SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Another round of ‘dialogue’ between the Government of India (GoI) and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), ended at Amsterdam on October 19, 2006, with little evidence of substantive progress, but with the usual rhetoric. The Government made a routine expression of ‘satisfaction’ with the purportedly ‘substantive progress’ in talks and the NSCN-IM said that there was little gain in view of the ‘stubbornness’ on the part of the Government. Recent processes of dialogue, mostly held with the single purpose of extending the ceasefire between the two sides, have veered round a formula of special federal relationship between Nagalim (greater Nagaland) and the Union Government. While the NSCN-IM views its proposal, prepared under the unofficial auspices of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), being the ideal formula to resolve the long-standing conflict, its terms remain a significant obstacle to an agreement with the Governments. The proposal is based on a requirement to merge the so-called Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh with present-day Nagaland, and is laced with the danger of antagonising three States in order to please just one.
Nine years after the NSCN-IM and five years after its rival Khaplang faction (NSCN-K), entered into separate ceasefire agreements with the GoI, peace remains a chimera in Nagaland. The never-ending rounds of peace parleys between GoI representatives and the NSCN leadership notwithstanding, there is little sign of abatement in the regime of violence and intimidation that continues to wreak havoc in the State.
Insurgent violence in Nagaland has persisted despite protracted ‘peace processes’, though SF operations against the insurgents have ceased, barring occasional arrests of militants of either faction. However, internecine clashes among the IM and K factions, and targeted attacks against their ‘sympathisers’ continue to keep the state on the boil, even as extortion is pervasive. As many as 82 fatalities have been reported in 2006 (till November 21) despite the ‘peace’, of which 88 per cent comprised insurgents, most of them killed in factional clashes. As many as 39 such clashes have been reported from seven of Nagaland’s 11 Districts till November 21, with Zunheboto accounting for one third of these. The rest of the clashes occurred in the geographically contiguous districts of Kohima, Dimapur, Peren, Phek, Tuensang and Mon. With the State Government doing little beyond appealing to both factions to end violence, the small townships and villages of Nagaland have been turned into battle zones by the two outfits. The October clashes in the District headquarters at Zunheboto epitomise the lawlessness that envelops the State today.
On October 26 and 27, about 160 cadres of NSCN-IM and 100 cadres of the NSCN-K engaged in fierce clashes at Amiphoto Colony of Zunheboto, home to three functionaries of the NSCN-K –general secretary Kitovi Zhimomi, his brother-in-law and NSCN-K kilonser (minister) Kughalu Mulatonu and ‘brigadier’ Niki Sumi. The militants used rocket launchers, mortars, AK-47s, AK-56s and sniper rifles in a war-like campaign that continued from 9 am till 6.30 pm on both days. There was even a warning of ‘dire consequences’ from the NSCN-IM against any potential intervention by the SFs. The District Police simply put up barricades to prevent the entry of non-combatants into the ‘war zone’ and the administration, along with three companies of the Assam Rifles and two of the India Reserve Battalion watched on in silence. Among the numerous houses damaged was that of K. Hollohon, parliamentary secretary and advisor to the Chief Minister. The intensity of the clashes forced 4,000 people in the town to desert their residences and move to safer locations.
The incapacity of the State Government was clearly evident in the statement of the State Home Minister on October 28. In an appeal, Thenucho asked the militants to vacate populated areas and confine themselves to designated camps – something that is mandated by the ‘ground rules’ of the ceasefire agreement with the Government. Normalcy, however, returned only after irate residents of the town, under the banner of the Sumi Hoho, Sumi Totimi Hoho, Sumi Kukami Hoho (the Hoho is the supreme tribal council) — damaged the gate of Deputy Commissioner C.K. Nihekhu’s residence, broke police barricades and marched to the scene of the gun battle in two batches raising slogans. After much persuasion, the IM faction agreed to provide safe passage to the Khaplang cadres, who were escorted by the civilians to the nearby Shotomi village. The NSCN-IM also subsequently left the Amiphoto Colony on the condition that no faction would be allowed to remain in the town. As Home Minister Thenucho’s cavalcade, including another Minister Tokheho and two parliamentary secretaries, rolled into Zunheboto on October 29 to assess the damage caused by the clashes, hundreds of irate residents prevented the Minister from entering the locality. It was only after about half an hour of ‘detention’ that Thenucho was allowed to proceed.
Such occasional, desperate and rarely fruitful popular interventions for peace notwithstanding, both the militant factions continue with their exercises to extend their areas of dominance, and there is little hope that such clashes would cease in future. The Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio, is on record claiming that such clashes are a part of the ‘political problem’ between India and Nagaland, thus indicating that these would continue as long as the ‘conflict over Nagalim’ is not resolved. The GOI, however, insists that the clashes between the militant outfits are a law and order problem. On June 20, 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a seven-member Congress team from Nagaland that called on him in New Delhi that the conflict between the militant Naga factions was a 'law and order problem' which the State’s Home Department has to solve on its own, instead of blaming Delhi. The Chief Minister’s refrain, however, closely echoes the NSCN-IM’s position that the factional violence is due to the GoI’s failure to restrict the movement of NSCN-K cadres.
The clashes, however, are more correctly seen in the context of the systematic campaign by the NSCN-IM to browbeat its opposition into submission. There is a sympathetic Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) Government headed by Nephiu Rio in power after the 2002 ouster of the ‘unfriendly’ Congress Government headed by S.C. Jamir. In addition, the NSCN-IM has been able to secure complete compliance from the ‘active’ community-based organisations such as the Naga Hoho, the Naga Mothers Association (NMA), the Naga Students Federation (NSF) and the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR). The rest of the opposition in the State has been systematically targeted either to force compliance or face ‘elimination’. On June 1, 2006, for instance, NSCN-IM militants killed the 'Education Kilonser' of the Naga National Council (NNC), Mar Jamir, at a place near the BOC [Burma Oil Company] area of Kohima town. Previously, on May 19, 2006, NSCN-IM militants had killed a senior functionary of the NSCN-K, Nampang Konyak, at his residence in the Mon District. Most recently, in October, the NSCM-IM ordered the elimination of the former chief of the Sumi-Hoho (tribal council of the Sumi tribe), President Huska. The incident came to light after the man ordered to execute the task defected to the NSCN-K and spilled the beans, forcing the IM faction to issue a quick denial. It is not without reason that, on August 17, 2006, the NSCN-K accused the Naga Hoho, the NMA, the NSF and the NPMHR of directly supporting the NSCN-IM.
The NSCN-IM’s writ runs supreme in most parts of the State. While its well-oiled ‘finance department’ indulges in wide-spread ‘tax-collection’ activities, its ‘home department’ virtually runs the administration in the State. Its ‘crime suppression department’ ensures control of its areas of dominance, administering a selective ‘justice’ over various ‘offenders’. Cadres, who are supposed to stay within the confines of the designated camps, move unhindered in the townships and country-side, enforcing the militant group’s diktats. In fact, the futility of the ceasefire agreement was underlined on September 22, 2006, by the Inspector General of Assam Rifles (North), Major General S. S. Kumar: “The ceasefire is giving the NSCN-IM an opportunity to consolidate. Earlier, there were about 800 cadres of the NSCN-IM. Of late, the figure ranges between 2,000 to 2,500.”
Interestingly, however, the NSCN-K, on the receiving end on most occasions in previous years, appears to be gaining in strength in Nagaland, even as it continues to face reverses in its periodic encounters with the Myanmarese Army in the Sagaing Division across the international boundary. Within Nagaland, the Khaplang cadres have engaged the rival IM faction frequently, often inflicting tactical losses. In February 2006, the NSCN-K wrested the Meluri area under Phek District from the NSCN-IM. The gain in the battlefield also translated into a reverse defection process of cadres from the IM faction to the Khaplang group. Though the numbers are not significant, sixteen IM cadres, including a senior cadre, 'Major' Lokishe, defected to the outfit, abandoning the IM faction, between August 5 and November 17, 2006.
The NSCN-K’s new-found confidence was evident in the outfit’s ‘quit notice’ of August 16 on the members of the Tangkhul tribe in Nagaland, accusing them of being “terrorist masterminds”. The notice meant very little for the civilian population, as Tangkhuls are a tribe mostly based in the neighbouring Manipur State, and are a microscopic minority within Nagaland. Understandably, the ‘quit notice’ was directed solely at the NSCN-IM ‘general secretary’, Thuingaleng Muivah, a Tangkhul from the Ukhrul District of Manipur. The NSCN-K resisted appeals from various bodies to withdraw the notice and killed at least two civilians belonging to the Tangkhul tribe in the Kohima District.
The shifting fortunes of particular militant groups thus add further uncertainties to the prospects for peace in the State. While there is a near unanimity of perception regarding the breakdown of governance in neighbouring Manipur amidst unceasing militant violence, signs of an emerging collapse are also visible in Nagaland. Worse, while none of the major militant groups in Manipur are in any sort of peace deal with the Government, the violence in Nagaland occurs under the umbrella of the ‘peace process’ and an apparent ‘cease fire’ in Nagaland.
The Costs of Insurgency
Leading corporate groups in India, including Reliance Industries and the Tata Group, are keen to invest in Assam following a marked improvement in the State's overall security situation, according to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. On November 4, 2006, Gogoi said, “Today I am getting investors from across the country, including big players like the Tata Group, willing to set up businesses here.”
Corporate heavyweights like the Reliance Industries, the Tata’s Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services, and Videocon Industries, are expected to invest INR 300 billion in the development of rural infrastructure, promotion of agriculture and the setting up power plants, IT parks, and other projects. An expansive Gogoi declared, “Investors look for security and an environment that is peaceful. A few years back, the situation here was not conducive enough to attract big investors. But today the situation has changed and peace is dawning in Assam and hence a suitable climate for business to grow here.'
The Chief Minister's boast of the dawning of peace may, however, seem somewhat premature. On November 5, fourteen persons were killed and at least 50 sustained injuries in twin bomb blasts in the Noonmati and Fancy Bazaar areas of Guwahati city. Indeed, Gogoi simultaneously confessed, on November 6, that the State Government has failed to provide security to the people of Assam: “I have to admit that we have failed to provide security but we have taken this development very seriously and operations against the militants have been intensified.” There was evidence of a worsening of the security scenario since October 2006. At least 27 bomb explosions occurred during October 1-November 24 period, while, between January and September, there were a total of 43 blasts across the State. At least 151 people, including 82 civilians and 30 Security Force (SF) personnel, have died in insurgency-related incidents in 2006.
Jayanta Madhab, a noted economist from the region, injected a note of sobriety in the current and sanguine assessments of Assam’s economic potential, arguing that insurgency has always played a negative role so far as enticing outside investment is concerned. The persistent insurgency has substantially weakened the productive capacities of Assam’s socio-economic infrastructure. Consequently, the productivity of capital is low compared to other States. Assam is one of India’s poorer states with about 36 percent of its population of 27 million living below the poverty line and per capita income (INR 13,925) 40 per cent below the national average. The State is marked by poor road infrastructure, tenuous communications, low agricultural productivity, and low levels of industrial activity. According to a study by the Planning Commission, between 1980 and 1990, per capita income at 1980-81 prices grew by 20 per cent in Assam, compared to 40 per cent for the entire country. The period 1980 – 1998 was worse, with per capita income in Assam growing by just 10 per cent as against 39 per cent at the all India level.
Domestic industry has been variously affected by the insurgency. While there have been the more direct attacks on physical infrastructure and manpower, there are also substantial costs incurred through extortion and ‘levy’ charges. In the latter case, some instances of non-compliance have translated into attacks against and murders of managerial cadres and businessmen. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), moreover, continues with its random depredations, bombing markets and public places, as well as oil and gas pipelines and other key installations.
The oil and tea industry, the mainstays of Assam’s economy, has been targeted by the ULFA virtually since the creation of the group. The outfit has blown up oil pipelines and installations, abducted officials, and killed personnel and official, including a Russian petrochemical engineer engaged by the Oil India Limited (OIL) in the Sate. OIL sources indicate that the number of explosions targeting oil and gas pipelines in 1996 was 1; 1997: 1; 1998: 1; 1999: 3; 2000: 3; 2003: 2; 2004: 7; 2005: 12; 2006: 2 (till November 23). Further, sources disclosed that the vital crude oil pipeline from Duliajan through Bongaigaon in Assam, to Barauni in the Begusarai district of Bihar, was repeatedly sabotaged by militants in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998, causing massive disruption to the oil industry. According to SATP data, 11 explosions were triggered by ULFA, targeting oil and gas installations in 2006 (till November 23). India produces about 30 million tonnes of crude oil annually, with Assam accounting for about five million tonnes of the total. The State has over 1.3 billion tonnes of proven crude oil and 156 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, of which about an estimated 58 percent of existing hydrocarbon reserves are yet to be explored.
In January 2006, ULFA sent alarm bells ringing in the State's industry and security establishment by slapping an INR 5 billion (USD 112 million) extortion demand on the state-owned Indian oil major, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), forcing the authorities to intensify the vigil on oil and gas installations across the State. Then, on July 3, 2006, the Reserve Bank of India, the country's central bank, was served an extortion demand for INR 1.5 million by ULFA. Further, on November 2, 2006, ULFA threatened to strongly resist OIL exploration of petroleum oil in the Brahmaputra basin. A statement issued by the group read: “The Indian Government has for long been exploiting Assam's natural resources and now it plans to extract oil from the Brahmaputra. This is nothing but another clever attempt to take away local resources at the cost of our people… We shall not allow such a thing to take place.” The threat followed an agreement worth USD 22 million signed by OIL with Kazakhstan Caspi Shelf, a Kazakhstan-based oil exploration firm, to conduct a 2-D seismic survey along 175 kilometres of the Brahmaputra River in Assam. Paresh Baruah, the ‘commander-in-chief’ of ULFA, in a statement made on June 10, 2006, claimed that the attacks on pipelines were carried out ‘in protest against’ the tightening of security around oil installations, which was to "facilitate the plundering of Assam's natural resources."
ULFA’s sabotage targeting the oil sector has coincided with opposition to oil exploration projected through a section of civil society organisations, especially certain environmental groups. Conservationists are worried about the possibility of oil exploration impacting on the survival of highly endangered freshwater dolphins and other aquatic species living in the Brahmaputra basin. While joining the campaign to block oil exploration in the basin, the ULFA found in such ecological issues an opportunity to legitimize its subversive operation targeting the oil industry. The outfit also identified, in its publication Freedom, another vulnerable ecological space, Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, which could be affected by oil exploration. ULFA accused a British oil firm, Premier Oil, of harming the ecology of the Dihing Patkai Forest Reserve in the name of oil exploration.
The Central Industrial Security Force is currently responsible for the security of oil installations. However, it is concerned primarily with guarding the installations, leaving the pipelines – mostly underground – vulnerable to attacks.
Apart from the oil industry, other sectors like tea estates, the banking sector, railways and communications are also being subjected to disruption by the insurgents through extortion, abductions and violent attacks on a regular basis. The tea industry (the State has some 800 tea gardens) is another vital economic construct of Assam, with an output of 475 million kilograms, more than 50 per cent of the total national tea production of 928 million kilograms. Sections of the tea industry have blamed the Union Government and its recent peace initiatives (which collapsed on September 20, 2006) with the ULFA for the spurt in terrorist activities. One industry leader was quoted as stating: "In the last one month [September], as the Army officials moved out of the valley, the ULFA activists regrouped and we started receiving the extortion notices and the situation drastically deteriorated." On September 17, the ULFA served an extortion note to the Nagrijuli tea estate in the Baksa District demanding INR 10 million. On September 19, it served an extortion notice to a tea garden in upper Assam's Dibrugarh District belonging to tea major Mcleod Russel, demanding INR 10 million. And on September 23, four ULFA cadres shot dead Haren Das, a manager of the Hailanga Tea Estate in front of his residence in Digboi town. On September 22, a policeman was killed in an encounter with the ULFA in Dibrugarh District, when a police team had gone to arrest an ULFA activist who had allegedly handed over an extortion notice of INR 800,000 to the manager of Sessa Tea Estate. Earlier, the Ramanugger Tea Estate in Karbi Anglong District was closed down on July 5 following the abduction of its Assistant Manager, N. Bora, from his residence by unidentified militants. Even before the truce collapsed, the ULFA had reportedly stepped up extortion demands from tea plantations. Dhiraj Kakati, secretary of the Assam branch of the Indian Tea Association, articulated the industry’s concerns: “They’re very vulnerable, living in isolated areas and working outdoors… They can’t afford to pay — they can barely meet their own costs.”
During his presentation at a meeting of the Strategy Group of the Unified Command in Guwahati on October 11, 2006, the General Manager of the Northeast Frontier Railway, A.K. Sanwalka, sought adequate security for the Lumding-Silchar gauge-conversion work. He said only 37 per cent of the work of the INR 1,500-crore project had been completed. "Black Widow," an anti-talks faction of the Dimasa militant outfit Dima Halim Daogah (DHD), had been demanding a 10 per cent cut from every contractor involved in the project. It had also been serving extortion notices to others in the North Kachar Hills and Karbi Anglong areas of Assam.
The modernization of the oil industry lies at the heart of the development of Assam, since every region develops its own pattern of industrialisation depending on the type of natural resources it has. The oil industry and other economic sectors can only prosper when basic governance is assured, not only in terms of providing physical infrastructure, but also in ensuring adequate security for industrial enterprise against the anti-development agenda of violent non-state actors. Expressions of interest in the State from the corporate sector notwithstanding, such a situation is still far from the realities of the ground in Assam.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 20-26, 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Police need legal shield to fight terrorism, says Intelligence Bureau chief: The Director of Intelligence Bureau, E. S. L. Narasimhan, told a gathering of senior police officials in New Delhi on November 23, 2006, that for effectively combating terrorism, not only are new laws required, but police officials also ought to be shielded by a legal framework. “There is need for a more robust legal framework to deal with sudden terror attacks since police officials find themselves helpless in such situations. To counter terrorism, adequate legal protection to police officials is also needed,” he said. He also spoke about the harassment police personnel have to endure in courts for alleged human rights violations. He expressed concern at the fact that officers responsible for neutralising Fidayeen (suicide squad) attacks are subjected to legal and extra-legal campaigns by activists. "We need to find answers to these issues as national counter-terrorism strategy suffers immensely when officers and men who put at stake everything in protecting society, find themselves helpless facing legal and extra-legal campaigns when the threats have receded," Narasimhan said. Times of India, Indian Express, November 24, 2006.
Foreign country and its spy agency directing terror to Indian hinterland, says Union Home Minister: Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said on November 22, 2006, that a "foreign country" and its spy agency were directing terrorist groups to the hinterland and making attempts to use local miscreants and organisations to perpetrate violent activities in the country. Inaugurating a three-day conference of State police chiefs in New Delhi, he said, "Apart from prominent individuals, organisations, institutions, vital installations, economic centres and important heritage monuments, our maritime interests are likely targets.” Patil further said that India's proposed civil nuclear deal with the US has made the country's atomic power plants highly vulnerable to terrorist threats. "In view of the recent Indo-US agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation, our atomic power plants have become highly vulnerable”. He said that key installations in the oil and natural gas sector, defence, communications and IT are also equally vulnerable. "Some Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist operatives are being trained specifically for sabotage of oil installations. There are plans to occupy some uninhabited islands and use them as bases for launching operations on the Indian coast,” Patil said. He added "They also plan to induct arms, ammunition through the sea routes. Simultaneously, we understand the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) has been collecting information on the location of various refineries on or near the Indian coastline.” Indian Express, November 23, 2006.
10 members of Dawood Ibrahim gang deported from United Arab Emirates: Ten members of the Pakistan-based underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s gang, were arrested by the Mumbai Police on November 21, 2006, after having been deported from the United Arab Emirates. Ibrahim is a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in the United States of America. They were reportedly earlier in the custody of the Dubai Police. They were identified as Anjum Phajlani, Jameel, Sabir Shaikh, Salim Fruit, Sayyed Mehandi, Mustafa Ghulam, Khota Shakeel, Aziz Chaipani, Arif Bhaijaan and Shahid Qureshi. Joint Commissioner of Police (crime), Meera Borwankar, while addressing a press conference said, "We do not want to share the details of the operation at this stage. But we believe that their deportation is a big jolt to the Dawood Ibrahim gang." She added that five of the accused had cases of extortion, murder and threats registered against them. The Hindu, Times of India, November 22, 2006.
Ten persons killed in explosion inside train in West Bengal: At least 10 persons were killed and 50 others injured in a bomb blast inside a compartment of the Haldibari-Siliguri Passenger train at Belacoba Station in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri District at around 6.20 pm on November 20, 2006. Preliminary investigations suggested that the explosive was kept inside a vegetable sack inside the toilet of the compartment. Inspector General (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia said that police suspected the involvement of militant groups like the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) in the explosion. The Hindu, November 21, 2006.
Comprehensive Peace Accord signed, Armed Insurgency declared officially over: In a ceremony held at the Birendra International Convention Center in capital Kathmandu on November 21, 2006, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist chairman Prachanda signed the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) 2006, bringing the decade-long armed insurgency to an end and promising to chart a new destiny for a "peaceful and democratic" new Nepal. Including provisions on human rights, civil and political rights, arms and Army management, socio-economic transformation, among others, the ten-point CPA was signed in the presence of ministers, political party leaders, Maoist leaders, foreign diplomats, law-makers, government officials and media representatives. The preamble of the CPA reiterates the commitment of the two parties – the government and the Maoists – to abide by the previous agreements and commitments and desires of the people.
"Beginning today, the politics of killing, violence and terror will be replaced by the politics of reconciliation," declared Koirala who said he had put his entire political career at risk by venturing on this path of peace and democracy. "Being a democrat, I wanted to bring non-democrats into the framework of democracy. I was warned by many friends about the hazards of dealing with terrorists but I thought that bringing all under democratic framework was the duty of a democrat." Prachanda stated that with the signing of the CPA, people of Nepal were in a position to give a message to the entire world. "The continuity of 238-year-old tradition has been broken now. This is the victory of Nepalese people and the loss of regressive elements," he claimed. Prachanda said that, as in the war, his party would work with equal zeal to implement the peace accord.
By making the cease-fire permanent, the accord declares the armed insurgency that began in February 1996 officially over. Effective immediately, the CPA states illegal the carrying of weapons, their display and any kind of attack, threat and intimidation, and these would, henceforth, be punishable by law. Reiterating the commitment to hold the elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA) by mid-June, 2007, the CPA prohibits all kinds of illegal use of weapons, raids, ambush, mining, aerial attack, abduction, etc. Within 30 days, both the sides will share information regarding the placement of mines and within 60 days they would all be disabled, it states. On the issue of implementation and monitoring, the accord states that the UN will be allowed to continue its monitoring of human rights. Likewise, the UN team will be asked to verify and monitor arms and Army management, which will be as per the November 8 Agreement. It also states that the UN will be asked to observe the CA polls as well. Nepal News, November 22, 2006.
High Level Probe Commission indicts King Gyanendra for atrocities: The High Level Probe Commission, formed some six months ago to investigate the atrocities committed during the April 2006 people’s movement, submitted its report to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala at his official residence in Kathmandu on November 20, 2006. The 1,184-page report has indicted 202 high-ranking officials of the King's Government and recommended action against many. Though the report has also implicated King Gyanendra, a Commission source said, it has shied away from recommending action against him. Disagreeing with the report, two commissioners refused to sign it. Ram Prasad Shrestha and Kiran Shrestha said they will hand over their written disagreement on the report to the Prime Minister. "The report has acquitted the high-ranking officials but has recommended action against the people who implemented orders on the ground," Shrestha has been quoted as saying in the local media. The Hindu, November 21, 2006.
Pakistan rejects Nepal Maoist chief Prachanda's claim of ISI offer for assistance: Two days after Maoist chairman Prachanda claimed that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had offered him assistance, a Pakistani minister has rejected the charge. Pakistan's Deputy Minister for Information, Tariq Azim, told BBC Nepali Service on November 20, 2006, that Prachanda's remarks were "baseless". Azim said that Prachanda might have said so "perhaps in an attempt to make some people happy." On November 18, in an interview he gave to The Hindustan Times, Prachanda, who had visited the Indian capital New Delhi to attend the Leadership Summit organized by the Daily, disclosed that " when he decided to take the 'movement to the streets', back in 1996, he was offered "assistance" in the form of arms and money from representatives claiming to be from the ISI." "When we initiated the armed movement against the corrupt rule in Nepal (in 1996)," Prachanda said, "ISI-type people offered us money and arms assistance. I resisted and our council agreed to refuse the assistance because we felt our movement would lose its Nepali-people-centric approach," Prachanda said, explaining his reasons for turning down such assistance. Prachanda had also claimed that with the growth in his party's movement, ISI activities in Nepal have declined. "With our movement gaining people's consensus, the anti-India ISI activity controlled by the Durbar is almost non-existent," Prachanda claimed. Nepal News, November 21, 2006.