Friday, November 25, 2005

Mac's Regional Intelligence Bulletin 25/11/2005

In Bangladesh, the ruling BNP yesterday expelled its lawmaker Abu Hena from the party for his remarks against the rise of Islamist militants under the direct patronage of a section of the party and the government, terming his statement anti-organisational. The outspoken lawmaker from Rajshahi who recently in separate interviews with the media blamed a section of his party colleagues for patronising the Islamist militants however will not lose his membership in parliament.

Meanwhile the errant and forever in trouble Canadian oil company
Niko Resources yesterday categorically said the company is not quitting Bangladesh.
"We are not quitting. Here we are for long-time partnership," Edward S Sampson, executive chairman of Niko,
now visiting Dhaka, told the news agency. The chief of the company, however, said they are counting $ 50,000 a day for the rig they had mobilised for exploration in Chhatak gas field, known as Tengratila, and it will be huge losses if they have to wait further for starting production."We are ready for production, but the government is not approving the proposal. It is disappointing," he said.

There is a particular 'bad read' on Bangladesh if you guys are up to it in called Bangladesh: The Next Afghanistan, apparently a book waiting to be written. The author has 'allagedly' done so with meticulous research and voluminous background material is commendable. He has traced the gradual transformation of a plural, secular Bangladesh to a fundamental, intolerant nation with concrete examples and irrefutable facts. A veteran journalist and Bangladesh watcher, Karlekar draws heavily from the Bangladeshi media and intellectuals in portraying a terrifying picture of a major threat on India’s eastern flank. He argues that the headquarters of Islamic terrorism is shifting from Afghanistan to Bangladesh, which he describes as a ‘soft’ state with an ineffective government and police force, and which Islamist groups, with their organised and well-armed cadres, can easily dominate.

Meanwhile, many in India are given to wishful thinking that peace between India and Pakistan and the transient general bonhomie of today will lead to an end to terrorism in India. It will not, given the mindset that prevails in Rawalpindi and Islamabad along with the madrasa culture which collectively dreams of a destabilised, if not balkanised, India.

However on the energy security situation there is some relief with the European Union ready to discuss a Russian proposal to revive nuclear talks with Iran next month, it's almost certain that there will be no vote in Vienna on Thursday - a development that is bound to cheer India. Reports from Vienna on Tuesday said that the EU troika - Britain, France and Germany - was considering a meeting to discuss the US-backed Russian idea under which Iran will convert uranium but the enrichment will be done by Moscow.

In the 'tizzying NorthEast' the outlawed Ulfa’s silence and Dispur’s confusion about the emergence of a group calling itself the “anti-talks faction” have led the Union home ministry to send a frantic message to the government, seeking confirmation of the peace-threatening development. The self-proclaimed Ulfa faction issued a statement from Golaghat on Sunday, questioning the basis of the nascent peace process and vowing to continue the armed movement against “Indian colonial rule”.

The murder of an Indian in Afghanistan by the Taliban under bizzare circumstances has an interesting ring and it seems it is not a message from the Taliban as they have contended, but it is a message from Pakistan through the Taliban.

The message is: Don't get unduly involved in Afghanistan, particularly in the southern parts of the country bordering the Pakistani province of Balochistan, where the independence movement shows no signs of petering out despite the Pervez Musharraf government's brutal measures of suppression. There is more:
This was the first Taliban strike against Indians during the last four years since its ouster from power by US-led forces in the wake of 9/11. Maniyappan, part of a contingent from India's Border Roads Organisation (BRO) that is building a strategic highway linking Afghanistan and Iran, was kidnapped Nov 19 and killed three days later. With this, the Taliban has conveyed a powerful message to both India and Afghanistan that it no longer follows the policy of leaving Indians out as its targets, which means some more such incidents in the days to come cannot be ruled out.

Interestingly, it seems the Khalistan boys are going to be in action sooner than we had thought, and since the Pakistanis really have nothing better to do then 'supporting them' here is a report from Punjab Police who are alleging that the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan was trying to brew trouble and revive terrorism in Punjab, Director General of Police S S Virk today said the police was vigilant and would counter any such attempt. Police had recently apprehended several youths who admitted to have received training in Pakistan for revival of subversive activities in this border state, Virk told reporters at Police Lines Recreation Centre here.

There is lots of dramna in the high seas where Indian and French Naval flotilla are carrying out joint exercises in the Gulf of Aden, nearly eight months after such a drill off Kochi coast. The French Navy has deployed a nuclear submarine, guided missile stealth frigate La Fayette, shore based Atlantique surveillance aircraft and Mirage 2000 fighters for the exercises codenamed Varuna-7 off the French Naval base Djibouti coast. For the first time, a naval spokesman said, naval commandos and army para-troopers will conduct war manoeuvres with French special forces during the exercises already underway from November 19.

Also the Indian Navy is gearing up for a rare engagement next week with Chinese warships in Indian waters that will reflect a growing thaw in bilateral military ties despite an unsettled border dispute between the two countries. The Chinese missile destroyer Shenzhen and supply ship Weishanhu will conduct naval drills with Indian warships in waters off Kochi in Kerala, marking only the second joint military exercise between the two sides. But it will be the first time that Chinese forces will join manoeuvres in Indian territory.

Despite all of the 'positive signs' as above today, India's energy security paranoia is taking a toll and taking it to far off Africa, where it is ready to dish out credit of up to $1 billion (R6.6 billion) to build power projects, railways, refineries and even stadiums in oil-rich but poor west African nations, as it seeks to quench its growing thirst for foreign oil. India, which imports 70 percent of its crude oil, has devised a multipronged strategy to ensure future oil supplies from overseas oil and gas properties. While political weight has been key, India is now also offering financial and industrial assistance.

But wait a minute guys - what do Bank of China and State Bank of India have in common? They are the largest commercial banks of two of the world's largest and fastest growing economies. But the similarities end here. On all other counts, the two banks are as different as chalk and cheese. In terms of size, Bank of China is the 11th largest bank in the world, while SBI occupies the same position in Asia. Globally, however, SBI is 93rd. In terms of asset base, Bank of China is over four and a half times bigger than SBI. Last year, it had an asset base of $516 billion against SBI's $110 billion (at an exchange rate of Rs 45.77 a dollar). Those 'poor west African' had better watch out!

Up in the skies - bad news for India again: (and I quote a genuine Israeli source here) it has expressed concern over the high crash rate of its Israeli-made spy drones, taking up the issue with Israeli officials, media reports said Thursday. Four of the 50 Searcher and Heron unmanned aerial vehicles India purchased from Israel have crashed over the last two years, the Press Trust of India news agency quoted Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee as telling parliament in a written response.

The Russians as usual have been a bunch of spoilt sport with
Sergei Ivanov, Russia's deputy prime minister and defense minister, said Thursday that Russia and India would not sign an agreement on the development of a fifth-generation fighter during the visit of the Indian prime minister to Russia in December.

Lastly - what the hell are the Indonesian's up to with India and Pakistan?

With Pakistan for instance it signed an agreement to increase their intelligence cooperation to combat terrorism. The agreement, inked on Nov. 24, was laid down in a Letter of Intent on the Establishment of a Joint Working Group for Combating Terrorism, and kinda one-upped with India as well:
"Amid the changes in the region, including the rise of China and the new assertiveness of Japan, India and Indonesia find it necessary to launch a strategic partnership that will include defence cooperation," foreign policy analyst C. Raja Mohan said.
Analysts said New Delhi should use Yudhoyono's visit to boost its influence in southeast Asia, adding that the Wednesday accord came at the right time, ahead of the ASEAN and East Asia summits in Malaysia next month where Asian security will be discussed.

FOOTNOTES: In Nepal, 'all the Kings men' are none to happy with recent moves beween politicians and Maoist guerrillas towards 'dummy-cracy'! Dhakal, who just arrived in the capital city Kathmandu from Tunisia, spoke to the press at the airport saying,
"The government has taken the understanding very seriously and the reactions will be made soon." But pointing to the Delhi visits of the leaders he said, "the alliance made for foreign interests in unacceptable for Nepal." He added, "But I think the understanding must be in favor of the king's Feb. 1 move and if the whole thing is so, then it will be for the welfare of the nation."


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