By M.K.N. Moorthy
KOLKATA, India — Following the Nepal coup in early February, security analysts warned the Indian government to concentrate security forces here in the northeast, an area that faces growing violence and instability. The armed insurgencies in the northeastern states that border Nepal, Bangladesh, Burma and China rival the security problems faced in Kashmir.
Unfortunately, successive Indian governments have not been serious enough in their efforts to end cross-border terrorism and provide security for the people of the region.
Northeastern states, including West Bengal, Assam and Tripura, find themselves destabilized by not only Indian paramilitary groups but by the neighboring countries of Bangladesh and Nepal, which give aid to such groups. The situation is so unstable that New Delhi did not participate in a recent South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit. Every day, Indian security forces and separatist militants exchange gunfire.
After King Gyanendra’s coup in Nepal, the Royal Nepal Army toughened its stand against the Maoists who have been conducting a longstanding “people’s war.” The king, backed by the army, has been arresting and aiming their guns at a wide spectrum of political leaders and ordinary workers. Protests demanding the restoration of democracy are happening in Nepal and India as well.
Nepal’s Maoists have close links with ultra-left groups in India. Wide swaths along the India-Nepal border are open to the flow of arms, shelter, food and medicine. The mountainous terrain of the area also helps the Maoists cross into India without risk. Nepalese citizens don’t need visas to enter and reside in India.
The border security force of India’s eastern command told the World the current situation is alarming and they are laying plans to check the danger.
Many charge that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been seeding trouble in the northeast. Since 1990, the ISI promoted indiscriminate violence by creating small, militant outfits providing them with weapons and training, and using ethnic and religious groups and tensions between Hindus and Muslims to whip up severe divisions. Oil pipelines, railroads, and infrastructure have been sabotaged by groups like United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). The ISI has pumped money into these groups’ London-based bank accounts.
The Bangladesh government aids and abets these groups as well. Bangladesh Prime Minister Khalida Zia leads a government that is packed with anti-India policy makers. These forces reject any peace initiatives taken by New Delhi or the West Bengal provincial government led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Several CPI (M) activists have lost their lives fighting against these Bangladesh and Pakistan-sponsored groups.
The growth of right-wing Islam in Bangladesh helps feed these attacks. Mosques are teaching children that Marxism is against Islam and Communists should be eliminated.
In November 2004, the U.S. ambassador to India offered FBI expertise to tackle the situation in Northeast India but New Delhi declined. U.S. imperialism has strategic interests in the area and uses the instability for its own ends.
Bangladesh is a safe haven for many paramilitary groups. In 1990 and 1991, the Indian army conducted operations to evacuate these groups from the northeast. ULFA’s top leaders, including Paresh Baruah, fled to Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government has repeatedly denied India’s request for extradition, claiming Baruah was not there. But evidence came to light that the Bangladesh government issued a passport under another name, Kamaruddin Zaman Khan. Baruah/Khan traveled to Karachi, Pakistan, several times on this passport and now runs businesses in Bangladesh.
In late February ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia was released from Dhaka Central Jail. India demanded his extradition. But reports from Dhaka suggest that the Bangladesh government will not do so. This may lead to new tensions in Southeast Asia.
An army official in Bangladesh-India border told this correspondent that the Bangladesh army and ISI are working together to increase the tensions, which only serves to get huge amounts of money from Pakistan into the pockets of the Bangladesh army top brass.
M.K.N. Moorthy is the publisher of a progressive Malayalam language publication in Kerala, India.