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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 4, No. 2, July 25, 2005

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South Asia Terrorism Portal





Long and Winding Road to UN Mediation
Guest Writer: Suman Pradhan
Kathmandu-based journalist and independent analyst

"We have long been stressing," said Nepal's Vice Chairman of the Cabinet, Kirti Nidhi Bista, on July 13, 2005, "that there is no need for UN [United Nations] mediation in Nepal. And we still stand firmly with this." The remarks were made immediately after Bista held a meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's special adviser, former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi, who visited Nepal on July 10-15. Two days later, during a press conference, it was Brahimi's turn to reflect on his meeting with Bista. "He did not say that during our meeting," the UN official quipped when asked about Bista's comments.

Clearly, all is not well when it comes to UN involvement in Nepal's troubles. Despite the recent growing involvement of the world body, the Royal regime and powerful international actors continue to see the UN as a spoiler in the conflict. They fear that a UN mediating role in Nepal's conflict would not only reduce their own functions and influence, but would also give the rebel Maoists, whose insurgency has brought the country to the brink of disaster, an equality and legitimacy they have long craved. This view is in sharp contrast with Nepal's mainstream political parties, civil society, and a majority of the population who seek a strong UN intervention.

Whether or not the UN succeeds in getting a bigger role, particularly in conflict mediation, is an open question. But its involvement has already been increasing since February 1, when King Gyanendra's coup turned this Himalayan Kingdom's politics upside down. For instance, in April, the Royal Government signed a far-reaching memorandum of understanding with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, paving the way for the opening of an OHCHR office in Kathmandu to monitor the deteriorating rights situation. That was followed by two high profile visits - first by the Walter Kaelin mission on April 13 which came here to assess the rights situation of Internally Displaced Persons, and then the Brahimi mission. Another is planned for September when a Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights is slated to visit Kathmandu. These high-level visits and occasional remarks by Secretary General Annan himself have given Nepal a high profile within the UN system, a profile which indicates growing international concerns over developments in the country.

But assessments regarding whether that profile and attention are helping or harming efforts, depend on who one listens to. Nepal's mainstream political parties, civil society and most common people clearly want a strengthened UN role. It is to be noted here that some of the political parties, particularly the two Nepali Congresses, have only now come around to accepting UN mediation. Their record while in Government was to expressly oppose any UN mediation role. Nevertheless, the political parties, except for the royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), are now united in seeking UN mediation. Whether this unity will last if one or all of them were to go back into Government is, however, an open question. Nevertheless, their latest position reflects the current mood in the country. "As an uninterested and neutral body highly respected by all sides, the UN is the only body that can successfully mediate between all sides in the conflict," says Narayan Wagle, editor of the influential Kantipur newspaper. "What Nepal needs is peace and stability, and all sides have shown themselves incapable of reaching an understanding on their own. The UN could bring in expertise and resources as well play the role of an honest broker."

But there are arguments to the contrary. A growing UN role, this argument goes, will only heighten suspicions in India and China, Nepal's two powerful neighbours. "The Indians will be concerned that such a precedent in South Asia will open the way for UN meddling in many of its own internal conflicts, particularly in the north-east. The Chinese, aware that Nepal is the easiest route to Tibet, will be equally suspicious of any UN role. Most of these countries view the UN as an extension of US foreign policy, which may not be the case, but is certainly the perception," says an analyst who declined to be named. On a related note, Nishchal Nath Pandey, a royalist supporter and executive director of the Kathmandu-based semi-government Institute of Foreign Affairs, says, "If the UN wants to be involved, it must show that it can win the trust of all sides. That is not the case at the moment."

Brahimi is said to have received an earful from all sides along these very lines during his visit to Kathmandu. In the end though, the UN's own reading is that, the toughest opposition to an expanding UN role comes from the Palace and India. Ironically, these are the two sides which have rarely seen eye to eye on anything after the coup. Brahimi left with the impression that the conflict in Nepal was not as bad as he had feared, and that there still existed room for resolution at this point, before the situation worsened. But for that to occur, the UN would need to expand its role, particularly in mediation, to which there are powerful obstacles.

Several sources close to the UN said that the Palace may raise the bogey of India and China but is "instinctively aware that the UN playing an active role means a diminishing of its own role. It will be treated as just another party in the conflict, and not the final arbiter it wants to be." The other reason, of course, is that UN mediation could give the rebel Maoists the legitimacy they have craved for so long. This perception is reinforced by the Maoists' frequent courting of the UN. For instance, Maoist 'chairman' Prachanda issued a statement to coincide with the Brahimi visit in which he said, "our party is prepared to discuss with anyone in the world, including the United Nations Organization, in favour of the Nepalese people's aspirations for democracy, peace and progress."

The other obstacle comes from India, and to some extent from the United States. "The Indians are in two minds," says a senior official who has interacted with them closely. "They see the benefits of a UN involvement but they worry that the peace process may not go the way they want it to if the UN gets involved." The reading is that India wants to control the process from start to finish, much as it did in 1950 when it mediated between the Rana regime, the Palace and the revolutionary Nepali Congress. But an open Indian role is out of the question because the Maoists and the Palace, not to speak of majority of Nepal's citizens, do not see India as an uninterested and neutral party. Given those perceptions, many in Nepal hope that, in view of India's express desire to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council, "it should be magnanimous in allowing UN mediating efforts in its neighbourhood." But convincing India's left parties, who view the UN as an extension of the US foreign policy, will remain a challenge.

The United States has not spelt out its opposition to a UN role as clearly as India has, but its officials, particularly from its Embassy in Kathmandu, have repeatedly said that it believes "Nepalis are capable of settling the issue on their own" - diplomatic language aimed at discouraging UN mediation.

Still another obstacle is one of perception. There are those, both in Nepal and India, who believe that the UN has not succeeded in any of the conflicts it has tried to resolve. One royalist Nepali commentator pointed to East Timor and the former Yugoslavia as disasters created by the UN. "In both cases they ended up breaking the country," he said. To be fair though, in both those cases, there were groups asking for independence. No such clamour exists in the Nepal conflict. Even the Maoists, despite their zeal in carving out the country into ethnic autonomous zones, are dead set against Balkanization of Nepal into little states.

Given such complexities, the march towards UN mediation in Nepal is not going to be an easy one. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Brahimi mission has scaled down its own goals. In the words of one senior UN official, the goal at the moment is to get all the relevant international actors together and to argue a common approach through a single interlocutor. "Throughout this visit and in our discussions, what has come out clearly is the need for the international community to work together with one interlocutor acting on their behalf," he says.

The UN and many Nepalis hope, that interlocutor will be the UN itself. But all of them realize, the key to that is in Delhi. "The international community is largely on the same page on what the solution should be in Nepal…but there has not been an effort to bring the common elements in one direction. The international community should now move towards a focused, catalytic, role with recognition of regional complexities," says a senior UN official.


West Bengal: Naxalbari Redux
Saji Cherian
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

Memories of the Naxalbari incident of March 1967 were revived on July 9, 2005, when three Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M) leaders and a policeman were killed in two separate attacks by left-wing extremists (also known as Naxalites) of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). In Bankura district, two district-level leaders, Raghunath Murmu and Bablu Mudi, were shot dead by the Naxalites at Majgeria under Barikul police station. When the police reached the spot, a bomb intentionally left behind by the Maoists exploded killing a policeman and injuring 16 others. Within an hour of the Bankura incident, another CPI-M activist, Mahendra Mahato, was shot dead in the adjoining Purulia district by the Maoists.

The incident was a chilling reminder that it was West Bengal's soil that produced the first Naxalite movement. The 'Naxalites' take their name from the tiny hamlet of Naxalbari in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal where an insurrection commenced in March 1967, to spread across the State and ravage it for the better part of six years, till it was crushed in 1973, and eventually wiped out under the Emergency of 1975. Since then, West Bengal had remained largely free of the scourge of violence inspired by the radical Marxist-Leninist or Maoist ideology, even as large areas in its neighbouring States fell under the renewed spell of this ferocious dogma.

The July 9 incident, however, was not the first time that the State has woken up to Naxalite violence in the recent past. On October 14, 2004, six Eastern Frontier Rifles personnel were killed in a landmine attack triggered by Naxalites inside the Ormara forest in Medinipur district. Traditionally, the three districts of Bankura, Purulia and Medinipur have been the worst affected in Naxalite violence, especially the Jhalda, Bundwan and Jaipur areas in Purulia District; the Ranibundh, Raipur, Sarenga and Simlapal areas in Bankura District; and the Belpahari, Lalgarh, Banspahari and Khejuri areas in Medinipur District.

Reacting to the attacks on the CPI-M activists, State Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy, on July 11, admitted there was a total 'intelligence failure' on the police's part in anticipating the attacks. Roy said that, in spite of 29 companies of paramilitary forces, including the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), deployed in the three districts, the forces had proved ineffective in facing up to the Maoist threat.

Apart from the 'intelligence failure', a more important aspect that has allowed the Naxalites to flex their muscle is the apparent lack of development in the region, as compared to other districts of the State. According to the West Bengal Human Development Report 2004, published by the State's Development and Planning Department,

The western parts of the State (the districts of Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia or the Paschimanchal region) include some of the most backward areas from the point of view of infrastructure and material development, with the lowest levels of per capita income and also relatively poor HDI rankings……the lack of development in this region is evident not only in terms of the level of basic infrastucture in the region but also with respect to agricultural development. This is compounded by the fact that this region is relatively speaking the driest in the State; it receives the least amount of annual rainfall and is more prone to drought than other parts of West Bengal… There are large tracts of land which remain fallow because of inadequate irrigation facilities and rainwater harvesting techniques… The problems of the Paschimanchal region therefore appear at one level to be more tractable than those in the other regions, because they stem more directly from poor infrastructure and material development.

It is this poor infrastructure and underdevelopment that have been fodder to the Naxalites. Documents seized from three CPI-Maoist leaders, Prasanta Roy, Gautam Bhattacharya and Ajit Haldar, from a forest in Burdwan district on July 2, 2005, revealed details of their plans for the three districts. According to District Police chief, Niraj Singh, "We have found in the papers plans to attack or blow up police stations. There were also notebooks with details of how tribals of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore are 'exploited' and how they could be freed."

On July 12, echoing the findings of the Human Development Report 2004, the Minister for Tribal Affairs, Upen Kisku, stated at a public meeting at Bijaharpur, about 70 kilometres from the State capital, Kolkata, that Maoists have spread their tentacles among the tribal people as "we have not been able to provide irrigation facilities and electricity to them". This was reiterated by State CPI-M Secretary Anil Biswas, who said, "The Maoists are misguiding a section of youths in the poverty-stricken areas, cashing in on the lack of development."

Recent evidences indicate that the Naxalite spread is not just confined to the Bankura, Purulia and Medinipur Districts, but is making inroads in the Hooghly and Nadia Districts as well. In December 2004, nine Naxalites, six from Nadia and three from Hooghly, were arrested with propaganda material. In Hooghly, the police have identified the Jangipara police station area as the hub of Naxalite activities in the District, while Naxalite presence has also been reported from other areas like Goghata, Khanakul, Chanditala and Dadpur. North and South 24 Parganas are also being considered as 'targeted' districts. Barasat, Belgharia, Agarpara, Barrackore and Naihati areas in North 24 Parganas and Gosaba, Basanti areas in South 24 Parganas are said to be witnessing an increase in the support base of the Maoists.

Further, Kolkata has emerged as a main operational base for the Naxalites. This was revealed by Sushil Ray and Patit Paban Halder, two senior Maoist leaders arrested from Belpahari by the Special Operations Group (SOG) on May 24, 2005. Following this disclosure, on June 1, CPI-Maoist 'politburo' member Asit Jana was arrested from the Hind Motor area of the capital city. Asit reportedly confessed during interrogation that the house where he and his associates had been staying was their main operational base in the region. According to Asit, they used small-time courier companies even to send consignments of explosives to States like Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and Assam.

An internal assessment by the CPI-M reportedly corroborates the fact that, in Bagmari, Jadavpur and Behala areas of Kolkata, the Maoists are actively working against the ruling party and the Government. The assessment also recorded that Maoists were making efforts to infiltrate the academic community both in Jadavpur and Calcutta University, especially the students. In the urban areas the Naxalites are adopting a different strategy, taking part in anti-CPI-M and anti-Government agitations through front organisations. Revolutionary posters and underground campaign leaflets against the CPI-M and State Government have been put up and distributed in key areas like the Writers' Building, different Government offices, Calcutta University, Jadavpur University and railway stations.

The current Maoist strategy for West Bengal appears to be a much-improved version of the Naxalbari uprising of March 1967. In an interview to The Telegraph published on July 15, a 'central committee' member of the CPI-Maoist, identified as 'Comrade Dhruba' remarked that, apart from the Bankura, Purulia and Medinipur Districts, "our mass base in Murshidabad, Malda, Burdwan and Nadia is ready. After five years, we will launch our strikes." When asked whether the Maoists had any plans for Kolkata, he said, "We do not plan violence in Kolkata because we know when we establish our base there, people will be forced to obey us."

While replying to a debate in the State Legislative Assembly on July 14, Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee stated that, "the current version of terror culture is an import from Andhra Pradesh", adding, "neither this is an extension of the Naxalite Movement nor this has any local basis. They aren't local people. They are outsiders who are using some local youth in a game of bloodshed."

But this assessment is, at best, partial. The Andhra influence cannot be denied, and the current disorders are not an extension of the Naxalite Movement of the 1960's and 70's. There are, in fact, a much better and efficiently organized movement, which is rapidly extending its tentacles. The Naxalites definitely cross State boundaries, depending on the ground situation, and the Chief Minister's position that the present violence in the State has no 'local basis' is no more than an attempt to avoid responsibility for the incompetence of his own State machinery. Such denials will only lead to a deepening of the existing unrest.


Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
July 18-24, 2005

Security Force Personnel




     Jammu &






Total (INDIA)







 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Bangladeshi troops raid Myanmar rebel camps: Bangladeshi troops are reported to have fought gun battles with Myanmar rebel groups and neutralised several camps in a series of raids along the forested border between the two countries during July 2005. "Twenty-six fugitive rebels from Myanmar, along with huge weapons and ammunition including 31 AK-47 rifles, were arrested during the raids," said a senior Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) official on July 24, 2005. No Bangladeshi troops were injured and rebel casualties could not be ascertained, he said. In the latest incident, a rebel camp was neutralised and 16,000 rounds of ammunition were recovered following an hour-long encounter on July 23 at a forest near Naikkongchhari, 400 kilometres southeast of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, said Lieutenant Colonel M.A. Awal of the BDR. Rebel groups operating in Myanmar's western state of Arakan often set up temporary camps in Bangladesh to escape raids by Myanmar security forces. Alert Net, July 25, 2005


Islamist extremists could take control of Pakistani nuclear weapons, says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: Expressing concern over the security of Pakistan's nuclear assets, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in Washington on July 21, 2005 that there had been "reckless proliferation" and there was a "danger" of extremists seizing power and taking control of the nuclear weapons. Dr. Singh said he was worried about the security of Pakistan's nuclear assets should President Pervez Musharraf be replaced and said there was "always a danger" that extremists in Pakistan could take charge of its nuclear arsenal. "If they get into the hands of the jehadi elements that could pose a serious problem... I hope that this does not happen and I pray that this will not happen," he said while expressing the hope that "credible solutions can be found today with that problem." The Hindu, July 22, 2005.

Five persons killed in suicide bombing in Srinagar: A Major of the Indian Army and two soldiers were among five people who died; 17 persons were wounded when a suspected suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into an Army vehicle near Burnhall School in the high-security civil lines area of Srinagar on July 20, 2005. A civilian who died was identified as Nisar Ahmed Bhat, an employee of the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology. The fifth person is believed to be the suicide bomber. The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack. Daily Excelsior, July 21, 2005.


More than 300 people arrested in country-wide crackdown on Islamist extremism: Security agencies are reported to have arrested more than 300 people by July 24, 2005, in the ongoing country-wide crackdown on Islamist extremism. These arrests, which commenced on July 19, have occurred in the Punjab, North West Frontier Province, Balochistan and Sindh. Among those arrested was a British Muslim, Haroon Rashid Aswad, a London bombing suspect. Meanwhile, countrywide protests were organised on July 22 in response to the call of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) against raids on the offices of religious parties and Madrassas (seminaries) and arrest of religious scholars and students. Demonstrations were held in almost all big cities and towns of Pakistan after the Friday prayers. Daily Times, July 23, 2005

Eleven persons killed during sectarian violence in Gilgit: At least 11 persons are reported to have died in the ongoing sectarian violence at Gilgit in the Northern Areas of Pakistan occupied Kashmir. While unidentified assailants attacked a Rawalpindi-bound passenger bus on the Karakoram Highway on July 18, killing five persons and injuring 15 others, one person was killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire in the Amphery area minutes after the arrival of the dead body of a man who was killed a day earlier. Three persons were reportedly killed on July 20 in the Jalalabad and Sonikote areas. Jang, July 23, 2005.

President Musharraf urges the West to resolve disputes facing Muslims: Addressing the nation on radio and television on July 21, 2005, President Pervez Musharraf said the West should help resolve political disputes facing the Muslim world which, he said, were at the roots of extremism and terrorism. While indicating that Pakistan supported the United Kingdom in the fight against terrorism and announced that a special cell would ensure registration of Madrassas (seminaries) in the country by December 2005. Gen. Musharraf also said that while Pakistan had launched a crackdown on banned outfits, Prime Minister Tony Blair should ensure that groups like the Hizb-ut-Tehrir and Al-Muhajiroun were not allowed to operate in Britain. Dawn, July 22, 2005.

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.


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