SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Since July 2005 there have been five major terrorist attacks outside Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) – in Ayodhya, Delhi, Varanasi, Bangalore and Mumbai. While investigations are still on to determine who was responsible for the Mumbai bomb blasts that killed nearly 200 people, there is substantial evidence to conclude that the terrorists who carried out the other four attacks were either Pakistani nationals or Bangladeshi and Indian nationals linked to the Bangladesh based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), or the Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). It is known that while HuJI is based in Bangladesh it has had links with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) since the days of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Never before has the Indian heartland been subject to such a barrage of terrorist attacks. Moreover, for the first time, tourists from across India visiting J&K were systematically targeted for terrorist attacks during the past months.
Just after the Mumbai blasts of July 11, Dr. Manmohan Singh asserted: “We are certain that the terrorist modules responsible for the Mumbai blasts are instigated from across the border.” Yet, speaking at Havana after his meeting with President Musharraf on September 16, 2006, he said: “The fact is that terrorism is a threat to Pakistan. And it has been a threat to India. We need to have a collective mechanism to deal with it.” Dr. Manmohan Singh has thus acquired the strange distinction of being the first Indian Prime Minister to equate India, a victim of terrorism, with Pakistan, a perpetrator of terrorism. For twenty years the international community and people in India have been made aware of the use of terrorism as an instrument of State Policy by the military establishment of Pakistan. Following the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993, Pakistan came close to being designated a State sponsor of terrorism by the Clinton Administration. Yet the Prime Minister of India today glibly equates Pakistan with India and declares that Pakistan, like India is a “victim of terrorism”
It is not India alone that has accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism. President Hamid Karzai has given details of how Pakistan is providing safe haven, arms and training to the Taliban on its soil, leading to a substantial increase of suicide and armed attacks on American, NATO and Afghan Government forces in Southern Afghanistan. Indian workers assisting in road construction have been brutally killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, which sustains itself with Pakistani assistance. The three major non-Kashmir terrorist groups operating in J&K, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the LeT have been declared as international terrorist organizations by the US, UK, all major western powers and under UN Security Council Resolution 1363. Yet General Musharraf allows them to operate freely under new names. Shortly after the Mumbai serial bombings this year, The New York Times report by a correspondent in Islamabad noted that functionaries of the LeT confirmed that they train over fifty persons annually for terrorist attacks across India. The Amir (Chief) of the LeT, Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed, regularly proclaims that his cadres are waging jihad against India in J&K and elsewhere.
We are told by our Prime Minister that General Musharraf appeared “sincere” in his assurances that he would do his best to “control” terrorism directed against India. However, speaking to a gathering made up largely of his own countrymen and Pakistani and Mirpuri expatriates in Brussels on September 12, 2006, General Musharraf twice referred to India as the “enemy” and categorically said that he would not favour even a cease-fire by Kashmiri militant groups at present. He said: “I don't hold a whistle to stop them (militant groups). There are a lot of free lance terrorists operating. One can try and influence them. A total or complete cease-fire is impossible. I am against such attempts without moving forward and then everybody will fall in line. They will fall in line once the Kashmir issue is settled.” In effect, what General Musharraf acknowledged was that there are indeed what he called “free lance terrorists” that operate across the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K. What he did not dwell on was how the world could accept this when there were regular meetings, reported in the Pakistan press, of a so called ‘United Jihad Council’ operating right under the nose of Pakistani Army authorities in Muzaffarabad, with the Council's leaders publicly proclaiming how they intended to let loose terrorist violence across the LoC. India has sought the extradition of the leader of this ‘Council’. The request for extradition has been refused on the grounds that the Council’s leader, Syed Salahuddin, is a ‘freedom fighter’.
On January 6, 2004, President Musharraf pledged that he would not allow territory under Pakistan's control to be used for terrorism against India. This meant that he would effectively take steps to ‘end’ terrorist violence from Pakistani controlled territory. Yet both the Taliban in Afghanistan and groups like the Lashkar operate with impunity. The Lashkar is described as a “charitable organization” by Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri. What is, however, a source of greater concern is that in Havana India has accepted the preposterous assertion that there are “free lance” terrorist groups operating in Pakistan and, instead of demanding an “end” to terrorism, appears to be satisfied if General Musharraf will “control” these outfits. Does the Government mean that if General Musharraf “controls” support for terrorist attacks like the Mumbai blasts and continues to permit attacks on tourists and security forces in J&K, it will be convinced that General Musharraf is “sincere”?
The decision to set up a ‘Joint Mechanism’ between India and Pakistan to investigate terrorist violence has to be seen in the context of the U-turn on India's policy to deal with terrorism and the remarks in Havana equating India and Pakistan as “victims of terrorism”. Given the fact that Pakistan has yet to hand over terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim, Masood Azhar of the JeM and Syed Salahuddin of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), does the Government seriously expect General Musharraf to reveal how the ISI is helping terrorist groups, merely because there is a ‘Joint Mechanism’? The absurdity of the proposal is evident from the fact that, even in higher level talks between Home Secretaries of the two countries, Pakistan has stonewalled and rejected the evidence that has been provided to it on terrorist activities emanating from its soil and flatly refused all proposals India has made to extradite terrorists charged with involvement in acts of terrorism.
By equating India and Pakistan as "victims of terrorism" in Havana, India has seriously undermined what has been its consistent stand that Pakistan should end terrorist violence unconditionally. The next time there is a major terrorist attack against India, with substantial circumstantial and other evidence of Pakistani involvement available, Pakistan and its apologists in the international community will ask India to sort out the matter with Pakistan through the ‘Joint Mechanism’, which is now to be set up. To divert attention, Pakistan will allege that India has sponsored scores of terrorist incidents in Pakistan. If India objects to this, Pakistan will say that the Indian Prime Minister himself has acknowledged that Pakistan is a “victim of terrorism”.
The Indian Government’s casual approach to terrorism can be gauged by the fact the Website of the Ministry of External Affairs does not contain any detailed account of reports of acts of terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil, which have occurred not merely in India and Afghanistan, but in places as far away as US, UK, Chechnya and Australia. Does the Government of India feel that this is not necessary because Pakistan is also a “victim of terrorism”?
Wars on Terror
to provide more substance to their bilateral ties,
India and Myanmar on September 16, 2006, evolved a
mechanism to assist each other on security-related
issues including activities of ‘undesirable elements’,
arms smuggling and drug trafficking. The joint statement
read out at the end of the four-day home-secretary
level meeting indicated that action on illegal activities
— arms and drug smuggling besides terror — will now
be supplemented by real-time intelligence sharing
between the two neighbours, a step seen as a positive
development in addressing long-standing Indian concerns.
Clearly, the porosity of India’s 1,643 kilometre-long international border with Myanmar, 398 kilometres of which passes along Manipur, has been exploited to the fullest by the militants. Apart from both factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and the Assam-based United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), three major militant groups operating in Manipur, the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), are known to have set up camps in the Sagaing Division and the Chin State of Myanmar. They have established linkages with the local insurgent groups in the region, most of which are opposed to the military junta in Yangon. The presence of the anti-junta insurgent outfits and the ruggedness of the terrain have ensured that the periodic high-profile operations undertaken since the mid-1990s by the military against the militant groups operating in India’s Northeast have yielded only temporary and intangible results. These outfits have simply gone back to reestablish their camps once the Army withdrew from the area.
However, what has been revealed to SAIR by Indian intelligence sources clearly rebuts the idea of apparent susceptibility of the Myanmarese Army and points at a deepening nexus with the militants. According to the information, the militant groups, especially the UNLF, have managed to establish friendly ties with Myanmarese Army personnel, thereby ensuring their safety during military operations. While there was some speculation regarding payment of protection money to Army personnel in the past, the UNLF has, of late, gifted at least one jeep and several motorcycles to middle and lower rung personnel of the Myanmarese Army. An estimated extortion amount of INR Four billion was collected by various outfits operating in Manipur in 2005, of which the UNLF share is known to be substantial. Parting with paltry sums to secure security for their cadres and arms in Myanmar is not bad investment. What has been confirmed for the UNLF may also be true for other groups based in Myanmar as well. In fact, sources reveal that the nexus extends from the secluded hills into the heartlands of the country. In a way, Myanmar is beginning to resemble Bangladesh on this count. PLA and UNLF representatives in Mandalay are said to run successful businesses and even use Myanmar passports to travel to other countries.
Interestingly, the linkages between the Myanmar Army and the UNLF could be at least five years old, if not more. In December 2001, as many as 192 UNLF cadres, including some top leaders, were arrested by the Myanmar Army. Interestingly, all of them were set free in four phases, by February 14, 2002, giving rise to speculations that something was amiss with the persistent Myanmarese promises of sincerity and determination to drive Indian militants out of their territory.
In fact, the nexus, by all indications, could be much deeper than Indian intelligence agencies anticipate. When Senior General Than Shwe, Chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, visited India in October 2004, he told the Indian side that poor access to border areas in northwest Myanmar was limiting his Army’s ability to act against the Indian militant groups. Since then, Yangon has handed over a request for earth-moving equipment and suggested eight new road projects to be taken up with Indian assistance in northwest Myanmar. While New Delhi is evaluating this request, there is also a feeling of frustration at the lack of cooperation in other areas of militant operation, where the lack of roads is not an issue. In May 2003, for instance, the Indian Home Ministry prepared a questionnaire for the Myanmar authorities to use in the interrogation of Indian insurgents in custody in that country, but this was not accepted by Myanmar.
In a clear indication that the continuing presence of the UNLF can have serious security ramifications for India, on July 19, 2006, UNLF militants mounted an attack with two-inch mortars and lethode bombs on a newly-opened Assam Rifles (AR) post from across the international border at Moreh in Chandel District, injuring four civilians. This was reportedly the first attack by Manipuri militants on security forces (SFs) from across the international border in Manipur. A senior AR official said, “The militants sneaked into the other side of the border to mount the attack. We reported the matter to the higher authorities of the Myanmarese Army. The matter was also discussed at the post-level meeting which was held at Tamu the following day.” It remains the case, however, that an attack of this nature would not have been possible without the tacit help, or at least knowledge, of the Myanmarese Army, since there is a substantial Myanmar Army presence across the border at Moreh.
Harmony with their Myanmarese hosts also explains the UNLF’s ability to maintain a stronghold in the New Somtal area of Chandel District, reportedly the lone such area in Manipur. The Indian Army, through a series of major operations since October 2004, has been able to purge at least six of Manipur’s sub-divisions, Thanlon, Parbung, Shinghat and Henglep in Churachandpur District, Jiribam in Imphal East and Chakpikarong in Chandel District, of militant presence. These six sub-divisions had remained under effective militant control for nine preceding years. However, New Somtal, located in the southeastern corner of Chandel District along the Myanmar border, continues to remain under militant control. The last encounter between the SFs in the vicinity of Somtal, located in the southeastern corner of Chandel District, was reported way back in 2004. On December 12 that year, about 200 civilians had fled to Tamu in Myanmar following heavy exchanges of fire between the SFs and cadres of the UNLF in the interior areas of New Somtal, Chejang and Tuitong. Earlier that month, on December 3, 2004, UNLF claimed to have killed three SF personnel following an encounter at a place between New Somtal and S Pungjoi villages.
In fact, the Indian Army has been planning to take New Somtal since February 2006. The General Officer Commanding of 57 Mountain Division, Major General E.J. Kochekkan, speaking on September 19, 2006, pointed out the inaccessibility of New Somtal as the main hindrance. The area’s proximity to Myanmar provides the militants an easy escape route, and the absence of a framework for a coordinated effort between the Indian Army and its Myanmarese counterpart creates obvious difficulties.
On June 24, 2005, the Mizoram Police launched a series of operations against the Myanmarese Chin National Front in the southern parts of the State and recovered a substantial cache arms and ammunition. But such gestures, undertaken to the great consternation of the Myanmarese pro-democracy lobby based in India, are not being reciprocated by the junta in Yangon. It is not clear how the recent agreement will go beyond the realm of symbolism to produce concrete results.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
September 18-24, 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Maoists pose a serious security threat, says Home Secretary: The growing nexus between the people in the camps in eastern Nepal and the Maoists, and the Indian insurgents that were dislodged from Bhutan in 2003, were the two main issues that were discussed at the fourth Bhutan-India border management and security meeting held in the capital Thimphu on September 22, 2006. “It is a confirmed fact that there is today a growing nexus between Maoists and the people in the camps in eastern Nepal,” said Home Secretary Dasho Penden Wangchuk. “We also have information confirming radical elements from the camps in Nepal having received armed training from the Maoists,” he disclosed. This, the Home Secretary said, posed a serious threat to the peace and security of Bhutan and India.
Home Secretary also said that, in the wake of a
series of bomb blasts and strikes in Assam since
June 2006, there was a renewed apprehension in Bhutan
of the likely dangers of reprisal attacks against
Bhutanese people and interests. Wangchuk reiterated
that the Bhutanese Government would not allow Bhutanese
soil to be used for carrying out activities that
were detrimental to India’s security interests.
The head of the Indian delegation, B.S Lalli, Secretary,
Border Management of the Ministry of Home Affairs,
said that every step was being taken to ensure that
elements which were hostile to Bhutan, were not
allowed to enter into the country.
Kuensel Online, September
New Maoist outfit functioning in West Bengal: A new Maoist group – the Darjeeling Gorkha Maobadi Sangthan – is reportedly operating in the Darjeeling Hills of West Bengal and is forcibly collecting 'revenue' from local people. While not much is known about the outfit and its present strength, sources said a former Central Industrial Security Force employee, Ajay Dahal, was heading it. Dahal was a member of the Subhas Ghishing-led Gorkha National Liberation Council, sources added. The new group reportedly has a strong operational and ideological relationship with the Nepalese Maoists and is trying to convince Nepalis in the hills to join and fight for their ‘rights’ in Bengal. The new group is said to have an operational alliance with the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), which has been fighting for a homeland for the Koch and Rajbongshi communities in North Bengal. Hindustan Times, September 22, 2006.
9/11 links found to Mumbai blasts of July 11: CNN-IBN, quoting Mumbai Police sources, reported that the July 11, 2006, explosions targeting the railway networks in Mumbai, had links with the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Unnamed officials said that the train attacks were funded by al Qaeda and carried out by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). They also said Mohammad Atta, leader of the al Qaeda group that carried out the 9/11 operation, trained with at least three of the men involved in the Mumbai bombings in year 2000. "It is clear that there was the involvement of foreign hands. But the specifics can't be revealed at this stage. All these terror outfits are closely linked,” said Mumbai Police Commissioner A. N. Roy. "LeT was the organisation which was responsible for executing the 7/11 bombing," added Roy. CNN-IBN, September 22, 2006.
Osama bin Laden died of typhoid in Pakistan, says French newspaper: A French newspaper quoted a French secret service report on September 23, 2006, as saying that Saudi Arabia was convinced that al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden died of typhoid in Pakistan during August 2006. L’Est Republicain printed what it called a copy of the report dated September 21, and said it was shown to President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and the French interior and defence ministers on the same day. “According to a usually reliable source, the Saudi services are now convinced that Osama Bin Laden is dead,” the document said. “The information gathered by the Saudis indicates that the head of Al Qaeda was a victim while he was in Pakistan on August 23 of a very serious case of typhoid, which led to a partial paralysis of his internal organs,” it added. The report, which was stamped with a “confidential defence” label and the French secret service’s initials, said Saudi Arabia first heard the information on September 4, and it was waiting for more details before making an official announcement.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said, “The report on Osama’s death in Pakistan is totally baseless.” He said there was no possibility that the al Qaeda chief was treated for typhoid in Pakistan. Daily Times, September 24, 2006.
US threatened to bomb Pakistan in the aftermath of 9/11, says President Musharraf: The United States threatened to bomb Pakistan “back to the stone age” in 2001 unless it cooperated in the US-led war on terror, President Pervez Musharraf said in an interview released on September 21, 2006. Gen. Musharraf said the threat came from former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. He said the comments were delivered to his intelligence director, according to selected transcripts of the interview with CBS television’s “60 Minutes” investigative news programme. “The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, ‘Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the stone age’,” Musharraf said. “I think it was a very rude remark… One has to think and take actions in the interests of the nation, and that’s what I did,” Musharraf said in the interview. Daily Times, September 22, 2006.
Baloch Jirga to move International Court of Justice on violation of accession agreement: A grand Jirga (council) of Baloch Sardars (chieftains) decided on September 21, 2006, to move the International Court of Justice over what they said was the violation of an agreement between the former Kalat state, the then British Raj and Pakistan at the time of the Partition. The Jirga, held at the Shahi Darbar (royal palace) in Kalat, with Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Dawood in the chair, adopted a declaration, alleging that the agreement — aimed at Kalat state’s accession to Pakistan — had constantly been violated since day one. The declaration strongly condemned the killing of Jamhoori Watan Party chief Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and demanded that the cause of his death be ascertained through an international medical board. The News, September 22, 2006.
Government press in Quetta printing fake Indian currency notes: AFP reported on September 18, 2006, that a Pakistani Government printing press in Quetta, capital of Balochistan province, is reportedly churning out large quantities of counterfeit Indian currency. The rupee notes are then smuggled into India as "part of Pakistan's agenda of destabilising the Indian economy through fake currency," according to Times of India. The notes are "supplied by the Pakistan government press free of cost to Dubai-based counterfeiters who, in turn, smuggle it into India using various means," the report said, quoting a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) note to Indian security agencies and the finance ministry. It also mentioned how fake currency notes were concealed in music systems, crockery boxes and washing machines, and sent to India through 'carrier' air passengers who were paid INR 5,000 to INR 10,000 for carrying a consignment from Dubai and other Gulf countries. The CBI also reportedly mentions Bangkok as a major centre of fake Indian currency notes production — smuggled into India through Nepal and Bangladesh. The Reserve Bank of India has estimated the amount of fake currency in circulation at almost INR 1.7 trillion (37.5 billion dollars), the report said. Times of India, September 18, 2006.