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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 3, No. 21, December 6, 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


 
NEPAL

Hardening Lines
Guest Writer: Keshab Poudel
Managing Editor, Spotlight Weekly Magazine, Kathmandu

As violence escalates across the country, the prospects for peace talks appear increasingly uncertain. At a time when the Government's High Level Peace Committee members are discussing fresh initiatives to invite the Communist Party of Nepal - Maoist (CPN-M) for talks, the Maoists have already called a number of general strikes aimed at disrupting Nepal's main east-west highway. Immediately after the Dashain festival between October 20 and 28, the Maoists launched a new phase of violence, indicating that there would be more bloodshed in coming months.
  Also Read
Terror and Refuge -- P.G. Rajamohan
Drifting into Disaster -- P.G. Rajamohan

Amid the escalation of violence, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has set a final deadline for peace talks. In his press meeting on November 25, Deuba asked the Maoists to come to the negotiation table by January 13, 2005, or face 'severe action'. "After I was appointed prime minister, I have already appealed twice to the Maoist to come for talks," Deuba said, "Now I am going to formally appeal to them for the third and final time. If they don't accept, the government will have to go for elections to give continuity to the democratic process."

The Maoists, however, rejected his offer and trashed the talk of polls. "Parliamentary elections would not address our demands. If at all elections are to take place, it should be for the constituent assembly," said Krishna Bahadur Mahara, 'spokesman' of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). "There will be a blood bath in case of elections. We want result-oriented talks. Past experiences have shown that holding dialogues with Governments that do not have full authority does not bear fruit."

Maoist leaders continue to press for their demands, including elections for a Constituent Assembly, a Round Table political meeting, and credible international mediators like the United Nations, as the essential bases for resumption of peace negotiations.

Conflict experts hold the view that neither of the warring side is convinced of the urgency of resuming the peace process just yet. "I don't see any possibility of holding peace talks in the near future," said Bishnu Raj Upreti, President of Friends of Peace and a conflict management expert. "Both sides appear aggressive. The Government is talking about peace talks only as rhetoric, because they cannot afford to be seen as opposing talks."

Others are still optimistic about the resumption of peace talks. "Prime Minister's fixing of date is not being seen as a deadline." said Padma Ratna Tuladhar, human rights activist and former mediator in Government-Maoist talks. "The time has come for the government to decide whether it accepts the Maoist demand for a constituent assembly or not. Maoist leaders have not categorically said that they are not interested in peaceful talks. Since they are rebels dying for their cause, it is not easy for them to accept the offer without analyzing it."

Widening political differences between the Deuba Government and four agitating parties is also disturbing the prospects of negotiations. Knowing the weakness of the Government, and its lack of a strong backing from the country's major political parties, the Maoists have repeatedly rejected Prime Minister Deuba's calls. Following a ten-day suspension of hostilities (from both sides) during the Dashain festival in October, the Government has been repeatedly calling for peace talks. However, Girija Prasad Koirala, the Nepali Congress (NC) President and former Prime Minister who is leading the four agitating parties, contends, "How can this Government fulfill Maoist demands as it does not have a legitimate mandate? Only after the reinstatement of the dissolved House of Representatives will it have legitimate right to negotiate with the Maoists."

The Government, on the other hand, claims that it is 'broad based' and consequently able to hold enter the peace process. "We want to settle the Maoist problem through peace talks and negotiations. This is a first-of-its-kind All Party Government, which has the mandate to decide on any political issue," asserts Deputy Prime Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikary. "If they agree to come to the negotiation table, we will guarantee their safety and security."

The Maoists, however, remain adamant. A week ago, Deuba indicated he could discuss 'any issue', including the constituent assembly, if the Maoists came to the table. Deuba made his call in the presence of King Gyanendra at the inaugural ceremony of the World Buddhist Summit held recently at Lumbini, 400 kilometers west of Kathmandu. Using the occasion, Deuba added, "I would like to formally request Maoist leaders to come to the negotiation table from the land of the birthplace of Lord Buddha. The Government is ready to talk on every issue and it will guarantee safety and security of Maoist leaders." Deuba had held the first unsuccessful peace talks with the Maoists back in 2001.

In response, the Maoists have questioned the credibility of the Government. Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka 'Prachanda' recently released a statement in response to the government's call for negotiations, clarifying that the Maoists were ready for negotiations with the real masters of authority and not servants - a clear indication that he is not keen to talk with the King's puppet Government.

After the festival season ended, the Maoists have stepped up their activities throughout the country. A Royal Nepalese Army convoy was attacked at Dhading on the Prithivi highway 40 miles west of the capital, killing half-a-dozen Army personnel. In another significant attack, they targeted the armed police force at Bardiya, 700 kilometers west of Kathmandu near the east-west highway. They also blockaded sections of the east-west highway for a week in far western region. A succession of sudden attacks has come amid reports that Maoists were preparing a final assault against the Government forces.

However, the Maoists have also received several setbacks in recent weeks. People living in 12 village development committee areas in the Dullu region - a heavily Maoist affected villages 600 kilometers west of capital - revolted against the rebels. The uprising began after the Maoists started forcibly recruiting full-time cadres. More than 20,000 people spontaneously organized a rally in the areas denouncing Maoist atrocities. The United Peoples Front (UPF), another radical communist outfit, has also been organizing rallies against Maoist atrocities in the western districts, following a series of physical assaults against their workers.

Security forces have recently claimed that they have seized full control over the Maoist strategic centre in the far-west, in the Pandaun areas of Kailali District, 700 kilometer west of Kathmandu. Officials stated that ten security force (SF) personnel were killed in the clash and another 18 injured. The Divisional Commander Royal Nepalese Army in the far-western region, Brigadier General Rajendra Bahadur Thapa estimated that some 300 Maoists could have been killed in the incident. According to security forces, about 2,000 armed Maoists were present at the time of the assault.

These setbacks notwithstanding, the Maoists continue to terrorize large populations and roam freely in the remote areas of the country, where there is no SF presence. Since they continue to maintain a formidable presence in rural areas, the Maoist still seem to be in no mood to resume the negotiations.

The impact of their activities is reverberating beyond Nepal's borders. Since any violence and disturbance in Nepal is certain to have spillover effects in Indian States, Nepalese and Indian security officials, over the past months, seem to be increasingly worried about growing contacts between Nepalese and Indian Maoists. Indian Maoists are said to share military and organizational experience with their Nepalese comrades.

Nepal and India share a 1,600 kilometer long porous border along four Indian States: Utter Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim and Uttaranchal. Border Security Force (BSF) Inspector General (North Bengal) S.K. Dutta disclosed recently that other (non-Marxist) militant groups such as the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) were trying to set up training camps in Jhapa close to the India-Nepal border. The BSF claimed that the number of training camps in Nepal was around 100, with each camp training some 50 Indian militants along with Nepalese Maoist cadres.

The devastations that the conflict has already wrought is incalculable. Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC) - a human rights NGO - claims that more than 10,000 people have already lost their lives due to the Maoist conflict in last nine year. Thousands of others have been injured and billions of rupees worth of property has been destroyed by the Maoists.

According to the Public Relations Directorate of the Royal Nepalese Army, around 2,700 Maoists and 163 army personnel have already been killed since the breakdown of the second truce on August 27, 2003. In addition, an unconfirmed 500 Maoists are also suspected to have been killed in the same period. 1,147 Maoists have already surrendered since the Government introduced an amnesty package. According to Home Ministry spokesman Gopendra Bahadur Pandey, over 6,500 Maoists have been killed in encounters with the SFs since the start of their 'people's war'. 1,500 police personnel lost their lives during the same period. Likewise, over 200 personnel of the Armed Police Force have also lost their lives. The Royal Nepalese Army now has a presence in some 2,000 villages out of the country's 4,000. The military presence was increased after the declaration of a state of emergency in 2001.

With no visible indication of an early resumption of the peace process, secret moves and countermoves persist on both sides, to secure an advantage in the conflict.

 
INDIA

Small wars of the Northeast
Bibhu Prasad Routray
Director, ICM Database & Documentation Centre, Guwahati

Keeping count of the number of militant outfits in India's Northeast can be a nightmarish exercise. Even though one can safely dismiss the claims of the 'Al Jehad-e-Islam', the non-descript outfit that claimed responsibility for the twin explosions in Nagaland's Dimapur town, on October 2, the fact remains that, in this region of a million mutinies, forming and sustaining a militant group is 'no big deal'. The Annual Report of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for the year, for instance, lists 18 groups, of which 13 were termed 'major insurgent groups', proscribed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The Report noted further that, in addition to the remaining five listed groups, 'other militant groups' were 'numerous'. The South Asia Terrorism Portal, in fact, lists some 115 groups in the region, out of which at least 32 are categorised as 'active'. Of these, Manipur has as many as 15 active groups, and Assam has eight.

The easy availability of small arms, the relative instability that pervades the neighbouring countries and the 'culture of violence' that appears to dominate the mechanics of dissent-articulation in the region, make the transition from rag-tag and insignificant groups to organisations with substantial capacities for violence relatively easy. The process is helped further by the attitudes of Governments, both at the Centre and in the States. Administrations tend to trivialize the threat of small groups in their formative stages, and concentrate attention on a handful of large outfits that have reached 'maturity' and are engaged in widespread depredations. This gives the peripheral groups large spaces for gradual consolidation, and they eventually manoeuvre themselves into positions of centrality, or at least acquire sufficient 'negotiating capabilities' to force the State or Central Government to grant concessions for their privileged accommodation in the 'mainstream' political process.

When the Union Government proscribed the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) and the Achik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) on November 16, 2000, for instance, the decision was met with a lukewarm response by Meghalaya's State Government, and the then Chief Minister E.K. Mawlong said that his "Government had not made any such recommendations, and the Centre might have acted on its own." Despite the proscription, the State Government's action against the group was less than vigorous, and as days progressed, the HNLC's domination of the capital city of Shillong was established and the ANVC's diktats reigned supreme in the Garo Hills.

The cycle has been renewed with a twist after the signing of the ceasefire agreement between the Government and the ANVC on July 23, 2004. While this is expected to neutralize one group, a number of other outfits of all sizes and character have suddenly mushroomed in Meghalaya. At least six groups, the Hynniewtrep National Special Red Army (HNSRA), the Hynniewtrep National Youth Front Tiger Force (HNYFTF), the Retrieval Indigenous United Front (RIUF), Pnar Liberation Army (PLA), United Achik National Front (UANF) and the Hajong United Liberation Army (HULA) are now operating in the vast areas, which were suddenly left open for exploitation after the ANVC's deal with the Government.

The decision to start negotiating with a particular militant organisation has always been a political decision, guided solely by the groups' capacities for subversion and violence. While the State is pitted against a number of insurgencies, its priorities have excluded the smaller groups, which manage to stay outside its operational objectives as long as they are engaged in sporadic violence, or calibrate their activities to remain below the threshold that would provoke punitive action by the state's enforcement agencies.

The State also appears to operate on the assumption that, as these smaller groups derive their strength from the larger outfits, the 'management' or neutralization of the latter would result in the automatic decimation of the former. This premise has only limited validity. Peripheral insurgencies in the Northeast like the United People's Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) and Dima Halim Daoga (DHD) in Assam did initially draw their tools of terror from larger organisations like the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) (NSCN-IM) and the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). However, as time passed, they found their own ways of sustaining themselves. There are now strong reasons to believe that insurgents of the DHD and the UPDS have independently augmented operational capacities and lethality, and can sustain themselves locally without the support of their more powerful patrons.

The Governments' propensity to initiate 'peace processes' with various militant groups has, far from resolving the problem, in fact, actually compounded it, resulting in a fissionary trend where one group that comes to terms with the State is quickly replaced by one or more of its own splinters, or by new organisations. Unprincipled agreements, both on part of the state and the insurgents, only serve transient vested interests, and leave the insurgent space vacant for successors. Examples of this process include the agreements with the UPDS and DHD in Assam and the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) in Mizoram. The DHD entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government on January 1, 2003. Within three months, the group's 'President', Jewel Garlossa, created a separate outfit, 'The Black Widows', which indulged in large-scale extortion activities in the North Cachar Hills District. Just over a year later, on June 24, 2004, Pranab Nunisa, the former 'commander-in-chief' of the DHD and the head of its armed wing, the Dima National Army, took over the command of a revived DHD by ousting Jewel Garlossa.

Similarly, the UPDS split into pro-talk and anti-talk factions in May 2002, a few months before the ceasefire agreement with the Government came into effect on August 1, 2002. While, the pro-talks faction remained engaged in the negotiation process, violence in the Karbi Anglong District persisted at significantly high levels as the rebels of the anti-talk faction not only targeted their former colleagues, but also continued with their insurgency. Later, the anti-talk faction, in a bid to establish its identity, rechristened itself as the Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF). A survey of incidents suggests that the KLNLF has been responsible for at least 24 civilian deaths in 2004 in Assam, during which time it has lost seven of its cadres to counter-insurgency operations.

Twelve rounds of negotiations with the BNLF have failed to provide a solution to the standoff between the Mizoram Government and the 35,000 Reang (Bru) refugees living in the six relief camps of North Tripura District. The prolonged negotiation process, which started in September 2001 and still continues, appeared to have exhausted the patience of some Reang youth, who formed the Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram (BLFM) in 2002. While the BNLF's negotiations with the Mizoram Government has inhibited both the BNLF and the BLFM from committing violent acts within Mizoram, both have remained active in the contiguous areas of Assam, such as the Cachar District. On August 31, 2004, three contractors and an engineer, abducted on August 23 by BNLF cadres from the Kulicherra hamlet in the Cachar District, were released following the payment of a ransom amount ranging between 1.4 and 1.8 million Rupees. Extortion and kidnapping for ransom is a staple of the activities of both groups in these areas.

The Hmar People's Convention (HPC) split into two in 1995, the HPC and the Hmar People's Convention - Democracy (HPC-D). Both remain active in the Hmar dominated areas of Mizoram, Manipur (Churachandpur) and Assam (Cachar and North Cachar Hills). Both engage in regular raids on the bordering villages, not only to take away the agricultural produce of the unprotected farmers, but also to abduct people who are subsequently released against ransom. In one of the larger of recent incidents, on June 12, 2004, HPC-D militants abducted six persons, including officials, employees and two guards of a private cement manufacturing company, Umrangsu Cement Limited (UCL), in the North Cachar Hills district.

Another assortment of insurgent groups that has grown under the shadow of the state's benign neglect is the Islamist militants in Manipur. Even though Muslims constitute less than 9 per cent of the State's population (2001 Census), there are as many as four Islamist organisations in the State: the People's United Liberation Front (PULF), the Islamic National Liberation Front (INLF), the Northeast Minority People's Front (NEMPF) and the Islamic National Front (INF). Out of these, only the PULF, which was trained and armed by the NSCN-IM at its time of its creation, is considered to be a potentially dangerous outfit. The other groups, with their objective of establishing an independent Islamic State to be carved out of Manipur, remain unnoticed. Though there are no authoritative estimates of the cadre strengths of these groups, each of them is believed to have access to sophisticated arms and ammunition. A partial glimpse of their otherwise unknown linkages with subversive forces outside India was revealed when 20 Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)-backed activists from Bangladesh were arrested from the downtown Eastern Star Hotel in Imphal city on February 21, 2004.

The small groups appear to have followed a carefully structured policy of keeping their activities localised. Thus the Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) operates in the Paite dominated areas of Churachandpur district of Manipur; the Chin Revolutionary Army (CRA) operates in parts of Manipur, Mizoram and Myanmar; both groups simply sustain themselves through extortion, abduction, the drugs trade, and other criminal activities. Despite their continuous engagement in such crimes, these groups have generally tended to avoid killings, both of civilians and of security forces personnel - a policy which confers at least two distinct benefits: one, the hard-pressed security forces tend to turn a blind eye to their widespread extortion regimes as long as there are no significant fatalities; and second, their localised operations ensures minimal exposure to major counter-insurgency onslaughts, making exercises such as cadre recruitment, arsenal collection, extortion and other 'routine' activities less cumbersome and relatively risk-free.

The smaller insurgent groups of the Northeast have, moreover, always functioned, and continue to function, as facilitators in the area-domination exercises of the larger groups. The NSCN-IM, in its hey-day, is known to have propped up a number of such subsidiary operations in almost all the States of the region. Executed within the broader strategy of 'bleeding India through a thousand cuts', such 'franchises' significantly widened the area of conflict, even as they created an expanded network for effective fund collection for their patron organisations. These secondary groups shared a significant proportion of their revenues with the patron groups in return for training of their cadres, arms and ammunition, networking, access to safe havens, as well as operational support in times of distress. Most of the smaller groups also provided safe houses and transit or semi-permanent camping facilities to their patrons. Thus UPDS and DHD provided support to the NSCN-IM in Assam; while ANVC made similar services available to ULFA and NDFB in Meghalaya. ULFA's absence in the Cachar District of Assam has been offset by Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) cadres, who tranship and store explosives in their backyards, for imminent strikes by ULFA.

It is crucial for the state, as it battles against the prominent insurgent organisations in the Northeast, to keep a tab on the peripheral groups. These latter not only facilitate the ongoing operations of the larger entities, but have a further potential of growing into full-blown insurgencies in the corrosive shadow of the state's benign indifference.



NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 29-December 5, 2004

 
Civilian
Security Force Personnel
Terrorist
Total

BANGLADESH

0
0
6
6

INDIA

     Assam

1
0
2
3

     Jammu &
     Kashmir

2
15
7
24

     Left Wing
     Extremism

1
0
1
2

     Manipur

3
0
0
3

     Meghalaya

5
0
0
5

     Nagaland

0
0
1
1

Total (INDIA)

12
15
11
38

NEPAL

4
13
19
36
 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

Islamist outfit threatens to kill Indian cricketers: The Indian Government on December 5 decided to send a team of security personnel to Dhaka to check out the security arrangements made for the Indian cricket team due to begin a tour of Bangladesh on December 9 after the Indian High Commission in Dhaka received a letter from the "Harkat-ul-Jihad" (Ed: probably the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh) stating that it would kill the Indian cricketers if they toured Bangladesh. Bangladesh authorities have dismissed the threat as a 'hoax'. The Hindu, Daily Star, December 6, 2004


INDIA

Ten security personnel killed in IED explosion in Jammu and Kashmir: On December 5, terrorists detonated a powerful remote-controlled Improvised Explosive Device (IED), hidden in an underground water pipe, when a private vehicle driven by a civilian driver and carrying soldiers of Ist Rashtriya Rifles, passed over it one kilometer short of Naiyna Batpora village in Pulwama district. The powerful blast reportedly hurled the car skyward and left a 10-feet (3-meter) wide crater in the road, killing nine soldiers including a Major, a Special Police Officer (SPO) and the civilian driver. Later, a person claiming to be a spokesman for the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) terrorist group claimed responsibility for the blast in a telephone call to a local news agency. Daily Excelsior, December 6, 2004

Terrorist infrastructure still intact in Pakistan, says Border Security Force Director General: On November 29, asserting that the terror infrastructure in Pakistan was "intact" irrespective of the recent thaw in Indo-Pak ties, Border Security Force (BSF) Director General Ajai Raj Sharma said Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)-calibrated infiltration attempts were still on and the terrorists were being given special training to negotiate the border fence. As part of this design, models of the fence and Indian troop positions have been prepared and the terrorists are being provided with plastic ladders and gloves, wire cutters and chemicals that have been specially procured for the purpose. Sharma added that infiltration had decreased during the last four months, mainly because of the vigil by the Indian forces, but around 300 terrorists were always present on "launching pads" waiting for an opportunity to sneak in. The Hindu, Daily Excelsior, November 30, 2004

Troop reduction in Kashmir could be reversed, says Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee: Terming the Union Government's decision to reduce troops in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) as "substantial", Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee on November 28 said the exercise was "experimental" which could be reversed if the situation demanded. "We made an experiment which was very well received by the international community. But there is no guarantee on the situation deteriorating. If need arises we can go back on this," Mukherjee told reporters onboard an Indian Air Force aircraft. The Hindu, November 29, 2004


PAKISTAN

No troops pullout from Waziristan, says US State Department: The US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on November 29 that Pakistan had withdrawn no forces from Waziristan. Earlier on November 26, Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, Peshawar corps commander, had announced the removal of check posts from all parts of the Wana subdivision of the South Waziristan tribal region. At his daily briefing, Richard Boucher was asked if Pakistan had withdrawn forces from Waziristan and was discontinuing the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. He replied, "Our understanding of the situation with regard to the forces in Waziristan is it's not a change of attitude or inclination or activity on the part of the Pakistanis. They - Pakistani officials, both publicly and privately to us - have made clear that there has been no withdrawal from Waziristan and that they remain fully committed to continuing the campaign against Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda supporters. We do expect those efforts to continue." Dawn, December 1, 2004.

Permanent solution of the Kashmir issue impossible, says Former Prime Minister of PoK: On November 28, former Prime Minister of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan stressed on an interim solution of the Kashmir issue, saying a permanent resolution of the problem was impossible and unlikely to be accepted by the parties concerned. "There is a need to correct the perceptions that a permanent solution of the Kashmir issue will be accepted by all the parties concerned to the dispute - India, Pakistan and people of Jammu and Kashmir," Khan told the visiting Indian journalists at a dinner-meeting in Muzaffarabad. Dawn, The News, November 29, 2004


SRI LANKA


LTTE's call scarcely conducive to good faith negotiations, says Government statement:
The Government, responding through a press release to the speech made by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE) 'leader' Vellupillai Prabhakaran on November 27, observed that a call couched in threatening language from the LTTE for a resumption of negotiations without conditions, while setting conditions itself by insisting unilaterally on a single agenda item, is scarcely conducive to good faith negotiations. The Government Information Department press release states: "The Government is engaged in a careful study of the statement of the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam made on November 27. the absence of direct negotiations since April 2003 is of no benefit to anyone and is unsustainable." Daily News, December 2, 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.

 

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K. P. S. Gill

Editor
Dr. Ajai Sahni



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