Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Updates

1) Integration of the India-BD-Bhutan-Nepal power grids is one of those best-kept secret of Ind-BD relations, a quid pro quo if there is on transit, tariffs and telecom. Linky

Energy-starved Bangladesh has inked a landmark 35-year power transmission deal with India for the import of 250 megawatt electricity. The import of power is expected to start by late 2012. The state-run Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) yesterday signed the deal with the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL) at a ceremony in Dhaka. The agreement keeps the provision for Bangladesh to export power to India in the future while PGCIL was tasked to construct, own, operate and maintain a 400-KV double-circuit line to exchange 500-MW power between the two neighbouring countries soon after the system is launched.

On J-e-I happenings: Linky

A Bangladesh war crimes tribunal today issued arrest warrants against four detained leaders of the country’s largest Islamic party for alleged genocide during the 1971 liberation struggle that left millions dead during a bloody nine-month fight for independence.
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The tribunal office, in the Old High Court complex in capital Dhaka, wore a sombre look as the panel issued the warrants against Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, secretary-general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, and assistant secretaries-general Mohammed Kamaruzzaman and Abdul Quader Molla. Nizami and Mujahid had allegedly led the Al-Badr force, a Jamaat militia believed to have slaughtered a number of Bengali intellectuals, including university professors, just before the December 16, 1971, surrender of Pakistani troops. Molla, according to a 1990 report of the People’s Enquiry Commission, was known as “butcher” in the Dhaka suburb of Mirpur in 1971.

All four were detained last month on charges ranging from obstructing police to sedition. The warrants would ensure they don’t go scot-free after getting bail for these offences, sources said. The order came a day after the prosecution submitted a petition to the tribunal to keep the detained Jamaat leaders in confinement “in the interest of smooth investigation”. “This is a red letter day... the court order has reflected the aspirations of the people. It is a matter of pride for the Bengali nation,” chief of the prosecution team Golam Arif Tipu said after the hearing.

“Evidence might be destroyed if they stay free which might hinder investigations. The arrest warrants need to be issued to assist investigations. They were active in committing crimes, including killings, genocide, looting, rape, arson as the collaborators of the occupation army at different places of Bangladesh during the liberation war.” According to official figures, about 3 million people were killed during the war, some 2,00,000 women were raped and millions were forced to flee their homes.

Elsewhere, Linky

Cattle smuggling to Bangladesh always remains a major cause of concern, but what is more disturbing is that items distributed through the Public Distribution System (PDS) at subsidized rates to poor families as well as seeds distributed free of cost to the farmers are also being smuggled out to the neighbouring country. Highly placed security sources told The Assam Tribune that a number of PDS items, particularly blue kerosene and sugar are being smuggled out to Bangladesh, which is a major cause of concern. Sources said that there should be a proper survey of the people living in the char areas located near the international border and ration cards should be issued accordingly so that the allocation of food items is fully need-based. Only the Border Security Force (BSF) cannot stop smuggling of PDS items as it is done in small quantities and not in bulk and there is need for coordination among the district administration, police and the BSF to check the menace.
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Sources said that to improve the situation, the work of fencing the international border should be expedited and there should be a second line of defence behind the BSF all along the international border. More police stations can be set up on the banks of the river Brahmaputra so that the riverine border is guarded properly, while security vigil on the chars needs to be intensified immediately, sources said. It may be mentioned here that the BSF has also been stressing the need for a second line of defence to improve border management and the issue has been raised by the senior officers of the border guarding force on different occasions at various levels.

2) A change in strategy on tackling maoists?! Linky

The joint forces today gunned down six Maoists, including a top leader and a woman, in an operation reflecting a nascent strategy shift: the troops could increasingly be carrying out risky night operations for bigger success against the rebels.

More on Sidhu Soren from Linky

Sidhu Soren, the secretary of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, was third-time unlucky. Last year, police had zeroed in at least twice on the commander-in-chief of the Gana Militia, who had terrorised CPM supporters and dominated around 150 sqkm of the “Maoist territory” in West Midnapore and adjoining Bankura. However, on both occasions, Soren had managed to elude the police. In June last year, the joint forces had cornered Soren, whose real name was Bhuta Baskey, and his aides after they received information that the rebels were hiding in a forest in Kadashole, 15km from Lalgarh. The forces had killed two of Soren’s aides but the rebel leader escaped unhurt. A few days later, the police cordoned off a village deep inside Pingboni forest where Soren was camping but he again escaped. “But this time, we managed to shoot him dead in the forests of Metala,” a police officer said. “This is a big setback for the Maoists.”

Elsewhere, a close miss on getting Kundan Pahan Linky

Police today claimed to have shot dead two rebels — part of a 45-member squad led by CPI(Maoist) zonal commander Kundan Pahan — in an overnight operation in Arki, Khunti. While Pahan gave some 2,000 police and paramilitary personnel the slip, IG (operations) S.N. Pradhan said an eight-hour gun battle, which began at 8am on Sunday, destroyed a Maoist camp between Robo and Korba hills, about 100km from the capital, and inflicted twin casualties on the rebels.
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Senior police officers, however, remained tightlipped on how Pahan escaped the net. A permanent resident of Barigarha in Arki, the Maoist commander carries a reward of Rs 5 lakh on his head. He had joined the Naxalite movement after a land dispute with his uncle in 2000. Snatching rifles from policemen at Hembrom Bazar earned him the rank of an area commander soon. Later, Pahan killed a deputy superintendent of police to get promoted as sub-zonal commander. Sometime ago, he cleaned out Rs 5.07 crore cash and 1.5kg gold belonging to ICICI Bank’s Tamar branch to become CPI(Maoist)’s zonal commander.

Meanwhile from SATP

Times of India reports that Nagpur appears to be emerging as a new hub for the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoists) with security agencies suspecting that it is being used for transit, treatment and regrouping. With its proximity to Naxalite [Left Wing Extremists] hotbeds like Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand, sources also indicated that Nagpur was being used not just as a transit point but also for medical treatment. As per sources in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), there are credible bits of information available to suggest that Naxalites from Naxal-affected States like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in particular, are increasingly using Nagpur as a transit point.

A sorry state of affairs on the Central Forces Linky

The highest attrition has been reported by Central Reserve Police Force with 3,522 personnel quiting their job, Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Maken told Lok Sabha in a written reply on Tuesday. It was followed by Border Security Force with 3,000 and Central Industrial Security Force with 1,417 personnel leaving the forces. In total, the attrition rate up to June 30 this year in the six paramilitary forces was 9,036. "The main reasons for attrition are superannuation, retirement, removal from service on account of disciplinary proceedings, death or disability, resignation and voluntary retirement. They also include "family, personal or domestic problems, separation from family for long durations, difficult duties in remote or hard areas, sickness, mental depression, psychiatric and emotional cases," Maken said. Other reasons cited by him were fear of punishment for wrong doings, attractive alternative employment and reduction of qualifying service for full pension after the sixth Central Pay Commission.

Salwa Judum Linky

"If I have indulged in violence, why is it that the Naxals or their people have not filed a single FIR (First Information Report with the police) against me? asks Mahendra Karma, the tribal Congress leader whose movement has been widely described as a State-supported vigilante group.
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The Naxalites have opened two fronts -- the gun-front and the public-front. The public-front is exemplified with demonstrations, bandhs etc, here they have spread their message so widely that on the national and international level it has divided people on this issue. The pro-Naxalites are also part of their public-front. The Naxals try and cover all their weaknesses, violence and the excesses of their gun-front through this public-front. Whose moral responsibility is it to stop the public-front of the Naxals? This responsibility rests with us leaders. But we are not in the field, we have given the Naxals a walkover. If they have been successful in reaching thus far, it is because of us netas (politicians). The answer to their guns is already being given by the security forces, but who should have countered their ideology? That moral responsibility was ours. How many people are countering them politically?
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Q. But all these charges can't be false.
A. So why haven't they -- the Naxals or their sympathisers or the human rights commission -- filed any FIR against me? I was waiting, why didn't they? I don't understand -- does it ever happen that in a movement the leader goes scot free and the rank and file gets caught? In the history of the world has there ever been a movement like this (the Salwa Judum) against political terrorism? Naxalism is political terrorism. India is emerging as a superpower and anti-democratic forces want to destablise the government, so they also get international support from such forces. Naxals are getting direct or indirect support. If this problem is not solved, then this country and its people will have to pay no less a price than what they paid for freedom. I am a democrat and live in a democratic system. If they are against our system, then it is a rebellion and should be crushed like one. The biggest drawback of our democracy is that democrats don't have a commitment to their democracy.
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Q. One of the reasons for tribal resentment is the government's failure to bring about development, infrastructure and progress.
A. Naxals are the biggest enemies of development. From 1947 whatever infrastructure, development, was made was destroyed by them. Their theory is to keep the tribals away from progress. If they want a revolution in these areas they have to keep progress away from the tribals. This is their hidden theory and we grieve that the Adivasi is not seeing any progress, that they are being displaced. Today wherever there are natural resources, there is a jungle, where there is a jungle, there are tribals. Exploration (for mineral resources) is being done for decades, but based on that when we talk of any industry, why do we talk about tribal exploitation only then? If that is so, why don't you stop the effects of those resources? What is buried in the ground for millenia can remain buried. It's not as if you don't exploit it, it will suffer any loss. You want the tribals to remain like that. What about their children? You have to listen to their voices. These people who support the Naxals don't want the Adivasis to get educated and progress. There is no concept of an educated Adivasi, we have no thinking about them. We have to think about them. It is unfortunate that they don't feature on our radar.

3) Assam NRC update Linky

Dispur today transferred Barpeta superintendent of police D. Mukherjee as commandant of 1st Assam Police Battalion giving in to demand for his removal in the wake of the police firing in Barpeta, in which five were killed on July 21. Shiv Prasad Ganjawalla will replace Mukherjee. The All Assam Minority Students’ Union had demanded the immediate removal of the SP and the deputy commissioner blaming them for the incident. Police had opened fire after alleged AAMSU supporters went on a rampage damaging vehicles, pelting stones at security forces in front of the DC’s office.
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Mukherjee’s transfer, however, has not gone down well with the police here with several senior officials saying it had become a routine affair to mete out such “punishment” under pressure. “This is nothing more than appeasement,” a senior police official said. “What do they (the government) expect us to do, sit around and get hit by stones and other assorted missiles that protesters freely use! What about those people whose vehicles were damaged, leave alone the injuries caused to the police personnel,” the official said.

From SATP, ULFA vs. Bangladeshis, yawn.

Sentinel reports that pro-talks ULFA ‘chairman’ Mrinal Hazarika has sought legal action against the All Assam Minority Students' Union (AAMSU) leaders involved in the Barpeta incident and said that the Bangladeshi issue has assumed serious proportions in Assam only because of the Jamiat. Reacting to statement issued to a section of the media by leaders of the AAMSU, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and Jamiat that the ULFA leaders should be called Bangladeshis as they had stayed in Bangladesh for long, Hazarika said, “When war breaks out between two parties, one of them being a government, the party opposed to the government normally seeks the help of neighbouring countries. ULFA leaders did take refuge in Bangladesh but many of the ULFA men were active in Assam itself.”

On other ULFA matters, Linky

Police have issued an alert to thwart any attempt by Ulfa to raise black flags on the outfit’s martyrs’ day tomorrow. The banned outfit observes martyrs’ day against the killing of five cadres in Darrang district in 1991. “We have information that the cadres will try to hoist black flags to prove that the outfit is still a force to reckon with. We have alerted all the police stations to thwart any such attempt,” a senior police officer said.
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Police sources said Ulfa has hired a few persons, like it did during the “sainik divas” to hoist the outfit’s flag tomorrow. “Most of the flags the outfit had hoisted during the sainik divas were hoisted by hired persons,” the official said. He said the Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua is desperate to show the outfit’s strength when the Centre is pushing for talks with the jailed leaders.

4) NSCN (K) and China link from SATP

Hindustan Times reports that a National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) leader, Kughalu Mulatonu, said the Chinese found their way to militant camps in Sagaing division of Myanmar via New Delhi. The NSCN-K refers Sagaing division of Myanmar as Eastern Nagaland. The revelation came two months after the arrest of a Chinese spy, Guang Liang, near Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh. The person claimed that he was from Henan province of central China. This division adjoining Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland is dominated by at least six Naga tribes and is easier to access from India. Mulatonu said from a camp near Dimapur in Nagaland: “Yes, they (the Chinese) openly and legally come to India via Delhi and meet us.” The Khaplang faction, led by S.S. Khaplang, a Myanmar-based Hemi Naga, retains control over most of the 30 Northeast militant camps in Sagaing division. “The government of India gets to know of such meetings well before they are held. The last of such meetings was in 2009,” Mulatonu said. He, however, declined to divulge what usually gets discussed at these meetings. Security agencies said the Chinese often get in touch with NSCN-K leaders, its rival National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) and other Northeast militant groups camped in Sagaing Division to strike deals for small arms. “In all probability, the Chinese people visit the rebel camps to strike deals for small arms,” a Nagaland-based intelligence officer said on condition of anonymity.

5) Maldives Linky

The seeds of the present impasse go back to the 2009 parliamentary election when the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) led by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom managed to get a simple majority in parliament with the help of the People’s Alliance (PA) and some independents. President Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has 28 MPs and the support of four independent MPs in the 77-member Parliament. Under the Maldives' system of government, the president handpicks his cabinet and each nomination must be approved by parliament. Parliament also has the power to remove a minister through a no-confidence vote. Though DRP gained control of the legislature it fell short of a two-thirds majority that it would need to impeach the president. At the same time, Nasheed cannot dismiss the assembly until it completes its full five-year term. The outcome has been a political deadlock.

Some of the opposition parties have not been happy with the education minister for his liberal views. To remove him from his post, the opposition-controlled parliament planned to bring a no-confidence motion against him. The cabinet however pre-empted the move by resigning en masse on 29 June. This decision also triggered a political crisis and left the country without any government for two weeks. The government claimed that opposition MPs were not allowing the executive to function properly and making it impossible for ministers to discharge their constitutional duties. On the same day police arrested three key opposition MPs for allegedly offering cash to bribe parliamentarians to vote against the government. This move worsened the crisis. Some key members of the opposition were also creating trouble for the government because they were not happy with its decision to privatize Male airport. These MPs, who are actually business tycoons, benefitted from the earlier system. Hasan Sayeed, leader of another opposition party Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) was allegedly receiving huge legal fees from two MPs, Yameen and Gasim. Hence, his party was also opposing the government’s decision to privatize Male airport.

President Nasheed has attributed the ongoing political crisis to the constitution adopted on August 7, 2008, which is based on a presidential system of governance though it has also vested wider powers with Parliament, aimed at maintaining tenecessary checks and balances. This system becomes problematic in case parliament is controlled by the opposition as is the case in Maldives. It allows the opposition to obstruct the core functions of the executive, such as raising taxes and providing subsidies. Nasheed is of the view that only amending the constitution would bring political stability. He is also willing to change the political system into a parliamentary system and seek immediate re-election. Nasheed feels some laws passed in Parliament are making it difficult for him to play the role of the executive according to the constitution. He wants this to be rectified.

To defuse the crisis in Maldives, the international community has offered mediation. US Ambassador Patricia Butenis and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa have mediated talks between the government and opposition parties. But the opposition leaders of Maldives feel that their mediation has already failed. The Commonwealth and the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) too have offered to mediate. President Nasheed believes that no amount of foreign mediation can solve the country’s internal political crisis. He has suggested the option of a Maldivian Repporteur acceptable to all parties, to take up the role of a peace envoy. This Maldivian Repporteur could be even a senior civil servant of Maldives.

Meanwhile, the government and opposition in Maldives have started a dialogue to ease tension on the advice of United States Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert Blake. Blake also felt that the current political unrest in the country could only be solved through dialogue and compromise. To facilitate talks, Nasheed has released opposition leader Yameen. In an attempt to reach out to the opposition, Nasheed has congratulated the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party on the fifth anniversary of its formation. He also expressed confidence that the DRP will cooperate with the government in its efforts to find an amicable solution to the current political impasse. Unfortunately, not everyone in Maldives is looking for a solution to the political crisis. A section of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs have declared that they will forward a no-confidence motion against President Nasheed to parliament for violating the constitution. Nasheed also seems to be prepared for all outcomes. The government is considering a referendum to decide on a system of governance, if negotiations fail. The government thinks that there is a need to define clear cut boundaries on the system of the governance.

Political instability in Maldives is not in the interest of India. The Indian government should encourage Maldivian-led mediation to defuse the political crisis in the Indian Ocean archipelago. Over the years, religious extremists have been gaining ground in Maldives. A political vacuum could be used by them to harm Maldivian democracy. Nasheed's popularity at home has waned, as he struggles to deliver the political and economic reforms he had promised, in the face of parliamentary resistance. More importantly, the peaceful transition to multi-party democracy that was taking place under President Nasheed has come under a cloud as a result of the present political crisis in Maldives.

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