Thursday, March 30, 2006

Highlights 31st March 2006

Repairing fences with Bangladesh

This is with reference to the arrest of a person who had acquired the sobriquet of "Bangla Bhai" along with his mentor Sheikh Abdur Rehman of the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh; their ideology represents a total distortion of Islam of which they claim to be its most ardent practitioners. In many respects it was a brave act because several partners in the ruling coalition are Islamists and subscribe to the intent and purpose of the Al Qaeda network. That is why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went out of his way to acknowledge and welcome the steps taken by Begum Khaleda government. Both countries have now decided to hold more frequent consultations between Home Ministry officials and other existing channels like Border Police agencies to deal with the problem of the issue. The problem is not going to go away in a hurry (as when US undersecretary Richard Armitage responded to Indian complaints of the continuing presence of terrorist training camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Pakistan itself that "if they (camps) are there they will be gone tomorrow" They have not yet) but an element of accommodation is evident on both sides.....More

To leaders of Bangladesh, terrorism is a foreign worry

Despite its long history as a secular and moderate state, Bangladesh has witnessed the rapid growth of well-organized and well-funded Islamic militant groups during the past five years. Critics say the rise was tolerated by the country's four-party governing alliance, which includes two Islamic parties. The most dangerous of the extremist groups were not officially banned until February, 2005, despite the bombings. When an MP from the ruling party criticized the government for fostering the growth of extremists in his region, he was expelled from the party. Since the bombings last year, the government has arrested hundreds of suspected militants, including the leaders of the two main extremist groups. But many government leaders are still blasé about the terrorist threat. The prevailing attitude seems to be: Crisis? What crisis? A senior member of an Islamic party in the governing coalition, for example, denies that the biggest extremist group has any local support, even after he personally received a death threat from the group. The party official, Habibur Rahman, received the death threat in a letter in January from Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a radical group that terrorized Bangladesh with hundreds of bombs and assassinations last year.....More

Onus on India to show faith in boosting ties

If Bangladesh receives its demographic dividend in full, Goldman Sachs may be proved right in its prediction. New Delhi is aware of that and has moved to capitalize on it by agreeing to expand bilateral economic and commercial cooperation to redress the huge trade imbalance that is currently in India's favour. And, although the transit through Bangladesh issue was not raised this time around, possibly as a quid pro quo for placing the water sharing agenda on a low priority, one can be sure that it will be brought up, sooner rather than later. Maybe the Indians are playing politics with water in order to offer it as a quid pro quo for transit facilities. A thorny problem that has had a debilitating effect on Indo-Bangladesh relations during the BNP-led regime is India's almost fanatical concern with security in terms of its smaller neighbour and its penchant for taking sides in favour of the opposition Awami League (AL) in this country's internal politics. A scholar of Bangladesh foreign policy had once written,
"Constrained by its geopolitical compulsion, Bangladesh also has to suffer from a security dilemma as it cannot gain in more in national security than India is willing to accept as a threat. In fact, India has always proved to be a double-edged sword for Bangladesh: the bigger country strives to keep the latter within its own security umbrella but poses a threat to the security of the smaller neighbour who finds it hard to pursue an independent security policy in such a situation.".
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Epidemic-prone Asia 'ripe for bioterror attack'

The vulnerability of much of south-east Asia to infectious diseases such as Sars and bird flu means a bioterror attack could be devastating, experts said today. While the likelihood of an attack is considered low, the alleged interest of some regional Islamic militants in acquiring disease-causing agents or toxins means it cannot be ruled out. Any nation allied with the US is a potential target, intelligence analysts believe.....More

Dismantle the jihadi network

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has given enough reasons for President Pervez Musharraf to feel at ease. His unambiguous expression of not letting the peace process between the two countries flag should lay to rest speculations and allegations in Pakistan about India's commitment to peace in the region. Mr Singh has made it quite clear that he is willing to work towards a solution in Kashmir and find mutually acceptable resolutions to the problems of Siachen, Sir Creek and Baglihar. This is not to forget the deliberate silence on cross-border terrorism and terrorist groups operating in Pakistan. Gen Musharraf could not have bargained for more. The ball is now in Gen Musharraf's court. He cannot now sidestep some of the critical issues that he has been studiously ignoring in the past two years, particularly the 2004 January promise he made to India about not letting his country to be used by any terrorist group to attack Indian targets. He has consistently failed to keep his word. This is where the General has to show courage and sagacity, and take the bull by the horns. In response to Mr Singh's unilateral expression of accommodation, he should set in motion the process of neutralising terrorist elements operating in Pakistan, particularly those targeting India..............More

Delhi fears only jihadis as Maoists rampage

For several years now, left-wing insurgents in South Asia have been talking of "liberating" a "compact revolutionary zone" (CRZ), extending from Nepal through Bihar in the north, running through Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, and down to Andhra Pradesh in the south of India. It appears that the Maoists are well on their way to creating this contiguous corridor. Security analysts have been warning of the serious threat posed by Maoists to India's internal security. Ramana describes it as "the single internal security threat that affects the largest number of states in India". In a speech in the upper house of parliament in December 2004, General Shankar Roy Choudhary (a member of parliament and former chief of army staff) observed that the Maoist threat is "the main threat which is menacing the [Indian] state today, more dangerous than the situation in Jammu and Kashmir or the situation in the northeast". Indian intelligence officials admit that the Maoist threat is serious. They point out that more worrying than the level of violence and the high casualty rate is the fact "it is the Maoists' writ that runs in some 90,000 square kilometers of Indian territory".....More



The Threat Against Multinationals in India's High-Tech Center

Various Maoist groups known as Naxalites present one of the greatest militant threats in India. In the past, Naxalite elements have targeted multinationals, government offices and other institutions in the name of class struggle. In December 2005, the central committee of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army revealed plans to attack government institutions and multinationals in various states. The last Naxalite attack against the high-tech industry occurred in October 2003, when a convoy carrying N. Chandrababu Naidu, dubbed by Indian press as the nation's "High-Tech Czar," was attacked with four Claymore-type anti-personnel mines. In addition to the Naxalite threat, jihadists in India also remain a key concern for security officials. Islamist militants, a Kashmiri group known as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in particular, have had a history of launching attacks in cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi. Indian security forces have arrested jihadist militants in southern cities as well, including Hyderabad. The Indian government blamed LeT for the Dec. 28, 2005, attack at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore during a conference on operations research. A gunman armed with an AK-47 jumped out of a car as it pulled up to an institute building and began firing indiscriminately, killing one person and wounding three.....More

Major shake-up in India's intelligence apparatus

National security Advisor M K Narayanan has revived the Joint Intelligence Committee, which was merged with the National Security Council Secretariat in 1999. The move, a major initiative by Narayanan, means the government of India needs more input and a long-term assessment on important policy matters concerning national security.Dr S D Pradhan, Special Secretary, NSCS, has been promoted as secretary and appointed as the chairman of the revived JIC.?He reaches the age of superannuating on June 30 this year but according to sources, he has been given a two-year tenure as the JIC chairman. Pradhan, although low profile, is a highly experienced academic. He joined the political division of the India's external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing in the 1970s, when R N Kao was heading it. The task of the political division was to make long-term assessments based on open information. The officers of the political division did not have access to secret intelligence collected by the RAW's field operatives.....More

Indian troops deployed on Golan Heights

Golan Heights: Boosting its presence in the middle east peacekeeping, an Indian military contingent has joined the United Nations Disengagement Observers Force at the Golan Heights, a strategic position between Israel and Syria. The 185-member contingent led by Lieutenent Colonel Ajay Singh of Poona Horse took charge from the Canadians, who had been serving the UNDOF for the last 32 years since its inception in 1974. While India has contributed an infantry battalion of about 1,000 troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon since 1999, it is the first time that it has deployed its forces on Israel's border with Syria. At an elaborate ceremony organised for the change of guard, Indian Ambassador to Israel Arun Kumar Singh said "India has contributed more than 30 peace operations in various sensitive theaters of the world."..............More

Minority voters in Assam waiting for consensus

As the call of the muezzin echoed, most men, old and young, left their chores to rush to the nearest mud-and-straw mosque for the afternoon prayers. After prayers, the motley devotees - numbering about two dozens - assembled outside the mosque at this small village located on a sandbar in western Assam, dominated by Bengali speaking Muslim farmers and fishermen. Soon they were all engrossed in a serious debate with the focus being next month's assembly elections. Assam goes to the polls to elect a 126-member house April 3 and 10. A frail looking man with a wrinkled face curiously asked if the priest had issued any fatwa for the elections. 'We are yet to decide whom to vote,' Rashid-uz-Zaman Mullah, the village priest, replied. The villagers dispersed without any unanimity with the priest announcing that they would meet once again after the night prayers to make a final decision. 'We generally vote en bloc. Our votes never get divided,' said Nur Zaman, a village schoolteacher. The same is the case with a vast majority of Bengali speaking Muslims in other villages. They all vote for one party, the community taking the decision well in advance.'The most important consideration for us is whether we would be safe under the party that we vote for,' said Mohammed Hamid, a village elder.
Muslims in Assam that account for about 30 percent of the state's 26 million people have for decades been at the centre-stage of electoral politics with the community holding the key in at least 40 of the 126 assembly constituencies
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April 03, 2006  

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