SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 4, No. 2, July 25, 2005
assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form
with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal
Long and Winding
Road to UN Mediation
Guest Writer: Suman Pradhan
Kathmandu-based journalist and independent analyst
"We have long been stressing," said Nepal's Vice Chairman
of the Cabinet, Kirti Nidhi Bista, on July 13, 2005, "that
there is no need for UN [United Nations] mediation in Nepal.
And we still stand firmly with this." The remarks were made
immediately after Bista held a meeting with UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan's special adviser, former Algerian foreign
minister Lakhdar Brahimi, who visited Nepal on July 10-15.
Two days later, during a press conference, it was Brahimi's
turn to reflect on his meeting with Bista. "He did not say
that during our meeting," the UN official quipped when asked
about Bista's comments.
Clearly, all is not well when it comes to UN involvement
in Nepal's troubles. Despite the recent growing involvement
of the world body, the Royal regime and powerful international
actors continue to see the UN as a spoiler in the conflict.
They fear that a UN mediating role in Nepal's conflict would
not only reduce their own functions and influence, but would
also give the rebel Maoists,
whose insurgency has brought the country to the brink of
disaster, an equality and legitimacy they have long craved.
This view is in sharp contrast with Nepal's mainstream political
parties, civil society, and a majority of the population
who seek a strong UN intervention.
Whether or not the UN succeeds in getting a bigger role,
particularly in conflict mediation, is an open question.
But its involvement has already been increasing since February
1, when King Gyanendra's coup turned this Himalayan Kingdom's
politics upside down. For instance, in April, the Royal
Government signed a far-reaching memorandum of understanding
with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
(OHCHR) in Geneva, paving the way for the opening of an
OHCHR office in Kathmandu to monitor the deteriorating rights
situation. That was followed by two high profile visits
- first by the Walter Kaelin mission on April 13 which came
here to assess the rights situation of Internally Displaced
Persons, and then the Brahimi mission. Another is planned
for September when a Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission
on Human Rights is slated to visit Kathmandu. These high-level
visits and occasional remarks by Secretary General Annan
himself have given Nepal a high profile within the UN system,
a profile which indicates growing international concerns
over developments in the country.
But assessments regarding whether that profile and attention
are helping or harming efforts, depend on who one listens
to. Nepal's mainstream political parties, civil society
and most common people clearly want a strengthened UN role.
It is to be noted here that some of the political parties,
particularly the two Nepali Congresses, have only now come
around to accepting UN mediation. Their record while in
Government was to expressly oppose any UN mediation role.
Nevertheless, the political parties, except for the royalist
Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), are now united in seeking
UN mediation. Whether this unity will last if one or all
of them were to go back into Government is, however, an
open question. Nevertheless, their latest position reflects
the current mood in the country. "As an uninterested and
neutral body highly respected by all sides, the UN is the
only body that can successfully mediate between all sides
in the conflict," says Narayan Wagle, editor of the influential
Kantipur newspaper. "What Nepal needs is peace and
stability, and all sides have shown themselves incapable
of reaching an understanding on their own. The UN could
bring in expertise and resources as well play the role of
an honest broker."
But there are arguments to the contrary. A growing UN role,
this argument goes, will only heighten suspicions in India
and China, Nepal's two powerful neighbours. "The Indians
will be concerned that such a precedent in South Asia will
open the way for UN meddling in many of its own internal
conflicts, particularly in the north-east. The Chinese,
aware that Nepal is the easiest route to Tibet, will be
equally suspicious of any UN role. Most of these countries
view the UN as an extension of US foreign policy, which
may not be the case, but is certainly the perception," says
an analyst who declined to be named. On a related note,
Nishchal Nath Pandey, a royalist supporter and executive
director of the Kathmandu-based semi-government Institute
of Foreign Affairs, says, "If the UN wants to be involved,
it must show that it can win the trust of all sides. That
is not the case at the moment."
Brahimi is said to have received an earful from all sides
along these very lines during his visit to Kathmandu. In
the end though, the UN's own reading is that, the toughest
opposition to an expanding UN role comes from the Palace
and India. Ironically, these are the two sides which have
rarely seen eye to eye on anything after the coup. Brahimi
left with the impression that the conflict in Nepal was
not as bad as he had feared, and that there still existed
room for resolution at this point, before the situation
worsened. But for that to occur, the UN would need to expand
its role, particularly in mediation, to which there are
Several sources close to the UN said that the Palace may
raise the bogey of India and China but is "instinctively
aware that the UN playing an active role means a diminishing
of its own role. It will be treated as just another party
in the conflict, and not the final arbiter it wants to be."
The other reason, of course, is that UN mediation could
give the rebel Maoists the legitimacy they have craved for
so long. This perception is reinforced by the Maoists' frequent
courting of the UN. For instance, Maoist 'chairman' Prachanda
issued a statement to coincide with the Brahimi visit in
which he said, "our party is prepared to discuss with anyone
in the world, including the United Nations Organization,
in favour of the Nepalese people's aspirations for democracy,
peace and progress."
The other obstacle comes from India, and to some extent
from the United States. "The Indians are in two minds,"
says a senior official who has interacted with them closely.
"They see the benefits of a UN involvement but they worry
that the peace process may not go the way they want it to
if the UN gets involved." The reading is that India wants
to control the process from start to finish, much as it
did in 1950 when it mediated between the Rana regime, the
Palace and the revolutionary Nepali Congress. But an open
Indian role is out of the question because the Maoists and
the Palace, not to speak of majority of Nepal's citizens,
do not see India as an uninterested and neutral party. Given
those perceptions, many in Nepal hope that, in view of India's
express desire to be a permanent member of the UN Security
Council, "it should be magnanimous in allowing UN mediating
efforts in its neighbourhood." But convincing India's left
parties, who view the UN as an extension of the US foreign
policy, will remain a challenge.
The United States has not spelt out its opposition to a
UN role as clearly as India has, but its officials, particularly
from its Embassy in Kathmandu, have repeatedly said that
it believes "Nepalis are capable of settling the issue on
their own" - diplomatic language aimed at discouraging UN
Still another obstacle is one of perception. There are those,
both in Nepal and India, who believe that the UN has not
succeeded in any of the conflicts it has tried to resolve.
One royalist Nepali commentator pointed to East Timor and
the former Yugoslavia as disasters created by the UN. "In
both cases they ended up breaking the country," he said.
To be fair though, in both those cases, there were groups
asking for independence. No such clamour exists in the Nepal
conflict. Even the Maoists, despite their zeal in carving
out the country into ethnic autonomous zones, are dead set
against Balkanization of Nepal into little states.
Given such complexities, the march towards UN mediation
in Nepal is not going to be an easy one. Perhaps it is for
this reason that the Brahimi mission has scaled down its
own goals. In the words of one senior UN official, the goal
at the moment is to get all the relevant international actors
together and to argue a common approach through a single
interlocutor. "Throughout this visit and in our discussions,
what has come out clearly is the need for the international
community to work together with one interlocutor acting
on their behalf," he says.
The UN and many Nepalis hope, that interlocutor will be
the UN itself. But all of them realize, the key to that
is in Delhi. "The international community is largely on
the same page on what the solution should be in Nepal…but
there has not been an effort to bring the common elements
in one direction. The international community should now
move towards a focused, catalytic, role with recognition
of regional complexities," says a senior UN official.
West Bengal: Naxalbari
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management
Memories of the Naxalbari incident of March 1967 were revived
on July 9, 2005, when three Communist Party of India - Marxist
(CPI-M) leaders and a policeman were killed in two separate
attacks by left-wing extremists (also known as Naxalites)
of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist).
In Bankura district, two district-level leaders, Raghunath
Murmu and Bablu Mudi, were shot dead by the Naxalites at
Majgeria under Barikul police station. When the police reached
the spot, a bomb intentionally left behind by the Maoists
exploded killing a policeman and injuring 16 others. Within
an hour of the Bankura incident, another CPI-M activist,
Mahendra Mahato, was shot dead in the adjoining Purulia
district by the Maoists.
The incident was a chilling reminder that it was West Bengal's
soil that produced the first Naxalite movement. The 'Naxalites'
take their name from the tiny hamlet of Naxalbari in the
Darjeeling district of West Bengal where an insurrection
commenced in March 1967, to spread across the State and
ravage it for the better part of six years, till it was
crushed in 1973, and eventually wiped out under the Emergency
of 1975. Since then, West Bengal had remained largely free
of the scourge of violence inspired by the radical Marxist-Leninist
or Maoist ideology, even as large areas in its neighbouring
States fell under the renewed spell of this ferocious dogma.
The July 9 incident, however, was not the first time that
the State has woken up to Naxalite violence in the recent
past. On October 14, 2004, six Eastern Frontier Rifles personnel
were killed in a landmine attack triggered by Naxalites
inside the Ormara forest in Medinipur district. Traditionally,
the three districts of Bankura, Purulia and Medinipur have
been the worst affected in Naxalite violence, especially
the Jhalda, Bundwan and Jaipur areas in Purulia District;
the Ranibundh, Raipur, Sarenga and Simlapal areas in Bankura
District; and the Belpahari, Lalgarh, Banspahari and Khejuri
areas in Medinipur District.
Reacting to the attacks on the CPI-M activists, State Home
Secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy, on July 11, admitted there
was a total 'intelligence failure' on the police's part
in anticipating the attacks. Roy said that, in spite of
29 companies of paramilitary forces, including the Border
Security Force (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force
(CRPF), deployed in the three districts, the forces had
proved ineffective in facing up to the Maoist threat.
Apart from the 'intelligence failure', a more important
aspect that has allowed the Naxalites to flex their muscle
is the apparent lack of development in the region, as compared
to other districts of the State. According to the West Bengal
Human Development Report 2004, published by the State's
Development and Planning Department,
western parts of the State (the districts of Medinipur,
Bankura and Purulia or the Paschimanchal region) include
some of the most backward areas from the point of
view of infrastructure and material development, with
the lowest levels of per capita income and also relatively
poor HDI rankings……the lack of development in this
region is evident not only in terms of the level of
basic infrastucture in the region but also with respect
to agricultural development. This is compounded by
the fact that this region is relatively speaking the
driest in the State; it receives the least amount
of annual rainfall and is more prone to drought than
other parts of West Bengal… There are large tracts
of land which remain fallow because of inadequate
irrigation facilities and rainwater harvesting techniques…
The problems of the Paschimanchal region therefore
appear at one level to be more tractable than those
in the other regions, because they stem more directly
from poor infrastructure and material development.
It is this
poor infrastructure and underdevelopment that have been
fodder to the Naxalites. Documents seized from three CPI-Maoist
leaders, Prasanta Roy, Gautam Bhattacharya and Ajit Haldar,
from a forest in Burdwan district on July 2, 2005, revealed
details of their plans for the three districts. According
to District Police chief, Niraj Singh, "We have found in
the papers plans to attack or blow up police stations. There
were also notebooks with details of how tribals of Bankura,
Purulia and West Midnapore are 'exploited' and how they
could be freed."
On July 12, echoing the findings of the Human Development
Report 2004, the Minister for Tribal Affairs, Upen Kisku,
stated at a public meeting at Bijaharpur, about 70 kilometres
from the State capital, Kolkata, that Maoists have spread
their tentacles among the tribal people as "we have not
been able to provide irrigation facilities and electricity
to them". This was reiterated by State CPI-M Secretary Anil
Biswas, who said, "The Maoists are misguiding a section
of youths in the poverty-stricken areas, cashing in on the
lack of development."
Recent evidences indicate that the Naxalite spread is not
just confined to the Bankura, Purulia and Medinipur Districts,
but is making inroads in the Hooghly and Nadia Districts
as well. In December 2004, nine Naxalites, six from Nadia
and three from Hooghly, were arrested with propaganda material.
In Hooghly, the police have identified the Jangipara police
station area as the hub of Naxalite activities in the District,
while Naxalite presence has also been reported from other
areas like Goghata, Khanakul, Chanditala and Dadpur. North
and South 24 Parganas are also being considered as 'targeted'
districts. Barasat, Belgharia, Agarpara, Barrackore and
Naihati areas in North 24 Parganas and Gosaba, Basanti areas
in South 24 Parganas are said to be witnessing an increase
in the support base of the Maoists.
Further, Kolkata has emerged as a main operational base
for the Naxalites. This was revealed by Sushil Ray and Patit
Paban Halder, two senior Maoist leaders arrested from Belpahari
by the Special Operations Group (SOG) on May 24, 2005. Following
this disclosure, on June 1, CPI-Maoist 'politburo' member
Asit Jana was arrested from the Hind Motor area of the capital
city. Asit reportedly confessed during interrogation that
the house where he and his associates had been staying was
their main operational base in the region. According to
Asit, they used small-time courier companies even to send
consignments of explosives to States like Bihar, Orissa,
Jharkhand and Assam.
An internal assessment by the CPI-M reportedly corroborates
the fact that, in Bagmari, Jadavpur and Behala areas of
Kolkata, the Maoists are actively working against the ruling
party and the Government. The assessment also recorded that
Maoists were making efforts to infiltrate the academic community
both in Jadavpur and Calcutta University, especially the
students. In the urban areas the Naxalites are adopting
a different strategy, taking part in anti-CPI-M and anti-Government
agitations through front organisations. Revolutionary posters
and underground campaign leaflets against the CPI-M and
State Government have been put up and distributed in key
areas like the Writers' Building, different Government offices,
Calcutta University, Jadavpur University and railway stations.
The current Maoist strategy for West Bengal appears to be
a much-improved version of the Naxalbari uprising of March
1967. In an interview to The Telegraph published
on July 15, a 'central committee' member of the CPI-Maoist,
identified as 'Comrade Dhruba' remarked that, apart from
the Bankura, Purulia and Medinipur Districts, "our mass
base in Murshidabad, Malda, Burdwan and Nadia is ready.
After five years, we will launch our strikes." When asked
whether the Maoists had any plans for Kolkata, he said,
"We do not plan violence in Kolkata because we know when
we establish our base there, people will be forced to obey
While replying to a debate in the State Legislative Assembly
on July 14, Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee stated
that, "the current version of terror culture is an import
from Andhra Pradesh", adding, "neither this is an extension
of the Naxalite Movement nor this has any local basis. They
aren't local people. They are outsiders who are using some
local youth in a game of bloodshed."
But this assessment is, at best, partial. The Andhra influence
cannot be denied, and the current disorders are not an extension
of the Naxalite Movement of the 1960's and 70's. There are,
in fact, a much better and efficiently organized movement,
which is rapidly extending its tentacles. The Naxalites
definitely cross State boundaries, depending on the ground
situation, and the Chief Minister's position that the present
violence in the State has no 'local basis' is no more than
an attempt to avoid responsibility for the incompetence
of his own State machinery. Such denials will only lead
to a deepening of the existing unrest.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts
in South Asia
data compiled from English language media sources.
troops raid Myanmar rebel camps: Bangladeshi
troops are reported to have fought gun battles
with Myanmar rebel groups and neutralised several
camps in a series of raids along the forested
border between the two countries during July
2005. "Twenty-six fugitive rebels from Myanmar,
along with huge weapons and ammunition including
31 AK-47 rifles, were arrested during the raids,"
said a senior Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) official
on July 24, 2005. No Bangladeshi troops were
injured and rebel casualties could not be ascertained,
he said. In the latest incident, a rebel camp
was neutralised and 16,000 rounds of ammunition
were recovered following an hour-long encounter
on July 23 at a forest near Naikkongchhari,
400 kilometres southeast of the Bangladeshi
capital Dhaka, said Lieutenant Colonel M.A.
Awal of the BDR. Rebel groups operating in Myanmar's
western state of Arakan often set up temporary
camps in Bangladesh to escape raids by Myanmar
security forces. Alert
Net, July 25, 2005
Islamist extremists could
take control of Pakistani nuclear weapons, says Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh: Expressing
concern over the security of Pakistan's nuclear assets, the
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in Washington on July
21, 2005 that there had been "reckless proliferation" and there
was a "danger" of extremists seizing power and taking control
of the nuclear weapons. Dr. Singh said he was worried about
the security of Pakistan's nuclear assets should President Pervez
Musharraf be replaced and said there was "always a danger" that
extremists in Pakistan could take charge of its nuclear arsenal.
"If they get into the hands of the jehadi elements that
could pose a serious problem... I hope that this does not happen
and I pray that this will not happen," he said while expressing
the hope that "credible solutions can be found today with that
Hindu, July 22, 2005.
Five persons killed in suicide bombing in Srinagar: A
Major of the Indian Army and two soldiers were among five people
who died; 17 persons were wounded when a suspected suicide bomber
rammed an explosive-laden car into an Army vehicle near Burnhall
School in the high-security civil lines area of Srinagar on
July 20, 2005. A civilian who died was identified as Nisar Ahmed
Bhat, an employee of the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural
Sciences and Technology. The fifth person is believed to be
the suicide bomber. The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM)
has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack. Daily
Excelsior, July 21, 2005.
More than 300 people arrested
in country-wide crackdown on Islamist extremism:
Security agencies are reported to have arrested more than 300
people by July 24, 2005, in the ongoing country-wide crackdown
on Islamist extremism. These arrests, which commenced on July
19, have occurred in the Punjab, North West Frontier Province,
Balochistan and Sindh. Among those arrested was a British Muslim,
Haroon Rashid Aswad, a London bombing suspect. Meanwhile, countrywide
protests were organised on July 22 in response to the call of
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) against raids on the offices of
religious parties and Madrassas (seminaries) and arrest
of religious scholars and students. Demonstrations were held in
almost all big cities and towns of Pakistan after the Friday prayers.
Times, July 23, 2005
Eleven persons killed during sectarian violence in Gilgit:
At least 11 persons are reported to have died in the ongoing sectarian
violence at Gilgit in the Northern Areas of Pakistan occupied
Kashmir. While unidentified assailants attacked a Rawalpindi-bound
passenger bus on the Karakoram Highway on July 18, killing five
persons and injuring 15 others, one person was killed when unidentified
gunmen opened fire in the Amphery area minutes after the arrival
of the dead body of a man who was killed a day earlier. Three
persons were reportedly killed on July 20 in the Jalalabad and
Sonikote areas. Jang,
July 23, 2005.
President Musharraf urges the West to resolve disputes facing
Muslims: Addressing the nation on radio and television on
July 21, 2005, President Pervez Musharraf said the West should
help resolve political disputes facing the Muslim world which,
he said, were at the roots of extremism and terrorism. While indicating
that Pakistan supported the United Kingdom in the fight against
terrorism and announced that a special cell would ensure registration
of Madrassas (seminaries) in the country by December 2005.
Gen. Musharraf also said that while Pakistan had launched a crackdown
on banned outfits, Prime Minister Tony Blair should ensure that
groups like the Hizb-ut-Tehrir and Al-Muhajiroun were not allowed
to operate in Britain. Dawn,
July 22, 2005.
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
Asia Terrorism Portal.
To receive FREE advance copies of SAIR by email
South Asia Intelligence
Review (SAIR) to a friend.