Saturday, March 19, 2011

Arundhati Roy: India's bold and brilliant daughter

Arundhati Roy took the literary world by storm 14 years ago with 'The God of Small Things'. Since then she's become her country's harshest critic and its most fearless activist.
   She will turn 50 this year. I hope to be excused of sexism (would one write this of a man?) when I say that she looks no more than 35 at most. Her vitality has always been striking. I remember her from one of her early visits to London as a slight, supple woman with an Indian cotton bag slung over her shoulder, and gleaming skin and hair that suggested yoga and aerobics, yoghurt and juice made from fresh limes. My wife had baked scones in her honour. Roy looked at the scones as though they might be deep-fried Mars bars, but eventually and daintily conceded to try one.
   In her bag was the manuscript of a first novel that was to make her famous and (by the standards of writers) rich, and though some of that future could have been predicted (the manuscript had caused a stir among publishers), no one could have foreseen the Booker prize and editions in 40 languages. What has happened since the success of The God of Small Things is even more surprising. Among Indian public intellectuals, a bright category that includes the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Roy is probably now her country's most globally famous polemicist, as both a writer and speaker. Her essays are published across the world ­ the Guardian published a recent one in five parts ­ and she can pack out a big venue in New York and still have a few thousand listening outside.
   In India she draws even bigger crowds, and switches from English to Hindi. She tours extensively, and often to the kind of country towns and small cities that rarely see anyone so celebrated. Recently, she told me, 5,000 tribal people from 34 districts had gathered to hear her at Bhubaneswar in Orissa. Some had walked for days to get there; 40 had been arrested and charged with waging war against the state; two, she believed, had died in jail. "So it isn't like Jaipur," she said, referring to India's first and largest literary festival, just ended, where well-fed writers are flown in from London and New York and put up in reupholstered palaces. This could easily have been her way of living, too ­ as, for a short time, it was. Instead she has spent the last dozen years castigating the Indian state for all its sins and omissions: grandiose dams that displace the poor peasantry, mineral quarries that threaten to do likewise, nuclear weapons, the occupation of Kashmir. Her prose takes few prisoners, and runs against the grain of urban India's swelling prosperity.
   A common criticism is her refusal to balance the bad against the good. Yes, the greed is spectacular. Yes, the corruption inside government may be obscene. Yes, 800 million people exist on less than 20 rupees (about 35p) a day. But look on the bright side. That leaves another 400 million doing better than ever before, in an economy growing at dizzying rates, with India now receiving the obeisance of the west. So why write so narrowly and speak so angrily?
   Roy has a standard reply. "Suppose there are 10 people in this room. Seven are starving, and one is winning medals, and two are doing OK. And I say, 'Look at these seven people who are starving,' and you say, 'Oh don't be so negative, no, things are not so bad ­ look at the other three.' Really?"
   She herself ranks quite high among the three-tenths. We met at her flat near Lodhi gardens, in one of the most desirable parts of south Delhi, where 4x4s with CD plates stand parked in dusty lanes, and diplomats come to shop. It would be wrong to see this as an example of a woman not practising what she preached. Although Roy is by no means a Gandhian renouncer of worldly goods, a good percentage of her royalties have funded causes she describes as "edgy", but is reluctant to name. "It's not that I want to live in some slum and wear a handloom sari," she said. "I'm not in sacrificial mode and I don't want to be saintly." But she found her sudden wealth problematic. Fame she could handle, but "the money just blew me out of the water. OK, so I wrote a good book, but that doesn't mean you need to be showered with money. If you're a political person, what do you do, what's the right way to deploy it?"
   So, as a political person, how would she describe her politics? She has spent weeks with the Maoist insurgents in central India ­ a dangerous adventure in a bloody war that has killed thousands of people and emptied hundreds of villages ­ but she isn't a Maoist: "I'm not unaware of what that kind of doctrine can lead to." A Gandhian then? A snort of disbelief at the very idea: "I ask those people who say they are Gandhians, if you live in a tribal village in the heart of a forest and 800 paramilitaries surround it and start to burn it and rape the women, what Gandhian action would you prescribe? Gandhian politics is a form of celebrity politics. It needs an audience. They don't have an audience." A kind of liberal democrat perhaps? "The nation state is such a cunning instrument in the hands of capitalism now. You have a democracy that strengthens the idea of the nation as a marketplace."
   She said, "I don't feel the need to define myself and give myself a flag." The self-description she will settle for is "writer", but when I wondered if that word in this context meant sympathetic observer or explainer or advocate, she said it was more than that. Recently she'd had a letter from a Maoist prisoner in central India reminding her that in an early essay, The Greater Common Good, which argued against dam-building in the Narmada valley, she had written: "I went to the valley because I thought the valley needed a writer." The letter added, "We need a writer too." Roy, then, sees in her writing an Orwellian duty to bridge social distance, to bring home the truth about the poor and disaffected to the prosperous and content, and to realise their surroundings and situation as a good novelist would. In fact, the distances she needs to bridge are far greater than Orwell's ­ Wigan miners weren't to old Etonians as hill tribes are to metropolitan Indians ­ and her writing is more prolix and melodramatic.
   But for all that, she is intensely readable ­ fluent, never solemn and always confident. She denies extraordinary self-belief, but my guess is only because she's never lived without it. The scones episode was an early example (to the scone-maker: "Well, I might just try one"), but her novel's publication process threw up many others. She had never published a book before, but she demanded, and was granted, complete design control ­ "I wasn't going to have a jacket with tigers and ladies in saris" ­ and refused suggested changes to the text from Sonny Mehta, the distinguished nabob of New York publishing (to be fair, she said, he later admitted that he'd been wrong). It was confident ­ and wise, too ­ to say she felt no obligation to write another novel. The work of producing the first one, she said this week, had been like four years in jail. "I didn't want to be like some factory producing novels, and I don't want to live my life as a project ­ in some ways I want to do as little as possible. I didn't mean to write my other books [her essay anthologies] either. There's so much noise in the world, so why add to it? In my case, I only write when I can't not."
   But what small demonstrations of her will these attitudes towards writing and publishing have turned out to be. Roy confronts her government on a wide range of issues. Last year there were calls for her to be charged with sedition after she was reported, not quite accurately, as calling for an independent Kashmir. By bitterly opposing Hindu nationalism in its violent as well as respectable forms ­ she would contest the difference ­ she has prompted a hatred that puts her in physical danger. Wherever this boldness has come from, it isn't the Indian ideal of the happy and extended family. Her mother ran away from a violent father in Kerala and married the first eligible man she met in Kolkata, a young assistant manager on a tea estate who was already victim to tea estate manager's occupational disease, which is alcoholism. They separated after three years, when Arundhati had still to reach two, and she and her mother and brother moved back to Kerala, where her mother ran (and still runs) a private co-ed school. In her daughter's word, a "character": she would lie in a zinc tub in her courtyard while one secretary clipped her toenails and the other took down her dictation for a letter of complaint to the local municipality. She now thinks of her mother as "one of the most extraordinary people I know". But the affection is retrospective. At the time she couldn't wait to get away ­ "I'd had enough of this family business" ­ and left home for Delhi aged 17. She had no contact with either her mother or brother for several years, until one day her brother read about her appearance in a film and managed to get in touch. A surprise that contained a greater surprise: he was in seedy hotel near the railway station and she was to guess who he had with him ­ a man Arundhati had no memory of ever seeing, their father. Her brother had found him in Kolkata, either on the streets or in the nearest thing to them, a home for the dying and destitute run by Mother Teresa. And so a reunion was arranged. She went, and met a ruin of a man who was "totally vacuous and completely happy". After the shock of his battered physical appearance wore off she imagined "how much worse I would have felt if he was some golf-playing CEO. This was much better."
   She laughed at the last sentence, ironising her instinct for fiction and the underdog. Later she said she'd learned "to love and enjoy my father for what he was, I feel sorry that I couldn't do more for him". Not many members of India's elite, which is what she is, have a parent who's plunged so dramatically into the social abyss. Ascribing political beliefs to personal histories is a notoriously suspect activity; remedies for cruelty and inequality can require no more than an alert morality. Roy attributes her own awakening to "living as the child of a divorced parent and a mythical father among the smug Syrian Christians of south India ­ and also from leaving home at 17 and living on my wits". But that encounter 25 years ago in a squalid hotel may also have informed her.
   Roy herself has been married twice, the second time to the film-maker and environmentalist Pradip Krishen. They now live separately. She's begun work on a second novel, 18 years after she started her first. "I want to think about detail now and not about the full picture. After I finished The God of Small Things there was nothing I wanted to understand more than the way the big wheels are working. Now that I do, I want to deploy that knowledge in minute observation."
   Some people in India feel that they've had far too much of Roy the campaigner and not enough of Roy the novelist, though she may have more political support than her critics suggest. Her view is that she has divided the urban middle class. "Opinion is more polarised than you might think, and this worries the state quite a lot. The poor [including the Maoists] can remain in their forests and their villages. There are 200,000 paramilitaries already there [in central India] and the army's coming soon ­ the government knows how to deal with these things militarily." Middle-class sympathy, on the other hand, isn't so easily treated. "It's making the state unsure of itself and therefore more vicious."
   An old friend of mine who knows her put it this way. "She's a bit of a solipsist ­ she just can't imagine life without herself in it. There are many cleverer people, just as concerned with injustices, who have more rounded and considered views. But there's nobody else who's as critically engaged with the state as she is and so willing to take it on. So is she a good thing? Yes."

LESSON FROM KOREA, VIETNAM, IRAQ, AFGHAN : Never fight a land war in Asia

U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, speaking at West Point, said recently that "Any future defence secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined." In saying this, Gates was repeating a dictum laid down by Douglas MacArthur after the Korean War, who urged the United States to avoid land wars in Asia. Given that the United States has fought four major land wars in Asia since World War II - Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq - none of which had ideal outcomes, it is useful to ask three questions: First, why is fighting a land war in Asia a bad idea? Second, why does the United States seem compelled to fight these wars? And third, what is the alternative that protects U.S. interests in Asia without large-scale military land wars?
   The problem of wars
   Let's begin with the first question, the answer to which is rooted in demographics and space. The population of Iraq is currently about 32 million. Afghanistan has a population of less than 30 million. The U.S. military, all told, consists of about 1.5 million active-duty personnel (plus 980,000 in the reserves) of whom more than 550,000 belong to the Army and about 200,000 are part of the Marine Corps. Given this, it is important to note that the United States strains to deploy about 200,000 troops at any one time in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that many of these troops are in support rather than combat roles. The same was true in Vietnam, where the United States was challenged to field a maximum of about 550,000 troops (in a country much more populous than Iraq or Afghanistan) despite conscription and a larger standing army. Indeed, the same problem existed in World War II.
   When the United States fights in the Eastern Hemisphere, it fights at great distances, and the greater the distance, the greater the logistical cost. More ships are needed to deliver the same amount of materiel, for example. That absorbs many troops. The logistical cost of fighting at a distance is that it diverts numbers of troops (or requires numbers of civilian personnel) disproportionate to the size of the combat force. Regardless of the number of troops deployed, the U.S. military is always vastly outnumbered by the populations of the countries to which it is deployed. If parts of these populations resist as light-infantry guerrilla forces or employ terrorist tactics, the enemy rapidly swells to a size that can outnumber U.S. forces, as in Vietnam and Korea. At the same time, the enemy adopts strategies to take advantage of the core weakness of the United States - tactical intelligence. The resistance is fighting at home. It understands the terrain and the culture. The United States is fighting in an alien environment. It is constantly at an intelligence disadvantage. That means that the effectiveness of the native forces is multiplied by excellent intelligence, while the effectiveness of U.S. forces is divided by lack of intelligence. The United States compensates with technology from space-based reconnaissance and air power to counter-battery systems and advanced communications. This can make up the deficit but only by massive diversions of manpower from ground-combat operations. Maintaining a helicopter requires dozens of ground-crew personnel. Where the enemy operates with minimal technology multiplied by intelligence, the United States compensates for lack of intelligence with massive technology that further reduces available combat personnel. Between logistics and technological force multipliers, the U.S. "point of the spear" shrinks. If you add the need to train, relieve, rest and recuperate the ground-combat forces, you are left with a small percentage available to fight.
   The paradox of this is that American forces will win the engagements but may still lose the war. Having identified the enemy, the United States can overwhelm it with firepower. The problem the United States has is finding the enemy and distinguishing it from the general population. As a result, the United States is well-suited for the initial phases of combat, when the task is to defeat a conventional force. But after the conventional force has been defeated, the resistance can switch to methods difficult for American intelligence to deal with. The enemy can then control the tempo of operations by declining combat where it is at a disadvantage and initiating combat when it chooses.
   Example of WWII
   The example of the capitulation of Germany and Japan in World War II is frequently cited as a model of U.S. forces defeating and pacifying an opposing nation. But the Germans were not defeated primarily by U.S. ground troops. The back of the Wehrmacht was broken by the Soviets on their own soil with the logistical advantages of short supply lines. And, of course, Britain and numerous other countries were involved. It is doubtful that the Germans would have capitulated to the Americans alone. The force the United States deployed was insufficient to defeat Germany. The Germans had no appetite for continuing a resistance against the Russians and saw surrendering to the Americans and British as sanctuary from the Russians. They weren't going to resist them. As for Japan, it was not ground forces but air power, submarine warfare and atomic bombs that finished them - and the emperor's willingness to order a surrender. It was not land power that prevented resistance but air and sea power, plus a political compromise by MacArthur in retaining and using the emperor. Had the Japanese emperor been removed, I suspect that the occupation of Japan would have been much more costly. Neither Germany nor Japan are examples in which U.S. land forces compelled capitulation and suppressed resistance.
   The problem the United States has in the Eastern Hemisphere is that the size of the force needed to occupy a country initially is much smaller than the force needed to pacify the country. The force available for pacification is much smaller than needed because the force the United States can deploy demographically without committing to total war is simply too small to do the job - and the size needed to do the job is unknown.
   U.S. global interests
   The deeper problem is this: The United States has global interests. While the Soviet Union was the primary focus of the United States during the Cold War, no power threatens to dominate Eurasia now, and therefore no threat justifies the singular focus of the United States. In time of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States must still retain a strategic reserve for other unanticipated contingencies. This further reduces the available force for combat.
   Some people argue that the United States is insufficiently ruthless in prosecuting war, as if it would be more successful without political
   restraints at home. The Soviets and the Nazis, neither noted for gentleness, were unable to destroy the partisans behind German lines or the Yugoslav resistance, in spite of brutal tactics. The guerrilla has built-in advantages in warfare for which brutality cannot compensate.
   Given all this, the question is why the United States has gotten involved in wars in Eurasia four times since World War II. In each case it is obvious: for political reasons. In Korea and Vietnam, it was to demonstrate to doubting allies that the United States had the will to resist the Soviets. In Afghanistan, it was to uproot al Qaeda. In Iraq, the reasons are murkier, more complex and less convincing, but the United States ultimately went in, in my opinion, to convince the Islamic world of American will.
   The United States has tried to shape events in the Eastern Hemisphere by the direct application of land power. In Korea and Vietnam, it was trying to demonstrate resolve against Soviet and Chinese power. In Afghanistan and Iraq, it was trying to shape the politics of the Muslim world. The goal was understandable but the amount of ground force available was not. In Korea, it resulted in stalemate; in Vietnam, defeat. We await the outcome in Iraq and Afghanistan, but given Gates' statement, the situation for the United States is not necessarily hopeful.
   In each case, the military was given an ambiguous mission. This was because a clear outcome - defeating the enemy - was unattainable. At the same time, there were political interests in each. Having engaged, simply leaving did not seem an option. Therefore, Korea turned into an extended presence in a near-combat posture, Vietnam ended in defeat for the American side, and Iraq and Afghanistan have turned, for the time being, into an uncertain muddle that no reasonable person expects to end with the declared goals of a freed and democratic pair of countries.
   Problems of strategy
   There are two problems with American strategy. The first is using the appropriate force for the political mission. This is not a question so much of the force as it is of the mission. The use of military force requires clarity of purpose; otherwise, a coherent strategy cannot emerge. Moreover, it requires an offensive mission. Defensive missions (such as Vietnam and Korea) by definition have no terminal point or any criteria for victory. Given the limited availability of ground combat forces, defensive missions allow the enemy's level of effort to determine the size of the force inserted, and if the force is insufficient to achieve the mission, the result is indefinite deployment of scarce forces.
   Then there are missions with clear goals initially but without an understanding of how to deal with Act II. Iraq suffered from an offensive intention ill suited to the enemy's response. Having destroyed the conventional forces of Iraq, the United States was unprepared for the Iraqi response, which was guerrilla resistance on a wide scale. The same was true in Afghanistan. Counterinsurgency is occupation warfare. It is the need to render a population - rather than an army - unwilling and incapable of resisting. It requires vast resources and large numbers of troops that outstrip the interest. Low-cost counter-insurgency with insufficient forces will always fail. Since the United States uses limited forces because it has to, counterinsurgency is the most dangerous kind of war for the United States. The idea has always been that the people prefer the U.S. occupation to the threats posed by their fellow countrymen and that the United States can protect those who genuinely do prefer the former. That may be the idea, but there is never enough U.S. force available.
   Another model for dealing with the problem of shaping political realities can be seen in the Iran-Iraq war. In that war, the United States allowed the mutual distrust of the two countries to eliminate the threats posed by both. When the Iraqis responded by invading Kuwait, the United States responded with a massive counter with very limited ends - the re-conquest of Kuwait and the withdrawal of forces. It was a land war in Asia designed to defeat a known and finite enemy army without any attempt at occupation. The problem with all four wars is that they were not wars in a conventional sense and did not use the military as militaries are supposed to be used. The purpose of a military is to defeat enemy conventional forces. As an army of occupation against a hostile population, military forces are relatively weak. The problem for the United States is that such an army must occupy a country for a long time, and the U.S. military simply lacks the ground forces needed to occupy countries and still be available to deal with other threats.
   By having an unclear mission, you have an uncertain terminal point. When does it end? You then wind up with a political problem internationally - having engaged in the war, you have allies inside and outside of the country that have fought with you and taken risks with you. Withdrawal leaves them exposed, and potential allies will be cautious in joining with you in another war. The political costs spiral and the decision to disengage is postponed. The United States winds up in the worst of all worlds. It terminates not on its own but when its position becomes untenable, as in Vietnam. This pyramids the political costs dramatically.
   Wars need to be fought with ends that can be achieved by the forces available. Donald Rumsfeld once said, "You go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." I think that is a fundamental misunderstanding of war. You do not engage in war if the army you have is insufficient. When you understand the foundations of American military capability and its limits in Eurasia, Gates' view on war in the Eastern Hemisphere is far more sound than Rumsfeld's.
   The diplomatic alternative
   The alternative is diplomacy, not understood as an alternative to war but as another tool in statecraft alongside war. Diplomacy can find the common ground between nations. It can also be used to identify the hostility of nations and use that hostility to insulate the United States by diverting the attention of other nations from challenging the United States. That is what happened during the Iran-Iraq war. It wasn't pretty, but neither was the alternative.
   Diplomacy for the United States is about maintaining the balance of power and using and diverting conflict to manage the international system. Force is the last resort, and when it is used, it must be devastating. The argument I have made, and which I think Gates is asserting, is that at a distance, the United States cannot be devastating in wars dependent on land power. That is the weakest aspect of American international power and the one the United States has resorted to all too often since World War II, with unacceptable results. Using U.S. land power as part of a combined arms strategy is occasionally effective in defeating conventional forces, as it was with North Korea (and not China) but is inadequate to the demands of occupation warfare. It makes too few troops available for success, and it does not know how many troops might be needed.
   This is not a policy failure of any particular U.S. president. George W. Bush and Barack Obama have encountered precisely the same problem, which is that the forces that have existed in Eurasia, from the Chinese People's Liberation Army in Korea to the Taliban in Afghanistan, have either been too numerous or too agile (or both) for U.S. ground forces to deal with. In any war, the primary goal is not to be defeated. An elective war in which the criteria for success are unclear and for which the amount of land force is insufficient must be avoided. That is Gates' message. It is the same one MacArthur delivered, and the one Dwight Eisenhower exercised when he refused to intervene in Vietnam on France's behalf. As with the Monroe Doctrine, it should be elevated to a principle of U.S. foreign policy, not because it is a moral principle but because it is a very practical one.

ISI In Northeast India

The people of Northeast India may not be strangers to the banned armed groups and their destructive activities, as more than 30 indigenous armed groups are waging a war against New Delhi for demands ranging from sovereignty to self-rule, but a recent development has woken up the residents of the restive region to a furthermost threat from religious fundamentalist groups, which are patronized by the Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan. The media reports quoting various (government and non-government) sources, in the recent past, had claimed that the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was in touch with Islamic militants. But what is awful for the people of the region that not less than 20 other native militia groups had come closer to the ISI. It was disclosed during the interrogation of an ISI operative, who was arrested by the Assam police in Guwahati on December 14. More shocking revelation for the entire nation is that the alliance skip has slowly slipped the insurgents groups into the clutches of Islamic militants. The Assam police termed it a big success in the counter-terrorism operation in the Northeast. The arrested ISI operative is identified as SM Alam alias Mujibullah Alam alias Asfi Alam. Hailing from Ajampur village under Uttara police station in Dhaka of Bangladesh, Mr Alam, 35 , has been recognized as an important functionary of ISI in charge of Assam and the Northeast. The police informed that Mr Alam was a member of Jamat-e-Islami and Chatra Shibir (of Bangladesh) and joined the Pakistan-based Harkat- ul-Mujahideen in 1993. The hardcore Bangladeshi national underwent training in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) also. Later he joined Jamat-ul-Mujahideen in 2005 and afterward he was recruited by the ISI. Soon he shifted his base to the restive Northeast in 2006. What was dreadful in confession of Mr Alam that 24 militant outfits of the region had maintained communication with the ISI networks. The ISI of Pakistan is viewed as a notorious agency in Indian perspective as it continues spreading terror in many parts of India. However, it is recognized as the largest and most powerful intelligence service in Pakistan. Created as an independent unit in 1948 , the ISI officially handles external intelligence gathering for the Pakistan government. Headquartered at Islamabad, the ISI is known as a disciplined army unit with around 10 ,000 staffs. It however faces allegations of meddling in the internal affairs of its neighboring countries. This writer tried to contact the responsible officers of the Inter Services Public Relations, Pakistan Armed Forces, of which ISI is an unit, for their reactions regarding the arrest of Mr Alam in Assam. While responding to the phone calls, an additional director (in charge of foreign media) of Inter Services Public Relations had only said that the arrest of the ISI operative was not in his knowledge. He assured of his inputs later, though it has not reached till date. Moreover, a query submitted in the website of ISPR also could not resulted in any response. What signifies that, the officials of ISPR, while responding to phone calls from thus writer, did not summarily rejected the news item that one of their operatives was arrested in India. The Indian security agencies have repeatedly claimed that ISI was involved in many disruptive activities in the country. The ISI is also blamed for masterminding explosions in different cities of the country including Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Nagar, Malegaon, Varanasi, Guwahati etc. Moreover, the Pakistani agency is made responsible for abetting terrorism in many parts of India including the Kashmir valley and the Northeast. The ISI reportedly takes responsibility to supply sophisticated arms and also guerrilla training to the militant groups. The ISI has already made a base in Bangladesh and continued its activities in the Northeast. Speaking to this writer from Dhaka, a senior Bangladeshi journalist supplanted the finding, "The Pakistani intelligence agency (ISI) has been actively operating in Bangladesh under a number of cover ups. In the recent months, large numbers of ex-Army officials from Pakistan have come to Bangladesh to work with different business groups. Most of the top figures in these companies are either former military personnel or well connected to the Pakistan Army." The journalist, who wanted anonymity also added, "Personally I believe, those Pakistani Army officials should not be retired personnel. They might be important officials of the ISI. What my information says, a huge amount of profit of those companies goes to the hidden activities of the agency. I suspect, the ISI has a significant amount of shares in those companies ( including one mobile phone service provider) working in Bangladesh." Recent intelligence inputs even shocked the administration in particular and people in general that ISI and Religious fundamentalists had planned for major strikes in various important locations including the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati. The temple of mother goddesses Kamakhya is one of the major Shakti Peeths in India and is recognized a highly sacred place for Hindus. The local government has already made a high alert through out the state after unearthing the new threat. JP Rajkhowa, a bureaucrat turned media columnist, while quoting intelligence reports, stated that over 20 jehadi groups including Muslim Tiger Force of Assam, Muslim United Liberation Force of Assam, Muslim United Liberation Army, United Muslim Front of Assam, United Islamic Reformation Movement of India, Muslim Security Force, United Liberation Militia of Assam, Muslim Security Council of Assam, Harkat-ul- Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jehad-e- Islami, People's United Liberation Front, Revolutionary Muslim Commandoes, Jamat-ul- Mujahideen Bangladesh, Students' Islamic Movement of India, Laskar- e-Taiba etc are active in the region. "All these groups want to carve out an Islamic state of Assam," he commented. The Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi maintained his views that ULFA was under the grip of ISI and that is why they cannot come for talks. Attending a meeting on internal security affairs, which was chaired by the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on December 20 in New Delhi, Mr Gogoi expressed his serious concern that the ISI had been trying its best to make the Northeast a hub of terrorism. Earlier the issue of the Northeastern militants' link with the ISI found space for discussion in the Parliament. "Available inputs indicate that some Indian insurgent groups active in the north-eastern region have been using the territory of Bangladesh, and have links with Pakistan's ISI," Shriprakash Jaiswal, the minister of state for Home informed Rajya Sabha on December 5. The minister also added that New Delhi had taken up the issue with Islamabad.

Bangladesh Perspective : Al - Qaeda's India Operations

The confession of Abdul Malek alias Golam Mohammad, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative from Pakistan, about his involvement in the August 21 , 2004 attack on the Bangladesh Awami League (AL) rally in Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka that left 200 injured and 19 dead, at the metropolitan magistrate court in Bangladesh on October 31 , this year shed new light on LeT’s rising influence, strong network and sheer number of operatives in the country. The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested Golam, along with Pakistani citizen Md Shafi alias Shamiullah alias Mostak, an alleged Hizbul Mujahideen operative, were arrested from the airport railway station in Dhaka on October 5. Golam was apprehended due to his alleged role in supplying grenades used during the attack on August 21. Previously Abu Yusuf Butt alias Abdul Majid Butt, another LeT operative had also confessed his involved in the grenade attack. Prior to Golam’s confession, on October 9 , Pakistani national and LeT explosives expert, Wazed Khan alias Zafar alias Salman and his local aide, Abu Bakkar Siddique, were apprehended by RAB from Uttara of Dhaka. The law enforcement agency reportedly recovered around 30 kilograms of explosive similar to TNT and six bottles of liquid chemical from the two. Wazed and Abu Bakkar were arrested following a tip off from another LeT operative, Maulana Mohammad Imran who himself was arrested by RAB from Siddirganj upazila of Narayanganj on September 29. RAB recovered considerable amount of counterfeit foreign currency, Jihadi books and other items from Imran, who was involved in the recruitment of new operatives and also arranged for their passports and visas. Wazed had travelled from Pakistan to Bangladesh on orders from top LeT leader, Abdul Kuddus alias Tunda, who is currently jailed in Pakistan. Earlier, Kuddus had visited Bangladesh to meet with Shaikh Abdur Rahman, the deceased chief of Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), the notorious militant organisation in Bangladesh. It was Imran who had received Wazed in Bangladesh and had introduced him to Bakkar.  Bakkar had arranged Wazed’s housing and had supplied him with the chemicals required to make explosives. According to RAB, once the explosives were complete, Wazed was to hand it over to Imran. Besides these operatives, arrests of militants over the last few months have made regular headlines in the dailies and television news of Bangladesh. Only in October this year, six militants were arrested by two separate law enforcing agencies. Despite the tell-tale signs of LeT and its related outfits planning some sort of an attack within country territories or outside, the law enforcement agency officials waived away such chances. ‘Bangladesh has nothing to fear as far as militancy in the present scenario is concerned,’ said Monirul Islam, Deputy Police Commissioner of the Detective Branch (DB) to local media, while being confident that DB and RAB are enough to crush any and all subversive plots devised by militant organisations. ‘Their structures are weak due to frequent drives and arrests,’ he added. Having said that, the top officials of both these Bangladeshi law agencies cannot deny that LeT is strongly connected to a number of militant groups in Bangladesh like JMB, Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B), Hizbul Mujahideen and others in Pakistan, India and other South Asian countries. The South Asia Terrorism Portal, a project by the New Delhi based Institute of Conflict Management, the LeT are also closely linked to the Inter-Services Intelligence, the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Ever since June 2009 , RAB and DB have arrested around 18 LeT members with Indian and Pakistani origins. Formed in 1990 in the Kunar province of Afghanistan and headed by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, LeT’s presence was felt in Jammu and Kashmir in 1993 when 12 Pakistani and Afghan operatives infiltrated across the Line of Control  in coordination with the then-active Islami Inquilabi Mahaz. While some law enforcement officials feel that the LeT is using Bangladesh as a safe haven where illegal foreign currency counterfeit rackets can flourish, the revenues from which can fuel their operations in India and in other countries, others inform that operatives trained in Pakistan are sent into the Indian part of Kashmir to be active in the unrests there via Bangladesh. The fact that LeT uses Bangladesh as a conduit is clearly realised through the findings of investigations immediately after the 26 /11 terror attack in Mumbai that left at least 173 people dead in 2008. Several Indian media had reported that immediately before the attack, Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) recorded a telephone conversation between LeT’s Muzammil and a number in Bangladesh where Muzammil talked about the need for five sim cards. LeT had considerable history in the incidents in Bangladesh as well. Local media in Bangladesh reported the direct and indirect involvement of LeT in some of the recent attacks in Bangladesh following the confessions of Mufti Sheikh Obaidullah to a Task Force Interrogation (TFI) cell last year. Obaidullah and Maulana Mohammad Mansur Ali alias Habibullah, two Indian nationals and LeT operatives arrested in July 2009 , used to teach in different Madrassahs   in Bangladesh. Law enforcement officials believe that in the process they also recruited members for the Jihadi groups. Obaidullah confessed his knowledge about the 2004 attack on the AL rally as he had discussed the issue with his comrade during the Afghan war and friend, Mufti Abdul Hannan. Hannan had formed HuJI-B after returning from the Afghan war in 1992 , reportedly with assistance from Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front.  Hannan acted as the Operations Commander for most of HuJI- B’s notorious incidents like several terrorist attacks in India and Bangladesh. After his arrest in October 2005 , Hannan confessed HuJI-B’s direct involvement in bomb blasts at the Udichi cultural programme in Jessore in 1999 , at Ramna Batamul on April 14 , 2001 , the attack on Anwar Choudhury, former British high commissioner to Bangladesh in May 2004 and on the AL rally in August, 2004. Hannan is also accused for attempting to assassinate the Prime Minister and AL chairperson Sheikh Hasina in July 2000. Besides discussing these attacks, Obaidullah and Hannan had also visited several parts of Bangladesh and finally established a LeT camp in Purashanda of Bangladesh in 2002. The confessions, recoveries and the arrests of LeT operatives in Bangladesh indicate LeT’s increasing strength, a veritable hindrance to peace in the South Asian nations.

Bangladesh waking up to impact of Yunus case?

For months, the Bangladesh government has waged a bitter battle against Nobel peace prize-winning economist Mohammad Yunus – a course of action that many have warned would hurt Bangladesh’s international reputation.
As supporters of Yunus in the US congress issued fresh appeals on his behalf this week, is it possible Bangladesh authorities are finally waking up to the potential consequences of their campaign?
Yunus was due to go on trial in the Supreme Court on Tuesday but that hearing has now been postponed for two weeks.
The decision came as US senator Dick Durban, the assistant majority leader, led a bipartisan letter to prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed on Tuesday informing her that Congress members were “troubled by what appears to have been a months-long effort on the part of the Bangladeshi government to discredit professor Yunus and remove him as managing director, while increasing government influence at Grameen Bank.”
US congressman Jesse Jackson earlier called Bangladesh’s effort to remove Yunus “a direct attack on its civil society”.
Separately, the 26 members of the congressional Bangladesh caucus warned that the campaign against Yunus was “beginning to overshadow” what had been a strengthening US-Bangladesh relationship in areas ranging from economic cooperation to defence.
The congressmen called for a compromise deal that would, in the words of one letter, “treat Mr Yunus with the dignity he deserves”.
While there is no direct link between the US warnings and the postponement of the trial, there is talk of increasing nervousness within Sheikh Hasina’s government about continuing its campaign.
Nevertheless, it seems certain that Yunus, now 70 and a decade beyond Grameen’s official retirement age, will have to give up his job as managing director of the famed micro-lender. He has called for a “smooth transition” at the bank, to avoid what now appears to be a government-orchestrated hostile takeover.
In a letter last year recently made public by his supporters, Yunus proposed to A M Muhit, finance minister, that he step down as managing director and that the government – which has three voting members on the 12 member board – support his appointment as Grameen Bank chairman.
That arrangement obviously did not appeal to Sheikh Hasina, who has made little secret of her antipathy towards her country’s best-known citizen – who in 2007 slammed politicians and proposed starting his own political party to clean up Bangladesh’s public life.
But with US legislators piling on the pressure – and given the importance of the US market to Bangladesh’s top export, garments – many Bangladeshis are hoping she will reconsider and accept a deal that could end this nasty fight.

Massacre At Pilkhana : Propaganda And The Truth

I have also read the Muhit Rahman article (The Daily Star – March 12, 2009) and it makes some interesting points. The most interesting is that while describing other commentators as mere arm-chair Generals he is himself only a banker. I wonder how much military knowledge and tactical experience is required to get a bank job these days. The follow-up article by Mr. Abdul Momen raises some further and important issues. He explains that in all the cases where military assaults have been allowed by the government in a hostage type situation there have usually been significant civilian casualties. He provides the examples of Lal Masjid, Kargil, Mumbai, Wako, the Russian Threatre and the Ossetia- Alania School takeovers. In all these cases probably the Kargil conflict is the least relevant as this involved a military operation of two countries and the issue of hostages never arose. In all the other scenarios the taking of hostages was an important element in the plan of the terrorists. However, there are other substantive differences between the above cited cases and the BDR Mutiny – 1. The commitment and morale of the BDR mutineers was questionable with the vast majority trying to escape and a small minority perpetrating the atrocities. If the army had been allowed to effectively cordon off the area and move in heavy weaponry outside the boundary walls it is possible that the mutiny would have folded early on - according to several eyewitnesses the killings only took place after 11 am on the first day of the revolt. It is also possible that the BDR soldiers would have turned on the hard core group but this theory was not tested because of the hesitancy of the PM and COAS to act in a timely and prompt fashion. 2. The BDR mutiny was strictly not a hostage type situation. The intent was to kill the officers within the compound. There were apparently no negotiations for release of the officers or their families. There was no sign of goodwill on the part of the hardcore mutineers to release the women and children. Inexplicably in this situation the PM gave a general amnesty without securing release of the captives inside the compound or verifying the extent of the carnage inside the BDR HQ. In these circumstances an immediate response may have saved lives. Only once the mutiny was nearing its end with the majority of perpetrators having already escaped were some officers released but clearly this was a ruse (indicating a wider and more sophisticated conspiracy) and not part of a negotiating strategy. 3. In all the other incidents terrorists had to be forcibly dislodged when negotiations failed. In the BDR mutiny the perpetrators had no intention of holding out within the compound as nearly all escaped during the second night. This point was proven when tanks were brought into position on the 3 rd day and the left-over mutineers submitted meekly. If a forced entry was considered then the surrounding area would have been evacuated (as was actually done on the last day) leaving the risk to civilians at a complete minimum. 4. That amongst the BDR soldiers were ‘outsiders’ who hid their faces throughout the mutiny and ultimately escaped. In none of the other situations described by Muhit or Momen were there any external groups within the hostage takers. With sufficient pressure and a show of force the BDR soldiers may have been convinced that continuing with the mutiny was not worth the trouble and surrendering was now the only viable option. The ‘outsiders’ numbering no more than 20 would have been left to their own devices. 5. In all the other cases there was no indication of government complicity. The arrest of an AL leader seems to suggest some connivance at higher levels of government if not outright assistance. The transfer of army officers out of the DGFI and NSI in the preceding weeks of the mutiny explains some of the intelligence failures but still requires an explanation from the government. On these four grounds I do not believe that the points expressed by Mr. Muhit Rahman or Mr. Abdul Momen hold much credibility or substance. During the 3 day mutiny the resolve of the mutineers was never tested. Every time the army wanted to move against the mutineers they were thwarted by the worthless and cowardly COAS and the perverse and mentally imbalanced Prime Minister. By not acting with courage and decisiveness the mutineers gained confidence and proceeded on their killing spree.

Is This the End for Muhammad Yunus?

THE LAST hope for Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh's Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the path breaking microcredit institution Grameen Bank, rests with a hearing in the appellate division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh starting on Tuesday.

Last week, after three days of argument, a lower court, the High Court upheld the legality of an order given the previous week by the country's central bank that required him to leave his post of managing director because he was over 60 years of age. Yunus is now 70, and the High Court held that Grameen Bank's own staff regulations required employees to retire at 60, including him.

Yunus's own lawyers reject that interpretation of the law and hope now to persuade the appellate division that the High Court decision was "entirely perverse," "a total departure from all ordinary norms of practice," and "a total denial of justice," as they write in their appeal filing.

If the High Court decision stands, not only will Yunus be out of a job, it will also mean that at the time he received his Nobel prize in October 2006, he was illegally holding the position of managing director at the bank. Who knows what would be the legal status of decisions and agreements that Yunus made since 1990?
The charge that Yunus unlawfully stayed in his post is just one of the government's many allegations.

Last week, Sajeeb Wazed, the prime minister's son, who has also been appointed as her advisor, sent out an email setting out a series of allegations against the bank including ”fraud," "theft," "tax evasion," "draconian" methods of loan recovery and "embezzlement." He admitted that the source of these allegations -- which are forcefully denied by Grameen Bank -- are government legal papers.

The government and its supporters portray the government's action against Yunus as simply part of its commitment to "rule of law."

The law is clear, they say: Yunus simply should not have been managing director of the bank since he turned 60. The government's current action is only directed at correcting that illegality, they claim. If he committed crimes he should be brought to account.

There is certainly some support for this position. As one High Court reporter told me, "Our sentiment is that Yunus's Nobel prize has nothing to do with his professional conduct and this prize does not give him any immunity from the music of law."

Nayeemul Islam Khan, the editor of the influential Bengali language newspaper Amader Shomoy argues that the government's action not only reflects a principled decision on the part of the government but should be applauded by the international community.

"By taking actions against the illegal activities/irregularities/unauthorized actions by Dr. Yunus and the Grameen Bank board, the government in fact is enhancing the image of the country by giving out the strong message that there is zero tolerance from [the] present government on corruption and irregularities," he wrote recently.

Others say the attack on Yunus is politically motivated.

There are few people more critical of microfinance's contribution towards alleviating poverty than Nurul Kabir, the editor of the English language newspaper New Age, and one might well have expected him to support the government in its attack on Grameen.

However in his view, the government's action against Yunus has nothing to do with principle or the rule of law -- it's a vendetta.

"Hundreds of Awami League party men are committing innumerable illegal actions across the country with absolute impunity from the government," he says, referring to the ruling party of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. "The first thing that the government did after coming into government was to withdraw corruption charges against the ruling party leaders. So, we have no reason to believe that the government is serious about fighting allegations of corruption."

Those who share Kabir's view point to two key events to explain the government's
 move against Yunus.

Since 1997, when, during her first term, Hasina signed the Chittagong Hill Tracts peace treaty bringing an end to a decade-long internal military conflict, the prime minister thought that she should get the prize. She even sent senior foreign office officials around the world in search of nominations. Hasina is therefore said to have been none too pleased that Yunus received all the international acclaim.

This may not have mattered much, were it not that six months after wining the award, in March 2007, Yunus announced that that he would set up a new political party, called Nagorik Shakti (Citizens Power). He wanted, he said at the time, a "complete emasculation of the established political parties" in order to "cleanse the polity of massive corruption."

It happened during a controversial two-year period when the country was in a state of emergency, with the interim government, supported by the army, advocating a new kind of politics without the leaders of the two main political parties.

Though it was a short-lived effort on Yunus's part, some claim that Hasina saw his intervention as a direct personal attack on her and the Awami League. "She thought that he was involved with the army in trying to remove her and [opposition party leader] Khaleda Zia from politics. That the army's plan to remove her was also his plan," a former bureaucrat said.

Now, however, all eyes will be on Yunus's appeal -- which looks to many like a foregone conclusion. In the two years that the current Awami League government has been in power, the government has yet to lose an important political case in the courts.

Though the independence of the judiciary is enshrined in Bangladesh's constitution, governments of all types may have significant leverage over judges -- particularly if they require confirmation of their permanent judicial status, want promotion to the appellate division, or are seeking appointment as chief justice. Lawyers here commonly talk about this leverage being used on occasion -- though there is no direct evidence.

So unless the appellate division looks kindly on Yunus's legal arguments, and more significantly feels able to take a position that will set them in opposition to the government, Grameen Bank will be looking for a new managing director this week.

BDR Rifles Mutiny, An Indian Conspiracy

As soon as Awami League ( AL) came to occupy the seat of government in Dhaka , a macabre plot was hatched with Indian complicity to teach the BD Army a lesson. The gruesome event of mutiny in Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) killing their Commanding General and many others including officers’ families and children came as a rude shock. As per media reports the dreadful event took place on differences over pay and perk between Army and Bangladesh Rifles. The Jawans of BDR also complained about corruption of Army Officers who come to BDR for a short tenure and indulge in corrupt practices. The question is that causes as reported through media are not commensurate with the magnitude of the criminal activity that took place in the BDR. The saner elements of the society are skeptical about the real causes leading to mass scale mutiny in a disciplined force of BDR. Across the board investigation to unearth the facts is imperative to punish those responsible for such a gory drama and to avert such future happening in the BD Armed Forces. Although the government of Bangladesh is investigating the whole episode yet there is a need for the government of BD to see through the designs of their real enemy India who want the newly elected AL government to accept their demands including transit route facilities and joint task force etc. The fact of the matter is that India wants to plunder Bangladesh ’s wealth at any cost. While AL of Sheikh Hasina Wajid is pro-Indian political party of Bangladesh , Indian spy masters want to inflict maximum damage on the Armed Forces of Bangladesh creating fear in the minds of officers to understand Indian messages while guarding their national interests. It appears to be a deliberate Indian scheme to sponsor the mutiny and killing of BDR officers while cleverly insinuating against ISI of Pakistan as a cover story. The unfortunate saga which unfolded in Dhaka sounds out of place that a group of soldiers could reach the threshold of frustration over pecuniary matters resulting in savage butchery of officers, women and innocent children. Reports have surfaced now about mutineer’s communications with across the border further cementing the speculations that this was too well planned an operation to be handled by junior cadre alone. Bangladesh has paid a heavy price to resist the Indian hegemonic designs in the region. The secrets about the recent conspiratorial mutiny are gradually being unfolded. Many links have already been unearthed and after joining them together the conspiracy theory is now being believed by almost everyone as a reality. The most horrifying aspect is that all links leads to the Government involvement the PM in particular along with some of Sheikh Hasina’s confidants. It is now largely believed that the revolt was not a spontaneous one among the ranks and files but a small group of 20 /25 individuals were carefully organized over a period of time to spearhead the sad episode taking the advantage of some petty grudges of the ranks and files. The group had been organized under direct supervision of PM’ s Defense Advisor General Tareq Siddiqui (Retd), the brother in law of Sheikh Hasina, who after retirement has been picked up as Defense Advisor to the PM with the status of a full minister. Under him the following persons worked to organize the group of the agent provocateurs. 1. Sahara Khatun the Home Minister 2. Mirza Azam presently whip of the ruling party 3. Jahangir Kabir Nanak ex- President of Jubo League now State Minister of Local Govt. He is a ruthless person who was charged for corruption, extortion, arson and cold-blooded murders by the last army-backed interim Govt. of Fakhruddin. 4. MD. Tawheed (a long time close friend of Nanak) appointed as the Deputy Assistant Director in BDR along with three other persons in different posts by the Home Ministry. 5. ADV. Quamrullslam 6. Sheikh Fazle Nur Taposh(son of Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni, nephew of Mujib killed in encounter on 15 th Aug revolution 1975) 7. Hasan Mohamed DG RAB 8. Nasim khan appointed by the present Govt. as DMP Commissioner. 9. Nur Mohammad newly appointed IGP. The mutiny commenced at 10 am and surprisingly by 12 noon Hasina sent Nanak to BDR HQ at Pilkhana as her emissary where the Home Minister joined with Nanak to bring a delegation of the mutineers headed by MD. Tawheed for a negotiated settlement of the crisis refusing permission to the armed forces to act at the very onset of the mutiny. The delegation arrived at PM’s residence escorted by Nanak, Sahara Khatun, IGP and DMP Commissioner like VIPs and just handed over their hand scribbled demands to Hassina and returned triumphantly with a general amnesty from her. Nanak, Sahara Khatun escorted back the delegation to BDR HQ. Within a few minutes Sahara khatun’s car left the HQ with three covered faced co passengers mysteriously for unknown destination. After the departure of Sahara Khatun the Home Minister Nanak also left the place in a hurry. There after IGP was ordered to send police inside to collect the dead bodies littering all over the compound. Injured were sent to hospitals. On the 2 nd of March Hasina visited the Army Headquarters to address about 2000 officers who came from all over the country to pay homage to the martyrs and take part in the burial ceremony. There she could feel the heat of anger and quickly left the place cutting short her address. She was terribly nervous and scared to face the angry young officers. The message that she carried back was that she could no longer trust BD armed forces nether she could earn respect from them. Under such situation before it is too late she decided to hasten the hidden agenda to allow foreign forces to come in to tame and establish full control over the BD armed forces, intelligence agencies and all other law enforcing forces under the pretext of restructuring, modernization etc. Accordingly just after her visit to the Dhaka Cantt she convened an urgent session of Parliament to discuss the present crisis facing the nation. In her speech she openly sought all out help and assistance from America, Britain, UN and other agencies to come in to restructure and reorganize the untrustworthy armed forces and all other law enforcing forces of Bangladesh including intelligence agencies fighting against terror. However, the fact remains that such a national betrayal is just to secure herself and her Govt in power being dependent on the forces of the foreign masters. A wishful thinking indeed! It is simply another classical proof of that golden saying “we read history but not learn anything from it and thus history repeats itself.”

Hasina Adviser Did Not Want Her To Linger In India To Avoid Critisism At Home

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s adviser did not want her to linger in India for fear of criticism at home, according to an Op-Ed published in The Hindu. Gowher Rizvi, Hasina’s foreign policy adviser, “sabotaged” her planned stopover in Kolkata during a “transformational” 2010 visit to India as he believed any delay in returning to Dhaka would give her opponents time to “put their spin” on the visit before she had a chance to tell the nation about it, Nirupama Subramanian wrote in the Indian leading newspaper on Tuesday. Dr Rizvi, who taught at a US university before joining the Hasina government, believed that even the 24- hour delay in the Prime Minister returning home to accommodate her visit to Ajmer after finishing her meetings in New Delhi, was too much. The Hindu write-up also said Dr Rizvi confided this to the US Ambassador to Bangladesh James F Moriarty hours ahead of the January 10 , 2010 visit. The conversation, reported by Ambassador Moriarty in a cable sent on January 10 , 2010 (243013 : confidential), revealed the hopes Prime Minister Hasina and the Indian government pinned on this visit for improving strained ties with India, and the domestic difficulties of such a venture for the Bangladeshi leader given the country’s confrontational politics, it added. Dr Rizvi told the US ambassador that pre-visit negotiations with the Indian side had been held very close within the Bangladesh government. The foreign minister had been brought into the loop only in the last week before the visit, Nirupama wrote, adding that the adviser was dismissive of the foreign ministry bureaucracy. According to him, it “lacked creativity and vision.” Contrary to the media focus on what new agreements the prime minister would sign in India, Dr Rizvi revealed that in his negotiations with the Indians, the focus had been on implementing past agreements on transit and connectivity that had long been dormant. Two advisers in the prime minister’s office had been drafted to help in the rapid implementation of these agreements. “He told the Ambassador he thought the Prime Minister was making a mistake by delaying her return to Dhaka until January 13 , following a one-day pilgrimage to Ajmer. Rizvi confided that he had ‘ sabotaged’ the PM’s plan to prolong her stay in India further by adding an additional stop in Kolkata,” Moriarty cabled. The Hindu write-up said Dr Rizvi had argued in favour of an immediate return to Dhaka following the conclusion of bilateral talks on January 12. At his insistence, it had been planned that the prime minister would address the parliament on her return from India to outline the results of her visit. But he feared that the 24- hour delay would allow the media and the opposition to put their spin on the visit before Hasina got a chance to say her piece. Dr Rizvi was not far off the mark as the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by Khaleda Zia, mounted a vociferous campaign against the visit calling it a “sell-out” to India, The Hindu Op-Ed concluded.

Was Our Military Short - Staffed During The BDR Mutiny And If So Why?

It seems that the just released army probe report into the BDR mutiny missed an important element concerning the indecision in taking an offensive military option against the mutineers. From the executive summary that appeared in virtually all the newspapers there was no mention of the cause for indecisiveness and lack of readiness of military equipment and weaponry. It appears that many of our senior military officers were in India on a joint training mission during those few critical and tragic days. Was this mere coincidence or a pre- planned exercise to divert a section of our officers and soldiers away from Dhaka in those crucial hours when an immediate decision was imperative to save lives? I will leave that to the readers to decide but I think the nation deserves an answer. India, Bangladesh continue joint military exercise despite mutiny in Dhaka NEW DELHI, Feb. 26 ( Xinhua) - - India and Bangladesh continued their first joint military exercise in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district Thursday despite an on-going mutiny in Bangladesh, reported the private Indo- Asian News Service. The Indian Army, Air Force and Bangladesh Army started on Feb. 22 the two-week exercise "to test their battlefield tactics," said the report. "The exercise is not in any ways affected by the developments in Bangladesh ," the report quoted an unnamed senior army official as saying. Indian Army and Air Force personnel held a firepower demonstration at a firing range Tuesday, while some of the most powerful weapons in the Indian armoury, like Bofors guns, T-27 guns from the artillery and MiG-27 , MiG-17 and Cheetah helicopters took part in the exercise, said the report. The exercise is also aimed at anti-terrorist purposes to fight "terrorist and insurgency problems", said the report. Thousands of Bangladesh Rifles para-military soldiers staged a mutiny Wednesday in Dhaka against to press for a series of demands including increasing salary and getting better facilities.