2004, signed a protocol on terrorism agreeing to adopt necessary measures to strengthen co-operative mechanisms. According to the Additional Protocol on Suppression of Terrorism, "The purpose of this Additional Protocol is to strengthen the SAARC Convention on Suppression of Terrorism, particularly by criminalizing the provision, collection or acquisition of funds for the purpose of committing terrorist acts." It supplements the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism, signed at Kathmandu, Nepal, on November 4, 1987. Daily Excelsior, January 7, 2004.

SAARC Summit concludes with adoption of Islamabad Declaration: The 12th Summit meeting of the seven-nation South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) concluded on January 6, 2004, with the adoption of the Islamabad Declaration. The seven-page Islamabad Declaration calls for promoting peace, stability, amity and progress in South Asia through strict adherence to the