Terrorism Update
Show/Hide Search
    Click to Enlarge

Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 1, No. 43, May 12, 2003

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



Déjà vu: Armitage Comes Calling
Ajai Sahni
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management

In a recent speech at the Foreign Policy Association covering the imperatives of the global war against terrorism, US Secretary of State Colin Powell noted: "The issues are too important and the stakes are too high to posture for effect."

South Asia, however, remains a region where appearances and postures retain their primacy over reality. Almost a year since his last visit to India - when he carried a message from Pakistan's President Musharraf giving an assurance that cross border terrorism would "permanently end" - Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage revisited India, bearing Musharraf's contention that terrorist training camps had "ceased to exist" in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. "President Musharraf has told me nothing is happening at the Line of Control," Armitage declared, "He said that there are no camps in Azad Kashmir [Pakistan occupied Kashmir] and if there are, they will be gone by tomorrow." The diplomatic charade of patient hearings and dialogues continued, with India presenting the visiting delegation substantial proof that Musharraf was - as he had done in the past - simply lying. Armitage is reported to have conveyed the American position that India would have to make its own assessments regarding Pakistani compliance on the dismantling of Pakistan's infrastructure of terrorism and support to infiltration and cross-border terrorism in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. And there, apparently, the matter rests.

That there is, at least, a certain measure of deceit here should be apparent. There is a burgeoning body of American and international literature documenting Pakistan's continued support to terrorist organisations active in India - including many linked to the Al Qaeda - despite the fact that the US is periodically mollified with the arrest of an occasional Al Qaeda leader or cadres in Pakistan. The US State Department's Annual Patterns of Global Terrorism - 2002 report acknowledged that, "Like the United States, India faces a significant terrorist threat" and that extremist violence in Kashmir was "fuelled by infiltration from Pakistan across the Line of Control". And if this were not clear enough, the US Ambassador to Pakistan recently confirmed that Pakistan persists in its campaign of terror against India. In January, Nancy J. Powell had, in Islamabad, called on Pakistan to "ensure that its pledges are implemented to prevent infiltration across the line of control and end the use of Pakistan as a platform for terrorism." At Delhi, Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill had declared with no uncertainty that "the fight against international terrorism will not be won until terrorism against India ends permanently. There can be no other legitimate stance by the United States, no American compromise whatever on this elemental geopolitical and moral truth. The United States, India and all civilised nations must have zero tolerance for terrorism. Otherwise, we sink into a swamp of moral relativism and strategic myopia."

While 'moral relativism and strategic myopia' do not appear to have been entirely dispensed with in current trends in diplomatic dissimulation and obfuscation, there are, however, subtle shifts noticeable in the American position on South Asia. For one thing, the US has now clarified that it does not have any 'end results' in mind with regard to a 'solution' of the Kashmir issue, and that it seeks essentially to diminish tensions in the region and to prevent the escalation of conflict. It is, consequently, evident that the Bush Administration does not intend to emulate the ill-informed interventionist position that was emerging under Bill Clinton, when a number of political quacks were brought in to suggest crude surgery along communal demographic lines as a 'solution' to the Kashmir problem.

There is also evidence of a growing intensity in the engagement with India, and the separation of this relationship from the conventional triadic muddle that imposed inadvertent parity between India and Pakistan. While Armitage was in South Asia, India's National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra had meetings with State Department and Pentagon officials at Washington, as well as an unscheduled meeting with President George Bush, possibly signalling the President's increasing personal interest in developments in the region, and demonstrating, at the same time, a willingness to go well beyond protocol.

There is, equally, a dramatic shrinkage (though still not a complete disappearance) of the space available for Pakistan's strategy of terrorism under the cover of 'plausible deniability' and the contended distinctions between 'terrorists' and 'freedom fighters'. Christina Rocca had earlier and emphatically declared, "Terrorism is terrorism is terrorism. Terrorism against any country is part of the war on terrorism. Terrorism against India is as unacceptable as it is against America or any other country." Armitage reiterated the 'terrorism is terrorism' line during his visit to Delhi, adding, "whenever innocent women, children and non-combatants die, one has to call that terrorism. Our point is that all this violence has to end." Policy and strategic observers at Delhi read a US carte blanche on the character and scope of Indian responses to continued Pakistani cross-border operations - as long as the situation is not allowed to spiral out of control. There are also mounting reasons to believe that the US is gradually, but systematically, moving away from its earlier miscalculations that led it to support various fundamentalist Islamist regimes and forces, as well as military dictatorships - though such movement tends to be moderated in Pakistan's case by the transient tactical imperatives of securing cooperation in the hunt for the surviving al Qaeda leadership and cadres who have substantially relocated to that country. The US has, consequently, also set to rest any illusions or wishful thinking - rampant in segments of the Indian polity and the strategic community - that a rough-and-ready intervention by America, comparable to the 'pre-emptive' campaign in Iraq, will produce an outcome that the wilder imaginations in the regions have dreamt of.

Manifest pressure on Pakistan appears, nevertheless, to have increased, and this has had some impact over the past weeks - with a far more conciliatory stance emerging than has been visible over the past year. There was a significant climb-down when Pakistan was dissuaded from raising the Kashmir issue at the UN during its tenure as rotating President of the Security Council. The sheer alacrity with which Pakistan seized upon the opportunities of Prime Minister Vajpayee's offer of talks in his Srinagar speech last month is another measure of the mounting anxiety in Islamabad.

While Armitage's visit thus marks no radical transformation of US policy in the region, it demonstrates tentative shifts broadly in keeping with changing strategic perceptions of US interests, threat assessments and the course of the global war against terrorism. Within the context of the dynamic disequilibria that currently mark the entire Asian region, this cautious approach cannot easily be faulted, though those who hoped for swift and determined action against terrorism and its state sponsors have some reason for disappointment



Peace Moves in a Political Tango
Deepak Thapa

Kathmandu-based Journalist and Editor

Though the process of Nepal's return to normalcy after more than seven years of civil conflict can be characterised as one step forward and two steps back, the second round of talks between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal - Maoist (CPN-M) held on May 9 is certainly a step forward. The Maoists had presented their demands to the Government negotiators at their first meeting 12 days earlier, and these included the promulgation of an interim constitution and the formation of an interim Government under their leadership. Although the latest round of talks did not deal with the political aspect at all, there was some progress made in other areas, namely, the agreement by the Government to restrict the movement of soldiers to within a five-kilometre radius of their barracks; the formation of a team to monitor the code of conduct for the ceasefire announced some time ago; and, crucially, the release of three Maoist 'central committee' members.

There are, nevertheless, still many more issues that set the Government and the Maoists apart. A major one is the issue of the Army. The Maoists want to integrate the fighters from the 'people's liberation army' into the National Army, a move that is expectedly being resisted by the latter. The rebels also want to ensure unequivocal civilian authority over the armed forces, as opposed to the ambiguity in the present constitution that allows for both the Army chief and the King to exercise some degree of control over the Forces. The rebels have taken exception to the Army making its views known through press conferences of its own, rather than speaking through the Government.

In between the two rounds of talks, however, the political situation had changed drastically. After months of posturing, a day before the May 9 talks, five of the parties represented in Parliament, which was dissolved in May 2002, finally launched a movement against the King's dismissal of the elected Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, in October 2002, and the assumption by the Palace of the country's executive authority. The agitating parties, which include the country's two largest, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), are demanding the reinstatement of Parliament and the formation of a Government through that restored Parliament. Although Deuba's Nepali Congress (Democratic), which split from the Nepali Congress last year, has been kept outside the alliance since it is anathema to the mother party, it has launched its own movement calling for Deuba to be reinstated as Prime Minister.

The Government, led by the royal appointee Lokendra Bahadur Chand, has come out strongly against the 'united people's movement against the retrogressive royal takeover' of the political parties, accusing them of trying to disrupt the ongoing peace talks. Chand has enough reason to be miffed with the parties since they have consistently rebuffed his offer to work together towards a resolution of the Maoist issue.

The political parties, for their part, have claimed that they will be monitoring the negotiations carefully to ensure that neither side walked away. They have warned that their present movement will not end before the sovereignty of the people is guaranteed. And in a direct challenge to the King, they have declared that this will be a decisive battle in the longstanding tussle for power between the crown and the people, although none of the parties, which includes a radical Left grouping, has gone so far as to publicly advocate the establishment of a Republic.

The third actor in the political arena, the Maoists, have kept all their options open. They have taken part in a caucus of Left parties, supported the united movement in the fight against the King, and continued with their parleys with the palace appointed Government. There even seems to be some loosening in the rigidity of their position in their talks with the Government. As the first round indicated, the rebels have modified one of their most dearly held demands - election to a Constituent Assembly. This had been a major sticking point with both the monarchy and other political parties, and the Maoists seem to be coming around to accepting amendments to the present Constitution, rather than the drafting of a new one.

There are other worries for the Maoists yet. Not least is the US government's recent labeling of their organization as 'terrorists'. This came just a few days after the US signed an 'anti-terrorism assistance' package with the Nepali Government. The Maoists have declared that such measures do not bode well for the peace process at hand, and has warned against external powers interfering so overtly in Nepal.

For the moment negotiations seem to be on an even keel. They are not progressing at the pace the Maoists want but there is nothing much they can do about it, since the Government has made it clear that it wants to go slow. The focus, however, is gradually shifting to the agitation by the political parties. From being on the sidelines in the Government-Maoist interface, they have now come back centre-stage through a mass movement that is likely to pit them directly against the King. This is a movement that is likely to pick up momentum as the days go by, and that, precisely, will prove to be the two steps backward in the country's return to normalcy.



Tripura: Lethal Strikes from External Bases
Praveen Kumar
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

The killing of 33 persons in two days by two proscribed insurgent groups operating in the smallest North Eastern Indian State of Tripura has once again demonstrated the lethality even of rag tag organizations that often indulge in extreme violence against civilians for little apparent purpose than to underline their existence and to intimidate local populations. In the first incident during the night of May 6, All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) terrorists killed 21 persons in an attack on non-tribals at Kalitilla, in Satcharri, a village of West Tripura district bordering Bangladesh. The insurgents are believed to have come from the ATTF-headquarter located at Satcherri in Habiganj district of Bangladesh where they escaped after the incident. It was possibly as a prelude to such an attack that the ATTF had earlier decided, on April 10, to change its name to the Republican Peoples Army (RPA) - a tactic insurgent groups generally adopt after they have been proscribed or have attracted severe criticism from various quarters, including the populations they claim to 'represent'. In a second incident on May 6, a group of National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) militants killed two non-tribals at Radhanagar village under Kumarghat police station, in North Tripura district. The NLFT insurgents struck again the following day, and killed 10 persons at the busy Moharcherra market area, under Kalyanpur police station limits in the same district. The NLFT also maintains its headquarters at Sajak, in the Khagrachari district of Bangladesh.

The massacre by the ATTF is the worst instance of insurgent violence by any group in Tripura this year. Between January 1, 2003, and May 9, 2003, a total of 29 fatalities have involved the ATTF, including 28 civilians and a security force (SF) personnel, while the outfit has lost just four of its cadres. The killings have occurred after the group maintained a relatively low profile through the year 2002, with 15 civilian killings through the year. The latest incident also confirms that the striking capacity of the group has remained intact over the years, despite reports that the outfit "was a disintegrated force by 2000 following serious a leadership crisis and desertion of armed cadres who surrendered before the security forces". Further, it also belies the widely held perception that the ATTF would avoid such acts if its alleged partner in politics, the Left Front led by the Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M) were in power.

The NLFT, on the other hand, has remained consistently violent. Between January 1, 2003, and May 9, 2003, the group has killed 78 persons, including 65 civilians and 13 SF personnel, while it lost only six of its cadres. Trends in the State appear to be taking a turn for the worse. The total number of casualties in insurgency-related violence in the first five months in 2002 was 68. In 2003 however, till May 8, 2003, the total fatalities were 117, including 93 civilians, 14 SF personnel and 10 terrorists. Between 1992 and 2002, various insurgent outfits operating in Tripura have killed 2,176 civilians and 339 SF personnel, with just 293 fatalities among insurgent cadres.

The patterns of violence engaged in by these groups are also changing, with operations conflict against what was conventionally regarded as the political interests of their 'overground' political partners. Customarily, the ATTF would target supporters and leaders of the Congress party and its allies, while the NLFT directed its violence against those of the CPI-M. For instance, the six political activists/leaders killed between January 1 and May 9, 2003, by the ATTF belonged to the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), an ally of the Congress in the February 26 elections for the Tripura Assembly this year. Most of the 36 political activists killed by the NLFT and its offshoot, the Borok National Council of Tripura (BNCT), during the same period belonged to the CPI-M. However, the May 6 killings by the ATTF occurred in an area under the Simna Assembly constituency in West Tripura district, which is currently represented by the CPI-M.

The Left Front and the Congress have remained in power since Tripura was declared a State in 1972, and both have been using insurgent groups either to dislodge their opponents or to capture or retain power. The Congress managed to capture power in 1988, allegedly using violence perpetrated by the erstwhile insurgent group, the Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) led by Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl, who now leads its alliance partner, the INPT. The CPI-M allegedly supported the formation of the ATTF in 1990, and its violent activities continued till the Left Front re-captured power in 1993. Despite the greater violence inflicted by the NLFT ahead of the 2003 Assembly Elections, however, the INPT-Congress alliance was unable to secure victory, and the incumbent Left Front rode back to power for its third consecutive term, though it has remained unable to take advantage of this stability to curb militancy effectively.

It is increasingly apparent that insurgent groups such as the NLFT and the ATTF, once they have consolidated their power to use violence at will, evolve a dynamic of their own and become unaccountable to any group, including their political supporters or sponsors. An alternative 'underground economy of terrorism' supplants the resource flows from legitimate political parties or the general population that may have been necessary in the initial stages of their existence, and once they secure safe havens on foreign soil in neighboring countries, any accountability to external political authority or the local populations ceases to exist.

Support and shelter on foreign soil is critical to the survival and operation of these groups, and both the ATTF and the NLFT have base-camps and headquarters in Bangladesh, where they operate with the support of the Directorate General of Field Intelligence (DGFI) and Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Tripura has 856 kilometres of common border with Bangladesh. India has brought to the notice of Bangladesh the existence of 51 training camps maintained by the ATTF and the NLFT on Bangladeshi soil more than once, and in January 2003 Bangladesh was also asked to hand over 88 criminals and terrorists, including some NLFT and ATTF leaders allegedly hiding there. Recent reports have also indicated that the ISI, through its embassy in Dhaka, has intensified anti-India activities. Bangladesh has given repeated assurances that it would "not allow its territory to be used for any activities inimical to the interests of India", but no concrete action is yet visible. Indian responses to curb the movement of insurgent cadres across the border have also been poor, and though a decision in principal to fence the border with Bangladesh had been taken as far back as in 1987, barely seven kilometers have been fenced so far. Evidently, the will or desire to bring an end to this violence is lacking at every level - in Dhaka , at Delhi, and in Agartala.



Weekly Fatalities: Major conflicts in South Asia
May 5-May11, 2003

Security Force Personnel






     Jammu &






Total (INDIA)

*   Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


United States lauds Premier Vajpayee's peace initiative on Kashmir issue: Visiting US Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, expressed optimism that the 'far-reaching act of statesmanship' by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee would lead to a process that would resolve all contentious issues between India and Pakistan. Armitage, who held talks with the Indian political leadership on May 10, 2003, said that the US would like to see "India and Pakistan living side by side in peace and harmony." Armitage called on Prime Minister Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, and held delegation level talks with Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal. Times of India, May 11, 2003.

31 persons killed in two terrorist attacks in Tripura: According to reports, 31 persons were killed in Tripura on May 6 and 7, 2003, in separate terrorist attacks. In the first incident during the night of May 6, All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) terrorists killed 21 persons in an attack on non-tribals at Kalitilla in Satcharri, a village of West Tripura district bordering Bangladesh. Separately, NLFT terrorists attacked the busy Mohorchora market area on May 7-night, under Kalyanpur police station limits, West Tripura district, and opened indiscriminate fire, killing at least ten persons and injuring six more. Assam Tribune , May 9, 2003.

Supreme Court sets aside Delhi High Court order on POTA evidence: The Supreme Court on May 9, 2003, set aside a Delhi High Court judgment, which had held that evidence collected in the December 13, 2001, Parliament House attack case by intercepting mobile phones was not admissible under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). The court said the merit of this evidence and its admissibility was open for arguments before the Delhi High Court, which was hearing the statutory appeal filed by the accused against the trial court order convicting them. Indian Express , May 10, 2003.

1,400 terrorists in PoK camps waiting to cross into India, says Union Minister of State for Home: According to Union Minister of State for Home, Harin Pathak, approximately 1,400 terrorists affiliated to various outfits are waiting in camps located in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) to cross over into India. "As per available inputs 1,200 to 1,400 terrorists of various outfits are waiting at launching camps in Pakistan/PoK ready to be infiltrated into India," Pathak said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) on May 7, 2003. Further, the Minister stated, out of 370 terrorists killed in Jammu and Kashmir during the current year, 103 were foreign mercenaries. During 2002, 508 foreign terrorists were killed, out of which, 447 were Pakistani/PoK nationals and the remaining were reported from other countries, he said. Outlook India , May 7, 2003.


Government to limit Army patrols, release three Maoist leaders: At the second round of peace talks on May 9, 2003, the Government agreed to limit the Royal Nepal Army within five kilometers of their barracks in Maoist areas and also release three central level Maoist insurgent leaders. Nepal News , May 10, 2003.


Infiltration into J&K has decreased, says US Deputy Secretary of State: The visiting US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, said at a press conference in Islamabad on May 8, 2003, that infiltration into the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) had decreased. According to him, "We are not keeping score. Any violence is bad. But it is down from the same time last year. Anyone suffering (because of violence) is a cause of concern. President Musharraf has told me nothing is happening at the Line of Control. He said that there are no camps in Azad Kashmir [Pakistan occupied Kashmir] and if there are, they will be gone by tomorrow." He also said that the US would not exert any pressure on India and Pakistan to hold a dialogue and that its role was limited only to that of facilitation. Jang , May 9, 2003..

Prime Minister Jamali announces restoration of diplomatic ties with India: Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali announced on May 6, 2003, the restoration of diplomatic ties with India. He said, "In addition to the exchange of two high commissioners, we also propose restoration of full strengths of the missions of the two countries in their respective capitals." Announcing this at a press conference in Islamabad, Jamali added that air, bus and train links and sporting ties with India would also be revived. The Premier said his government had also decided to release detained Indian fishermen. Jang , May 7, 2003.


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.


South Asia Intelligence Review [SAIR]

K. P. S. Gill

Dr. Ajai Sahni

To receive FREE advance copies of SAIR by email Subscribe.

Recommend South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) to a friend.





Copyright © 2001 SATP. All rights reserved.