Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some BIG news and some updates (October 14, 2010)

1) On UNLF Linky

The chairman of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the oldest Meitei insurgent group of Manipur, was arrested in Dhaka and handed over to Indian officials yesterday. The ultra leader, Rajkumar Mrigen alias Salayaima, was arrested by Rapid Action Battalion of Bangladesh in a place called Lalmati in Dhaka. The insurgent leader, who had reportedly returned from Saigol in Vietnam after procuring arms and ammunition, is being brought to New Delhi. Mrigen is also likely to be handed over to National Investigation Agency.

On Anthony Shimray, Sentinel has this to add: Linky

United National Liberation Front (UNLF) chairman Chanu Yama alias Rajkumar Mrigen, who was arrested by Bangladesh intelligence sleuths on October 3 in Dhaka where he went for an arms deal, is likely to be handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India. In another development, Antony Shimray, who is considered a major arms supplier to the ULFA, NSCN-IM and other militant groups in the Northeast, was produced before the Patiala House Court in Delhi by the NIA on Tuesday. Shimray, who is very close to ULFA ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah, had been staying mostly in Philippines and Thailand. According to sources in the Ministry of External Affairs, acting on a tip-off from the NIA, the Nepal Police had arrested Shimray from the Kathmandu international airport last week.

An NIA official said that it had come to light in early 2008 that the NSCN-IM had been procuring a huge quantity of sophisticated arms from the Yunan province of China. In the last part of 2009, the official said, the NIA had come to know that the outfit had sent a huge amount of money to Shimray for purchase of arms. The official further said that Shimray had been involved in the transhipment of a huge consignment of arms reportedly meant for the ULFA at Chattagram in Bangladesh in 2008. Till the seizure of the consignment of arms in Chattagram, ULFA ‘c-in-c’ Paresh Baruah and Shimray had been at Golden Inn, a hotel in Bangladesh, the NIA official said.

Telegraph adds this: Linky

The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) has questioned the Centre’s sincerity in the Naga peace process which has been dragging on for the past 13 years without any tangible results. The outfit’s remark came after the arrest of its leader, Anthony Shimray, from Kathmandu by a joint team of Indian and Nepal intelligence agencies on October 2. The NSCN has directly blamed the Research and Analysis Wing for the arrest. Joe Anal, the secretary of information and publicity of the government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim, slammed the “double-standard” policy of the Centre.

Maj. Gen. Phungthing Shimrang, convener of the ceasefire monitoring cell of NSCN, said the outfit has been keeping in touch with the Indian officials so that Shimray is released soon. NSCN general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah has also lodged a complaint with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The arrested NSCN leader was questioned by the National Investigation Agency yesterday and remanded for 14 days again. He has been accused of conspiring with arms dealers in China and Thailand to carry out war against India.

The intelligence agencies have recovered incriminating documents, including foreign passports, national identity cards of multiple countries, including Bangladesh, the Philippines and Thailand, an Indian passport, driving licence in fictitious names and other related documents. During his arrest, Shimray was travelling on a foreign passport, and was on his way from Bangkok to New Delhi to attend the next round of Naga peace talks.

On NDFB (from SATP)

Meanwhile, Dedung Daimary alias Khangru a leader of the Ranjan Daimary faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), his wife Nisha Daimary and their associate Johny Dung who were reportedly arrested by the Karnataka Police from Bangalore, were brought to Mangaldai of Darrang District, reports Assam Tribune.

This is the second bigwig (if I am right) arrested from Bangalore, even Jewel Garlosa had been arrested from Bangalore.
Tribune adds this: Linky

According to an Army source, the trio was traced by tracking the mobile phones used to make extortion calls to businessmen and government officials, especially in Sonitpur and Udalguri districts in the name of NDFB. Dedung Daimary, nephew of Ranjan Daimary and the kingpin of the extortion racket with the assistance of Nisha and Johny, was giving extortion demands through cell phone from Bangalore and the extortion amounts were reportedly deposited in few accounts in Udalguri and Shillong branches of SBI.

2) In the maoist action, the circle around Kundan Pahan has been reducing in radius over the last fortnight with joint action in Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa having begun. I would like to posit that the recent fast-paced action in Jharkhand is because of the joint ops. Kundan Pahan's capture is imminent, but nothing is guaranteed till the guy is nabbed.
3) The Ongoing bonhomie with Viet Nam Linky

India today announced a slew of measures to expand its defence ties with Vietnam, including joint training of armies and support to strengthen and upgrade the capabilities of the Vietnamese armed forces. “New Delhi will provide support to Vietnam to enhance and upgrade the capabilities of services in general and navy in particular,” Defence Ministry Spokesman Sitanshu Kar said, after Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who is in Hanoi, met Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his Vietnamese counterpart General Phung Quang Thanh. Antony assured the Vietnamese leadership that India “will help Vietnam in its capacity building for repair and maintenance of its platforms”. “The armies of the two countries will also cooperate in areas like IT and English training of Vietnamese army personnel,” Kar said. He said the two armies would also undergo joint training in mountain and jungle warfare in India next year.

“The two sides will work towards developing cooperation among defence institutes and establishing linkages for sharing experience and knowledge,” Kar said. “Antony also offered assistance to Vietnamese forces in UN peacekeeping operations,” Kar said. The two sides also discussed global and regional security issues, he said. “Antony said Vietnam occupies a strategic position in New Delhi’s policy priorities, both bilaterally as well as under its ‘look east policy’,” said the spokesperson. Kar said that General Thanh thanked India for its valuable contribution to make the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) defence ministers’ meeting a great success. Stating that India occupied a “special position” in Hanoi’s foreign policy framework, General Thanh said: “We are indeed moved by your support.” He welcomed more port calls by the Indian Navy to Vietnam and offered maintenance and repair facilities at Vietnamese ports. Antony also extended an invitation to his Vietnamese counterpart to visit India next year. (IANS)

Telegraph has this to add: Linky

The Indian Army has decided to learn from the masters of the bush war — Vietnam — in the middle of an intensive study of Maoist military tactics. The irony is hard to miss. When the Naxalites emerged in India in the late-1960s, a popular slogan that reverberated in Bengal was “Tomar naam, amar naam, Vietnam, Vietnam”. Translated it means “Your name, my name, Vietnam, Vietnam”, but the English does not have quite the same ring as the passionate Bengali in which the slogan was chorused.
The first exercise between the Indian and Vietnamese armies in mountain and jungle warfare will be held in India. The Indian Army has limited its current role in the counter-Maoist offensive to training the police and logistics. But its Allahabad-headquartered Central Command is specifically tasked with mapping the Maoist militancy, analysing their tactics and equipping the army with the right resources. None of this has figured in the agreement reached by A.K. Antony and General Phung Quang Thanh yesterday.

Hindu adds this: Linky

There was no authoritative word on whether Vietnam would, like Malaysia, seek to capitalise on India's expertise in the training of pilots for Russian-made combat aircraft.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Hanoi later this month for the India-ASEAN summit and the EAS meeting, both being hosted by Vietnam.

4) Cross-border power trade between India and BD: The much unmentioned point in media circles is the synergistic convergence of the Indo-BD power sector, which should augur well for the holistic development of the NE. Underneath this fabric is the (perhaps belated!) realization on both sides of the Foreign Policy circles that it is better to cooperate and develop simultaneously than indulge in a regressive nineteenth century-ish zero-sum game of fear and depredation. But as the saying goes, Foreign Policy can be usurped by political dispensations, and hence, one has to ensure that the rubicon cannot be uncrossed (yet again!). The urgency in South Block is thus understandable.

Illegal immigration from BD into the NE of India cannot be solved nor CRE-ed, even if fences keep coming up at a far more rapid pace than now. A big IF given that the terrain is riverine, the forces are inadequate, the alarm is missing, the population in the BD side is desperate, the NE population is labor-short, and the netas know which side the bread is buttered. It is better to ensure that BD rises up and creates enough chances for its population to develop. Unfortunately, this development will have the by-effect of identity assertion in an aggressive sense. From India's point of view, we dont need a basketcase to our east as much as we dont need one to our west. Neither do we need a holier-than-thou (subconscious or otherwise) assertion of regional chauvinism that is collectively destructive.

Bangladesh and Asian Development Bank yesterday signed a $100 million loan agreement for a cross border electricity transmission deal between Bangladesh and India under which Dhaka will be able to import up to 500 megawatts of power. Under the deal for Bangladesh-India Electrical Grid Interconnection Project, a 40-kilometre 400-kilovolt transmission line will be built linking electrical substations at Bahrampur in India and Bheramara in Bangladesh, an ADB press release says. Besides, Bangladesh will set up a 500-MW high voltage substation at Bheramara and a 230 KV double circuit-in-loop-out interconnection at Bheramara to link with the transmission network in the country, and associated infrastructure. The ADB also said the interconnection will facilitate an initial power flow of 500 MW into Bangladesh from the Indian grid starting in 2012, with a provision to expand the power flow to 1,000 MW in the future.
Musharraf said the government stresses enhancing regional cooperation, and different multilateral and bilateral development partners including the World Bank and ADB are assisting in this regard. The total investment cost of the interconnecting grid project is $156.8 million, and the ADB is providing 63 percent of it and Bangladesh government the rest. The ADB assessed some risks and solutions regarding the interconnectivity. One such risk is delay or failure to enter into binding power purchase agreements between the two countries or non-extension of the cooperation agreement after January 2015. The ADB notes that Bangladesh government is aware of this risk and is comfortable with the documented political commitments of both the countries. A long-term contract between the power utilities of the two countries would further mitigate this risk. Another risk is whether the cost of imported power would be competitive for Bangladesh. Regarding this, the ADB notes that the government has been reviewing its gas pricing policy which is likely to impact the existing bulk and retail power tariffs. Most new power plants will be based on dual-fuel technology, and power produced using imported fuel will be comparatively more expensive than power to be procured from India. Another concern is inadequate power is available in the eastern region of India. The ADB mentioned that the eastern region is expected to add a significant generation capacity in the next five years and there will be up to 500 MW available for supply to Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, Linky

Business leaders yesterday strongly opposed India's demand for a waiver on transit and transshipment fees on goods containers, as it is a major source of income for Bangladesh. India has been demanding this waiver even though the foreign ministry has continually opposed it, saying the Indian private sector already received large subsidies for transporting goods to the northeastern hinterlands. The ministry sent its message to officials of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka on Monday and advised them to discuss the matter with the National Board of Revenue (NBR).

The NBR has imposed a transit and transshipment fee of Tk 10,000 per container and Tk 1,000 per tonne for bulk cargo. Bangladesh has an opportunity to earn an estimated Tk 1-2 billion as transit and transshipment fees. AK Azad, president of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said Bangladesh can in no way afford to lose the transit and transshipment fees from the Indian goods containers because these are a major source of income. "India must pay the fees if it [India] uses the land of Bangladesh for transit and transshipment. It is a major source of income for us," Azad said.

He said Bangladesh will also have to pay India for using its land to carry goods to Nepal and Bhutan. "We can pay India the fees for transporting goods to Nepal and Bhutan from the earnings from the transit and transshipment fees from India," Azad added. "We should definitely not waive the fees. We should charge a fair fee for transit and transshipment on the containers laden with Indian goods," said Anis Ud Dowla, president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "There should not have any free lunch. We are ready to pay the fees to India for transit and transshipment in case of transporting goods to Nepal and Bhutan through Indian land," he said. India will use Bangladesh's infrastructure that has a cost, and they have to pay the fee, he said.

Abul Kasem Khan, president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also agreed. He said the fees should not be waived, as they will use the country's infrastructure. "Nothing should be given free, but both the governments can re-calculate the fees," he said. Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan declined to comment on the issue. The issue over waiving the fee came to a focus at a time when the customs authority blocked the entry of two Indian ships carrying fly ash at the Bangladeshi border at Shekbaria, as they did not pay the transshipment fee. The ships, destined for Assam, were not allowed to enter Bangladesh.

And Linky

The government plans to import cotton from India and Uzbekistan to solve problems at the country's textile industry hit hard by the rising prices of raw materials on the global and domestic markets, said the commerce minister. The issue of imports from India, the world's second largest cotton producer, will be discussed during the commerce minister's visit to the neighbouring country this month, according to a ministry statement. The government will also take steps to buy cotton from Uzbekistan, another leading cotton producer, Faruk Khan said. He was talking with the newly elected leaders of Bangladesh Specialised Textile Mills and Power Loom Industries Association at his secretariat in Dhaka yesterday.

5) The year's major sporting events have been conducted more or less safely -- World Cup Hockey, World Cup Billiards and Snooker, IPL 3, Commonwealth Games, etc. Economic circulation requires that these mega-events happen as regularly as they should, and as efficiently and as safely in these days and age. But it is important to realize that the security issues for the Commonwealth Games are NOT over till it is really over. Plus, there is a real possibility of post-game doping related churning. More on this as the saga unfolds (hopefully not!). In any case,

The several hundred foreign journalists covering the Commonwealth Games in Delhi are not leaving India immediately after the event, according to a local media report. From the chances of getting a glimpse of Rajasthan's royal palaces to visiting Kolkata's Durga Puja celebrations from October 13 to 17, the pleasure trips are about to begin. According to a government official, more than 630 foreign journalists from various Commonwealth countries are accredited to cover the Games.

As for me, I am itching to reopen CVC's report on the CWG preps with a CA's scalpel. While the disclaimer that "Any coincidences with the Asiad 82 hosting are not intentional" might have been made, it is hard for folks such as me to discard dubious disclaimers of that nature. Other than that, the only happy thing about the Games so far has been the collective happiness of Indians from different parts of India exulting over their sons and daughters rising to the challenge, yet again.
6) Talks with ULFA Linky

The bail petition of ULFA leader Raju Baruah in connection with three TADA cases, which was supposed to be heard today, has been deferred till October 26. Jailed ULFA leaders including the outfit’s ‘chairman’ Arabinda Rajkhowa, ‘financial secretary’ Chitraban Hazarika and ‘foreign secretary’ Sasha Choudhury and ‘cultural secretary’ Pranati Deka were produced before the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kamrup in connection with different cases.

Telegraph adds a bit more detail here.
7) Nepal update: Linky

Amid a political deadlock in Nepal, Maoist chief Prachanda was on Wednesday appointed as the coordinator of a panel entrusted with sorting out contentious issues hindering the drafting of the country’s new Constitution. The decision to appoint Prachanda, who pulled out of the Prime Minister’s race recently after failing to get elected to the top post, was taken at the first meeting of the task force in Kathmandu. The meeting also appointed leaders from major political parties for helping the task force to complete its task. Maoist leader Dev Gurung said Prachanda was made the coordinator of the task force as he represents the largest party in the Constituent Assembly. The task force will sort out issues hindering the drafting of the new Constitution in Nepal, which finds itself in a deep political crisis.
Besides Prachanda, the seven-member task force comprises of Nepali Congress parliamentary party leader Ram Chandra Poudyal, CPN-UML chairman Jhalanath Khanal, Madhesi People’s Rights Forum chairman Upendra Yadav, Nepal Workers Peasants Party chairman Narayan Man Bijukchhe, Prem Bahadur Singh and Rukmini Chaudhary.

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