31 October, 2009
30 October, 2009
:::The CPI(M) is planning to fight it out against a serious onslaught. But isn't it too late ? The 'young guns' are talking of "Che",,,are they serious ? I guess they know "Che's" beliefs and thoughts ? :::
ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came face-to-face Friday with Pakistani anger over US aerial drone attacks in tribal areas along the Afghan border, a strategy that US officials say has succeeded in killing key terrorist leaders.
In a series of public appearances on the final day of a three-day visit marked by blunt talk, Clinton refused to discuss the subject, which involves highly classified CIA operations. She would say only that 'there is a war going on,' and the Obama administration is committed to helping Pakistan defeat the insurgents and terrorists who threaten the stability of a nuclear-armed nation.
Clinton said she could not comment on 'any particular tactic or technology' used in the war against extremist groups in the area.
The use of Predator drone aircraft, armed with guided missiles, is credited by US officials with eliminating a growing number of senior terrorist group leaders this year who had used the tribal lands of Pakistan as a haven beyond the reach of US ground forces in Afghanistan.
During an interview broadcast live in Pakistan with several prominent female TV anchors, before a predominantly female audience of several hundred, one member of the audience said the Predator attacks amount to 'executions without trial' for those killed.
29 October, 2009
The "post-colonial" society has probably veered towards psychosomatic disorders or may be I am being cynical. The situation is such that we don't really expect to hear about, far unrealistically expect to 'meet'; men (read women too : "Sijda" to the feminists) of wisdom who shower 'wisdom' for free.
Nonetheless, 'madcaps' still do exist. And Kolkata has been a city (read an 'urban disaster') to have produced many such 'madcaps'; most of them passing into oblivion and only some of them making to the pages of documentation.
One among those 'few' madcaps is P.K. Banerjee : the legendary soccer player who represented his nation at the highest level. And today was he babbling stentorianly. Walked across one of the uneven meadows of our conurbation, albeit invited but not quite expected to arrive without being offered pecuniary benefits.
But there he was, inspiring the youth with all his wisdom and experience. A Septuagenarian, even the youth could not fathom the man, terming him a 'madcap'.
Surely, the society has veered.
26 October, 2009
"Pakistan has blamed India to have financed the Taliban to create unrest in its territory"
24 October, 2009
23 October, 2009
Two investigating judges asked for 40 documents to be declassified amid suspicion the attack was linked to shady defense deals, not a terrorist plot.
Alliot-Marie said Wednesday that France’s defense minister had declassified the documents and that ‘all hypotheses (on the bombing) are being studied.’
While French investigating judges long suspected al-Qaida-linked terrorists, the judges have said they are studying possible links to bribes connected to a Pakistan-France submarine deal.
The May 2002 bombing in Karachi killed 14 people, 11 of them French employees of a naval construction firm. — AP
22 October, 2009
The 14th session of the IRIGC was held in New Delhi on December 3, 2008.
This will be Shri Krishna’s first visit to Russia since he took office as EAM and he will call on the President of the Russian Federation H.E. Mr. Dmitry Medvedev. He will also hold bilateral discussions with his Russian counterpart H.E. Mr. Sergei Lavrov.
Thereafter, EAM will visit Tashkent on October 22 – 23, 2009 at the invitation of H.E. Mr Vladimir Norov, Foreign Minister of Republic of Uzbekistan. During the visit, EAM will call on H.E. Mr Islam Karimov, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. He will hold talks with his counterpart H.E. Mr. Vladimir Norov, on bilateral, regional and global issues of importance. External Affairs Minister will also pay his respects at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial and inaugurate the India Centre at Al Beruni Institute of Oriental Studies. Besides, EAM will attend a reception hosted by the Indian Ambassador for the Indian community.
(Courtesy : MEA)
Last month, when our President paid a visit to Tajikistan, she first visited Russia. India definitely understands the importance of Russia in Central Asia and just cannot bypass it. At the same time, India needs the Gas rich Central Asia for its power starved citizenry and infrastructure.
Well, one might cite the instance of Turkmenistan when our External Affairs Minister visited it on 18th September 2009 without paying any state visit to Russia. But Turkmenistan was staying in political isolation under Saparmurat Niyazov and EAM had to visit Russia this time around anyhow !
He said : "Mr Chadambharam should first take care of his own country and then blame Pakistan. Don’t threaten us. We can give better ones to you."
He further said that the Indian interior minister should arrest culprits of Samjhauta Express bombing, killers of Rajiv Gandhi and many more such incidents instead of blaming Pakistan for being incapable of coping with terrorists.
"If we talk about composite dialogue, they (India) should not consider it our weakness at all," he added.
He said India had made it a practice to threaten Pakistan every three months, adding: ‘We are a nuclear state and not so weak. We better know how to retaliate.’
The minister referred to the Indian prime minister’s statement that more Mumbai-like attacks could take place in India and said: "I ask the Indian prime minister that if they have any information about more Mumbai-like attacks they should share these with Pakistan and we will look into them, but if India does not share anything with us then they would be responsible for any incident," he said.
"I have time and again said there was Indian involvement in Balochistan and we have evidence, which could be shared with India, if they agree to come and sit with us," he claimed.
About Mumbai attack, Mr Malik said: "We have yet not received the seventh dossier, but we have arrested all seven accused of Mumbai attacks."
Pakistan would definitely take action against Hafiz Saeed if he was found guilty, but the government could not take action against any citizen of the country without solid proof against him, the minister said.
In reply to a question, the minister said that Pakistan had earlier handed over 18 accomplices of Abdul Malik Rigi, including his brother, to Iran.
He, however, said that Rigi was not in Pakistan and said he was in Afghanistan and ‘we can even point out his exact location in Afghanistan’.
To a question about installation of biometric system at the Pak-Afghan border, he said around 50,000 people crossed the border daily.
‘We have installed a biometric system on the Pak-Afghan border to check the movement of the people and the matter has also been taken up with the Afghan government and they have also agreed to install a similar system at their side of the border.’
(Courtesy : Dawn)
21 October, 2009
Hopefully, this news item stays true"". Unlike many other previous drone attacks.
"Beacuse you need to sit for the IIT entrance, dear".
"So, now what shall I do father? Solve Irodov or mug up my text book?"
"Read the Vernacular text book, dear".
In the Evening ::::
"Dear, please start solving Irodov again."
"Oh, father, but I was reading Munshi Premchand !"
"No need to, dear. You just need to pass in your Vernacular".
--->This too at a juncture when Iran has completely blamed Pakistan about the killing of its revolutionary guards on Sunday, 18th October.
Well, a good way to divert attention.
Now, do we remember "Sharm-el-Sheikh" ? When did it happen ? The Press Release ...
After all, such a thing is out of imagination in India. It would be the concerned Minister or the PM whose message shall reach the target group. The Army would just carry out operations. And thats all.
19 October, 2009
This was regarding the ongoing operations in South Waziristan
The army said in a statement on Sunday that 60 militants had been killed, and 5 Pakistani soldiers had died in the fighting so far. About 85,000 people have been displaced since last month.
The chief Taliban spokesman, Azam Tariq, said in a telephone call to reporters in Peshawar that the “army has launched attacks from all sides.” He said the militants had killed 60 soldiers.
USA has given F-16s & imaging systems to the Pak Army for its operations. Ha ! Shall they be used against India ? Old wine in a new bottle !
Are the NATO forces in Afghanistan shouldering the onus or is the Pak Army acting as its franchisee ?
"1,500 Uzbeks centered around the village of Kaniguram" are the most feared soldiers on the Taliban side.
Right from Shaibani Khan Uzbek who tormented Babur, the empire builder of the 16th century; to the Uzbeks of Wana (capital of South Waziristan) : these Central Asian tribes have been formidable.
Want to know against whom Shaibani Khan Uzbek finally capitulated ? ::::::
It was Shah Ismail of Persia.
It would require no post gradutae degree to conclude that Persia is today's Iran.
Oh! one more ::: Shaibani was decapitated by Ismail.
17 October, 2009
In a post on 12th October, I had said that the "Operation in Waziristan is to take place sooner than later". The 'Mother of All Battles' has started.
But I feel it has started late. Time shall tell us the happenings through the fierce winter. Moreover, if US-NATO forces do not forge proper alliance with the Pak Army in creating the 'Pincer Approach', then this battle shall be useless. Another Peace Agreement!
Actually, the Pak Army had no options.
is stenchful. And by the way, who has asked them to behave as Pundits?
Nonetheless, I agree on one count : "Dating back to the era of British India, the country covered a vast territory including present-day India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh as well as Nepal. India took it for granted that it could continue to rule the large area when Britain ended its colonialism in South Asia."
India should have & should now also try to resolve the border issues as fast as practicable.
For its own benefit.
13 October, 2009
On 15th October, President Cristina will visit Agra and Mumbai. President Cristina’s visit will take place during the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Argentina. This is also the first Presidential visit from Argentina in 15 years; the last visit was by President Menem in 1994. The last visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Argentina was in 1995 by Late Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao for the G-15 Summit. India and Argentina traditionally share friendly and close ties. Bilateral trade has been increasing steadily in recent years; it has reached US $ 1.3 billion in 2008 from US $ 694 million in 2003 .
Indian companies have made investments in IT, Pharmaceuticals, agro-chemicals, mining sectors in Argentina. The total Indian investments in Argentina are to the tune of US$ 119 million. This stand-alone visit will be opportune to renew and carry forward India-Argentina relations to a higher level. A number of agreements for cooperation are expected to be signed during the visit and will cover wide ranging areas such as sports, science & technology, industrial research, hydrocarbons, trade promotion and business visas.
12 October, 2009
October 4, 2009 : Hakeemullah Mehsud, the new leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was thought to have been killed in infighting. But to everybody’s dismay, he appeared before a small group of journalists at Sararogha in South Waziristan and vowed to avenge the killing of his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud. He also informed the scribes about attacking US and Pakistani forces in the near future.
October 5, 2009 : One person was killed and many were injured in a blast at an office of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Islamabad.
October 8, 2009 : Bomb blast in front of the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Reportedly 17 dead and 76 injured.
October 9, 2009 : Bomb blast in Khyber Bazaar near the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) assembly building at Peshawar. At least 10 people were killed and 40 others injured in the incident.
October 10, 2009 : Militants attacked the Pakistan Army Headquarters at Rawalpindi. It took the lives of 20 people.
October 12, 2009 : Forty-one people, most of them civilians, were killed when a suicide attacker struck a military convoy near a busy market in northwest Pakistan’s Shangla district
From the above, it is clear that Hakeemullah and the TTP have kept their words. And moreover, the Taliban appears to be a coherent lot with a well conceived strategy.
Actually, the series of suicide or ‘Fidayeen’ attacks are being carried out not only as a retaliation against the Drone-attack on Baitullah Mehsud on August 5, 2009 but also as a pre-emptive measure against the possible onslaught to be waged by the Pakistani Army on the Taliban stronghold in South Waziristan.
In April 2009, the Pakistani Army had driven out the Taliban from the Swat Valley (in the NWFP). Naturally though, on 4th October, Hakeemullah did not concede defeat at Swat but called it as their ‘Strategic Retreat’. But the fact of the matter remains that the bedrock of the TTP’s present policy is the maxim : “Offence is the best defence”. TTP chief had talked about mercy for the ordinary Pakistanis on his 4th October emergence in front of the media, but it seems that he has definitely not adhered to ‘his words’.
But would these fatal attacks deter the ‘Pincer Approach’ that the Pak-US combo wants to embark upon in order to sandwich the Taliban in South Waziristan? The Pakistani Army is almost ready to ‘pick up the gauntlet’ and barge inside the den of the Taliban. From the other side, the US-led NATO army is planning to aid the Pakistani Army by encircling the Taliban from the Afghan border. Can a well coordinated approach by the two armies guarantee success? These are the probing questions which probably lack unequivocal answers.
Pakistan is administratively divided into four provinces, namely : Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and NWFP. Apart from these, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are also a part of Pakistan. FATA is located on the western flanks of the country, with NWFP and Balochistan to its north and south respectively. The geographical arrangement of the seven Tribal Areas in order from north to south is: Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan. FATA has the Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces of Afghanistan to its west.
At present, FATA is the home for the insurgent Pakistani Taliban led by the TTP. In 2001, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda began entering into the region. In 2003, Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces sheltered in the FATA began crossing the border into Afghanistan to revive their bases in Afghanistan. With the encouragement of the United States, 80,000 Pakistani troops entered the FATA in March 2004 to search for Al-Qaeda terrorists. They met fierce resistance from the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Finally a truce was worked out with the Taliban. It gave an indication of the extent to which the Taliban had wrested control of the region. Eight more times, between 2004 and 2006 Pakistani troops entered the region, into South and North Waziristan, and faced further Taliban resistance. Peace Accords entered into in 2004 and 2006 set terms whereby the tribesmen in the area would stop attacking Afghanistan. Moreover, the Pakistani Army would halt major military actions in the FATA and release all prisoners. And tribesmen would be permitted to carry small guns.
On June 4, 2007, the National Security Council of Pakistan met to decide the fate of Waziristan and take up a number of political and administrative decisions to control "Talibanization" of the area. The meeting was chaired by President Pervez Musharraf and it was attended by the Chief Ministers and Governors of all 4 provinces. To crush the armed militancy in FATA and the NWFP, the government decided to intensify and reinforce law enforcement and military activity, take action against certain madrasas, and jam illegal FM radio stations
Economically, FATA is the most impoverished part of Pakistan, with a per capita income of only half the national average of $500 (in 2008). Only 34% of households live above poverty level.
Due to FATA's tribal organization, the economy is chiefly pastoral, with some agriculture practiced in the region's few fertile valleys. Its total irrigated land is roughly 1,000 square kilometres. The country does not have a system of banks. The region is a major centre for opium trafficking, as well the smuggling of other contraband, making it a fertile area for the Taliban insurgents, who generally thrive on such business.
TTP and other Taliban factions stationed in FATA, especially inside South Waziristan have ‘unholy connections’ with the Al Qaeda and the Taliban groups based in Afghanistan; like the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) and the Haqqani Network. The rumours signaling internecine squabbles amongst the different Taliban groups in FATA was put to rest by Hakeemullah when he arrived before the journalists on 4th October, 2009 along with Fidayeen-i-Islam commander Qari Hussain Mehsud and Taliban’s South Waziristan chief Waliur Rehman Mehsud. The TTP chief accused the Pakistan government of having provided 1,000 acres of land for expansion of the US embassy and said that American agencies had hired over 200 houses in Islamabad to promote their agenda. TTP wants a strict enforcement of the Sharia all over Pakistan.
The recently leaked McChrystal Report has corroborated the above-mentioned facts. In fact, according to the report, the QST and the Haqqani network pose the greatest threat to stability in Afghanistan. The QST is an insurgent group responsible for Taliban operations in Afghanistan. The group is led by Mullah Mohammed Omar. He is obeyed by most of the groups currently active in the Af-Pak region. Following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, Omar relocated the senior leadership council to Quetta, Pakistan. Though the QST is most active in southern Afghanistan, its operations have spread into areas of the north and west also. The Haqqani network, named after its leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, is an insurgent group which operates in eastern Afghanistan—in Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Ghazni, Wardak and even Kabul provinces. It also retains a base in North Waziristan. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin, is reported to be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the movement due to his father’s ill health.
A senior Pakistani military official said : “If we don’t take the battle to them, they will bring the battle to us. The epicentre of the behemoth called the Taliban lies in South Waziristan, and this is where we will be fighting the toughest of all battles.’ The battle is being termed as ‘the mother of all battles’. Already this summer, the military has lost more than three hundred of its soldiers in the Swat valley. One out of ten was an officer — presumably the highest soldier-to-officer casualty ratio in any war, skirmish or operation in the world.
It must be remembered that the past operations against the tribal militants in South Waziristan ended in failure. The January 2004 operation led to the infamous Shakai peace agreement in April 2004, followed by another agreement with the now-dead Tehrik-i-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud on Feb 5, 2005.
In late January 2008, the military launched Operation Zalzala with the stated goal of dislodging Baitullah Mehsud from his stronghold. The operation did not cause much tremors and only 12 days later, the authorities were struggling to revive the dead Sararogha agreement.
‘The TTP as a monolithic organisation remains no more,’ a Pakistani security official claimed. The icing on the cake came with the death of Baitullah Mehsud in a drone attack on 5th August 2009. His death complemented the military’s plan that included an economic blockade already in place since June 2009. Thousands of army soldiers : two divisions, are now sitting on the fringes of the Mehsud mainland waiting for orders from the high command to move in. A debate is raging within some circles whether the military could have mounted an assault shortly after Baitullah’s death. ‘Baitullah is dead and his group seems to be in some sort of disarray. And this provides the best opportunity to go after them,’ the official said.
But the emergence of Hakeemullah Mehsud with leaders of other factions and the associated string of deadly attacks in mainland Pakistan raises serious doubts with regard to the consideration that the TTP has been humbled. Rather it appears to be emboldened. Even if not, then certainly it is not the last desperado act of the TTP.
Rajapaksa has shown the way to the world; in handling brazen acts of terrorism. The Taliban-Qaeda duo present a similar tangle. But they have a better ‘strategic depth’ vis-à-vis LTTE. Sri Lanka is an island whereas Taliban-Qaeda reside in large swathes of land area. Moreover, the rugged terrain of FATA, NWFP and Afghanistan surely gives a far better mileage to these insurgents than what the LTTE got from the plains and jungles.
What Lies Ahead ?
If Pakistan wants to be exculpated from their past deeds of propelling the Taliban to gain the so-called ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, then it needs to act in a positive definite manner. Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) own “Frankenstein” has to be quelled. Bravado of the Pakistani Army notwithstanding, the attitude of the military elite is still in doubt. The ‘India factor’ looms large on the Pakistani strategic horizon. Indian presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia along with present Indo-US camaraderie enhances the skepticism and buttresses the prevailing cynicism regarding India.
Furthermore, USA would keep on pressurizing Pakistan ‘to act’ against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, more so when the US $ 7.5 billion aid-package has been passed by the American Congress. The so-called “Kerry-Lugar Bill”, through which Pakistan will get $1.5 billion per year for the next five years, has been criticised in the Pakistani military circles and media for the conditions attached to the aid. It is the US administration which will verify and give undertaking on behalf of Pakistan every year to the Senate that Pakistan is fulfilling the condition mentioned in the bill. The contentious clause in the Kerry-Lugar Bill is related to the US demand that security forces of Pakistan shall not interfere in the political and judicial processes of the country. Will the ISI and the military accept such demands of the US?
Obama shall have to soon come out of the Nobel euphoria and fix up his mind regarding the “Af-Pak” policy. Realistically speaking, he has to send in reinforcements to his General McChrystal and continue the ‘Drone-attacks’ on the chosen Taliban and Al-Qaeda targets. And if Pakistan has to ‘survive’, then its military has to concede. The ‘mother of all battles’ has to take place, sooner than later. The Operation cannot be deferred too late due to the impending winter. End of November would bring in snow to the region. Hence, to bring in ‘peace’, everlasting or not, this ‘war’ seems inevitable. Waziristan awaits ‘the mother of all battles’.
The aim to resuscitate the ‘almost decimated’ Eezham movement launched by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) led by the swashbuckling Velupillai has been bludgeoned with their recently declared Chief Selvarasa Pathmanathan alias KP being incarcerated by the Sri Lankan authorities. After the death of Prabhakaran on May 18 2009, the Tigers were vigorously in search of a new leader in order to guide their movement to its logical conclusion. KP was definitely not a unanimous choice but probably an inevitable alternative.
After the LTTE went into a ceasefire agreement with the Lankan government in 2002, KP’s position in the Tiger hierarchy started to wane. This was because of the fact that a strong and youthful group surfaced in LTTE which wanted to supplant KP as the head of its overseas affairs. Leading that coterie was former tiger political commissar, (Late) Thamilselvan and ex-overseas administrative head (Late) Manivannan a.k.a. ‘Castro’. To join them was the 33 year old Sivaparan alias ‘Nediyavan’. KP had been the main plank of the arms supply line for the Tigers in their relentless struggle for the last three decades. Since the early 1980s till the end of 1990s, KP had bolstered the LTTE through his arms procurement and international propaganda. In fact, the LTTE becoming a sui generis terrorist outfit to possess a Navy and an Air Force owes much to KP’s faculties. To achieve the impossible, KP had utilised his well developed network amongst the Tamil Diaspora. But after the vitriol hurled at him by the coterie during 2002, KP went into a self-imposed retirement in Thailand only after proving his innocence to his venerated chief Velupillai. He married a Thai lady and settled there.
Meanwhile, the defection of Colonel Karuna, who was LTTE’s Commander of the East, in March 2004 as well as the coming of Mahinda Rajapaksa of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) at the helm as President of Sri Lanka provided lethal dual blows to LTTE’s designs. In fact, the organisation could never recuperate and this ultimately paved for its ignominious defeat at the hands of the Lankan forces. Amidst desperation in 2008, Prabhakaran sought last refuge in KP and requested for external aid. KP complied but wanted to be placed officially at the zenith of LTTE’s foreign affairs : to which Velupillai adhered. In a last bid of sorts, KP sent three shipment full of arms to the island, out of which two reached the LTTE. Definitely this help by KP delayed the defeat of the Tigers till mid-2009. After Prabhakaran’s demise, the semblance of an organisation that the Tigers were left with was their ‘Overseas Wing’, still enjoying the ideological and financial support of their Diaspora. After Castro committed suicide, KP had to contend with Nediyavan before he could officially don the cap of Velupillai. Though Nediyavan was placated, but there were others within the LTTE, especially in its Overseas Wing, who disliked KP as their future leader.
The long detachment (2002 - 2008) from active political work probably made KP an outsider to the Generation X of the LTTE ! Also, KP never had formal arms training, another reason which made him an alien to the hardliners. The arrest of KP on August 5 2009, allegedly from a hotel at the Malaysian capital and his consequent deportation to Sri Lanka which was corroborated by the Lankan authorities a day later speaks volumes about the kind of opposition which he was facing inside the LTTE. Not to undermine the intelligence prowess of the Lankan security agencies and the clinical fashion in which Rajapaksa has dealt with the whole matter. But one thing deserves deliberation. Pragmatic enough, KP was talking about re-modeling the LTTE and to follow the non-violent democratic path to revolution. He understood the fatality of waging a violent war against the State. Moreover, LTTE needed to remove the ‘terrorist’ tag so as to garner external diplomatic support, at least at the present juncture to rehabilitate the Internally Displaced People (IDP) in the island.
Therefore, the pertinent point is that there must be some vested interests within the LTTE who want to prolong this calamitous struggle. Furthermore, though Rajapaksa may boast of having nipped in the bud, but that might not be so. If the ruffian elements of the Tigers remain at large, then the possibility of completely dousing the Tamil anger in the island shall remain a distant dream. Another possibility is that KP’s diction of restructuring the LTTE is probably a mere rhetoric, a “strategic withdrawal”.
India too has its interests playing in this clandestine arrest. The deadly weaponry carried by the assassins of our Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was supplied by KP. So, India would definitely like to interrogate the man to unravel the bigger story behind the grievous incident. Furthermore, KP is on the wanted list of the Interpol too. Regardless of stiff opposition, KP’s experience and maneuvering abilities made him the Chief of the beleaguered LTTE. His arrest would definitely dent the Tigers further but the plight of the IDP might surge. A wait and watch policy regarding the ramifications of his arrest is best suited in this post-Prabhakaran scenario of the Tamil ethnic struggle.
The Bangladeshi masses have yet again chosen democracy. Thus the fourteen party grand alliance spearheaded by the Awami League has come back to power. The military has handed over the reigns to Sheikh Hasina in January 2009. India would definitely expect positive response from the present Bangladeshi government now. More so, when we keep in mind the smooth relations with the previous Hasina government in 1996-2001. But the irritants remain and the major impediments seem to be rising Islamic Fundamentalism in Bangladesh, usage of the said territory by insurgents of the North-East of India for illegal transit as well as shelter. In this backdrop, we try to examine the bilateral relations of these two historically and culturally connected neighbours, starting off with a brief historical introduction.
It is well known that India’s role in the emergence of today’s Bangladesh was phenomenal. The two countries signed a 25 year Treaty of Friendship, Peace & Cooperation in March, 1972. India also aided the nascent economy by providing essential commodities like food, petroleum products, sugar, steel etc. The two countries also signed a short term agreement on sharing the water of the Ganges and established a Joint Rivers Commission to conduct a survey of the river system. In August 1974, President Mujibur Rahman was assassinated by a military coup. And after coups and counter-coups, Gen. Zia-ur-Rahman took over as the military dictator of Bangladesh. He initiated the process of Islamisation (1975 - 1980). It reached the zenith during Gen Ershad’s regime (1982 - 1989) when Islam was declared the State religion in June 1988. Khaleda Zia, the widow of the assassinated dictator Zia ur Rahman became the new leader by succeeding Ershad in 1991. Next in line was Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the Awami League and daughter of Mujibur Rahman succeeded Khaleda in 1996. Two important treaties were signed : the Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) Peace Treaty & the Ganges Water Sharing (GWS) Treaty.
Let us have a bird’s eye view on those two treaties.
CHT Peace Treaty : The agreement recognised the distinct ethnicity and special status of the tribes and indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and established a Regional Council constituting of the local government councils of the three districts of the Hill Tracts. The council was to be composed by men and women from the Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Murang and Tanchangya tribes; the delegates would be elected by the district councils of the Hill Tracts. Elected for a five-year term, the council would have authority and responsibility to maintain law and order, social justice and tribal laws, oversee general administration, coordinate disaster relief and management, issue licenses for heavy industries and oversee other development projects. The central government would be required to consult the regional councils over all issues concerning the Hill Tracts.
The agreement also provided for the setting up of a central Ministry of Tribal Affairs to be headed by a person of tribal ethnicity to administer the affairs concerning the Hill Tracts. The agreement also laid out plans for the return of land to displaced natives and an elaborate land survey to be held in the Hill Tracts.
GWS Treaty or the 30 years’ Treaty : According to the treaty, the Ganges water would be distributed from Farakka for the two countries between January 1 and May 31 each year on the basis of an agreed formula, and that India would make every effort to maintain the flow at Farakka at the average level of previous 40 years. At any critical period Bangladesh would get the guaranteed flow of 35,000 cusec (1 cubic foot per second). The two countries also agreed to the need for mutual cooperation in augmenting the flow of the Ganges on a long-term basis, and for entering into similar accords in sharing the flows of other common rivers.
It removed the tense relation between the two countries, and opened the way for their wider cooperation in sharing the water resources of the entire region. The implementation of the treaty has the prospect of allowing Bangladesh to receive a fairly good flow of water into the Ganges-Kobadak Irrigation Project in greater Kushtia and into the Gorai river that drains the southwestern districts, thereby saving agriculture, and the world's largest mangrove forests in sundarbans by preventing salinity from the Bay of Bengal. It has also opened the way for Bangladesh to build a barrage on its segment of the Ganges to make a judicious use of the lean season flow coming from upstream.
But after Sheikh Hasina’s term expired, it was Khaleda Zia again with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in 2001 and relations with India naturally strained.
Major unresolved issues between India and Bangladesh can be enunciated as follows :
Border Fencing : India has to fence the 4100 kilometers long land border with Bangladesh. According to Status Report on Internal Security released by the Union Home Ministry, out of the 2218 km land border in West Bengal, fencing could be constructed along only 1191 km. Moreover, the decision to set up 13 Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) has not been implemented.
Refugees : Official reports of the BSF quote that 1.2 million Bangladeshis who entered India between 1972 and 2005 with valid documents have not been sent back. In fact, it seems that Panchayats purportedly help Bangladeshi immigrants procure primary identity cards like ration cards, voters ID etc. There has been a negotiation between the two countries regarding the ‘Chakma refugees” flooding into India.
Tin- Bigha Corridor : The exchange of enclaves according to the Land Boundary Agreement of 1974 has not yet taken place. About 110 Indian enclaves are still in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves are still in India. Tin Bigha corridor is the name of a strip in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal (between the Dahargam and Angarpota enclaves). It was given to Bangladesh in June 1992 as a brotherly gesture by India. (An enclave is a territory whose geographical boundaries lie entirely within the boundaries of another territory)
The enclaves were part of the confrontations centuries ago between two regional kings, the Raja of Cooch Behar and the Nawab of Rangpur. The little territories were the result of a confused outcome of a treaty between the Kingdom of Koch Bihar and the Mughal Empire. After the partition of India in 1947, Cooch Behar was merged with India and Rangpur went to then East Pakistan. In 1974, both countries agreed to exchange the enclaves or at least provide easy access to the enclaves, but since then little has materialised. Talks between the two countries on the issue resumed in 2001, but the lack of a concrete time frame has relegated the issue to the back burner.
The residents of the enclaves live in abysmal conditions, with lack of water, roads, electricity, schools and medicines. Crime also is rampant, as complaining would mean crossing the international boundary due to the lack of law enforcement resources. Residents of the enclaves may go to their respective countries on the production of an identity card, after seeking permission from the border guards.
New Moore Island : Also known as Purbasha, or South Talpatti, is a small uninhabited offshore island that emerged in the Bay of Bengal in the aftermath of the Bhola cyclone in 1970. Administratively, it is located in the South 24 Parganas district of the Indian state of West Bengal. It is situated only two kilometers from the mouth of the Hariabhanga river, a distributary of the Ganga.The island is administered by India but is claimed by Bangladesh. The emergence of the island was first discovered by the West Bengal state government in 1971 and it was subsequently surveyed by the Indian Coast Guard. India named the newly emerged island as New Moore Island. The first remote sensing image of the island taken by an American satellite in 1974 showed the island to have an area of 2,500 sq meters. Later, various remote sensing surveys showed that the island had expanded gradually to an area of about 10,000 sq meters. The island is located in the coastal shallow seas south of the border marked by the Hariabhanga river flowing between South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, India and Satkhira district of Bangladesh. The island lies at 21.37 N latitude and 89.12 E longitude. The island continues to expand and the landmass area fluctuates between 7 km² and 14 km² depending on the high and low tides.
Tipaimukh Dam : It is a mooted Hydroelectric project based in Manipur. It has evoked controversy as the dam is to be built 100km off the Bangladesh border. The dam will be 390m long and 162.8m high, across the Barak River, 500 m. downstream of the confluence of the Tuivai and the Barak rivers on the Manipur-Mizoram border. The dam will be at an altitude of about 180 m. above mean sea level with a maximum reservoir level of 178 m. The dam was originally designed to contain flood waters in the lower Barak valley but hydro power generation was later incorporated into the project. The project will have an installation capacity of 1500 MW and a firm generation of 412 MW. The dam will permanently submerge an area of 275.50 square kilometres.
A non-resident Bangladeshi engineer, Dr. Khondakar Abu Sufian, suggested that the Tipaimukh Dam will be a blessing for Bangladesh, because it will have the potential to reduce flooding in Bangladesh by 30%, or the river-levels in Sylhet region will be reduced by 1.5 metres during rainy season. Apparently, this calculation about reduction of flooding by Tipaimukh Dam is based on a study done in 1992-94. The opponents of the dam claim that this is a gross violation of international norms and the existing Ganges Treaty between India and Bangladesh. They also raised concerns about unilateral control of an international river by India, and think that the dam will reduce the flow in Surma-Kushiara-Meghna rivers during dry season and will increase during rainy season.
Terrorism : Both the countries have accused each other of harbouring insurgents. Government of India (GoI) has prepared a list of 119 alleged terrorist camps within Bangladeshi territory while Dhaka alleges that there are 39 terror camps on Indian soil. In fact, Chittagong Mayor Moinuddin Chowdhury has publicly admitted about terrorists of SIMI, ULFA & LeT in Coxbazar & Chittagong Hills. On top of this, growing Islamic Fundamentalism and anti-India sentiments add fuel to these fiendish developments. A recent validation is that on 10th July, 2009 Jibon Singh alias Timir Das, the self-styled chairman of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), an underground separatist outfit, was arrested in Bangladesh.
The China Factor : China has become Bangladesh’s number one trading partner, dislodging India from that spot. In 2007, the total Sino-Bangla trade was USD 3.5 billion. Beijing has also become a principal source of funds for Dhaka’s infrastructure development and nuclear technology. In fact, already in 2005, the Bangladesh-China Cooperation Agreement on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy has been signed. China also trains the armed forces of Bangladesh & is the largest supplier of military hardware. Thus, looking at Beijing’s strategy in South Asia, India cannot afford to ‘miss-the-bus’.
Possible Solutions ??
To overcome these problems, acceleration of trade and commerce between the two countries is probably the most acceptable solution. Way back in 1994, the Indo-Bangladesh Joint Business Council had identified a body of high-prospect sectors like chemicals, fertilizers, engineering and electronics, computer software and others. Presently India imports raw jute & anhydrous ammonia & exports food materials, capital goods & software. About 15 % of Bangladesh’s imports are from India. But Bangladesh laments in having a large trade deficit vis-à-vis India. In this regard, tariff and Non-tariff Barriers (NTBs e.g. certification & standardization of commodities and quantitative restrictions) need to be eased so that both the countries garner benefits from each other.
The platforms of SAARC (1982) & BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, in 1997) need to be maximally utilised for mutual benefit. A third of the 136 million strong Bangladesh’s population is supposedly under the poverty line. GDP per capita is below USD 400. Hence vibrant trade and commerce is imperative for Bangladesh. Furthermore, India can help Dhaka extract oil & gas reserves in the Bay of Bengal since energy is acutely necessary for India.
Last but not least, we must encourage Track II diplomacy to lubricate the existing frictions, although problems like that of Taslima Nasreen do exist which need to be handled with care.