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Dhaka's aid to Northeast rebels
Time to nail the lie

The gloves are finally off. What has long been known to those who deal with terrorism in India has at last been bluntly articulated by the country’s Deputy Prime Minister: Bangladesh actively supports militants acting on Indian soil, providing them with safe havens, logistical backing and material resources, in a myopic policy that has not only done India substantial injury, but undermined democracy and governance in Bangladesh as well. In this, Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) has actively and vigorous collaborated with Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), and with all hues of Islamist extremist groups within Bangladesh, as well as with a range of ideologically incompatible terrorist organizations operating in India’s Northeast. This has been done under the cover of ‘deniability’, the practice of diplomatic falsification, and the broader lack of awareness in the ‘international community’ regarding conflicts in the South Asian Region.

Unsurprisingly, the Bangladeshi response to L.K. Advani’s statements has been the standard ‘outrage’ and denial that is expressed whenever such issue are raised. Bangladesh, consequently, dismissed Advani’s remarks as "totally baseless and irresponsible," adding that it hoped that the "high ranking leadership of India will not make such comments in future for the sake of friendly relations."

Such outrage was, similarly, expressed after a succession of independent journalists and highly regarded international publications, including the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Economist and Time, documented the increasing entrenchment of Islamist extremism and the activities of Al Qaeda survivors and affiliates, in Bangladesh.

These reports and Advani’s statement, however, are not enough. It is now necessary to nail the lie, finally and inexorably. Aggressive political postures and journalistic exposés are important, but will not suffice. It is necessary, now, to build up, and persistently and effectively project, a systematic case based on hard evidence, to demonstrate to the world that Bangladesh has embarked on a path that constitutes a danger, not only to its neighbours, but to the world at large; that its refusal to adhere to basic civilisational norms in its domestic and international policies can only be ignored at great peril. What is required, consequently, is a coherent policy and institutional mechanism for the dissemination of key information and intelligence to the media, international fora, and intelligence agencies of countries that have common concerns regarding terrorism. This is not a question of ‘playing’ or manipulating the media and international opinion. It is an integral part of the war against terrorism. Terrorism thrives on ambiguity, in spaces where information is insufficient. Evidence is as important in the war against terrorism as guns and fighting men. Agencies such as the ISI and the DGFI must not be allowed to continue with their terrorist agenda under the cover of deniability and the diplomatic niceties that prevent nations from calling a spade a spade – and a sponsor of terrorism a sponsor of terrorism. This is too vital an issue to allow concerns of politeness to prevail over the truth. Our quest for ‘good relations’ with our neighbours cannot extend to brushing the sponsorship, or even tolerance, of mass murder and terrorism under the carpet. If Bangladesh cannot adhere to the norms of civilized international relations, it must be made to confront the natural consequences of its waywardness.

There is a long history of hostile acts by Bangladesh towards India, particularly after the assassination of Shiekh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, and the political revival and progressive consolidation of Pakistan backed Islamist extremist forces – led by many who collaborated with the Pakistan Army in the genocide of 1971 – in the country. One must not forget, or leave still unpunished, the utter savagery of the torture and murder of 16 Border Security Force personnel by the Bangladesh Rifles in April 2001. And while the internal causes of the high levels of violence in India’s Northeast can neither be denied nor ignored, the persistence and proliferation of terrorist movements depends entirely on active or passive support from our neighbours. It is useful to note here that Advani also found it necessary to point out that Bhutan was "not taking enough action" to prevent terrorists operating from its soil. The recent and utterly disgraceful incident at Dadgiri village in Kokrajhar, where NDFB militants came across the Bhutan border and committed a massacre within sight of a Bhutanese border post, and then crossed back without let or hindrance from that country’s security personnel, is a case in point.

India has, for far too long, sought to buy peace with uncooperative neighbours through conciliation and appeasement – but a search for friendship cannot extend to the tolerance of terrorism. For terrorism to win, it has been noted, "it must slowly escalate, inuring its victims to accepting higher and higher casualties without really responding… The terrorist’s only theory of victory is for his enemy not to really fight."

India can no longer continue with this policy of paralysis – accepting casualty after casualty till these number thousands at the end of each year. All the instrumentalities of international law, of coercive diplomacy, of economic and trade sanctions, and eventually, where necessary, the direct application of military force, must be harnessed to defeat the rising tide of international terrorism, and to demonstrate unambiguously that states which sponsor and support terrorism will not benefit – and will, indeed, greatly suffer – as a result of their choice.

(Edited version published in Sentinel, Guwahati, November 11, 2002.)





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