Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bangladesh envoy to India advocates Tipaimukh barrage!

Bangladesh high commissioner to New Delhi [India], Ahmed Tariq Karim has publicly exposed his actions, which goes against the interest of Bangladesh, simply for the reason of his 'special affiliations' with Indians. 

The Bangladeshi envoy, addressing apprehensions within has rejected the contention that the proposed Tipaimukh hydro-electricity project in Manipur would be harmful to Bangladesh and has expressed interest in benefiting from it by deriving power. Sharing India's view, Bangladesh High Commissioner Tariq Ahmed Karim has said the project was "not the cataclysm waiting to happen", as being projected by a section in Bangladesh opposed to the plant.

"Tipaimukh is not the cataclysm waiting to happen, that it is made out to be."

"It is a hydro-electric dam that will not divert any water [of Barak river] anywhere; it will not also withhold the flow of water," he has said.

"It [the project] will do what hydro-electric dam does: it will first fill up water to a certain level, then discharge it continuously at a certain force in order to comply with the logic and end goal of such projects generate electricity."

"It will also help in mitigating floods," Tariq Karim has written in an article 'Bangladesh-India Relation: My Vision of the way Forward' on the occasion of the Independence Day of Bangladesh. This article was put into special supplement published by the Bangladesh high commission in New Delhi, at the cost of a large sum of money.

He expressed the hope that a joint study by the two sides will clear the air and "even convince our naysayers that it is in our interest to be a shareholder in this project and get some power from it".

Following publication of the above mentioned article of the Bangladeshi envoy, several important political analysts in India have even expressed utter surprise seeing an ambassador of a sovereign nation like Bangladesh is echoing the voice of the opponent interest groups of the nation, at the cost of the wealth of the citizen of Bangladesh. They feel the opinion of the envoy not only goes against the interest of Bangladesh but also it could even be considered as a huge betrayal by the envoy with the nation.

There has been strong opposition to the Tipaimukh barrage by most of the people of Bangladesh as well as think-tanks [including environmentalists] and large political parties such as Bangladesh Nationalist Party, who are rightly alleging that the barrage would curtail availability of water downstream of Barak River which flows into north-eastern Bangladesh and affect its ecology.

Bangladesh high commissioner Ahmed Tariq Karim not only voiced in favor of India's interest centering Tipaimukh Barrage but also suggested Dhaka [Bangladesh side] in having 'patience' in getting the Tista water sharing agreement signed. He said, ""As for Teesta, let me assert: it will happen. We need to have a little patience."

Commenting on the statement of the Bangladeshi envoy in India, a senior journalist said, "We cannot even imagine in our wildest dream that our envoy could play the role of our nation's enemy, simply because of his hidden connections with India. What Tariq Karim wrote are not only unacceptable but it is certainly a heinous and nefarious attempt to undermine the interest of Bangladesh. The dubious role of Tariq Karim now clearly exposes the way the current government in Bangladesh are gradually pushing the country towards the fate of Sikkim. Patriotic forces in Bangladesh should raise voice against this man and in course of time, sedition and treason charges should not only be brought against Ahmed Tariq Karim, but also against his associates within and outside the Bangladesh ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

BY :   Sohail Choudhury.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A fiasco of RAW psy-war to frame Bangladesh

Bangladesh has been subjected to relentless barrages of psychological warfare, astutely even if vilely, conducted by the Indian external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Sometimes the targets are individuals, sometimes political parties, sometimes business houses, and finally the target is the nation-state itself. The hidden purpose is always to create confusion and to implant seeds of doubt and diffidence in the public mind in Bangladesh.
 The suggestion sought to be conveyed to both people in this country and to the world at-large is that Bangladesh lacks both merit and resources, as well as honourable leaders to be able to survive as an independent nation-state. Right after independence, RAW recruits of the Indian intelligentsia never tired of whispering to the ears of gullible Bangladeshi economists and politicians that Bangladesh is not a viable country economically, and can only exist by jumping on the Indian bandwagon as a client state or be Sikkimised. 

The-then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s faux pas that Bangladesh was a “bottomless basket” case for international charity continued to be rubbed in year after year, claiming invasion by crores of Bangladeshi illegal immigrants burdening Indian economy, by the RAW-inspired media circles in India. Bangladesh not only survived well over the turn of the new millennium, but also showed signs of steady growth under the socio-economic dynamics and productive enterprise of its human resource. RAW strategists may have therefore become keenly aware that relative success and prosperity of Bangladesh, geographically in its pot-belly protruding eastward, are likely to fuel further simply by its “small is beautiful” example, the simmering separatism in the Northeast Indian states. It is thus no wonder that RAW strategists have now not only stepped up its machinery of psychological warfare, but also putting into effect a carrot-and stick policy of physical denial and destabilisation on its “friendly” government now incumbent in Bangladesh. 
Its insistence on continuing shoot-to-kill policy of Indian BSF at our borders turned ‘killing fields’, its dilly-dallying over the agreed Teesta water-sharing treaty, its unilateral undertaking of Tipaimukh dam to the detriment of Surma-Kushiyara-Meghna basin ecology and economy of Bangladesh, its revival of the Indian river-linking master plan to divert Brahmaputra waters to South India, and “political” warming-up for adverse revision of even the unequal 30 year Ganges Water-sharing Treaty on presumed “seepage” favouring Bangladesh at Farakka, appear designed to serve that RAW strategy of keeping Bangladesh hard-pressed under the thumb of Indian power. That strategy is embarrassing the India-friendly government in Bangladesh to no mean proportions. 

Latest fiasco

In psy-war, a latest fiasco for embarrassment of the incumbent government has been caused by a scoop news almost simultaneously orchestrated in foreign as well as local media by one misinformation agent alone. The real information relates to Pakistan Supreme Court’s summons served on former ISI Chief, Lieutenant General (retired) Asad Durrani over alleged abuse of ISI funds for perversion of free and fair elections in 1991 by surreptitious financing of some chosen election candidates and political parties. In his testimony before the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Durrani disclosed the list of political leaders and parties who were beneficiaries of such illicit funding. Reportedly one such political party was Baluch National Party, others were mostly prominent leaders of Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif and some Islamist parties. It was an internal matter of Pakistan over which its supreme court was adjudicating. RAW brainwave picked up the matter of Asad Durrani’s testimony to plant a fake story on Khaleej Times of Dubai that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party received funds from Pakistan’s ISI for electioneering in Bangladesh in 1991.
Government leaders in Bangladesh, including the Prime Minister, immediately started a campaign vilifying and taunting the Leader of the Opposition and her party claiming that she bought power in 1991 by money from “those who we defeated in 1971”, and that she should “go back to Pakistan.” BNP protested vehemently and challenged the scoop’s authenticity. But fake repeats of the story and chorus of condemnation of BNP and its chairperson continued inside Bangladesh parliament and in a section of national and foreign media. An end has been put to the episode by a personal interview of Lieutenant General (retd.) Asad Durrani published in a Dhaka daily stating in unequivocal terms that his testimony did not include the name of Bangladesh Nationalist Party or for that matter any foreign beneficiary at all for disbursal of ISI funds. It was entirely an internal matter of Pakistan. (Holiday’s Abdur Rahman Khan also interviewed Durrani Thursday and his report appears in today’s issue)   
The manner in which the news fabrication took place has been serially described in an expose in on March 20 as under (abridged): 
“Dipanjan Roy Chowdhury, a RAW recruit who also happens to be the Delhi correspondent of a leading daily of Dhaka, was summoned by some top brasses of Research and Analytical Wing on March 2, 2012 and was escorted to New Delhi headquarters of the Indian spy agency, wherefrom he wrote the report for Khaleej Times and it was later sent to the Indian-born owners of the Dubai based newspaper with the special instruction of publishing it prominently. Subsequently, when the fabricated news appeared in Khaleej Times, some influential members of the Indian government phoned editors of two of the leading daily newspapers in Dhaka, suggesting them to give “best treatment” to the Khaleej Times news. 
Of the two, the vernacular daily put further colour on the report by claiming that the news item has been published in Pakistani newspaper The News as well as a leading business daily The Business Recorder. 
The same Dipanjan Roy Chowdhury in his bi-line story published in the Indian newspaper the Daily Mail [March 15, 2012] once again played his nasty news twisting game and turned the amount from Pakistan Rupees 50 million to 500 million, though in Khaleej Times he quoted the ISI boss giving Pakistan Rupees 50 million to Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
Again on March 16, 2012, the same writer wrote in India Today, ‘Recently a UAE-based daily had alleged that ISI paid Rs.50 crore to BNP chairperson and former PM Khaleda Zia ahead of the 1991 elections in which the BNP won and formed the government.’
Dipanjon Roy Chowdhury in his reports in India Today and some other newspapers in India never mentioned that the source of Khaleej Times reports was none but himself. Subsequently, the Bangladeshi state-owned news agency, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha [BSS] simply copied the entire report of India Today, without verifying the authenticity of the report.
Delhi press club rumour has it that Dipanjon Roy Chowdhury was invited by the Bangladeshi high commissioner in New Delhi and was ‘compensated’ for such ‘excellent report’. Both met at a down-town pub in New Delhi discreetly, where the Bangladeshi envoy went incognito. One of the members of the Bangladeshi ‘special family’ flew to India to meet Dipanjon Roy Chowdhury for expressing ‘gratitude’ on the Khaleej Times report.” Bangladeshi foreign minister Dr. Dipu Moni, when asked by newsmen in Dhaka about the source of that the ruling party’s claim the main opposition received ISI money, frankly admitted: “What we know is from a report run by the Khaleej Times. We have asked for a transcript of the testimony of concerned ISI Chief in Pakistan Supreme Court. We can give further information only after getting the transcript in our hands.”
The claimed that the copy of transcript already reached the Bangladesh High Commission in Islamabad on March 19, 2012 and the copy was subsequently sent to the foreign ministry. After seeing the real affidavit, the top brasses in Bangladesh Awami League have reportedly decided to “kill” the issue. 

BY :   Sadeq Khan.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Implementation of Indian river-linking project and concerns for Bangladesh

The Indian Supreme Court’s (SC) recent verdict to implement the Interlinking of Rivers Project (ILRP) has added an additional element to the list of unresolved issues between India and Bangladesh with regards to water resources management in shared rivers. The people of Bangladesh have expressed their disappointment in various news media over the proposed Tipaimukh dam, lack of Teesta water sharing treaty, and the failure to implement the Ganges Treaty in the last 15 years.

This new development (or re-surfacing of the old concept from 2002) on Inter-linking of River Project (ILRP) in India is a matter of concern. This project, if implemented, will have far reaching and long-term impacts on Bangladesh, yet there is no reaction from any major political parties and the government. Recently, the Advisor Mr. Gawher Rizvi declined to make any comment on potential impact of the Indian Supreme Court’s recent verdict to implement the ILRP on Bangladesh until he sees the full text of the verdict. However, based on what is already known from Indian news media, the government could express concern over this unfortunate development and could demand more information from Indian authority.

It is not clear if the GoB has officially asked for additional information from Indian government. It is worth mentioning here that, when the ILRP issue was at the peak of discussion in the news media in 2004-05, the then Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Mr. M. Morshed Khan said “India has agreed on regional co-operation in water sharing management, apparently a major shift in Delhi’s policy to common rivers between the two countries. India assured that it wouldn’t implement its proposed river-link project without consulting the regional countries concerned” (The Daily Star, August 2, 2004), and then Water Resources Minister of India Mr Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said ” the Congress led coalition government will not implement river linking projects in the Eastern Zone to avoid any dent in relationship with Bangladesh” (The Daily Star, September 3, 2005). Hopefully, the current Indian government will honour the promise made by the concerned authorities in the past.

Recently, Mr. Ramaswami Iyer, the former Secretary of the Indian Ministry of Water Resources and one of the prominent experts on water resources, expressed his reaction to the SC’s verdict in an article posted on His response is well reasoned. He criticized the validity of this verdict by the court by saying that, “There are two problems here. First, assuming that there is a serious water scarcity problem, it is not the business of the Supreme Court to deal with it; there is an Executive Government to deal with such matters.” He is also of the opinion that, before issuing the verdict, the Supreme Court should have considered all view points on the ILRP issue as there are books written on the subject.

The issue of ILRP involves managing water resources on many international rivers that are shared by more than one country, namely China, Nepal, Bhutan, India, and Bangladesh. In this regard, the judges acted completely outside of their jurisdiction by saying that “Besides … benefits to the country, it will help the countries like Nepal etc, uplifting India’s international role (The Hindu, February 27, 2012).” It is not clear as to how the Indian judges can decide on a matter that involves Nepal. If the judges felt the responsibility to help Nepal, then they could have addressed the need of Bangladesh as well.

Bangladesh is a major stakeholder in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin, and her interests need to be considered in all decision making process involving water resources management. However, like the judges, Mr. Iyer also neglected to address the interest of Bangladesh in his article. It is understandable that the Indian environmentalists have to be more concerned about their own issues and interests; however, the ILRP is an issue that requires an understanding the hydrology, ecology, environment, and socio-political ramification for all stakeholders in the G-B-M basin.

A three-day long conference titled “International Conference on Regional Cooperation on Trans-boundary Rivers (ICRCTR)” was held on December 17-19, 2004. The conference was attended by academicians, environmental activists, politicians, diplomats, and general public representing Bangladesh, India, Nepal, China, Japan, and the US. Over 500 people participated in the three-day long conference. The then Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Ms. Veena Sikri also spoke on the occasion. There were over 40 papers presented by experts, out of which about 20 were from India. All of the presented papers were published in a proceeding volume. As one of the editors of the proceedings I had an opportunity to read all papers in the document. The proceedings of the conference can serve as the baseline of knowledge about the ILRP for future reference.

To the best of my knowledge, the proceedings of the conference serve as the most authentic knowledge based on the issue of ILRP. The conference was attended by several hundred participants representing Nepal, Indian, Bangladesh, Japan, and the US. Among others were present many dignitaries from India, including Ramaswami Iyer, Medha Patkar, Sudirindir Sharma , Sudhir Vombatkere, S. Rao, S. Sinha, S. Gaguly, J. Bandophadhay, Bigsam Gujja, and Vergeese.

It is hoped that the judges will consider holding off the implementation of the verdict and will have a fresh hearing on the issue. The government of Bangladesh should pay a close attention to this development and stay engaged in the issue. Any party interested in learning all aspects of the ILRP issue should consider consulting the proceedings of the ICRCTR conference in making decision on managing water resources in the G-B-M basin in the future.

For interested readers, I am also including links to a few of my own write ups on the topic and would like to refer to the ICRCTR proceedings for other publications on ILRP.

BY :  Md. Khalequzzaman.

Dhaka should take water, border disputes to UN

Bangladesh has been going through its worst spell of misery in March since 1971. The weather is becoming hot prematurely, accompanied by frequent load-shedding of electric supply. The heat of double digit inflationary pressure continues to pauperise ordinary people.

In the land borders of the nation-state, Indian BSF boastingly continues to perpetrate its trigger-happy extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and random acts of terror and torture. The spineless leaders of the government of grand alliance under Sheikh Hasina run to Delhi for consolation and remain content with verbal assurances of Indian government leaders at the top that the shoot-at-sight practice of BSF will stop, only to be contradicted by BSF authorities on the ground that the practice will continue.

Delhi leaders have already reneged on their promise of signing a Teesta water-sharing treaty, scheduled for January this year, and also broke their words on keeping the Tipaimukh mega dam project in abeyance until its adverse impacts on Surma-Kushiyara-Meghna basin in Bangladesh were taken into account to modify or abandon the project. Delhi has not only unilaterally gone ahead with the work of the Tipaimukh dam (simply to fill up that dam initially will require 3 years of continuous deprivation of Surma-Kushiyara flows), but also under Indian Supreme Court order revived its river-linking project to divert the water of Brahamputra and Ganges and their tributaries to South India. That is a deadly scheme bound to result in desertification of the whole of Bangladesh, the morbid south-western delta, which is already suffering extinction of many distributory streams on account of Farakka barrage, and other upstream diversions of Ganges and other common rivers by Indian structural intervention. 

Of late, a hue and cry has been raised in the West Bengal state of India, asking Delhi for further unilateral blockage of Bangladesh’s share even under the unequal Ganges Water-sharing treaty. The excuse is that Bangladesh is benefiting from Farakka seepage and breaches in the Farakka structure under natural sea-ward drive of the river.
Ordeals of electricity failures and worries over boro-irrigation apart, this March has also witnessed a crime wave of enormous proportions haunting civic life. In and around Dhaka city itself there are daily incidents of dead bodies found, often cut to pieces. Contract killings have gone up throughout the country. Kidnappings and extrajudicial murders are often being ascribed to plainclothesmen and men-in uniform alike of the law-enforcing agencies, some of whom have been found implicated in acts of extortion and robbery. Then there was the case of mysterious double murder, in their own bedroom in a secure apartment, of a journalist-couple who were doing investigative stories on corruption in high places. On-line news and blogs suggested that the police identified and interrogated the mastermind of the felony and let him go under verbal advice from the top. 
Another sensational murder of a Saudi diplomat followed suit. The mystery is still unsolved. Although Saudi authorities have expressly been calm pending investigation by Bangladeshi detectives and their own detective team, Bangladeshi expatriates are worrying about possible repercussions affecting their entry and livelihood in Saudi Arabia.
The overwhelming sense of insecurity amongst the public has been further heightened by political confrontations in the second week of March. There has been mass arrest of opposition activists throughout the country and seizure of their vehicles on one pretext or another to prevent a march-to-Dhaka programme of the BNP-led opposition alliance and its grand rally on March 12. What took the public by surprise and caused enormous distress and dislocation countrywide was the virtual siege of Dhaka by armed police and ruling party picketers with sticks in hand, who in the name of security precautions kept inter-district public transports including trucks and vans off-the-roads for over two days prior to March 12 BNP rally, searched and delayed all private transports requisitioning some of them for fake government duty, and off-loaded all passengers suspected to be heading to the Dhaka rally, arresting many of them. On March 12 itself, the government virtually imposed an undeclared ‘hartal’ in Dhaka city, taking BRTC buses off-the-road and coercing the private bus-owners to do the same, discouraging private traffic by snapping cases of traffic rule violation without reason and at random on private cars and auto-rickshaws. 
Rickshaw pullers were subjected police extortion at every turn on pain of arrest on false charges. Thus Dhaka streets were empty. At all entry points leading to the city by road or by river, ruling party goons and police patrols stopped people from entering Dhaka, often beating them up. Within the city also, at different strategic points police and ruling party pickets took position to stop groups of pedestrians to proceed towards the Naya Paltan site of the grand rally. Some clashes occurred. Nevertheless, daring all handicaps a human sea gathered to hear the parliamentary Leader of the Opposition declare government a total failure calling upon it to resign. The Leader of the Opposition served a notice on the government with a 3 months’ ultimatum to restore the caretaker system for transmission of power through free and fair general elections, presumably within six months from that date. 
The government had disallowed microphone from most parts of the gathering excepting the central area, and had also prevented TV teams from life coverage of grand rally. But the ordeals of the public and the enthusiasm of the participants in the rally were covered in TV news. Already a sense of panic had spread throughout the country as a result of the government-imposed siege of Dhaka. The Awami League leaders while in opposition had imposed violent marches, sit-ins and sieges of Dhaka and the Bangabhaban leading to the emergency and military backed extended caretaker administration in 2007. Now in government, they have again resorted to siege tactics to prevent the opposition from peaceful assembly. Are they themselves making room for another emergency to prevent the opposition from election to power? Such doubts have been growing in inquisitive minds for another reason. 
Of late, on-line news and blogs have been circulating credible documents and stories about a number of advisers and ministers of the present government involved in dubious businesses and rackets at home, and purchasing properties abroad in the names of their wives and children. One such story shows an Adviser’s wife had set up a company with a front man, and without Bangladesh Bank clearance or government permission, has been sending large sums of black money to U.K. to procure immigration rights for the front man as investor and to buy properties in U.K. Similar stories are in circulation about ministers developing private properties and businesses in Canada, seeking immigration rights as investors. A sneaking suspicion is inevitable that some people in power are busy preparing to flee the country. 
In the backdrop of this grim picture, the silver lining of a good news has also showed up. It is from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Although the Tribunal has not accepted fully Bangladeshi position that the naturally formative landmass of the active delta parts of Bangladesh gives us equitable rights in the outer continental shelf, i.e. beyond 200 nautical miles of our coastline, the judges rejected Myanmar’s (by implication India’s as well) claim of “equidistance” principle for fixing maritime boundary and allowed Bangladesh exclusive rights over its continental shelf and waters up to 200 nautical miles, and rights on a mixture of equidistance principle and environmental considerations beyond.  
The tribunal’s judgment will certainly help us dealing with more complicated marine boundary settlement with our tricky neighbour India. Following that success, Bangladesh should also take the case of BSF “killing field” in our borders, and our water disputes with India to the United Nations.
BY :  Sadeq Khan.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mamata’s power and Dhaka’s failure

It is a pity that the present Government has to contend with Mamata Banarjee who has emerged as the proverbial party spoiler for the Awami League Government. When Sheikh Hasina could have been basking in glory for taking Bangladesh-India relations by the scruff from the doldrums of stagnancy to a paradigm shift to  mutually beneficial relations, she has been left high and dry having given India major concessions on security and land transit without receiving the expected concessions from India. Failure to get an agreement on Teesta and delay in executing the enclaves exchange deal, both on account of Mamata Banarjee, has put Sheikh Hasina in a very soft spot politically. 
In 1996, the government of Sheikh Hasina had been able to get then West Bengal’s support for a water deal more important and more complicated than the Teesta. The Ganges Water Agreement was reached within six months of Sheikh Hasina assuming office in 1996. Successful negotiations with Deve Gowde who was then Prime Minister paved the Centre’s approval to the deal. However it was Delhi that had then told Bangladesh that a Ganges water deal would need approval of West Bengal and that Bangladesh would need to take WB Chief Minister Jyoti Basu on board.

Bangladesh did just that. Then Foreign Minister Abdus Samad Azad visited Kolkata and met the Chief Minister who also came on an official visit to Dhaka. At that time, New Delhi, Dhaka and Kolkata were on same wave length. Things were all over board. However, at that time Devi Gowde was a weak Prime Minister and Jyoti Basu was a powerful Chief Minister whose party’s influence was also important for Delhi. Importantly, the government in New Delhi was not even a Congress Government and Bangladesh at that time had made no major or minor concessions to India.
This time, it is the Congress in power in New Delhi that returned to office for a second consecutive term more or less at the same time as the Awami League.  Both parties were given major support by the people in the respective countries. Historically, due to factors embedded in the events of 1971, the affinity between the Congress and the Awami League is deep.  On top of it, this time Sheikh Hasina made the first moves with concessions to India that were fulfilment of Indian dreams.
Messing up
It is such a positive setting that has been messed up. Two politicians made major accusations against the Advisers who have led the Bangladesh negotiations for the mess up. Former President HM Ershad and Rashed Khan Menon have blamed the Prime Minister’s Advisers, using very harsh language.  Rashed Khan Menon said that the Advisers have acted as Advisers to the Indian Prime Minister rather than to Sheikh Hasina.  HM Ershad has said that the Advisers are “in favour of India”. While the accusations are unfortunate and extreme, such views nevertheless highlight the fact that the India factor has  become a very major political issue in Bangladesh’s politics as the parties enter into the final stretch leading to the next general elections in about 2 years’ time.
President Ershad is the veritable weather cock of Bangladesh’s politics and his remark about the Advisers has a lot of political meaning.  He has already led marches to benefit from people’s frustrations with India on Teesta, Tippaimukh and recently on the Feni River. In fact, he is playing the “India card” more strongly than the BNP while being a partner of the ruling coalition that underlines the fact that the ruling party is politically in a very tight corner with the poor way it has negotiated with India thus far.
The Advisers’ role notwithstanding, the real accusing finger is being pointed both by New Delhi and Dhaka at Mamata Banarjee for the failure of India to deliver on the promises it made after accepting the Bangladesh concessions. . When Mamata Banarjee led her party Trinamool to victory in Paschim Bangla in May last year, she was fondly projected in the Bangladesh media as an ally to our efforts to get India to agree to our legitimate interests and rights from India. In fact, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also called her on phone to congratulate her on her victory. She was taken for granted so much so that no one on our side cared that at about the time of the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Dhaka, she was facing the electorate in the Teesta area in Paschim Bangla. If anyone had done so, it would have emerged as daylight that there was no way for her to offer Bangladesh 50% of the share of Teesta water because, first, India had never agreed in the past to give Bangladesh more than 28% share, and second, the people using Teesta waters had urged Mamata Banarjee not to enter in to any deal that could affect them adversely.
Facts about how and why she has today turned out to be the major block in Bangladesh’s efforts are now emerging. Former Foreign Affairs Adviser Dr. Iftikhar Ahmed Chowdhury who now is a Senior Research Fellow at Institute of South Asian Studies at the University of Singapore has just written a research article on Mamata Banarjee. The article has given insight to the questions our side should have asked instead of taking MB for granted. Then there are issues of history, culture, etc that Dr. Chowdhury have brilliantly brought into his analysis leaving readers wondering if our negotiators even knew a little bit about Mamata Banarjee or had cared to know about her. If they had, they would have saved themselves from wasting Sheikh Hasina’s vision and courage because as the cliché goes, “forewarned is forearmed.”
MB taken for granted
There are some ominous facts that Dr. Chowdhury has revealed in his paper that our negotiators must read for a grip on reality instead of fondly hoping some power will emerge from the heavens and turn Mamata and Manmohon into angels for making Bangladesh smile. Mamata Banarjee is no ordinary lady or any run of the mill politicians. She has not just taken on Manmohon Singh and making him dance to her tunes; she is simultaneously fighting two of India’s most powerful politicians simultaneously and so far, winning.
In choosing her Cabinet, she spurned Pranab Mukherjee by declining to give a post to his son. Instead, she offered him a lowly bureaucratic post of Chairman of the State’s Industrial Development Corporation. Most recently, she teamed up with a few other Chief Ministers and torpedoed a pet project of the other most powerful politician in New Delhi, Home Minister P. Chidambaram. They shot down the establishment of the National Counter Terrorism Centres on the plea that the matter of law and order is a state subject and not a central one. The major source of MB’s power base is the 19 seats that her party Trinamool contributes to the Congress led UPA coalition of Prime Minister Manmohon Singh. The seats are simply put, crucial to the Congress’s survival.
That power of MB was palpably visible when Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai mentioned categorically on the evening of 5th September last year that as Mamata Banarjee had objected to the Teesta deal, it was being taken off the table for Prime Minister Manmohon Singh’s talks the next day in Dhaka with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The Indian Foreign Secretary flagged for us the power of MB that we should have known weeks and months earlier instead of being led up the garden path totally unaware of the perils ahead. In fact, even after Ranjan Mathai’s statement, our side was still hoping an agreement would be signed the following day!
Mamata Banarjee has now said that any agreement of Teesta must wait till she knows for certain on how much water would be available in the river for sharing with Bangladesh.  It is just not the 50/50 sharing that is the only contentious issue. She is also insisting that the water available on the Bangladesh side where there is barrage must also be calculated before the sharing formula is agreed upon. Clearly, the Teesta agreement is caught in the quicksand and with it, our hopes for a just share of its waters anytime soon.
The Bangladesh card
Mamata Banarjee has also set her sights at the exchange of enclaves and has objected to the agreement. 
Recently, our Home Minister has returned from New Delhi with the assurance that the issue would be placed in the next session of the Indian parliament for ratification. In fact, she has submitted it to the cabinet that it is the 1974 Indira-Mujib Agreement that would be placed for ratification 37 years after it was signed! The way she put it made it appear like that the ratification would be done easily. She failed to ask the Indians what they proposed to do with MB’s objection to the exchanges.  Her party’s support would be crucial for the 2/3rd majority in both houses of the India parliament that would be required to ratify the agreement on the exchange of enclaves.
Mamata Banarjee has clearly chosen to use the “Bangladesh card” in the political game she is playing with New Delhi. With BJP also opposed to the exchange of enclaves, one must wonder what it is that has led our Home Minister to be convinced that India would ratify the 1974 Indira-Mujib Agreement. One element of the Agreement gave Bangladesh “lease in perpetuity” over the Teen Bigha corridor. Is that going to happen instead of the 24hours’ access to the Dahagram-Angorpota enclaves? Either this is a fond wish of our negotiators or someone has got the issues mixed up! 
The Congress had expected that elections in the five Indian states, including UP, would give it some leverage over Mamata Banarjee. In particular, the Congress was hoping that a good show in UP where Rahul Gandhi staked his claim to be the next Prime Minister of India in the line would send a message to Mamata Banarjee that the popularity of the Congress is on an upswing. Unfortunately, the news from UP is not good. Congress fared very badly although it did gain some seats and did not do its national image any good. Mayabati’s Bahujan Samajbadi Dal has lost badly but the swing has gone to Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajbadi Dal where his son Akhilesh Yadav has captured the nation’s attention as the face of the new generation well ahead of Rahul Gandhi. 
The state elections are thus not expected to lessen Mamata Banarjee’s political value to the Centre as no helping hand is expected to come to the Congress from the state elections. Clearly, the leverage to come out of the predicament in which Bangladesh finds itself is not with us.  Mamata Banarjee is holding the whip in hand. We have lost our handle on influencing events in the way we did our diplomacy with India. Bangladesh would now be left watching how much and to what extent Mamata Banarjee plays the “Bangladesh card”.
Nevertheless, in diplomacy there is never a lost case and the scenes quickly change as they do in a drama. For our own interest, we need to know more about Mamata Banarjee and take lessons from past mistakes following the merit in another cliché, better late than never. In this context, those negotiating should on a priority basis read Dr. Iftekhar Chowdhury’s article. Better still, they should take his advice for future course of action on how to deal with Mamata Banarjee. 

BY :  M. Serajul Islam.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pakistan Journalist Vanishes: Is the ISI Involved?

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Email-ID  1644311

2011-06-01 15:50:16
The most interesting aspect is the killing of a journalist. Fine line
between an investigative journalist and spy. When you rattle around
topics nobody wants aired, you pay the price. Truth tellers always get
shot. Its much easier to lie or make up stories.

On 6/1/2011 8:46 AM, Sean Noonan wrote:

i don't think we're going anywhere with this SSS thing, though it is
On 6/1/11 8:41 AM, Fred Burton wrote:

The poor bastard went down the rabbit hole and was neutralized.

ISI is fully infiltrated by sympathizers and operatives. So, he was
killed by ISI. Will we find a smoking gun? No. Will anybody care
about this dude? Not really. The Agency lost an asset. Life goes
on. There is a reason the CIA set up unilateral operations in

Suggest everyone read David Ignatius new book on CIA NOC and front
company operations in Pakistan. Once again, he has gotten dead

On 6/1/2011 8:06 AM, Sean Noonan wrote:

the question, though, is still who did it.

It means very different things if it is the ISI, the traditional
military, or the jihadists. Then a question of who within those
groups can also mean different things. Not saying we can answer that
very easily, but who specifically killed who (with the support of
who) would explain if there is an issue or not. Operating between
the intelligence services and jihadists is a very, very dangerous
place- so it's not all that surprising that these deaths occur. And
as tensions go up, so will those deaths. But we would have to know
the same people were involved in the deaths to really know what 'the
issue' actually is.
On 6/1/11 7:59 AM, Kamran Bokhari wrote:

The issue is not the man himself (though I am personally spooked
out because I knew him and we met not too long ago and he wrote on
my fb wall a day before he went missing). Instead the issue is the
growing number of deaths of people who have been supportive of
jihadists. Recall KK and Col Imam and now Triple-S. The other
thing is that each of these 3 people were with the ISI at one
point. A former army chief confirmed to me that SSS was at one
point on the payroll. Each of these guys had a falling out with
the official ISI but maintained links deep within the service.
These guys have also had ties to jihadists of one type while
pissing off other more radical types.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


From: Fred Burton
Date: Wed, 1 Jun 2011 07:51:53 -0500 (CDT)
To: Sean Noonan
Cc: Secure List
Subject: Re: Pakistan Journalist Vanishes: Is the ISI Involved?

Note his May 20 book release.

He was living on borrowed time operating in the belly of the
beast. His last interview is telling. Regardless, he's dead.
Life on the edge.

On 6/1/2011 6:34 AM, Sean Noonan wrote:

Did y'all read his most recent story?

These three stories are pretty good on his death and what was
going on:,8599,2074800,00.html#ixzz1NxHaX4xA
Just throwing ideas out here. This is such a clusterfuck I
don't know what to think.

His next was to be "Next: Recruitment and training of militants
" So who was doing the recruitment and training, huh?
If it's anything like the first half, it sounds like he's going
to accuse someone in the Pakistani military. Maybe they wanted
to stop that?

Excerpt of new book on AQ and friends. Says the Mumbai plan was
ISI's and a dude under Kashmiri at LeT carried it out:

It seems just as likely jihadists could go after him for
exposing their location (or that they thought he exposed it).
The reports I've read through of 'torture' were really just that
he had been hit in the face. That's probably pretty typical of
any militant or criminal outfit, and while the other reports of
his ISI meetings were more peaceful, it wouldn't be that
difficult for them to go that far either.

Here's his email to the HRW:

For future reference:

Meeting details as on October 17, 2010 at the ISI headquarters
Islamabad between DG Media Wing ISI, Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir
and Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Bureau Chief Pakistan for Asia
Times Online (Hong Kong). Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, the Deputy
Director General of Media Wing ISI was also present during the

Agenda of the meeting: discussion on Asia Times Online story
published on October 15, 2010, titled Pakistan frees Taliban
commander (see

The meeting discussed the following issues.

1-Syed Saleem Shahzad told Rear Admiral Adnan that an
intelligence channel leaked the story. However, he added that
story was published only after a confirmation from the most
credible Taliban source. Syed also explained that DG ISPR was
sent a text message about the story, but he did not respond.

2- Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir had the view that story caused a lot
of embracement for the country but observed that issuing a
denial from the government side is no solution. He suggested
Syed Saleem Shahzad should write a denial of the story.

3- Syed Shahzad refused to comply with demand and termed it

4-Rear Admiral Adnan was curious to know the source of the story
as it is a shame that information would leak from the office of
a high profile intelligence service.

5- Syed Shahzad called it an intelligence leak but did not
specify the source.

6-The conversation was held in an extremely polite and friendly
atmosphere and there was no mince word in the room at any stage.
Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir also offered Syed Saleem Shahzad a
favor in following words.

"I must give you a favor. We have recently arrested a terrorist
and have recovered a lot of data, dairies and other material
during the interrogation. The terrorist had a hit list with him.
If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know,"

(end of email)

On 5/31/11 7:56 PM, wrote:

I'm sure the ISI extracted a confession of his CIA work before
he died. There will be a leaked story about his double agent
work and the Pakis rub the CIA's nose in it. Its what intel
agencies do. Tit for tat. The world will soon forget him.
Price one pays for playing the game.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


From: "Kamran Bokhari"
Date: Tue, 31 May 2011 19:36:07 -0500 (CDT)
To: Reva Bhalla; Kamran
Cc: Secure List; Fred
Subject: Re: Pakistan Journalist Vanishes: Is the ISI
Pretty big one. Domestic and int'l media shit-storm about how
ISI brutally killed a journalist who uncovered ties between
navy and aQ. The big thing now is aQ penetration of ISI.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


From: Reva Bhalla
Date: Tue, 31 May 2011 19:29:03 -0500 (CDT)
Cc: Secure List; Fred
Subject: Re: Pakistan Journalist Vanishes: Is the ISI
is it that much of a crisis?


From: "Kamran Bokhari"
To: "Fred Burton" , "Kamran Bokhari"

Cc: "Secure List"
Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 7:28:02 PM
Subject: Re: Fwd: Pakistan Journalist Vanishes: Is the ISI

Yes, he is dead. But the question is why create this new
crisis when there are no shortages of crises.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


From: Fred Burton
Date: Tue, 31 May 2011 19:18:28 -0500 (CDT)
To: Kamran Bokhari
Cc: Secure List
Subject: Re: Fwd: Pakistan Journalist Vanishes: Is the ISI
I'm not surprised. Have we confirmed he's dead?

On 5/31/2011 7:16 PM, Kamran Bokhari wrote:

Heard that the ISI agents who were "interrogating" him
didn't realize he had a heart condition and when they began
the thrashing the guy had a heart attack and died.
On 5/31/2011 2:17 PM, Fred Burton wrote:

A reasonable man would conclude that the chap was on the
CIA dole, but you did not hear that from me. Payback is a

-------- Original Message --------

Subject: Pakistan Journalist Vanishes: Is the ISI
Date: Tue, 31 May 2011 13:15:00 -0500
From: Fred Burton
To: OS

Fears are growing for the safety of a well-known Pakistani journalist
who has been missing for 39 hours now and, according to an international
advocacy group, is believed to be in the custody of Pakistan's
controversial Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Human
Rights Watch declared that Syed Saleem Shahzad, a reporter working for
the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and Adnkronos International, the
Italian news agency, could be subject to mistreatment and even torture
while in custody.

UPDATE: Pakistan's main news channels are reporting that Shahzad's dead
body has been found. One news channel broadcast what appeared to be a
black and white image of Shahzad's face. There were visible signs of

Read more:,8599,2074800,00.html#ixzz1NxHaX4xA


Sean Noonan

Tactical Analyst

Office: +1 512-279-9479

Mobile: +1 512-758-5967

Strategic Forecasting, Inc.


Sean Noonan

Tactical Analyst

Office: +1 512-279-9479

Mobile: +1 512-758-5967

Strategic Forecasting, Inc.


Sean Noonan

Tactical Analyst

Office: +1 512-279-9479

Mobile: +1 512-758-5967

Strategic Forecasting, Inc.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pointer to growing displeasure with govt’s India policy

THE comments made recently by two key figures of the Awami League-led ruling alliance — Workers’ Party of Bangladesh president Rashed Khan Menon and Jatiya Party chairman HM Ershad — about the actions and attitudes of the advisers to the prime minister vis-à-vis Bangladesh’s dealings with India, uncannily identical as they are, bring into focus, yet again, the question of these advisers’ accountability in particular and the government’s India policy in general. On Sunday, according to a report published in New Age on Monday, when addressing the House, Menon said the ‘way the advisers talk’ seemed to suggest that ‘they are no advisers to the [Bangladesh] prime minister; rather, they are advisers to the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh. The very next day, according to a report published in New Age on Tuesday, when addressing a street rally as part of his party’s long march from Dhaka to Feni, Ershad, a key ally of the AL-led government, said that ‘these advisers are not for Bangladesh, they are people of India’ and that ‘they do not talk for Bangladesh, they talk for India’, adding that ‘there is no need to have such advisers.’ The statements of Menon and Ershad seem to encapsulate increasing public displeasure with the advisers on the one hand and the government’s dealings with India on the other.

Notably, on more occasions than one in the past three years or so, the international affairs adviser, Gowher Rizvi, and the economic adviser, Mashiur Rahman, have made statements on issues related to the Bangladesh-India relations that have not gone down well with the people at large, especially the politically conscious sections of society. For example, at the height of the controversy over transit to India, Mashiur said in March 2011 imposing charges for shipment of Indian goods through Bangladesh would be ‘uncivilised’. 

Similarly, in the midst of intense public anger over India’s decision to go ahead with the construction of the Tipaimukh Dam on the trans-boundary river Barak, which, according to experts and environmentalists in both Bangladesh and India, would wreak havoc on the life and livelihood of the people on either side of the border, Rizvi commented that Bangladesh could benefit from the hydroelectric project. Such conclusions have naturally raised questions as to where the allegiance of these advisers lies.

Most importantly, such identical conclusions from ideologically and politically disparate sources within the ruling alliance should be an eye-opener for the incumbents as to how the people in general view its India policy and how unhappy they have become. Hence, besides reining in the advisers, the incumbents need to seriously rethink its policy towards India.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Legal expert warns on mega dam

A meeting of environmental activists from South and South East Asian countries held at Manila, Philippines exposed serious flaws in the environmental impact assessments (EIA) of developmental policies and projects of governments and government agencies of these developing countries.

Besides environmental destruction caused due to such infrastructural and investment projects, people affected by such projects in the form of displacements, loss of livelihood, social and cultural impacts particularly the indigenous populations were the main concerns raised by the activists/campaigners.

Over the current protest against the Tipaimukh Dam, Hasan Mehedi an environment activist from Bangladesh told The Sangai Express that a spell of protest erupted in Bangladesh since the signing of the contract between Govt of Manipur/Govt of India, the National Hydro Electric Power Corporation and the Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd.

The activist said that the concern on Bangladesh side is the draining of the Barak river, the main source of water and apprehension of floods in the plains .

"Tipaimukh dam is a serious case" said Ritwick Dutta, a Delhi based legal expert on environment.

Speaking to The Sangai Express, the legal expert informed that projects need two environment clearances before approval, under the EIA Act of 2006 Act and 2007, both of which the expert said have not been challenged in regard to the Tipaimukh dam either in the High Court nor the Environment Court.

Explaining the seriousness of the impact of the dam, he warned that the calculation of the forests land to be cleared is actually twice the size of the estimate including 26000 hectares for the project, an additional land of similar size for resettlement of the displaced.

"All of which requires separate clearance each" said Dutta.

" 84 lakh trees will have to be cut down " he added.

He further stated that the process requires diversion of forest into non forest land prior to the approval of the project, the permission for which is given by the State Government.

"The Central Government cannot force it" said the legal expert.

Over the question of protest against the construction of the dam and issues raised by people in Manipur and also in Bangladesh the legal expert said "they have a strong ground" .

Affirming that the impact would be severe, Dutta said "diversion of 26000 hectares of forest land is unparalleled as far as the damage is concerned" .

According to Dutta, the compensation for diversion of forest land into a non forest land is approximately Rs 5-10 lakhs per hectare .

Rickwick Dutta stated that on the official records of meetings between the two countries, Bangladesh had put forward before the Indian Government (and Govt of Manipur) that there should be a minimum damage on the Bangladesh side, which was agreed and assured by the later.

Indian River Link Project: A Death Sentence For Bangladesh

There was a time only a decade or two back when we would laugh, hearing that foreigners in the West were so fastidious that they used to buy even bottles of branded drinking water from shops. Water as a salable commodity was unthinkable to us because in the past we found pure drinking water abundantly and easily available absolutely for free in our unpolluted wells, ponds and rivers in addition to whatever quantity of water that was needed for our irrigation, agricultural and farming purposes. But now, even a poor rickshaw-puller in Bangladesh may feel a little hesitant to drink water from an open faucet on the street other than at least from a sealed sachet of drinking water for a small price, if not from a branded bottle.

With countries like China and India building dams after dams to produce electricity and reserve water and linking rivers after rivers in the up-stream to divert water to their drought-prone areas, it may just be a matter of time, you never know, when along with other products like gold, silver, petroleum, etc. bottles and drums of water, as a precious mineral or material, may also be traded on regulated commodities exchanges and in the futures markets.

The whole world is facing the scarcity of water though water is the most plentiful natural resources on our planet. The fact is, although two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, 97 per cent of water is held by oceans that are saline water while only 3.0 per cent is sweet and freshwater. And, only 1.0 per cent of freshwater is easily accessible to humans, birds and animals as ground and surface water as the remaining 2.0 per cent is stored deep in the glaciers and icecaps. Moreover, freshwater is not evenly distributed across land surfaces. Water is a fundamental element of life whose preciousness requires diligent management.

However, the countries that are facing the acutest shortage of freshwater are the heavily populated ones like China, India and Bangladesh.

With water shortages around the world reaching real crisis levels, water may soon become the most contentious issue to trigger the next World War which may aptly be termed "Water War". Nations which would feel threatened with deprivation of their due share of river water may be tempted to resolve the problem through mutually assured destructive combats and may thus divert their resources to build up their military strength in case an existentialist "Water War" becomes inevitable. International law has already proven inadequate in defending a country's claim of equal or equitable share of water supplies in some parts of the world.

It is quite understandable that every country has every right to use water from the river that is flowing through their land and a country may also dig rivulets and canals to divert water to drier parts of their land. A country should also have a right to erect a dam on a river to harness hydropower. But, erecting a dam to divert river water to a different region depriving people of a different country in the lower riparian zone is like depriving them of their age-old birth rights. River waters, like air, should be allowed to flow in their natural courses, helping nourish the riparian habitats, vegetation, woodlands and ecosystems.

China has constructed a gigantic dam, the one and half miles wide 'Three Gorges Dam', near Yichang to help control the flooding of the Yangtze River Valley that will also be the largest electricity generating facility in the world, providing one-ninth of China's total power output. Although there is a lot of controversy surrounding the construction of the dam in terms of destroying hundreds of villages and factories, thousands of acres of agricultural lands and causing extinction of some rare species of Asian birds and animals, the construction of the colossal dam is justifiable from the perspective of China's greater interest. Plus, the dam is not directly affecting the interests and livelihood of people living in any of its neighbouring countries, such as Mongolia, Kazakhstan, India, Nepal, Burma, Vietnam and Korea.

But, we were extremely concerned when a government spokesman of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh just the other day expressed his apprehension that China could have diverted the water of the Brahmaputra river, which is known as Yarlong Tsangpo in Tibet, as Brahmaputra water has nearly dried in Arunachal Pradesh. India is always extremely nervous about the danger of its giant northern neighbor diverting rivers that originate in Tibet and flow into India, or disrupting their flow with hydroelectric plants.

Bangladeshis had also reasons to be worried because Yarlung Tsangpo, is a watercourse that originates at Tamlung Tso Lake in western Tibet, southeast of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. It later flows through the South Tibet Valley and YarlungTsangpo Grand Canyon, before entering India at Tuting in Arunachal, taking the name of Brahmaputra in Assam and then enters Bangladesh. The 2,900-kilometre-long river ultimately joins the Meghna River before emptying into the Bay of Bengal, along the way supplying water to hundreds of millions of farmers and residents of India and Bangladesh.

However, much to our great relief, China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, while talking to reporters on 2nd March, denied that a dam China was building on a major river in Tibet that could impact the lower reaches of the waterway. India too said that the apprehensions expressed by the Arunachal Pradesh government spokesman about a possible diversion of the Brahmaputra river by China "is not correct and is devoid of facts". "China pays attention to the impact on the lower stream regions when developing its water resources", Hong Lei said, adding that Chinese officials had briefed India on its development of the Yarlung Tsangpo.

"China pays attention to the impact on the lower stream regions when developing its water resources" -such a statement from China sounds like music not only to the ears of Indians, but also to the ears of Bangladeshis. Shouldn't Bangladesh expect that India, now poised to be a great power, also assured its neighbouring countries in the lower stream of their due shares of water in the similar tone? But the reality tells us a different story.

Last Monday, Indian Supreme Court gave a positive ruling regarding implementation of Indian River Link Project that will redirect the flow of the Brahmaputra and the Ganges rivers towards the south and western parts of India, depriving Bangladesh of its much needed share of water. Some experts believe that at a time when northern part of Bangladesh has already turned into a kind of a desert by the impact of Farakka Barrage and Bangladesh is still bearing the punishing impact of water diversion from the Ganges and Teesta, the new Indian "River Link Project" at an estimated cost of RS 5000 billion (500,000 crore) is designed to turn the whole of Bangladesh into a barren land.

While China assured that they would not build any dam that may negatively impact the riparian people on the banks of Brahmaputra, India's plan to go ahead with the River Link Project diverting the course of 30 major rivers, including Brahmaputra, will cause an apocalyptic havoc to Bangladesh which gets about two-thirds of its dry season water from the Brahmaputra River.

It is beneficial for both India and Bangladesh to maintain a lasting friendly relationship on mutual understanding. Bangladesh should allow India transit facility provided Bangladesh is benefited not only in terms of transit fees but also for building the infrastructures of roads, waterways and highways. The amount of annual savings India would make by using the transit facility through Bangladesh should not be less than 50 billion dollar. How many billions of dollars will Bangladesh get from India, not as loan, but as non-refundable grant in exchange of transit facility?

Bangladeshis in general would like to see that every deal with India, including transit, corridor and trade should be linked with fair share of common river waters.

Bangladeshis may in the near future stand poised between life and death due to an unprecedented scarcity of water in their own home that once was brimmed with sweet water nourishing their land and made it famous for floras and faunas and many other aquatic treasures and abundances.

There is a time when humans are not tired of marching a long distance or afraid of losing their life when their very survival is at stake. A dying man clutches at any straw, hoping for survival. The day as such is perhaps not far away when Bangladeshi people may become environmental refugees.

Water, the basic building block for life, is so vital that Bangladeshis, if they are trapped in a land totally robbed of water, would envy the Indians thinking how happy they are with water in abundance and may curse their own fate. Such fatalistic philosophy on the part of a people of a neighboring country may not augur well also for India.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Grand Joint Misadventure

An NTPC power plant at the edge of the Sunderbans is the worst advertisement for Indo-Bangladesh ties

THIS MAY sound familiar. A government acquiring land for a mega project even before the court has decided on its merit, or its impact on the environment and local communities has been assessed. Till we come to the dumbfounding bit: the location of this 1,320 MW coal-based power plant. The $1.5 billion project is coming up just 9 km from the Sunderbans, one of the earth’s rarest ecosystems and a UNESCO world heritage site. The project site is on the Bangladesh side of the vibrant mangrove delta but it is going to be run on Indian coal by National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), one of India’s Navratna companies.
It all began in 2010 with an MoU between NTPC and the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDP) for setting up a power plant in Bangladesh’s Bagerhat district. The site, perilously close to the Sunderbans and about 60 km from the Indo-Bangla border, was apparently chosen because of its proximity to the Mongla port, convenient for importing coal required for the plant.

In 2011, Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB) moved the high court, which issued a stay order on the project only to withdraw it temporarily following a petition by the Attorney General. Then the Department of Environment (DoE) issued a primary location clearance, subject to an environmental impact assessment (EIA) study. Bangladesh had paid NTPC $2,50,000 in 2010 for conducting a feasibility study. The report submitted in April 2011 did not include any EIA.

Instead, Bangladesh allocated the equivalent of Rs 25 crore to acquire 1,834 acres in three villages of Lubachora in Rampal. Since January 2012, according to local media reports, Rs 1 crore (Tk Rs 2.5 crore) worth has already been distributed among 67 landowners. Then, on 29 January, NTPC Chairman Arup Roy Chowdhury and BPDB Chairman ASM Alamgir Kabir signed a 50:50 joint venture (JV) agreement. Already, the authorities are preparing to dredge 10 km of the Poshur river for easier access to ships carrying coal for the plant.

All this while a final court verdict is awaited, an EIA study yet to be commissioned and the funding of the project uncertain. Under the JV agreement, BPDP and NTPC will finance 15 percent each of the $1.5 billion project and the rest will be funded by loans. But international funding agencies such as World Bank do not finance projects without EIA clearances.

On its website, NTPC highlights its “commitment to environment”. But its Sunderbans plant will burn lakhs of tonnes of coal and spew massive amounts of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide (Indian coal is very high on sulphur content) and fly ash. The plant will discharge used hot water in the Poshur river, polluting the entire water system, the lifeline of the Sunderbans, downstream. A coal plant’s sludge waste contains hazardous metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead.

The cumulative impact on the flora and fauna of the Sunderbans will be devastating. The livelihood and health of 20,000 local fishermen, and possibly many more across the delta, will also be jeopardised.

“Indian laws will not allow such a project so close to the Sunderbans or, for that matter, any tiger reserve or biological hotspot. This plant may have serious consequences for the entire Sunderbans ecology, which is a shared heritage and cannot be managed in isolation. It is surprising that the project is moving ahead without a thorough EIA,” says PK Sen, former director of Project Tiger.

The NTPC website claims the plant will use “super critical technology” to “minimise pollution and environmental damage”. But that does not begin to reflect the impact of that minimised damage on the Sunderbans.

Contacted by TEHELKA, NTPC twice sought “more time” and is yet to answer queries on the project’s EIA, funding and threat potential. It is busy celebrating the “landmark in bilateral economic cooperation” which, if implemented, will result in an ecological disaster, a landmark Indo-Bangla ties would do well to avoid.

BY :  Jay Mazoomdaar. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

WATER ISSUES : Delhi doesn’t care a fig for Dhaka

The Indian Supreme Court has asked the central government to quickly execute its ‘River Link Project’ which plans to divert waters from the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers to its vast hinterland depriving Bangladesh in the downstream from its legitimate shares from these common rivers.
The Indian government plans to set up inter-basin linkages by building 30 new river linking canals in the upstream of Bangladesh borders although these steps will emerge as he biggest threat to the country’s sustenance.

Experts said if the project is implemented, which the Indian supreme court said should be carried out in ‘time bound manner’, it will turn half of Bangladesh into salinity-affected region as sea water will advance upwards in the mainland in absence of sweet water flow from the upstream rivers.
On the other hand the rest half of the country, that is the northwest Bangladesh, will slowly turn into sandy desert from drying soil as is already visible in desertification of the Rajshahi region.  
Thus the friendship which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is earnestly trying to build with India is turning into a one-way traffic bringing a strange feeling to the nation as to why India is slighting her efforts. Why is Delhi bringing all such embarrassments to her government?
She is giving transit and corridor facilities to India and making all such strategic concessions to Delhi hoping that India will reciprocate it with yet bigger gestures to Bangladesh’s socio-political and economic development. She is even ignoring the domestic opposition to her India-appeasement policies. 
But the kind of return which Delhi is putting back to Bangladesh Prime Minister’s end is not only making her rapidly unpopular but also bringing risk to her government and her own future political stake. 
Analysts wonder why Sheikh Hasina is not learning from the Indian replies to her unilateral moves to win India’s heart and mind, while Delhi is working on long-term strategies aiming at punishing Bangladesh in many ways, including withdrawing water from the major rivers turning the country into a water-starved territory facing grave environmental hazards. 
India is not only backtracking from signing the Teesta Water sharing treaty now, or land swap at the border but also new questions have been raised recently on the Ganges water sharing treaty which, Bangladesh complaints, Delhi has imposed on it without giving the due share of water to Dhaka.  
Initially Indian proposal was made in Dhaka in April 18, 1975, that the feeder canal at Farakka should be run “on a trial basis” during the current period of low flow while continuing discussion on the ways of ensuring equitable share of the Ganges water between the two countries.
Afterwards the trial run assumed a permanent status and yet India appears not happy. In this background, the Indian government’s new river linking project is giving the impression that Delhi may want a kind of friendship with Bangladesh—-largely covered with sand and salinity—- depriving her from share of its legitimate water in the common rivers. 
The water blockade is emerging on all fronts. Even in the northeast, India is building the Tipaimukh Dam to regulate the natural water flow to downstream Bangladesh in the Sylhet region to use the reserves both for irrigation and electricity generation. 
Moreover, it appears that one of the major objectives of the river linking project is to divert water from the northeast where annual rainfall stands at 3,500 mm in the monsoon, to western zones. 
It means the Tipaimukh dam may also work as a reservoir to pass water to the Western front bypassing Bangladesh and drying the Meghna and its tributaries. Observers said wondering whether India is virtually working on a war on water in a subtle way while holding a extremely friendly and faithful government in Dhaka which feels shy even to protest Delhi’s wrong doings. 
But critics wonder why Sheikh Hasina is not taking the cautious moves to protect the country’s interest not only by taking diplomatic moves but also taking the issue to domestic politics at the people’s level. What is her stake in making Delhi unhappy while the Indian government is taking all measures, one after another, much to the disadvantage of the nation and even undermining her own political foundation at the grassroots level.  
New reports said India is currently building a dam at Bihar along with building a river link between the Fulhar and the Mechi rivers. It will obstruct flow to the Teesta, the Mahananda, the Dharla and the Dudkumar even during the monsoon season drying Rangpur region putting its biodiversity and agriculture at serious risks. 
Moreover the diversion of water from the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, which is known as the Jamuna in Bangladesh, will largely affect two major Bangladesh rivers such as the Padma and the Meghna.
Salinity will affect even Managing, Kustia, Goalanda, Bhairab and even Dhaka will be severely affected with water level dipping at river Buriganga and Sitalakhya, said water expert Dr.Ainun Nishat and Imamul Haque.
In fact biodiversity of one-half of Bangladesh including the natural mangroves of the Sundarbans will be ruined. Agriculture, fisheries, livestock and people’s livelihood at all levels will be severely affected if India withdraws water without allowing the flows of the common rivers to the downstream. 
India always assures Bangladesh that nothing will be done without holding talks with Dhaka but the reality is that they are unilaterally doing things ignoring what concerns Bangladesh. 
Even Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Sing during his visit to Dhaka in September last year assured Sheikh Hasina that they will not take any action on Tipaimukh which may hurt Bangladesh. 
Yet Delhi has signed the contract to build the dam keeping Dhaka in the dark. So also with regard to river linking project, Delhi has always assured Dhaka on strong protest and yet they are moving with their scheme without informing Dhaka. 
Dhaka is keeping trust in Delhi but Delhi’s actions are otherwise. People wonder what Sheikh Hasina will tell the nation how she is planning to protect the country’s vital interest. 
 Elections are not far away and opposition leader and BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia made a pointed warning recently saying water issue will dominate the future course of Indo-Bangla relations. No Teesta waters, no transit, she said pointing to new controversies that await the future relations of the two nations.
BY : Faruque Ahmed.