SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 3, No. 32, February 21, 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
The Calculus of
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict
Nobody appears to have a plan for Nepal, except, perhaps,
Three weeks after the King's reckless takeover, the inertial
drift, both within the country and in the foreign policies
of the major powers that had earlier been supporting Kathmandu
in its war against the Maoists, appears to be deepening.
India, the US and UK have been making ineffective calls
for the 'restoration of democracy', and the flow of military
aid has been presently checked - but given the volumes of
weaponry already transferred to the Royal Nepalese Army
(RNA), this is not a source for an immediate crisis. While
there had been some speculation of the possibility of an
Indian blockade on Nepal - reminiscent of events in 1989,
which forced the then King Birendra to accept a Constitutional
Democracy - this option has not been exercised. Moreover,
the general indefinite shutdown and blockade announced by
the Maoists has not been total and, crucially, at least
one route for the flow of goods and traffic from India to
Kathmandu has been kept open, albeit under massive military
protection, and with repeated disruptions as a result of
the mining of roads and attacks on escorted convoys. Nevertheless,
the supply lifeline to Kathmandu - though somewhat diminished
- has been kept open, and no crisis in essential goods appears
imminent in the capital city.
At the same
time, there is evidence of some military operations across
wide areas of the country. Though information flows are,
under the present regime of extreme censorship, at best
fitful, reports suggest that military operations of varying
intensity have been carried out by the RNA against the Maoists
in at least 30 of the country's 75 districts, since the
February 1 'Royal coup'. RNA operations appear to have concentrated
particularly in the Far West districts of Baitadi, Achham
and Dailekh, and in the Eastern Region districts of Sankhuwasabha
and Morang. Maoist operations have been registered in at
least 14 districts over the same period. Total reported
fatalities stood at 117, including 93 'Maoists', 15 security
forces personnel and nine civilians (to reiterate, these
would probably be partial figures, and several reports suggest
fatalities, particularly 'Maoist' fatalities, but do not
give any numbers). In at least one case, the RNA is reported
to have used helicopter gunships to strafe and bomb 'Maoists'
in the Dailekh district.
Though this suggests that neither party in the conflict
has been altogether idle over the past three weeks, the
intensity of violence is certainly far from earlier peaks,
particularly in year 2002 and in the months after the breakdown
of the ceasefire in August 2003, when fatalities frequently
exceeded 100 to 150 a week (the month of May 2002 saw 1,023
killed). Clearly, the Maoists have not sought to engineer
an immediate and massive mobilization against the new order
at Kathmandu; indeed, violent Maoist activities have seen
a visible dip since February 1. On the other hand, the RNA's
strategy remains consistent with activities over the past
months, though there has been an evident decline in scale
and intensity in their case as well.
This new status quo, however, cannot last. Although
decreased concerns on human rights may create a measure
of state terror in wide areas, particularly in the unmonitored
countryside, Kathmandu's operational capacities have been
severely circumscribed as a result of massive military concentration
in the Valley, at the expense of the rest of the country.
Worse, a significant proportion of troops and officers have
been tied down in a wide range of civilian and static duties,
including 'editing' Newspapers at Kathmandu, and administering
vital installations and services in the district headquarters.
Further, the 44,000 strong civil Police provides little
comfort within this context. With just 110 of the country's
1,135 police stations still operational, this ill-equipped
and demoralized Force is just huddled in district headquarters,
divesting Kathmandu of what could have been its most significant
source of field intelligence. In such a situation, eventually,
the widening vacuum in the countryside will create opportunities
for an irreversible Maoist consolidation.
Absent a restoration, indeed, a radical enhancement, in
military aid, no technical augmentation of the RNA's and
the Armed Police Force's (APF) capabilities is possible.
It is useful to recall, in this context, that Kathmandu
had, prior to the Royal coup, been pressing India for a
significant replenishment and augmentation of arms, ammunition
and military equipment, including at least 5,000 machine
guns, 1,000 mortars, 40 mine protection vehicles, 800 troop
carrying vehicles, bulletproof jackets and headgear, night
vision devices, as well as an unspecified number of Light
Attack (Lancer) and Advanced Light (Cheetah) Helicopters.
Military supplies were also being solicited from the US,
UK and some EU countries. If military operations against
the Maoists are to be sustained, this weapons wish-list
cannot remain in indefinite abeyance.
That puts the ball squarely in the court of the coalition
that had, till February 1, been supporting Kathmandu's efforts.
India, the US and UK have, till now, exerted qualified pressure
on the King, and restoring military aid would be morally
and politically indefensible, and would fuel a widespread
and increasingly indiscriminate military campaign across
the country. Crucially, such support would be largely infructuous,
and, given the configuration of military Forces and the
political and administrative vacuum in the country, the
strategy of military repression is destined to failure.
The current crisis in Nepal, consequently, is progressively
transforming itself into a test of India's sagacity and
management capacities. It is increasingly evident that both
the US and UK have substantially accepted the idea of Indian
primacy in resolving the Nepal imbroglio, and India's long-term
ambitions for 'great power' status in the region would certainly
and substantially be assessed in terms of its immediate
capacities to deal effectively with the present crisis.
The dilemma for India (as well as the other external actors
who have supported Kathmandu in the past) is the choice
between regime stability and state stability in Nepal. The
fact is that all the players in the region are currently
guilty of the cardinal error of confusing regime stability
with state and regional stability. The fact, however, is
that regime stability is currently in direct conflict with
the long term prospects of state and regional stability,
and the King's actions, as well as any international support
to the new regime, will only entrench the dynamic that is
undermining Kathmandu's capacities to survive the Maoist
onslaught. By supporting the King, an apparent stability
would no doubt be secured in the short run; but such stability
would reinforce the very dynamic that has progressively
undermined the political capacities of the state, and that
will eventually and necessarily lead to state collapse and
the capture of Kathmandu by the Maoists. On the other hand,
efforts to secure a more stable future for the state would
run up against the King's personal ambitions, the disarray
among the Constitutional parties, potential mischief by
spoilers (China and Pakistan are India's favourite bogeymen)
and the possibility that the pressure that would need to
be exerted to secure a breakthrough (essentially, a complete
blockade of Kathmandu) may, in fact, create the temporary
conditions that could facilitate a Maoist takeover.
The one thing that emerges clearly through all this is that
restoring support to the King would condemn Nepal to protracted
chaos and an almost certain Maoist takeover. Clear and determined
action to install a working democracy - this time around,
with the RNA under civilian control -, and to slowly and
painstakingly engineer the recovery of widening regions
to civil governance, is now the only, albeit uncertain,
alternative that could possibly help restore the integrity
and stability of the state structure in the country. This
would, as many have often and effortlessly argued, be enormously
difficult. But 'easy' has not been an option in Nepal for
a long time now.
A Journey through Violence
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management; Assistant
Editor, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution
In what is being perceived as a win-win situation for both
India and Pakistan, both the countries agreed on February
16 to commence a bus link from April 7, 2005, between Srinagar
and Muzaffarabad, the respective capitals of Jammu and Kashmir
(J&K) and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
of the hype surrounding the decision is on expected lines,
given the current 'honeymoon', as the media would have it,
between Delhi and Islamabad, it has been made amply clear
that this confidence building measure (CBM) does not, in
any manner, change the stated positions of either country
on the status of J&K. Indian Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran,
noted in Islamabad on February 16 that "It is a humanitarian
procedure that we have adopted." The bus would bring together
sundered families and communities living across the Line
of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB).
The proposal for such a service was first floated in July
2001 during the Agra Summit between the then Prime Minister,
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Pakistan's President, Pervez Musharraf.
The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway, known in the Kashmir
Valley as the Uri road, was closed in 1947 after the formation
of Pakistan. Prior to Partition, the approximately 170 kilometre
highway was the only road that connected Kashmir with the
rest of the world. The road commences from Srinagar and
reaches Muzaffarabad, via Baramulla and Uri in India, and
Kohla and Kotli in Pakistan.
The route has significant historical importance. While the
16th century Mughal emperor, Akbar, is believed to have
once marched into Kashmir through this route, the road was
also the main trade link between Kashmir and the rest of
the world, linking the Valley with Afghanistan and China.
Humanitarian considerations have been paramount in this
decision, and the opening of the bus link will allow many
Kashmiri families, on both sides, to visit each other frequently.
Over time, it may also help boost the economy of the region.
For instance, if there is an agreement to send fruits, a
mainstay of the Kashmiri economy, to Muzaffarabad through
this route, this could plausibly open several new trade
Politically, J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has
expressed the opinion that, once the people of PoK start
coming to India, they would see that people in the Indian
side of Kashmir were much better off. Tahir Mohiuddin, editor
of the Srinagar-based Urdu weekly, Chattan, notes,
"There is a lot of propaganda in PoK that Kashmiris in India
are not allowed to pray and are very poor. Once they come
here and see, it will be an eye opener for them." The free
movement of people, it is believed, would allay misconceptions
about each other on the two sides of the Line of Control
(LoC). It is useful to note, in this context, that many
Pakistan-based Jehadi groups are headquartered in
Muzaffarabad or have 'camp offices' in the area.
While this "mother of all CBMs" as one Indian Ministry of
External Affairs (MEA) official expressed it, has been hailed
as the boldest peace move between the two countries, terrorist
groups, unsurprisingly, have been vocal in their opposition.
The Al-Mansooran - a front organization of the Lashkar-e-Toiba
- claimed that the bus service deal was due to political
compulsions. "The agreement reached between the two countries
on the bus service will have no bearing on the ongoing struggle
in the Valley," said Umer Mukhtar, a spokesman of the outfit.
At least three terrorist groups, while declaring their opposition,
have threatened to disrupt the bus service. "This will weaken
the idea of Kashmir uniting with Pakistan. This is a conspiracy
by India to weaken jihad… We will see what benefits
India wants to get from this bus service... we will certainly
try to stop it," Mufti Abdur Rauf, a spokesperson for the
told The Associated Press in Pakistan on February
17. Echoing a similar line, the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM)
chief, Syed Salahuddin, in a statement issued from Muzaffarabad
claimed the bus service was unimportant and "is a failed
effort to put ointment on the wounds of Kashmiris." Further,
a leader of the LeT, Yahya Mujahid, told AFP: "This
cosmetic gesture will not curb the demand of freedom by
Kashmiris." Clearly, passenger security will be a key issue
when the bus rolls out on April 7.
While the world has sought to focus on the 'peace process'
in J&K, it is clear that the extremist intent has not been
altered on the ground, though there has been some diminution
of extremist capacities. Recent weeks have seen a spate
of killings of political activists in the aftermath of the
enormous participation in civic body elections (electoral
turnouts averaged a satisfactory 45.5 per cent), held after
a gap of 27 years. 47 civilians have been killed in January
2005, compared to 32, 26 and 26 in the preceding months
of October, November and December 2004. At least three of
the newly elected Councilors have been killed thus far.
The newly elected member of the National Conference (NC)
and the would-be Mayor of Srinagar, Mohammad Maqbool Khaksar,
was shot dead in the capital's Jawahar Nagar area on February
9, 2005. His assassination came a day after the killing
of the People's Democratic Party's (PDP) elected member
and would-be chairman of the Beerwah Municipal Committee
in Budgam district, Ghulam Mohiuddin Mir. After Khaksar's
death, his party had threatened that all elected Councilors
belonging to the NC would resign en masse if adequate security
was not provided to them. Due to threats held out by terrorist
groups, three newly elected Municipal Councilors resigned
on February 17, taking the number of Councilors who have
resigned under extremist pressure to six. Strikingly, three
of those who resigned have tendered a 'public apology' for
taking part in the democratic exercise. In Anantnag town,
two Councilors reportedly said during the Friday prayers
at a mosque: "We seek your forgiveness in the name of Allah
and we dissociate ourselves from the polls. We have quit
our seats and resigned from the party. We now have nothing
to do with the civic bodies." An unconfirmed report added
that ten newly elected members made public announcements
of their resignation from the civic bodies on February 11.
These assassinations and resignations underline one of the
more disturbing consequences of the ongoing peace process.
Increasingly, while the political discourse shapes itself
along expected incremental lines, the disturbing fact is
that sustained and calibrated levels of terrorist violence
appear to be gradually getting deeply intertwined within
the larger rubric of the peace process.
The bus agreement sets the tone for the further deepening
of people-to-people links, as well as other critical linkages.
Indian Foreign Minister, Natwar Singh, in his statement
at Islamabad, said both sides have agreed to look at the
oil pipeline from Iran through Pakistan, subject to the
satisfaction of India's concerns relating to security and
assured supplies. "We also agreed to start a bus service
between Amritsar and Lahore and to religious places such
as Nankana Sahib and instructed our officials to tie up
technical details," added Singh. While the procedure of
bringing an oil pipeline from Iran to India through Pakistan
is to be decided tri-laterally, prospects for such a venture,
currently, remain grim in view of the continuing attacks
on gas pipelines and other vital installations in the insurgency-wracked
Balochistan province, on the Pakistan-Iran border.
While there has been a secular decline of violence in J&K
since 2001, an end to the bloodshed in the State seems as
unlikely as it was at any given point since the dramatic
escalation of the militancy in 1989. Even as measures like
the bus link may go a long way in removing some of the chronic
mistrust between the two countries, they will do little
to alter the fundamentals of the basic conflict in and over
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts
in South Asia
data compiled from English language media sources.
militants of 40 groups present in the country, says former Minister:
On February 18, 2005, the Dhaka police confiscated some copies
of two newly published books, allegedly containing seditious
content, written by the Awami League leader and former minister,
Professor Abu Sayeed, from his residence. One of the books titled
Aghoshito Juddher Blueprint (Blueprint of an Undeclared
War) in Bangla explains the rise of communalism and Islamist
militants in Bangladesh. The second book, Brutal Crime Documents,
in English portrays the alleged brutalities suffered by opposition
parties since the 2001 elections. The books reportedly claim
that approximately 50,000 militants belonging to more than 40
groups are currently controlling a vast area of Bangladesh,
with help from ruling coalition partner, Jamaat-e-Islami, and
a section of the Bangladesh National Party. Earlier, at a Press
Conference, Sayeed said, over 50 camps are now in operation
across the country, where Islamist zealots are getting military
Daily Star, February 19, 2005.
ULFA seeks formal
reply from Union Government on peace talks: The outlawed United
Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA)
has reportedly sought a formal reply to its 'chairman' Arabinda
Rajkhowa's letter to the Government of India. This was communicated
by the outfit to noted Assamese litterateur, Dr. Mamoni Raisom
Goswami. ULFA's first formal communication addressed to the Prime
Minister, Manmohan Singh, was handed over on February 14, 2005,
to the National Security Adviser (NSA), M.K. Narayanan, by Dr.
Goswami. Rajkhowa, in his two-page letter, reportedly talked about
the outfit's long-drawn struggle calling for 'restoration of Assam's
sovereignty' and insisted that sovereignty was its primary demand.
The NSA, in response, has conveyed that the Government of India
was not in a position to exclusively hold dialogue on the issue
of sovereignty, though it was open to discussing the grievances
of the outfit, including what it termed as the core issue. Assam
Tribune, February 15, 2005.
gain power if President Musharraf is removed, says US intelligence
official: Director of
the US Defence Intelligence Agency, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby,
reportedly told the Senate Intelligence Committee at a hearing
in Washington on February 16, 2005, that "Extremist Islamic politicians
would gain greater influence" in Pakistan if President Pervez
Musharraf was assassinated or replaced. "If Musharraf was assassinated
or otherwise replaced, Pakistan's new leader would be less pro-US,"
claimed Jacoby. While observing "We are concerned that extremist
Islamic politicians would gain greater influence", he added that
a majority of population in Pakistan holds a "favourable" view
of Osama bin Laden. Stating that was the same assessment he gave
last year, Admiral Jacoby said: "Our assessment remains unchanged
from last year." Nation,
February 18, 2005.
India and Pakistan sign agreement on Muzaffarabad-Srinagar
bus link: Pakistan and India on February 16, 2005, agreed
to start a bus service between Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied
Kashmir (PoK) and Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir from April 7,
2005, with people from Kashmir, Pakistan and India to travel across
the Line of Control (LoC) by an entry permit system. Foreign Minister
Khurshid Kasuri announced this in Islamabad in a joint statement
with his Indian counterpart Natwar Singh after talks between the
two. "The bus service will start without prejudice to the stated
positions of both the countries on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir,"
Indian Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, said at a separate press
February 17, 2005.
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