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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 2, No. 45, May 24, 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

Counter-terrorism: A New Government, a New Incoherence
Ajai Sahni
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management

The unexpected gift of power conferred by the electorate on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), and the installation of a new coalition Government at New Delhi, have brought critical responsibilities on parties substantially unprepared for the challenge. This is particularly the case with regard to broad issues relating to terrorism and internal security, where many of the constituent parties of the UPA have little by way of coherent perspectives to offer, and substantial inter-party conflicts - at least some of which are already manifest.

The Congress Party, when it sat in an often-belligerent Opposition, had articulated its position on many critical issues of defence, security and foreign policy - but has often remained pointedly ambivalent on terrorism. Many of the Party's positions are defined in its document on the Security Agenda circulated shortly before the elections: Issues before the Nation: Security, Defence and Foreign Policy. The document - scathingly eloquent on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition's "record of grave failures on the management of national security, foreign policy and defence", contains a single, ambiguously worded paragraph on terrorism, which promises "a comprehensive multi-faceted strategy to cope effectively with the twin challenges of terrorism and insurgency". Apart from "paying particular attention to intelligence gathering", in this context, the document contains no hint of any specific strategic or tactical departures from the past, and remains reminiscent of the predecessor Government's unfulfilled rhetoric on 'proactive' counter-terrorist policies.

Some constituents of the UPA, however, have not been ambivalent on at least one point: their strong opposition to, and demand for withdrawal of, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002 - currently India's only special law against terrorism. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) - two of the Congress Party's largest supporters in the new Parliament - have made it abundantly clear that POTA would have to go. The Congress Party's own position on POTA is conflicting. At the time when the passage of the Act was being debated in Parliament, the Congress had hotly opposed its passage, despite the fact that it was, in fact, a much-diluted version of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), 1987, earlier drafted and implemented by a Congress regime. During the debates on POTA, the Congress had argued with the glib facility of an irresponsible Opposition that, just because they had made 'mistakes' (the 'draconian' TADA), they were not going to allow the NDA to repeat these. These arguments will certainly return to haunt the new Government, even as parties such as the DMK, which had broken away from the NDA coalition on precisely this issue, and the Communist Parties, press for a scrapping of the Law.

An added problem with abandoning POTA, however, is that all member countries are now bound by United Nation's mandate to pass and implement suitable laws for the prevention and suppression of terrorism, including financing, provision of safe haven and 'any form of support' to terrorist acts and entities. Absent a counter-terrorism law, India would be open to accusations that it was failing to pull its own weight at a time when it was stridently demanding action against terrorism from other countries and from the international community. Within this context, it is useful to note that the Indian record of convictions for acts of terrorism - under both 'special' and 'normal' laws - remains abysmal.

Counter-terrorism policy, however, in the complex global order that currently prevails, comprehends much more than an adequate framework of legislation and enforcement, and it is useful to examine the broad internal security, defence and foreign policy parameters that the Congress party has articulated. Central to these is the orientation to Pakistan and the current 'peace process', which Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has promised to continue. Citing the example of the Berlin wall, Dr. Singh had, in one of his first statements as Prime Minister-designate, declared that "the friction and unfortunate history of our relations with Pakistan" could be overcome, and that it was his intention to "seek the most friendly relations with our neighbours, more so with Pakistan than with any others."

Nevertheless, qualitative changes in the peace process and the policy orientation to Pakistan are inevitable, as the Party promises to infuse a measure of 'political realism' in its foreign policies. The Party's agenda document had specifically noted that the NDA Government's policies on Pakistan had "been a saga of contradictions and confusions", and were "full of contradictory extremisms and ambiguities." Accusing the NDA of a failure to follow up on what it had defined as the "principal problem in J&K" - Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism - the Congress accused the NDA Government of having "agreed to discuss the territorial status of J&K with Pakistan", and of lacking "transparency in approach". The Congress promised to establish a "stable working, cooperative relationship with Pakistan under the framework of the historic Shimla Agreement of 1972 and subsequent agreements and confidence-building measure initiated by later Congress Governments well upto 1996", while remaining "firm and decisive and prompt in responding to terrorist violence structured against India." None of this will strike any sympathetic chords in Pakistan.

The sub-text, here, is that much of the character of somewhat murky back-channel diplomacy that had been engaged in by the predecessor regime would be negated; relationships would be cast into a more structured and institutional role; and the extra-constitutional powers that were being exercised by a small cabal within the NDA Government, and including powerful representatives of influential business houses, would not be allowed to define the 'national interest' to the exclusion of oversight by the Cabinet of Ministers. It is clear, moreover, that the theatre of the peace process failed to translate itself into electoral advantage for the BJP, and there is, consequently, now greater political freedom to bring the process into a more sober and institutional phase under the successor regime.

While the Agenda document is silent on these issues, there is, again, evidence to suggest that a harder line will emerge on Pakistan, and that there could be no question of diluting Kashmir's status as an integral part of India, or to consider any set of 'solutions' that envisage a transfer of populations or territories, or alter the status quo on sovereignty - a possibility that was at least being considered as a constituent within the proposed scheme of negotiations under the predecessor regime.

The Congress Agenda does speak explicitly of the need for strengthening India's defence posture, infrastructure and coordination mechanisms, accusing the BJP-led Government of a failure "to modernize and update" the defence forces, asserting that, "Despite tall claims about the high priority being given to defence, expenditure on defence as a proportion of GDP has fallen to an all-time low of 2.12%", and that the NDA Government had "failed even to effectively utilize resources amounting to nearly Rs. 24,000 crores (240 billion) sanctioned by Parliament to modernize our defence systems." The Defence Forces will, quite naturally, observe with great interest Dr. Singh's orientation on defence expenditure. Commentators also note that the last two Prime Ministers have successively and systematically led to the degradation and ruin of India's covert assets in Pakistan, even while Pakistan has done everything to sustain its covert operations in India. These trends would certainly come under the scrutiny of the new regime.

The Congress Party has also been troubled by elements of India's foreign policy vis--vis America. While explicitly endorsing the objectives of strengthening ties and strategic cooperation with the US, the Party points to "a lack of transparency" that characterized the NDA Government's policies towards the US, noting that India had been "reduced to having a subordinate relationship with the USA." The new Government would, at once, pursue a closer but more transparent relationship with the US; and would seek to "retain for India freedom of options in conducting its foreign relations, in response to India's national interests."

In sum, there is a measure of determination to restore institutional responses, and to dismantle some of the elements of personality-dominated foreign and security policies that had become entrenched under the NDA regime.

Notwithstanding these elements, however, the truth is that the UPA Government's perspectives remain inadequate to deal with the sweeping security challenges - and particularly with the range of insurgencies, terrorist movements, and their cross-border sponsorship - that plague the country. There is no evidence that a counter-terrorism strategy or perspective has been thought through by any of the constituent elements of the new regime, and there are huge and visible vacuums in thinking with regard to a number of issues, including the burgeoning Left Wing insurgency, the problems of the Northeast, as well as the troubled relationship with Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Worse still, the melange of ideologies - mixing in a number of incompatible sub-regional, linguistic, ethnic, social and economic agendas - that constitutes the UPA, may make any lasting commitment to a national strategic vision problematic. Within this context, the Left parties, collectively the largest element of support for the Government - with 62 seats in Parliament - are the most potentially problematic and disruptive elements, not only on the issue of terrorism, but more specifically on the broad structure of foreign and economic policies that are integrally linked to international cooperation on counter-terrorism. Within the imaginary world that the Left parties inhabit, the formation of an Indo-China axis, possibly including Russia, as a counter to 'US hegemony', remains within the realm of aspired reality. Such absurdities persist, despite cumulative evidence of China's consistent efforts to contain India - particularly through unprecedented nuclear and strategic cooperation with Pakistan. The Central Committee of the CPI-M recently called for resistance against "imperialist penetration" - essentially an euphemism for the growing US role in the region - and has been systematically opposed to India's deepening economic and strategic relations with the US. Such an orientation does, in some measure, coalesce with the past tradition of non-alignment and entrenched anti-US reflexes that survive among at least some elements within the Congress.

These many contradictions and ambiguities will require an extraordinary focus of mind and effort if they are to yield a coherent strategic response to terrorism in South Asia. Prime Minister Singh does have the personal credentials and capacity for such a decisive endeavour. Regrettably, the Cabinet he has assembled from the motley congregation of ideologically incompatible parties and anachronistic survivors within the Congress would tend more to impede than to advance his enterprise.


INDIA

Andhra Pradesh: Tactical Harakiri
Saji Cherian
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

"The Guerilla is the fish and the people are the sea," said Mao Tse Tung, which meant that if the sea (people) provides a friendly environment, the guerilla will survive and if that environment is hostile the guerilla will die. For Mao, it was the people who made the 'sea' friendly, not the state against which the guerilla was at constant war. Recent developments in the state of Andhra Pradesh, however, unwittingly expand Mao's strategy one notch, with the state creating the 'friendly sea' for the left wing extremists to operate.

After being sworn in as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh on May 14, 2004, Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy stated that the police had been asked to 'show restraint' in dealing with the left wing extremists (commonly known as Naxalites) in the State. Following the Chief Minister's directive, the Director General of Police, S.R. Sukumara, ordered a halt to all combing operations, and the 20,000-odd police personnel and paramilitary forces - which include the elite 'Greyhounds', formed to tackle the Naxalite menace - engaged in anti-Naxalite operations were asked to return to their bases till further orders. Chief Minister Reddy also hinted at lifting the ban on the People's War Group (PWG) and promised to take steps to create an atmosphere conducive to talks with the outfit to solve the problem. Incidentally, the ban on the PWG will come up for review later this year and the Chief Minister indicated it might not be extended if the Central Government also lifted restrictions on the group under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002.

In response to the announcement, on May 20, the PWG 'state secretary' Ramakrishna alleged that the PWG "has bitter experience of being cheated by the previous Government when the negotiations were on, as the police continued to kill its members in the name of encounter". The group also articulated certain pre-conditions to come to the negotiating table. "Before launching the dialogue, the Government should stop the encounters, lift the ban on the PW [PWG is also referred to as People's War], announce ceasefire and order judicial probe into all fake encounters," he said, adding "if the Government meets these demands, the PW will reciprocate by observing the ceasefire." Ramakrishna further warned, "if the conditions were not met by the present Government, it would face the renewed extremist violence."

To the gullible, the Government's announcement would sound progressive and the PWG's response a natural reaction made by a banned outfit. But there are more vexed issues to be taken into consideration before arriving at the conclusion that a peaceful settlement to the problem is around the corner.

The present attempt by the Government is not the first to initiate peace through dialogue, and the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) Government under Chandrababu Naidu was only the most recent to have pursued a similar initiative to persuade the PWG to give up arms. That peace process began on June 5, 2002, when the PWG emissaries and the Government held the first round of talks in Hyderabad. After three rounds of preliminary discussions between the emissaries and the State Government, the talks broke down because the latter refused to accede to PWG demands for an official cease-fire, and termination of alleged 'fake encounters' and arrests of Naxal cadres. The continuing hostilities between the State Government and PWG reached a flashpoint when the latter called for a two-day Statewide bandh (general strike) on July 11-12, 2002, in protest against encounters. The possibilities of the first ever direct talks between the Government and the PWG leadership ended when the PWG withdrew from the process on July 19, 2002.

Have ground realities changed during the period after the failure of the peace talks in July 2002, to prompt a fresh move by the new State Government? Apparently, the operational capabilities of the PWG have grown since the failure of the talks, with fresh evidences emerging of enhanced co-ordination among the various Left Wing extremist groups, especially the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), in launching attacks against Government establishments and the security forces; growing linkages between the Maoist insurgents in Nepal and the PWG; and large-scale attacks on district centres, as the one witnessed on February 7, 2004 in the Koraput district of Orissa. In a demonstration of intent and capacity, the PWG has carried out assassination attempts on key targets, including the erstwhile Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on October 1, 2003, in the Chittoor district and the recent attack on former Union Minister Yerran Naidu on April 18, 2004, in the Srikakulam district.

Significantly, since its formation in Andhra Pradesh on April 22, 1980, the People's War Group has successfully extended its areas of operation into the districts of Khammam, Warangal, Karimnagar, Nizamabad. Adilabad, Mehboobnagar, Nalgonda, Medak, Anantpur, Kurnool, East Godavari, Visakhapatanam, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam and Guntur in Andhra Pradesh; the districts of Patna, Aurangabad, Gaya, Jehanabad, Rohtas, Buxur, Saharsha, Khagaria, Banka and Jamui in Bihar; the districts of Palamau, Garhwah, Latehar, Gumla, Chatra Hazaribag and Koderma in Jharkhand; the districts of Malkangiri, Koraput, Gajapati, Rayagada, Nowrangpur and Mayurbhanj in Orissa; the districts of Gadchiroli, Bhandara and Chandrapur in Maharashtra; the districts of Jagdalpur, Bastar, Kanker, Rajnandgaon, Dantewada, Sarguja, Kawardha, and Jashpur in Chhattisgarh; the districts of Balaghat and Dhindoli in Madhya Pradesh and the districts of Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura in West Bengal.

One of the PWG's demands in response to the Andhra Pradesh Government's decision to suspend counter-terrorism operations is the declaration of ceasefire, which masks the real intention of the group. In Nepal in a similar situation in 2002, when the Maoist insurgents (the Communist Party of Nepal - Maoist, or CPN-M) and the Government were engaged in talks, a ceasefire had been declared by both sides. During the period of talks the Maoists garnered significant time to recuperate and arm themselves, and then unilaterally pulled out of the ceasefire on August 22, 2002, when they were in a position to challenge the state in a wider geographical area. Negotiations, according to the Maoist perspective, are in essence a tactic to gain time for consolidation or recovery.

Various statements emanating from different PWG leaders add to the evidence that the PWG remains committed to its 'peoples' war'. A PWG leader said to be the central organiser of the Rachankonda dalam (squad) of the group, addressing a gram sabha (village assembly) at Devulamma Nagaram village in the Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh on May 16, affirmed that it "will physically eliminate'' TDP leaders, including the former Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu and that the PWG would not keep quiet, if the new Government pursued the same 'anti-people' economic polices. "The new Chief Minister will also meet the same fate as that of Mr. Naidu,'' he warned. Similarly, the 'North Telangana Special Zone Committee spokesman' Malkapuram Bhaskar alias Chandranna in a recent interview also threatened that the PWG would oppose the Congress Government in the same way as it opposed the TDP Government if it followed the same economic policies based on the 'dictates of the World Bank'.

Also, the sudden halt of combing operations and the Andhra Pradesh Government's soft approach will have serious repercussions in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and other neighboring States, where Naxalite related violence has been showing increasing trends. The PWG, which is looking forward to consolidate its position in Orissa and in other states, can be expected to divert all its energy towards fulfilling these objectives, while continuing to talk about a ceasefire in Andhra Pradesh.

The new Government in Andhra Pradesh, by unilaterally suspending operations, is playing to the galleries, while missing the crucial point that Left Wing extremism is no longer a local phenomena limited to a few districts in Andhra Pradesh, but has spread across States and international border, and is poised to move into virgin territories. It ignores the fact, moreover, that the movement remains totally committed to an ideology of violence, within which negotiations are no more than a tactic of protracted warfare. The new Government's myopic view, consequently, seriously undermines the combined effort to root out this widening and violent movement.

 

NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
May 17-23, 2004

 
Civilian
Security Force Personnel
Terrorist
Total

BANGLADESH

4
1
4
9

INDIA

     Assam

3
0
1
4

     Jammu &
     Kashmir

25
27
18
70

     Left-wing
     Extremism

1
0
0
1

     Tripura

0
7
0
7

Total (INDIA)

29
34
19
82

NEPAL

5
4
17
26

SRI LANKA

0
0
1
1
 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

Three persons killed, British High Commissioner among 100 persons injured in bomb blast at Sylhet: Three persons were killed and at least 100 others, including the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Anwar Chowdhury, sustained injuries when a powerful bomb exploded at the Hazrat Shahjalal shrine in Sylhet town on May 21, 2004. The incident occurred at the inner main gate when hundreds of devotees had gathered inside the shrine. Anwar, who took charge as High Commissioner on May 15, reportedly went to the shrine on the first day of his three-day visit to Sylhet, his ancestral home. It was the second attack on the shrine this year and the first in which a diplomat was injured. In January, a bomb blast had left five people dead. The Daily Star, May 22, 2004.


INDIA

30 persons killed in landmine explosion on Srinagar-Jammu highway: At least 30 persons, including 19 Border Security Force (BSF) personnel, six women and five children, were killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion at Lower Munda, near Qazigund, on the Srinagar-Jammu highway on May 23, 2004. Inspector General of Police (Kashmir Zone) K. Rajendra Kumar informed the media that the IED, aimed at a BSF convoy, hit one of the buses carrying paramilitary personnel and their families from Srinagar to Jammu. Eyewitnesses said that a small BSF convoy was on its way to Jammu and when a bus in the convoy reached a small bridge at Gulabbagh, near Lower Munda, it was hit by the IED and reportedly burst into flames. The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) has reportedly claimed responsibility for the blast. A Hizb spokesperson called newspaper offices in Srinagar and said the attack was to avenge the killing of three top HM 'commanders' by the security forces recently. The Hindu; Daily Excelsior, May 24, 2004.

3,500 terrorists waiting to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir, says Army Chief: Chief of the Army Staff, General N C Vij, said in Srinagar on May 21, 2004, that the cease-fire on the India-Pakistan border was still holding although there were about 3,500 trained terrorists waiting across the border in about 95 camps to infiltrate into India. Barring five to six minor infiltration attempts in the Jammu sector and two in Kashmir, the situation all along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) is normal, he said. "The ceasefire is still holding and there is no report of any violation," General Vij told reporters after visiting the forward areas. He also said there are about 95 training camps in Pakistan where terrorists are securing arms training. "The information gathered from different quarters suggests that there are 3,000 to 3,500 militants waiting across the border to sneak into this side," the Army chief said. Daily Excelsior, May 22, 2004.

People's War Group sets pre-conditions for talks with Andhra Pradesh Government: Alleging that it was 'cheated' by the previous Telugu Desam Party Government in Andhra Pradesh, the outlawed Left Wing extremist (also called Naxalite) People's War Group (PWG) has put some pre-conditions before the new Congress Government to come to the negotiating table. The outfit "has bitter experience of being cheated by the previous Government when the negotiations were on, as the police continued to kill its members in the name of encounter," PWG 'State secretary', Ramakrishna, said in a statement on May 20, 2004. "Before launching the dialogue, the Government should stop the encounters, lift the ban on the PW [PWG is also referred to as People's War], announce ceasefire and order judicial probe into all fake encounters," he said, adding "if the Government meets these demands, the PW will reciprocate by observing the ceasefire." Ramakrishna warned that, "if the conditions were not met by the present Government, it would face the renewed extremist violence." The new State Government headed by Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy had offered to hold unconditional talks with the PWG shortly after assuming office last week. The Hindu, May 21, 2004.


PAKISTAN

Commonwealth re-admits Pakistan: Pakistan was re-admitted into the Commonwealth on May 22, 2004, four-and-a-half years after its membership was suspended consequent to the October 1999-coup that brought General Pervez Musharraf to power. The decision was announced by Commonwealth Secretary-General, Don McKinnnon, after a two-day meeting of the nine-nation Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in London. McKinnon later said, "The (CMAG) group welcomed the progress made in restoring democracy and rebuilding democratic institutions in Pakistan... and decided therefore that Pakistan should no longer remain suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth." He also added that the CMAG "noted continuing concern in regard to the strengthening of the democratic process in Pakistan." Dawn, May 23, 2004.

Jamaat-e-Islami chief's entry into Europe banned: Belgium and the Netherlands have reportedly banned the entry of Jamaat-e-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed, who was scheduled to arrive in Europe on May 20, 2004. Qazi was invited to visit Brussels and The Hague by the Arab European League (AEL), a Muslim organization, to deliver lectures. The Jamaat chief's hosts in Europe have been informed that his entry to the Western European States has been blocked because of what they described as "security reasons". The decision to ban Qazi's entry to Europe would also apply to his future visits to all 22 European Union (EU) member-states that adhere to the EU Schengen law. Jang, May 21, 2004.

Terrorists using Tableegi Jamaat as cover to evade arrest: Terrorists belonging to the various proscribed groups in Pakistan are reportedly using the Tableegi Jamaat (TJ) as a cover to evade arrest. "The Tableegi Jamaat is a non-militant movement which has never joined in any jihadi or political activities, but we have reports that militants' from some banned organisations and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorists have joined the Jamaat's preaching tours," said an unnamed law enforcement official on May 18, 2004. "These militants are not on these tours for religious reasons, but to save themselves from law enforcement agencies," he added. The TJ welcomes every Muslim without investigating his past and sends him on preaching tours. "The agencies are hesitant to raid the Jamaat's centers since it enjoys public respect and any action could result in a public backlash," sources told Daily Times. They added that law enforcement agencies were monitoring TJ's centers at Raiwind and elsewhere in Pakistan. Daily Times, May 19, 2004.

Women being trained as suicide bombers by Uzbek terrorist's widow: Pakistani women are reportedly being trained to become suicide bombers by the widow of an Uzbek terrorist. Intelligence agencies have submitted reports to the Interior Ministry revealing that Aziza, a citizen of Uzbekistan and widow of Ubaidullah, an active member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, is allegedly training female suicide bombers at a base in Pakistan's mountains. Sources said that this is the first time in Pakistan that women were being trained for suicide missions. Ubaidullah was reportedly killed in January 2004 during an operation in South Waziristan conducted by the armed forces of Pakistan. A report stated that, in late March 2004, Aziza told her relatives that she intended to avenge her husband's death by committing terrorist acts in Pakistan. Terrorist attacks might occur in the big cites of Pakistan and important Government officials could be targeted by trained female terrorists, sources added. Daily Times, May 18, 2004.

 

The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

 

South Asia Intelligence Review [SAIR]

Publisher
K. P. S. Gill

Editor
Dr. Ajai Sahni



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