Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pilkhana massacre VS Pakistan police academy attack


There are many similarities in the terrorist attack on the police training academy in Pakistan and the BDR mutiny in Dhaka . Apparently there were 14-25 gunmen who entered the training compound and opened fire on cadets and police officers who were taken completely by surprise. The gunmen were heavily armed and committed to their task and their objective was to kill as many people as possible. The similarity between this attack in Pakistan and the BDR mutiny, however, ends there. The manner in which the Pakistan security forces promptly dealt with the threat was both efficient and utterly ruthless.

The following is a short description of what happened –

“Black-clad Pakistani commandos overpowered a group of militants who had seized a police academy, took cadets hostage and killed at least six of them Monday in a dramatic challenge to the civilian government that faces U.S. pressure to defeat Islamic extremists.

The security forces stormed the compound on the outskirts of Lahore to end the eight-hour siege by the grenade-throwing gunmen, with three militants blowing themselves up and authorities arresting four, officials said. At least three other unidentified bodies were recovered.” (AP - 12 die in bloody siege at Pakistan police academy (March 31, 2009)

If a bunch of commandos could achieve this in circumstances very similar to what occurred in Pilkhana then imagine the effect 2 dozen tanks and 6000 army soldiers would have had on the morale of the BDR mutineers.

When the Bangladesh armed forces were not permitted to do what they were trained to do the mutineers gained confidence and commenced on their killing spree (as the photos now appearing on the internet from the very start of the mutiny seems to suggest).

In light of the Pakistan security services response to the police academy terrorist attack and the outcome there it clearly puts the claims by the Bangladesh government that more lives would have been put at risk had a more aggressive posture been taken by the armed forces seems doubtful and extremely suspicious.

(What the AL government is now doing in the name of investigations into the Pilkhana massacre can only be described as political repression and victimization of opposition party members and this may also eventually include anyone else critical of this administration.)

Bangladesh: suspended between past and future

Liz Philipson, a visiting research fellow at the London School of Economics, has writeen this piece in opendemocracy.

Bangladesh has experienced a rare switchback-ride from hope to fear in the first weeks of 2009. The largely peaceful general election of 29 December 2008 on a 70% voter turnout gave an astonishing landslide victory to the Awami League (AL) led by Sheikh Hasina over the Bangladesh National Party of her bitter rival Begum Khaleda Zia. The end of the army-backed "caretaker" government that had been established in October 2006 was greeted with joy by democratic forces within and outwith the country (see Jalal Alamgir, "Bangladesh: a verdict and a lesson", 13 February 2009).

The new government was scarcely into its stride, however, when the mood swung in an alarming and wholly unforeseen way, with the mutiny on 25-26 February 2009 of a large section of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) - the paramilitary force charged with the defence of Bangladesh's borders. The country marked the thirty-eighth anniversary of its founding on 26 March 2009 still shaken by and coming to terms with a complex incident that illustrates the challenges of rooting democracy securely within Bangladesh.

What made the mutiny even more shocking was that it began not in some remote border-post but in the BDR headquarters in Dhanmondi, a posh residential area of the capital, Dhaka. From there it spread across the country to twelve other BDR camps. In the process, thousands of BDR jawans rose against their army commanders (who are drawn from the regular army), killing many of them and members of their families. The commander of the BDR was one of the victims. The final death-toll remains unclear; several mass graves have been found, and scores more bodies may still be missing.

The news of the mutiny spread tension and insecurity throughout Bangladeshi society, but it was only after state forces had regained control of the situation that the scale of the killing became clear. A retired army major is quoted as saying "not even in the war of independence [1971] and the coups that followed have we ever lost such a big number of army officers".

Sheikh Hasina initially offered an amnesty to the jawans if they laid down their weapons. When the extent of the slaughter (if not the precise figures) became known the amnesty was withdrawn; some hundreds of BDR are in custody and security forces are hunting BDR on the run. The prime minister's handling of the affair has come under criticism, especially her decision to open negotiations with the mutineers and thus allegedly risk the lives of the army officers; others praise her response to the situation as having averted a potentially even greater disaster. These reactions, like much else in Bangladesh, tend largely to divide according to party political loyalties.

The mutiny also refocused attention on the already frosty relations between the army and politicians in Bangladesh. The period of "caretaker" government under military control from 2006-08 saw only the latest in a series of struggles by the political parties to retrieve governing authority; the army had jailed many political leaders and their followers, and sought to push both Sheikh Hasina and Begum Zia into exile. This made Sheikh Hasina's handling of the mutiny even more sensitive; the fact that the head of the armed forces pledged support for the government helped to ease the situation.

Behind the crisis
Why did the mutiny happen? And why did it happen now? It has been characterised by some observers as an incident involving guns that somehow got out of hand; but this seems implausible and few if any in Bangladesh believe this. Most Bangladeshis are also sceptical about the official version: that the mutiny was sparked by BDR frustration at their remuneration package (which is much inferior to that enjoyed by the army) as well as their exclusion from lucrative United Nations postings that army personnel are routinely offered.

It is true that the brief negotiations between the government and the mutineers (when some army officers were believed to be being held as live hostages) did centre on improvement to BDR terms and conditions. But the suggestions about the background to the mutiny in Bangladesh's cities and villages (and in the drawing-rooms of Dhanmondi) are both different and various. They evoke fissures and conspiracies that have bedevilled contemporary Bangladesh - the polarisation and criminalisation of politics, terrorism, fundamentalism, militarism, and regional geopolitics. There is also a persistent notion (fuelled by the questioning of Abdur Razzak, a leading member of the Jamaat-e-Islami [JI]party on 30 March 2009) that this was an attempt to undermine the new government before it had become fully established.

The curtain of fear
The roots of many political problems in Bangladesh have developed from the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan (see Willem van Schendel, A History of Bangladesh [Cambridge University Press, 2009]). The issue still rouses intense emotions; the Awami League government has begun to act on its election pledge of prosecuting of those accused of war crimes during that period (many of whom are associated with Jamaat-e-Islami).

India supported the Bangladesh cause in 1971; indeed it is doubtful whether independence would have been achieved without Indian assistance. Since then party alignments in this area too have come to polarise, with the Awami League continuing to be closer to India while the Bangladesh National Party is perceived as having become closer to Pakistan. As a result, the AL sees Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as the source of hostility to it, while the BNP views the Indian foreign-intelligence service's Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) similarly.

There is no doubt that both these agencies are active within Bangladesh and maintain complex relations with sections of the Bangladeshi security forces, including some parts of the army. The traces of suspicion enter the media and the mentality of the political class and sections of the public: articles are published accusing India or Pakistan of involvement in the BDR massacre, while Sheikh Hasina herself insists that "outsiders" were involved and that "we have to unearth all these conspiracies".

Bangladesh's history subsequent to the independence war has been steeped in political violence, coups and counter-coups and military governments. This has helped create a political culture of swirling rumour and suspicion that often makes connections between apparently disparate events (see Shafiq Alam, "Bangladesh seeks answers over its bloody birth", AsiaOne News, 25 March 2009). For example, the use of grenades in an assassination attempt on Sheikh Hasina in 2004 during her address to a party rally managed to kill twenty people and injure 200. The event was surrounded by speculation: about a possible link to religious fundamentalism, and to the fact that the trial of those who in 1975 killed her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was at last about to begin.

A little later, there were strong rumours that the grenades were the same as those from a huge illegal arms-shipment that mysteriously disappeared after confiscation at Chittagong earlier in 2004 (and was subsequently linked to the United Liberation Front of Assam [Ulfa] in India's unsettled northeast state). Moreover, it was alleged that grenades from this shipment were involved in an attack in the same year which killed three people and injured scores of people (including the British ambassador); leaders of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) movement have been tried for this attack. By a circuitous route, a rumour has it that more grenades from this shipment were found inside the BDR headquarters.

The corroded polity
There are also more straightforward political rivalries at play in the background to the BDR mutiny. In 1990 the democratic parties in Bangladesh cooperated to oust General Ershad, who ruled Bangladesh under martial law (1982-86) and then as president (1986-90). However that cooperation quickly ebbed away: for the next fifteen years the AL and the BNP alternated in government and fought bitter political battles. During this time, parliamentary politics yielded to frequent opposition boycotts and street protests - often violent.

The hallmark of Bangladeshi politics became corruption and criminality. During the last BNP government, Begum Zia's son Tariq Raman acquired the reputation of a godfather of an extensive network of graft and crime (he is now in exile). There is also a local, Bangladeshi dimension of the growing links between criminality and politics throughout south Asia, amid fears that the dramatic outbreaks of violence in various countries of the region may have roots in transnational networks of organised crime or religious militancy.

In the post-1990 period, both the AL and the BNP made electoral alliances with JI, thus increasing the JI's profile and influence. The BNP also brought the JI into its 2001 cabinet. A series of explosions perpetrated by the JMB raised fears over links between Islamic parliamentary parties and Islamic militant groups, which had a negative impact on the JI. However, the JI remained the best-organised party in the country and the only one with a long-term strategy (though its leader and a former minister, Nizami, was arrested on corruption charges in May 2008; and the party did badly in the December elections).

Bangladeshis in general believe that there are many questions still to be answered about links between militant Islamic groups and established politicians and the security services, both of which have been accused of assisting these groups on certain occasions.

The BNP/JI coalition government was accused by then Awami League opposition of "fixing" both the caretaker government and the election commission and other official bodies. When the interim government took office in October 2006, violence had erupted on the streets and Dhaka became ungovernable (see "Bangladesh's fraying democracy", 25 June 2006). In December, President Iajuddin Ahmed announced a national state of emergency, an overnight curfew, and the postponement of the elections scheduled for 22 January. He also stepped down as temporary prime minister of Bangladesh.

The military-backed caretaker government that then took office was initially welcomed as bringing order, and its fierce anti-corruption drive was particularly popular. However, it also banned political activity, jailed thousands of political activists and attempted to force both Sheikh Hasina and Begum Zia into exile. Once again, activists from the two major parties found common cause in opposing a military government.

After the storm
The democratic election of December 2008 returned Bangladesh to its status as a functional, constitutional democracy. However, even then, it was clear that the challenges for the victorious Sheikh Hasina were formidable. Bangladesh is far from a tabula rasa. The AL administration inherits all the violence, criminality and political schisms and opacity that have bedevilled the country since independence. The BDR massacre was the first major test of the new government and the immediate crisis was managed well. However, both the army and the government investigation commissions are yet to report. It may be important that these two commissions are in broad agreement and that their conclusions are generally credible to Bangladeshis who seek the truth out of fear for the future of their country.

But to endure the BDR storm is only the first hurdle. To govern well will require Sheikh Hasina and her ministers to break with the same old ways of corruption, nepotism and impunity. If the foundation laid at the election is to consolidate the functioning democracy and develop practical democracy for Bangladeshis, there must be change throughout the system. Some analysts see the AL as a party that has been shaken by the events of the last two years; others fear that the size of its majority will obscure the need to learn lessons.

It is too early for any balance-sheet of the new political dispensation. But there have already been parliamentary walkouts, and the Awami League has restricted the powers of the election commission that managed to deliver one of the most peaceful elections Bangladesh has known. The signs are mixed. Bangladesh remains suspended between past and future.

The fall out of Pilkhana massacre for Bangladesh and the region

Shafqat Munir, a Research Analyst with the Bangladesh Centre for Terrorism Research (BCTR), has written this piece as a Research Analyst with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore. The article appeared in the UK-based RUSI: Royal United Services Institute, an independent think tank engaged in cutting edge defence and security research.

On 25 and 26 February, soldiers of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), a paramilitary force entrusted with the responsibility of guarding Bangladesh's land borders mutinied. What initially appeared to be a few disgruntled soldiers taking up arms for better financial and working conditions, soon turned out to be a calculated massacre. Fifty-nine officers of the Bangladesh Army, who were on secondment to the BDR, and some BDR personnel, were killed over a span of thirty six hours. These officers constituted the entire command structure of the BDR. The murder of such a large number of officers at the hands of the men they commanded left the entire nation stunned in horror and disbelief. As the nation comes to grips with the human carnage, the aftermath of the BDR mutiny has also exposed other problems which will have national and regional security implications.

The Terrorist Connection?
Many theories have been floated about the nature of the mutiny and the real motives of the perpetrators. But as the two official investigation committees are yet to submit their final reports, the Minister in charge of coordinating the investigations has said that there is credible evidence indicating the involvement of one or more terrorist organisations in the mutiny. On more than one occasion there has been specific mention of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a proscribed Bangladeshi terrorist organisation. In addition to a possible involvement by Islamist militant groups, left wing extremists and members of the criminal underworld also have a vested interested in instigating an incident that destablisises national security

Over the years terrorism has emerged as one of the crucial national security challenges for Bangladesh. A number of attacks have taken place in the past five years including coordinated serial bomb blasts. However none of those attacks have resulted in the death of such a large number of people. While it is difficult to comment unless the full investigation report comes to light, the possibility of a terrorist organisation infiltrating and instigating a mutiny within a disciplined force raises serious security concerns for Bangladesh and the region.

The Flight of Weapons and Ammunition
As the mutiny ended on 26 February after various rounds of negotiations with the government, a large number of BDR personnel fled Peelkhana, the headquarters of the border guards in Dhaka. It has been widely reported in the Bangladeshi press that many escaped together with a large number of automatic weapons, ammunition, hand grenades and other explosives. While the Army and other law enforcement agencies are currently conducting a country-wide combing operation to recover those munitions, it is difficult to say whether a full recovery will be possible. Such a large number of weapons and ammunition falling into the hands of terrorist organisations, criminal gangs or individuals will certainly have grave consequences for Bangladesh's national security.

As investigations determine whether the mutiny was part of a wider conspiracy, there is, nevertheless, now a strong possibility that many of the absconding BDR personnel who took part in the mutiny will join either an existing militant organisation or will form a militant outfit of their own. They are not only well trained with a number of years of experience; they also carry a large number of weapons and ammunition with them. If an existing militant or criminal organisation is able to absorb these men and the weapons and ammunition they are carrying, it will significantly augment their operational capabilities and pose a critical security challenge to the Bangladeshi state.

The Fall Out: Implications for Bangladesh
For a resource-strained country like Bangladesh replacing fifty-nine well trained officers - especially of senior rank- is administratively and financially an uphill task. While the BDR or the 'Silent Sentinels', as it is known, is mainly entrusted with the responsibility of guarding the land borders, it also undertakes a number of other tasks. BDR members regularly assist the police and other law enforcement agencies in carrying out a number of other duties which include riot and mob control as well as taking part in counter-terrorist operations. Furthermore, the BDR is also the second line force and in the event of a conflict will fight alongside the Army under its operational control. Hence, it can be termed as one of the main pillars of the national security establishment. The mutiny has completely shaken up this institution which traces its history back to the days of the British Raj in 1794. Reconstituting the BDR and reviving its previous state of operational preparedness will prove to be a costly affair for Bangladesh.

Implications for the Region
The borders between Bangladesh and India are more than four thousand kilometers long and very porous in nature. The weakening of border security capacity on the Bangladeshi side as a result of the BDR mutiny will add impetus to the growing threat of transnational terrorism and crime. Bangladeshi terrorist groups are known to have operational linkages with groups across the region. There is a looming possibility that these terrorist organisations are likely to take advantage of the current situation and make trans-boundary movements. It may be noted that during the period of the mutiny and for at least a few days after that, the borders between Bangladesh and India were largely unguarded. In addition to the threat of transnational terrorism, it also poses a challenge in terms of the illegal traffic of narcotics and small arms proliferation. The possibility of a section of the looted weapons being channeled across the border cannot be ruled out.

Finally, the BDR mutiny has left an indelible mark on the collective Bangladeshi psyche because of the scale of the brutality. Furthermore, the problems it has created especially the ones discussed above are going to be a major challenge to the Bangladeshi state. Bangladesh is currently at a critical juncture. On one hand, with a newly elected government in power, the state is slowly settling back into the democratic system after a two year non-political interregnum. On the other hand, a resource strained country is faced with the challenges borne out of the global economic recession.

The BDR carnage further intensifies and complicates the plethora of tests already faced by Bangladesh. The country has hardly ever faced a national security crisis of such epic proportions since its emergence as an independent nation state in 1971. It is therefore a time when the Bangladeshi state will have to act in an organised and united manner and revive one of the most critical pillars of its security establishment and consolidate its national security. While an unstable and insecure Bangladesh is certainly something that the people of Bangladesh do not want, it will also have major implications for the South Asian region.

Bangladesh's shadow government

William Gomes, an independent human rights activist, a Catholic ecumenical activist, and a political analyst, feels Islamic NGOs are working as shadow government in Bangladesh. Read it here:

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) play a vital role in a developing country like Bangladesh. The number of NGOs in Bangladesh is in excess of 78,000 by the midst of the year 2009 registered with five different government instruments.

The news that Islamic NGOs with foreign funds are fueling the Islamic militancy was bubbling all over Bangladesh. The Daily Star said that suspected NGOs include Rabita Al-Alam Al-Islami, Al-Muntada Al- Islami, Society of Social Reforms, Qatar Charitable Society, Islamic Relief Agency, Al-Forkan Foundation, International Relief Organisation, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee, Muslim Aid Bangladesh, Dar Al-Khair, Hayatul Igachha, and Tawheed-e-Noor.

The daily New Age of Bangladesh wrote, “During the previous BNP-led alliance government, some 473 local and 25 foreign NGOs were enlisted with the NGO Affairs Bureau. One hundred and twenty-nine of them are local and eight foreign NGOs who were enlisted in the financial year 2006-07. Since 1990, the NGO Bureau has approved 2,367 local and foreign NGOs who run on foreign funding.”

When the Bangladesh National Party-led alliance government was in power, 90,000 core taka (approx. US$1,300) in foreign donations, in the name of 11,000 NGOs, came into Bangladesh. That amount is nearly equal to the government’s financial budget for the year 2009, which is 99,962 core taka (approx. US$1,450).

The main process of registering an NGO and funding its operations is highly dependent upon the bureaucracy. That was and is the main reason that NGO activities in Bangladesh have become politicized. As a result of this, during the term of the BNP-led alliance government, the institutional outfit of the Islamic fascist interest triumphed.

The NGO registration process involves some powerful intelligence instruments of the government, such as the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), the National Security Intelligence (NSI), and the Special Branch of the Bangladesh Police.

There is clear evidence of corruption and political interference in the NGO registration process. The government’s policy is tricky on the issue of NGO registration, especially the NGO affairs bureau, which is under the prime minister’s office in name, but is mainly controlled by intelligence instruments like the DGFI and the NSI. It is notable that there are several Islamic fascist proponents placed in various important government instruments, including intelligence organizations, during the term of the BNP alliance government.

We have had a past record of 34 foreign funded major Islamic non-governmental organizations (NGO) and 15 are very active ngo’s back in year 2005. In 1999, the intelligence agencies tracked an NGO named Suffering Humanity International, which had vibrant relations with Islamic fascists to establish an Islamic dictatorship in Bangladesh.

The Islamic fascists have fully succeeded in forming a shadow government in Bangladesh. The Islamic fascist outfit Ngo turned the money in several long time investments such as in Banking, health and hospital and education sector. In the time of need they will control the market and destabilize country. Even the same quarter has engulfed in the print and media sector with an ulterior motive to play ideological propaganda.

The same quarter is nursing to bring new crisis before the government where the treatment of government is very poor. After the pilkahan revolt the prisons are the next target of the vested quarter to destabilize the country. The vested quarter is using prisons as recruiting office to strengthen their terrorist activities. The young people come out from the prison and join the source outside and take part in destructive works.

The government should make it very clear to make the whole ngo activities free from the influence of the Intelligence and politics to safe the country from further massive failure. The Islamic ngos has turned into shadow government in Bangladesh and the highest threat before Bangladesh as well as to the security of south Asian region.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pilkhana massacre casts shadow over Bangladesh military

From New Straits Times:

THE mutiny by troopers of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), the country's border guard, on Feb 25-26 was a wake-up call for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed that her government, despite the massive popular mandate won last December, remains vulnerable to internal and external threats.Hasina's own life remains at risk.

That the mutiny did not take place when she took the salute and addressed the BDR personnel just a day earlier meant that she had a providential escape.Her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led the freedom movement against Pakistan, himself fell to an assassin's bullet in a military-led putsch in August 1975. Hasina has been attacked at least three times and has had to leave her private home for a more secure government house.

As a nation, Bangladesh was never as traumatised as when Sheikh Mujibur and, in 1981, Gen Ziaur Rahman were gunned down. That they were presidents supposedly enjoying the highest security only underscores the lack of that security when the political situation becomes volatile and the men in uniform fall prey to personal ambitions, internal squabbles and politicking.

Undoubtedly, the BDR mutiny that saw the planned killing of 55 Bangladesh army officers -- besides two brigadier-generals, 16 colonels, 11 lieutenant- colonels, 23 majors and two captains -- was the most serious incident affecting the armed forces since Bangladesh's independence.The mutiny seemed part of a larger plan to weaken the army by depriving it of its young officers and by fomenting dissension and discord in its rank and file. After the BDR mutiny, the next target could very well be the army.

That the BDR director-general, Major-Gen Shakil Ahmed, was gunned down within the first few minutes of the mutiny and other officers were shot or bayoneted to death and their family quarters raided and looted by the mutineers points to a planned conspiracy that may have been hatched over a period of time.There is also speculation that the government's move to hold "war crime trials" -- of those who killed civilians at the behest of the erstwhile East Pakistan regime during the 1971 struggle -- led to this "conspiracy".

The principal target of this move are the leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's largest Islamist party, which shared power with Begum Khaleda Zia during 2001-06.It is significant that confessions by the BDR personnel detained after the mutiny, according to media reports, point to the presence of elements of not only Jamaat, but also banned organisations including Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), donning BDR uniforms and taking the lead in the insurrection.All this remains under investigation.

The government has secured help from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and Britain's Scotland Yard to identify the "outside linkages" in the mutiny. But some Bangladeshi commentators have pointed to the poor record of past investigations.For the army, that has ruled directly or indirectly for 15 years, the mutiny has been a traumatic moment. However, what's most significant is that under Gen Moin U. Ahmed, it steeled itself and did not retaliate.This undoubtedly defeated what seemed the basic motive behind the mutiny: the army retaliating in anger to its officers being killed and triggering, in the process, a civil war.Ahmed has opened relations with many armies, including India's, and worked to widen the horizons of his men, gently pushing them towards being a professional force.

The 67,000-strong BDR is largely officered by the army, a matter for resentment in some quarters. The stated reason for the mutiny was the strongly perceived discrimination of the BDR vis-a-vis the army. An army officer reportedly gets 30 per cent more pay while on deputation.This has parallels with the army and paramilitary forces in India, Pakistan and many other countries. The army is under the Defence Ministry while the border guards are under the Home or Interior Ministry.Disparities do exist in salaries and perks and working conditions. But here they were used to arouse sentiment against the officers. To portray the BDR mutiny as some kind of class struggle, as was done in some quarters, would be at best romantic and, at worst, wrong and risky.

The real issues after the mutiny are the breakdown of the chain of command and of intelligence failure at all levels. The government has done the inevitable by replacing the top brass in most of the civil and military intelligence units.There has been criticism of the role of the directorate-general of Field Intelligence raised on the pattern of Pakistan's ISI, which keeps surveillance over politicians and bureaucrats.In both Pakistan and Bangladesh, the civilian governments did nothing to alter this and indeed utilised this organisation for their partisan ends.

Taken totally by surprise at developments taking place right in the heart of the national capital, the government appeared to baulk on the first day. Ministers and aides who rushed to the BDR headquarters were told of the mutineers' grievances. Hasina declared a general amnesty, hoping to get the soldiers to lay down their arms.The mayhem, however, continued for another 24 hours. Much time was lost before it became clear that most officers had been killed in the first couple of hours. Their deed done, many of the rebels found time to throw away their guns and uniforms and flee.

A mutiny by a military or paramilitary unit is usually put down before it escalates and infects other forces. Unfortunately, the BDR mutiny was dealt with as if it was a hostage crisis.Finally, the mutiny left the country's borders open. The virtual abandonment of the border check-posts along a 4,000km frontier made India, as also Myanmar, the other neighbour with a 300km border, vulnerable to infiltration, smuggling and illegal movements that take much joint effort to curb.

In such circumstances, the need for greater vigilance and political stability can hardly be overstated.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Indira blamed for not allowing Bangladesh war crime trials

MD Nalapat, the former editor of Times of India and a renowned columnist, has blamed former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for not allowing war trials to go on after Bangladesh's independnece.

He said: "Indira Gandhi refused to allow Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to hold war crimes trials, even though Lt-Gen AAK Niazi and other generals had butchered more than a million people, especially those unfortunate enough to be either Muslim moderates or any kind of Hindu in what was then East Pakistan."

"A War Crimes Trial would have exposed the complicity of the Pakistan army—including its Bengali cohort—in the East Pakistan genocide, but this was never held. Instead, charmed by Z A Bhutto, Indira Gandhi unconditionally freed the 93,000 occupation troops captured during the brief conflict, without allowing even a single officer to face retribution for his crimes against an innocent people. Subsequently, no effort was made to ensure that the remnants of the Pakistan army that was Bengali-speaking be disbanded, even though this group had functioned as slaves of the West Pakistanis. "

According to the writer, such negligence on the part of Indira Gandhi produced the coup against Mujibur Rahman, and turned Bangladesh military into 'the most vicious anti-India force' in the new country.

Chinese misadventure in India by 2017?


The Indian military fears a ‘Chinese aggression’ in less than a decade, the Hindustan Times has reported, and claimed that a secret exercise – called ‘Divine Matrix’ – by the army’s military operations directorate has visualised a war scenario with the nuclear-armed neighbour before 2017.

“A misadventure by China is very much within the realm of possibility with Beijing trying to position itself as the only power in the region. There will be no nuclear warfare but a short, swift war that could have menacing consequences for India,” said an army officer, who was part of the three-day war games that ended on Wednesday.

In the military’s assessment, based on a six-month study of various scenarios before the war games, “China would rely on information warfare (IW) to bring India down on its knees before launching an offensive”, the report claimed.

The war games saw generals raising concerns about the IW battalions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) carrying out hacker attacks for military espionage, intelligence collection, paralysing communication systems, compromising airport security, inflicting damage on the banking system and disabling power grids. “We need to spend more on developing information warfare capability,” he said.

The war games dispelled the notion that China would take at least one year for a substantial military build-up across India’s northeastern frontiers. “The Tibetan infrastructure has been improved considerably. “The PLA can now launch an assault very quickly, without any warning,” said the officer.

“The military believes that China would have swamped Tibet with sweeping demographic changes in the medium term. For the purposes of Divine Matrix, China would call Dalai Lama for rapprochement and neutralise him. The top brass also brainstormed over India’s options in case Pakistan joined the war too.

Another apprehension was that Myanmar and Bangladesh would align with China in the future geo-strategic environment,” said the Hindustan Times.

India urged to prepare for next war!

Bharat Verma, the Editor, Indian Defence Review, writes in Organiser:

By nature, the average Indian is highly individualistic and an entrepreneur. In every endeavour, his calculation is simply based on, “What’s in it for me?” He does not have the time or the inclination to actively get involved with the intricacies of the nation’s security. India’s ‘near abroad’ is under unprecedented turmoil. Pakistan is almost split into two states. The Pakistan Army controls one part and the other it ceded to radical Islam. The Pakistan Army appears to be under retreat. In Bangladesh the war between Pakistan-backed radical Islam threatens to undermine the present regime. Maoists in Nepal look up to China. Beijing successfully out-manoeuvred New Delhi’s influence in the latter’s backyard.

A nation’s foreign policy is dependent primarily on the strength of its economic and military power. The ability and the will to wield military power ruthlessly, to defend and advance national interests, when combined with the capacity and resolve to create wealth, constitute the proven route for every aspirant seeking recognition as an eminent power. To attain eminence in Asia, India needs to move simultaneously on three axes. These are India-West Asia, India-Southeast Asia and India-Central Asia.

Of these, the critical one is the India-Afghanistan-Iran-Russia axis. Today, Russia is reacting firmly to intruders into its neighbourhood. Her economic and military resurgence presents an opportunity for a relationship which would lend stability to the region.

Today, India is ringed by turbulent states—Pakistan (land boundary with India 3,310 kms in the northwest), Nepal (land boundary with India 1,751 kms in the north), Bangladesh (land boundary with India 4,095 kms in the southeast) and Myanmar (land boundary with India 1,463 kms in the northeast). Turbulence has percolated through India’s porous borders in the form of arms and narcotics to finance insurgents, militants, terrorists and religious fundamentalists. India remains Pakistan’s primary target and operating ground for Islamic fundamentalists and terrorist groups who infiltrate through Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), Nepal and Bangladesh and carry out anti-Indian activities with impunity.

Nepal is vulnerable to China’s influence. Its extremists have linkages with the People’s War Group (PWG) in India. In its bid to expand its influence, the PWG has carved a corridor ringing the states of Andhra Pradesh-Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh-Orissa-West Bengal-Jharkhand-Bihar. This endless internal turbulence in India is also inter-linked with external factors.

To the North, India shares a 3,440 km long border with China, which can pose the entire spectrum of conventional, nuclear and missile threats. It can also influence and use as proxy India’s neighbours to weigh India down in every possible way. In short, India’s 14,058-km long land frontier is impacted by a perpetually hostile or semi-hostile environment. Indian security stands threatened by demographic assault, arms and drug smuggling, and the safe havens that the insurgents have in India. Fundamentalist-religious groups in Bangladesh under Pakistani tutelage, West Asian finance and China’s patronage have synergised sufficiently to add to India’s security headache.

The grim reality is that the unending turbulence will continue to afflict our land and sea frontiers and airspace. The Indian Temperament By nature, the average Indian is highly individualistic and an entrepreneur. In every endeavour, his calculation is simply based on, “What’s in it for me?” He does not have the time or the inclination to actively get involved with the intricacies of the nation’s security. This kind of entrepreneurial society requires a steel frame of military, naval and air power to ensure that India’s accommodative temperament and societal characteristic of gentleness remains protected from the turbulent violence that assaults the values of our democratic polity.

India’s Armed Forces On attaining Independence in 1947, India inherited possibly the best instrument of war in Asia—a fine battle-ready military machine with a formidable reputation of winning wars in distant lands. Britain had employed it skillfully for over a century to sustain her empire and treasured it as the jewel in its crown. In the years after Independence, India’s Army has been unendingly deployed for internal policing tasks to cope with the complex security situation. This deployment has kept the Union of India physically intact. But it is sad that 60 years after Independence, the stability of India still depends directly on the stability of the Indian Army. Field Marshal Wavell who was India’s British Viceroy in 1946, was prophetic when he said “… the stability of the Indian Army may perhaps be a deciding factor in the future of India.”

Making India’s Armed Forces Younger
For a number of reasons, and despite considerable efforts, the Armed Forces remain short of the manpower they need. It is imperative that this manpower shortage be removed speedily before the system buckles under the ageing profile of its leadership. There is only one viable strategy to attract the kind of talent that is needed and that is to assure military personnel of assured lateral induction into the para-military and police forces, the intelligence services and the civil administration. Unfortunately, a consensus has not been achieved that “Lateral Induction” is the best way to attract India’s young but savvy population to the tough profession of arms, where risk-to-life is an everyday affair. Major benefits will accrue from Lateral Induction.

First, the transfer of highly disciplined, trained and skilled manpower to the civil set-up will contribute towards the creation of a ‘discipline culture’ in the country. Second, the superior training standards of lateral inductees will aid civil and para-military forces in combating terrorism and internal violence. However, placing a large segment of a young Army on the land borders cannot entirely ensure the security of India. There are two aspects to it. First, if a football team defends only its half of the field, it is certain that an adversary determined to create mischief, short of going to war, will create opportunities for its irregular forces (jehadis) to score goals through infiltration, smuggling and creeping invasions. The hostile environment that impacts India’s long frontiers requires that the role of military power to defend strategic frontiers must be firmly embedded in India’s foreign policy.

The second aspect is the need for political will to project the power of the Armed Forces beyond the Indian subcontinent to secure the sea-lanes for external trade and ensure the security of imported energy supplies. India’s Place in Asia India’s geo-strategic location with its 7,500 kms long peninsular coastline jutting into the Indian Ocean makes India a continental as well as a maritime power. India impacts directly on East, West and Central Asia. As a rising economic power dependent almost entirely on foreign energy supplies, a time may come when India has to project its military power to protect and preserve the energy resources from Central and West Asia, and Africa.

For India, with its pacifist temperament, this may sound imperial. But without a ruthless winning attitude, India’s multi-religious and multi-cultural society cannot survive endless undermining by disaffected elements. The world has already recognised that with its democratic institutions, its liberal philosophy and its unique strategic location, India’s influence will extend beyond South Asia and directly affect Asia’s well being. Dovetailing Foreign-Economic-Military Objectives A nation’s foreign policy is dependent primarily on the strength of its economic and military power. The ability and the will to wield military power ruthlessly, to defend and advance national interests, when combined with the capacity and resolve to create wealth, constitute the proven route for every aspirant seeking recognition as an eminent power. India has the potential and the prerequisites of becoming a great power within the next few decades, provided it can dovetail its foreign, economic and military objectives and mainstream its military power. The crucial question is whether India will be a surrogate power or be a ‘great power’?

Ostensibly, our national objectives are to have a peaceful neighbourhood. What should be the strategy to achieve it? Statements like “…stable and secure neighbours are in India’s interest” are well meant. The fundamental question however is—“Will India’s neighbours ever be stable and secure?” Appeasement of neighbours cannot constitute a strategy for any country. India’s larger objective in Asia is to emerge as a geo-economic hub that can integrate and influence its extended neighbourhood through mutually beneficial economic linkages and military relationships.

As a benevolent power that has no external territorial interests, India is uniquely located—geographically and culturally to play this role effectively. India’s free media can be intelligently harnessed to further these national objectives and develop the complementarities that influence Asia. To attain eminence in Asia, India needs to move simultaneously on three axes. These are India-West Asia, India-Southeast Asia and India-Central Asia. Of these, the critical one is the India-Afghanistan-Iran-Russia axis.

Today, Russia is reacting firmly to intruders into its neighbourhood. Her economic and military resurgence presents an opportunity for a relationship which would lend stability to the region. Moreover, as the second largest consumer of oil and gas in Asia, the assurance of uninterrupted energy supplies is a vital factor in India’s security calculus. By 2010, a substantial amount of oil and gas will be sourced from Central Asia. This resource-rich region will succumb to fundamentalist-religious Talibanisation if India and like-minded countries do not pre-empt it.

In such an eventuality, American oil corporations will be expelled, particularly with the Chinese gaining ground and occupying positions that could dictate the future agenda in Central Asia. It is therefore timely for American capitalists to join hands with Indian counterparts in joint ventures. Create Mutually Beneficial International Alliances India’s ‘near abroad’ is under unprecedented turmoil. Pakistan is almost split into two states.

The Pakistan Army controls one part and the other it ceded to Radical Islam. The Pakistan Army appears to be under retreat. In Bangladesh, the war between Pakistan backed radical Islam threatens to undermine the present regime. Maoists in Nepal look up to China. Beijing successfully out manoeuvered New Delhi’s influence in the latter’s backyard. These regimes being authoritarian in one way or the other have more in common amongst themselves than a multi-cultural democratic India. They are also technology deficit regressive states. Therefore, to preserve its values, India needs to create an international alliance with like-minded technologically surplus ‘far abroad’ to out manoeuver the inimical intentions of the ‘near abroad’.

The international community including Russia in the near future, will be compelled to wage the next Great War against the forces of Radical Islam threatening the world at large. As the core of jehad is located in a state wielding nuclear weapons, the evolving scenario appears to be more threatening than witnessed during Nazi Germany.

New Delhi’s support in the looming next Great War will be a critical element for swift victory for democracies and others. India’s strategy must be to strengthen existing friendly relationships, while decisively cementing mutually advantageous new relationships in the favourable geo-political scenario now emerging.

India Doctrine Revisited

A book review by A K Zaman in deshicritics:

It is almost two years since the first edition of The India Doctrine appeared on Bangladesh bookshelves to wide acclaim and appreciation. The newly revised edition now titled The India Doctrine (1947-2007) is an astonishing work of exceptional depth and analysis and is probably the first book of its kind not only in Bangladesh but also in South Asia as a whole. It is indeed a stupendous effort by Barrister MBI Munshi.

While I had a few words of criticism for the original version of the book which appeared to me to be fragmentary and a little disjointed this revised edition is an exceptional work and its various parts have been finely consolidated and is also far better written and organized. As the author reminds us, he had almost two years to write this revised edition and it was certainly time well spent as the language and style is now much easier to follow and effortless to comprehend.

The Bangladesh Defence Journal published the book at a price of Tk. 1200 or roughly $17 and is 636 pages in length. Of those pages one third consists of end notes and references which number in their thousands leaving in no doubt the strong evidentiary grounds on which Barristers Munshi's thesis is based. The book also contains a useful foreword by the editor of BDJ, Mr. Abu Rushd, who earlier wrote the ground breaking RAW in Bangladesh.

Mr. Rushd in his foreword contrasts the original version of The India Doctrine and the present edition stating that:"The first edition was a turning point in political and historical writing in Bangladesh. The second edition continues this trend with further elaboration of issues … covered in the earlier book but on very recent events such as the causes behind the cancellation of elections in 2007 and new material on the 1971 liberation war and India's motivations in assisting [an] emergent Bangladesh."

Mr. Rushd further elaborates on the importance of the book in the context of South Asia's geo-strategic realities: "The book is certainly a must read for those interested in South Asian affairs, geo-strategy, intelligence, and the political, diplomatic and economic influences of an increasingly important region of the world which contains almost a sixth of the world[s] population, two nuclear powers and several more in the near vicinity. The book will hopefully inspire others to explore the subject of Indian hegemony and expansionism and also allow policy-makers in the West to better comprehend the risks of permitting an unrestrained India to dominate the region."

The last remark seems particularly relevant in light of the Mumbai terror attacks in December 2008 and the increasingly hostile attitude taken by India towards its neighbour Pakistan who it accuses of having direct involvement in the incident although only a few weeks earlier a Col. Srikant Pirohit had been apprehended for supplying explosives to Hindu fanatics to carry out similar outrages.Mr. Rushd concludes that the book should hopefully:"educate the policy-makers and military planners in Bangladesh about possible threats emanating from our neighbour and the consequences of New Delhi's influence in our internal affairs as well as the principal cause of instability."

This is probably even more pertinent after the overwhelming victory of the Awami League (AL) party in the recently concluded 2008 national elections. The AL has often aligned itself with the interests of New Delhi in both foreign and internal matters and this has aggravated tensions within the country. It would be wise for the AL leaders to take some lessons from this book and adopt a more cautious attitude to New Delhi since our own history shows that a two-thirds majority in parliament is no guarantee of longevity or permanence in power especially when deeply held views about our national interest are constantly and arrogantly offended.

The obvious reason for publishing this new edition is that the original book had many gaps and overlooked many significant issues principally due to the time limitations placed on the author. Barrister Munshi states in his opening remarks in the preface that: "By all accounts the first edition of The India Doctrine was a book incomplete. While it covered the essentials of the periods 1947 and 1971 fairly well it managed to convey only a fraction of the notable events and incidents that were to take place during 2006 and which were to reach a climax in 2007. The years 2006-2007 had much less of the cruelty, violence and bloodshed associated with 1947 and 1971 but nevertheless represents a significant period of transition that witnessed a revival of great power politics in South Asia that was to significantly affect the terms of the India Doctrine."

This short period indeed witnessed immense and often tragic and horrendous events that will undoubtedly have lasting effects on the South Asian perspective and psyche.The author next deals quite comprehensively with the internal struggles within India and its new alliance with the United States built upon the tenuous foundations of the nuclear agreement passed amidst intense opposition, particularly in India.

The author explores how this new strategic relationship affects the regional balance and includes reference to China and Russia and the wider geo-strategic imperatives of the United States and India. The author then surveys the influence of the India doctrine and Forward Policy on the South Asian neighbourhood and the internal conflicts this incited in many countries of the region (i.e. Sri Lanka, Nepal, Sikkim, Pakistan and Bangladesh).

The next few chapters on the liberation war and Indian propaganda have been completely redone and large segments rearranged to fit more logically the shape, context and logic of the book. New material and information is incorporated into chapters 4-8 and recent developments on the CHT insurgency and peace agreement is rendered in the last of these chapters.From a Bangladesh perspective the most controversial sections of the book will probably be Chapters 9 and 10 that deal with India's project to have Bangladesh declared a failed state. The chosen method to achieve this objective has been through propaganda with the labeling of Bangladesh as a 'hotbed' of Islamist terrorism.

The media campaign orchestrated by India has been so successful that many voters in the 2008 elections actually believed this nonsense not realizing that such malicious canards were being propagated by Indian intelligence (i.e. RAW) via our local media. Another method favoured by India to have Bangladesh rendered a failed state is through economic sabotage and as Barrister Munshi explains: "For India to secure its political and military supremacy and control over the South Asian region it has become necessary for it to continuously maintain and protect her lead over other economies even by unfair means such as sabotage, fomenting and encouraging political instability in neighbouring countries and most obviously through propaganda."

However, it is interference in the political sphere that India has been most successful in undermining Bangladesh's democratic institutions and Barrister Munshi traces the chaotic events surrounding the transfer of power to a caretaker government in 2006 to the release of Sheikh Hasina from custody in June 2008 with each event being heavily influenced by external actors and in particular India.

Barrister Munshi provides a convincing argument and analysis on all the above issues and his contribution to the book stands as an extraordinary achievement that will set the standard for such works in Bangladesh and probably elsewhere in South Asia. The 557 pages written by Barrister Munshi will hopefully gain widespread readership in Bangladesh since the issues raised in the book are incredibly important to the continued independence and integrity of the nation against the hegemonic and domineering tendencies of India.

The chapters written by the author will likely stand out as the most important to be written on South Asian affairs for the last 60 years at least. It presents a completely new perspective on South Asia rarely seen in writing from this region and hardly discussed in Western literature on the subject.The final two chapters of the book are authored by two Pakistanis and this is a major development on the first edition which had no chapters on Pakistan and this is probably the only collaboration between writers of both countries on this type of subject matter.

Chapter 11 of the book is titled 'The Peace Charade' and is written by Mr. Ahmed Quraishi. Mr. Quraishi is a prominent media personality in Pakistan and his background as an investigative journalist, columnist, roving reporter and head of a private, independent think tank are all very impressive and raise his credentials as a highly respected and informed writer. According to Mr. Quraishi, India had by early 2008 been conducting a massive intelligence operation with Pakistan as its target.

Afghanistan was being used by New Delhi as a springboard and the Islamists were the tools of this operation. Israel is said to have provided help and the US position as Pakistan's ally is described as somewhat ambiguous. This brief summary sets the tone for a very interesting and well researched chapter with its premise based on the discovery of a document that reveals a conspiracy 'to break the stranglehold of the intelligence agencies, the bureaucracy and the military in Pakistan' as these are believed by India to be responsible for keeping the Kashmir issue alive.

Chapter 12 of the book is written by Dr. Prevaiz Iqbal Cheema who has an outstanding academic career. He obtained and M. Litt in Strategic Studies from Aberdeen University and a Ph.D. from Quaid-i-Azam University in Pakistan. He has been a teacher for almost 28 years with posts held in Pakistan, Australia, Singapore and the United States. His excellent and lucidly argued chapter discusses the Kashmir dispute and Pakistan-India relations. His chapter initially discusses the origin and nature of the Kashmir dispute highlighting the policies of both India and Pakistan followed by a discussion on the internationalization of the dispute.

Finally the paper focuses on the new developments that have impacted upon the dispute and the current status of Indo-Pak relations. Dr. Cheema concludes his survey of the issues by commenting that: "Without the resolution of [the] Kashmir dispute, not only India and Pakistan would never enjoy proper fruits of peace and cooperation but South Asia would also be deprived of much desired peaceful environment." It is, therefore, unfortunate that India has not shown the requisite sincerity in negotiations for this sensible and desired outcome for regional peace and security.

Overall, this book, The India Doctrine (1947-2007), is an extraordinary and astounding effort requiring not only immense dedication but also a significant amount of courage, boldness and resolution. Writing in the hostile and threatening atmosphere created by India in Bangladesh and Pakistan the writers have shown admirable willpower and fortitude. The book not only deserves success but also our respect.

Bangladesh poised to become global hub of quality medicines

From The Korea Times:

The pharmaceutical sector in Bangladesh, one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, is poised to transform the country into a global hub of quality medicines. The $700 million sector with more than 230 manufacturers is continuously expanding with new products to new international destinations.

The export value of pharmaceuticals is small but growing at 50 percent per year. Exports increased from $8.2 million in 2004 to $28.3 million in 2007, while export destinations climbed from 37 countries to 72 during the period.

The industry's inception dates back to the 1950s when a few multinationals and local entrepreneurs started with manufacturing facilities in the then East Pakistan. By 1982, many top ranking multinationals established their manufacturing facilities in this part of the world. Prominent among them were Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) , Glaxo, Fisons, Squibb, Hoechst, ICI, May & Baker and Organon.

Pharmaceutical industries in Bangladesh are gifted with unparalleled potential to grow in the days ahead as they enjoy a number of competitive advantages.The industry's ability to comply with guidelines of quality assurance has put it on a solid base. Almost all companies are equipped with World Health Organization (WHO) Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards.

Bangladesh's ability to face competition from developing countries like India, China, Brazil and Turkey in its export markets is due to Bangladesh pharmaceutical's strict quality compliance.
The most important indicator is the capability of the industry to achieve excellence and go beyond general international standards.

A good number of companies including Square Pharma, Renata and Eskayef have won accreditation from the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Incepta and Beximco Pharma have been accredited by EMEA (Austria) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA-Australia), respectively. These accreditations will allow them to enter the lucrative market with very competitive prices and standards as reputed global players. The government of Bangladesh emphasizes on its national drug policy that all the pharmaceutical manufacturers must strictly comply with thee standards.

The Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) is a term recognized worldwide as a holistic approach for the control and management of manufacturing and quality control testing of food and pharmaceutical products.

Bangladeshi pharmaceutical industries are expanding exportable items quite fast.
Bangladesh is now exporting wide range of pharmaceutical products covering all major therapeutic classes and dosage forms like tablets, capsules and syrups.

Bangladesh is also exporting high-tech specialized products like, HFA, inhalers, suppositories, hormones, steroids, oncology, immunosuppressant products, nasal sprays, injectibles and IV infusions. The sector enjoys sound footing due to the local pull of heavy demand for medicines by the country's 150 million people.

The industries are now producing quality medicines at an affordable price for millions of people in Bangladesh and has made Bangladesh almost self reliant in pharmaceutical products.
Now, 97 percent of local demand for medicines is met by the sector.

Major epidemics of Bangladesh are malaria, dengue fever, cholera and typhoid. Morbidity and mortality from these scourges has also been reduced substantially over the years in Bangladesh.
Increased affordability and availability of medicines have contributed to this achievement.

Bangladesh now has an average life expectancy of 61 years, which is at the top end in South Asia.
Growth in local demand will naturally follow increases in per capita income.Per capita consumption of medicines is one of the lowest in South Asia.

The industry welcomed over 50 new factories in the last three years, of which about two dozen started marketing with an aggressive sales and promotion strategy during 2008.
Out of 230 companies, 200 have their own manufacturing facilities of which five are multinationals.

The sector is active in API (active pharmaceutical ingredients). Twenty-one different companies now locally manufacture 41 API's. However, compared to huge local demand, more API industries need to be set up.Pharmaceutical industries' potential has multiplied with the recently approved API industrial park in Munshigonj at a cost of $30 billion.

The API Park will inject fresh momentum into the pharmaceutical industry. The country can save at least 70 percent of the amount and the park is expected to transform the industry as a major export earner with the potential to export products worth $750 million per year within the next five years.

At this moment, Bangladesh imports 80 percent of its pharmaceutical raw materials from aboard. A good number of skilled professionals from home and abroad are joining the industry's human resources pool every year.

Bangladesh can continue with the patented products up to 2015 as per trade related intellectual property rights (TRIPS). Pharmaceutical industries are now legally allowed to reverse engineer, manufacture and sell generic versions of on-patent pharmaceutical products for domestic consumption as well as for export to other LDCs.

This has created a big opportunity to make Bangladesh as a new chemical entity.
With about 45 years of experience in pharmaceutical formulation and marketing Bangladesh is in a position to share those with both LDCs and developing countries where needed. Apart from the regular investment in pharmaceutical industries and API, opportunities of bioequivalence study, validation report, clinical trials and manufacturing plant audit mechanism have been created.

Currently, bio equivalency tests are conducted in Singapore, Malaysia and in European countries resulting in huge expenditure of pharmaceutical industries. More investments in these sub-sectors would be needed in future. Foreign investors can take advantage of the flourishing industries.

It is estimated that over $250 million have been invested in this sector over the last couple years in terms of facility modernization as well as new facilities.

Needless to mention that all of these investments were directed towards developing full cGMP compliant facilities, which can meet stringent regulatory requirement of any country of the world.

Such investment has already started paying off as most of these companies have either already received certification or are on the verge of getting approval from world toughest regulatory bodies like U.S. FDA, U.K. MHRA, TGA Australia and European Union.

This has opened up wider range of opportunities for the industry whereby these Bangladeshi companies can now export pharmaceutical products to any part of the globe capitalizing on the $600 billion plus global pharmaceutical market.

Bangladesh caged?

From: The Telegrapgh, Calcutta:

Bangladesh is being fenced in like a country in a cage on its 38th anniversary today. Myanmar, the only other country with whom India’s eastern neighbour has a land border, has reinforced troops close to its border with Bangladesh. They are carrying barbed wire and rolls of concertina coil and stakes to fence part of the 270km frontier.

Fencing has begun between the Myanmarese townships of Maungdaw and Paletwa along the Naaf River, according to reports collated by intelligence agencies in India.

India has a 4,095km land border with Bangladesh, nearly two-thirds of which is fenced. The fence is in Indian territory and runs parallel to the border along Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. It is essentially a reinforcement for the Border Security Force.

The reports suggest that Myanmar’s frontier guard, the Na Sa Ka, is doing the same. But it is doubtful if the Na Sa Ka under the Myanmarese junta that runs the country from its new capital in Nyapidaw will be able to mobilise an estimated additional seven battalions to guard the fence, an analyst in the Indian security establishment said.

Unlike the fence along the Line of Control in Kashmir, the Indian fence along the Bangladesh border is not an Anti-Infiltration Obstacle System equipped with alarm systems designed to obstruct and immobilise militants trying to cross over from Pakistan. Even then, India has taken up a project to light up the fence for about 277km in Bengal.

The details of the fence that Myanmar is designing are not known. But Indian analysts note that the timing is important because it comes ahead of an international deadline to demarcate boundaries.

Last November, Bangladesh and Myanmar mobilised forces along their tense border, which is also near oil and gas reserves in the Bay of Bengal. China is attempting to play peace broker.

For Bangladesh, which declared its independence on March 26, 1971, and is seeking to re-establish its credentials as a democracy after last December’s elections, this is a major blow because it pushes the poverty-stricken country closer to the status of a pariah state in which Islamic fundamentalist outfits are suspected to have fomented the mutiny in the Bangladesh Rifles.

Myanmar has taken advantage of the disarray in the BDR to reinforce its border.
Bangladesh is being fenced in — or fenced out — by neighbours, one of which is the world’s largest democracy and the other a rare military dictatorship in the 21st century.

India and Myanmar are strengthening diplomatic relations at the same time. Last month, Vice-President Hamid Ansari visited Myanmar and inaugurated a fibre optic telephone link in Mandalay to bring the two countries closer.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Three more Major Generals in Bangladesh Army

BDR Director General Brigadier Moinul Islam has been promoted as Major General today, military sources said.

Two more brigadiers were also promoted as Major General. They are: Military Secretary, Army Headquarters Brig. Mahbub Haider and Military Secretary to the President Brig. Ehtesham.

CNG clears Dhaka's air

From: Christian Science Monitor:

Muhammad Mokles plies the busy Dhaka streets in his green-painted auto-rickshaw. But when it’s time to refuel, he skips the traditional gas pump and goes straight to a compressed natural gas (CNG) station. It’s not only much cheaper than gasoline but it’s also much better for the environment.

Here in Bangladesh’s capital, the streets overflow with thousands of noisy honking vehicles, pedestrians, beggar children, food vendors, and stray animals. Millions of people need to move around this crowded and sprawling metropolis of 11 million each day, and many do so in an auto-rickshaw that can dart around larger or slower forms of transport.

Auto-rickshaws are cheap, convenient, and in use all over Asia. Up until recently, the ones here in Bangladesh all were powered by two-stroke gasoline engines; (also found in many motorcycles and larger three-wheelers), which alone were responsible for 60 percent of all vehicle-related pollution here, according to the Asian Development Bank.

That’s because two-stroke engines don’t use gasoline efficiently. Up to 40 percent of the fuel emerges from the tailpipe unburned, as smoke and soot. Burning gasoline and diesel produces carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and soot that warm the climate, threaten human health, and pollute water, air, and soil. In Bangladesh, soot levels in 1997 were found to be 10 times higher than World Health Organization guidelines permit. This resulted in an additional 15,000 deaths and millions more illnesses, according to World Bank estimates.

Spurred by these findings, the government of Bangladesh took action in the mid-1990s to clear the air. Leaded gasoline, which can pollute groundwater, was banned in 1999. Strict regulations were placed on the sulfur content in diesel fuel. An import ban was placed on two-stroke three-wheelers to help phase out older-model auto-rickshaws, and a widespread CNG program was launched.

Compressed natural gas is “known to be a fuel with lower air pollutant emissions,” says Sameer Akbar, senior environmental specialist at the World Bank. Natural gas is 95 percent methane and releases significantly fewer tailpipe emissions than does gasoline or diesel fuel.
“The combustion of CNG does release more methane than gasoline [does], but those emissions are minor compared with the emissions released from gasoline combustion,” says Andrew Burnham of the US Department of Energy’s Argonne (Ill.) National Lab. Unburned methane itself is a powerful greenhouse gas.

Cheap fuel, expensive conversion
CNG programs work well in countries with abundant natural gas reserves like Bangladesh. Italy started using CNG in the 1930s and was the first country to put a viable program in place. Other countries now using CNG successfully include India, Pakistan, Iran, Argentina, and Brazil.
CNG has been around in Bangladesh since 1982. “At that time it wasn’t an issue of environmental concerns,” says Iftikar “Sabu” Hussain, CEO of CNG Distribution Company.

Compressed natural gas was initially introduced as a domestic fuel alternative to expensive imports, but did not catch on then because converting to the cheaper fuel involved an expensive engine conversion. The increasing cost of imported petroleum, however, plus a rising concern for the environment made CNG a stronger choice in the early 2000s.

CNG began to succeed in Bangladesh at this time because of the push for a cleaner environment plus the availability of millions of dollars in loans from international agencies to encourage a long-term program.

In 2000, the United Nations Devel­op­ment Program (UNDP) created a training scheme with Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Ltd to expand the alternative-fuel program (cost: $1.2 million). At about the same time the World Bank created the Air Quality Management Project (cost: $5 million) to help reduce vehicle emissions as well as introduce air-quality monitoring.
International help puts CNG in placeAdditional CNG projects to strengthen infrastructure were put in place by the Asian Development Bank in 2002 ($113 million) and the UNDP in 2004 ($1.5 million). These initiatives involved extending natural gas pipelines and more CNG technology development (including training engineers and mechanics to do CNG conversions and ­filling-station installations).

The price of CNG also dropped substantially. CNG now sells for 16 taka per liter, the equivalent of about 87 cents a gallon. Gasoline, on the other hand, is currently $4.33 per gallon, while diesel is $2.38. CNG represents a drastic savings, but gives about the same miles per gallon as gas for the auto-rickshaws. There are some 300 CNG filling stations around the country and almost 200,000 of the 1 million vehicles on the road are now CNG-fueled, according to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority.

“I converted to save taka and the environment, but the main factor is for the environment,” says a truck driver at a CNG filling station who says he used to spend 2,000 taka per day (about $30) on gas, but now spends only one-quarter of that on CNG.

Payback is less than one year
Although conversions are relatively costly at around $800 per vehicle (the average per capita yearly income here is $600), the cheaper price of CNG relative to gas and diesel makes for a rapid payback. According to M. Khaliquzzaman, an environmental consultant at the World Bank, those who travel about 60 miles per day can break even on the cost of the conversion in less than a year.

Two-stroke engines were banned completely in 2003; all must be cleaner-burning four-stroke or CNG-fueled engines now.

When this happened, “there was a 30 to 40 percent drop in particulate pollution in Dhaka,” says the World Bank’s Mr. Akbar. In addition, an estimated $25 million in health costs are avoided each year by the cleaner environment, says Quamrul Islam Chowdhury, chairman of Forum of Environmental Journalists of Bangladesh.

The name CNG has become synonymous with the auto-rickshaws, which are painted green and referred to simply as CNGs. More than 14,000 of them now crisscross the streets of Dhaka. So even though Muhammad Mokles says that he’s not happy to be driving for a living (a job he’s done for 30 years), he is still happy to be helping the environment.

Some caution that, for all the good news, CNG isn’t the perfect solution. The tanks are bulky. Prices doubled last year. Reports also point to shoddy conversion stations springing up and vehicle traffic expanding 10 percent every year here.

“That positive impact on the overall quality of environment in Dhaka city has been eroded especially by other modes of transport,” says Mr. Chowdhury. “Especially old buses; those are still emitting CO2.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why are Indo-Bangla Ties Cooler?

By Vinod Joseph in deshicritics.

Before I did the research that forms the basis of this article, I used to wonder why India and Bangladesh aren’t the closest of friends. Consider this: India was responsible for the creation of Bangladesh. If Indian troops hadn’t invaded East Pakistan in defence of the Mukti Bahini, it is very unlikely that Pakistan would have allowed its eastern wing to break free. India lost around 2500 soldiers in the course of the 1971 war. Around 2 million Bengalis were killed and a couple of hundred thousand Bengali women raped by Pakistani soldiers in the events leading to Bangladeshi independence. Despite all this, Bangladesh seems to be at least as much friendly with Pakistan as it is with India!

One of the reasons for this frosty state of affairs on India’s eastern borders used to be the dispute over sharing of the waters of the Ganges. This dispute has now been resolved with the signing of a treaty in 1996. At present Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League is in power in Bangladesh and traditionally, the Awami League has been much closer to India than the other major political party, Begum Khalida Zia’s Bangladesh National Party. However, despite a friendly government being in power in Dhaka, there has been no change in popular perception in each country of the other. The average Bangladeshi on the street doesn’t seem to like India all that much and the average Indian on the street doesn’t give two hoots about Bangladesh. Why is this so?

In my opinion, there are various reasons for this state of affairs.

To start with, Indians tend to (wrongly) assume that because East Pakistan revolted against West Pakistani domination, it has given up its aspiration to be an Islamic country. Bangladesh is doubtless proud of its Bengali culture, but it never gave up its Islamic character either. Consider these facts: Sheikh Mujib-ur Rahman, the father of the Bangladeshi nation, was a member of the All India Muslim Students Federation since 1940. Mujib-ur Rahman was very close to Huseyn Suhrawardy, a leading member of the Bengal Muslim League, who worked actively for the cause of Pakistan. Mujib-ur Rahman was based in Kolkata in 1946, working under Suhrawardy’s guidance, when the Muslim League organised Direct Action Day, leading to large scale communal violence and deaths.

The East Pakistani fight against West Pakistani and especially Punjabi domination commenced soon after Pakistan’s independence when Jinnah announced that Urdu would be the national language for the whole of Pakistan. Mujib-ur Rahman led the Muslim Students League as it launched an East Pakistan wide agitation. Ever since then, Mujib-ur Rahman and other East Pakistani politicians were at loggerheads with politicians from West Pakistan. Their quarrel over the language issue was accentuated manifold when West Pakistani politicians tried every ruse in the book to prevent Bengali leaders from holding positions of power at the national level, not an easy task since East Pakistan had a larger population than West Pakistan.

In order to offset East Pakistan’s electoral strength, all four provinces in West Pakistan, namely Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Province, were sought to be treated as a single political unit. When East Pakistani politicians such as Khawaja Nazimuddin, Muhammad Ali Bogra and Huseyn Suhrawardy become Prime Ministers of Pakistan, they did not stay in power for long before they were deposed by the President, backed by Pakistan’s powerful Punjabi-Pakhtun dominated military.

In the 1970 elections, when Mujib-ur Rahman and his Awami League (originally founded by Huseyn Suhrawardy) won a majority of the parliamentary seats, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto proposed that Pakistan should have two Prime Ministers, one for each wing! When Mujib-ur Rahman refused, he was imprisoned and marital law was declared. The Pakistani army launched Operation Searchlight with the intention of teaching Bengalis a harsh lesson they wouldn’t forget easily. Politicians don’t like to lose power, especially just after they have legitimately won an election. Sheikh Mujib-ur Rahman’s declaration of independence was smuggled out to Chittagong and read over the radio by Major Zia-ur Rahman. The rest is history. The day Mujib-ur Rahman made the declaration of independence (26 March 1971) is treated as Bangladesh’s independence day, though it was not until 16 December 1971 that Bangladesh was actually liberated from Pakistani troops.

Would East Pakistan have revolted against West Pakistan if Bengalis were allowed to hold office after wining elections? I don’t think so. Mere imposition of Urdu as the national language would not have made East Pakistanis break off from their co-religionists in the West. Even in 1965 when India and Pakistan went to war, East Pakistan stood fast with West Pakistan though they complained that the Pakistani army was not present in strength in East Pakistan to defend it in case of an attack by India.

It must not be forgotten that even when the Pakistani army was systematically murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians, many thousands of Bengalis collaborated with the Pakistani army. Doubtless such people were fired by their Islamic zeal, which made them want Pakistan to remain unified as a single Islamic nation.

Bangladesh’s Islamic nature started to reassert itself soon after independence. After a brief ban for suspected collaboration with Pakistani forces, the Islamic Academy was revived. Bangladesh sought membership of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Islamic Development Bank. In 1974, less than 3 years after independence, Mujib-ur Rahman made a trip to Lahore to attend an OIC conference and patch up ties with Pakistan. After Zia-ur Rahman came to power, Bangladesh moved much further into the Islamic camp.

Even now, Bangladesh has an Islamic fundamentalist base which fights for stronger ties with Pakistan and other Islamic states, rather than with India. In my opinion, it is wrong to assume that this core group of Islamic fundamentalists is something new. Bangladesh always had this hardcore chunk, for without them, East Bengal would not have voted to break off from West Bengal and the rest of India.

A fact which is easily forgotten when discussing the deaths of around 2 million Bengalis as a result of the Pakistani army pogrom is that a disproportionate number of the victims were Hindus. Most surviving family members of the victims fled to India as refugees. Currently Hindus account for around 10% of Bangladesh’s population, as opposed to around 28% in 1941 and approximately 15% before the Pakistani army pogrom.

I am not for a moment suggesting that Bengali Muslims did not suffer under the Pakistani army. They did and most of the rebels who formed the Mukti Bahini were Muslims. However the present day population of Bangladesh doesn’t have among them as many victims and families of victims as such a large-scale genocide would otherwise have warranted. This is one reason why Bangladesh has been able to largely forgive Pakistan and not press for reparations or compensation.

Indians assume that Bangladeshis will be eternally grateful to India for its intervention in Bangladesh, which led to Bangladeshi independence. I feel that it ought to be the other way around. India ought to be grateful to Bangladesh for giving India a chance to split its arch rival Pakistan into two pieces! As a result of Indians assuming that Bangladesh has chosen to be just a Bengali nation that will intrinsically be friendly towards India, rather than an Islamic-Bengali state (which is what Bangladesh is), Indians expect a lot from Bangladesh without putting in the necessary effort. For example, Indians are disappointed when Bangladesh doesn’t crackdown on insurgents from India’s north-east sheltering there, even though India hasn’t exactly been ladling out favours to Bangladesh after its creation.

I feel it is very important that Indians realise they should not take Bangladesh for granted. Instead for every favour India seeks from Bangladesh, India must be willing to pay back in double measure. India needs to fill Bangladeshi media with sound bytes about how deeply India cares for friendship with Bangladesh. India could provide scholarships for Bangladeshi students to study in India. It could be made easy for Bangladeshi commodities (like jute) and goods (like garments) to be sold in India. Leaders from Bangladesh, irrespective of the party they belong to, should be invited to India and treated with honour and respect.

Instead of treating all Bangladeshi leaders impartially and well, India has been taking sides in what’s called the ‘Battle of the Begums’. For those unfamiliar with the rivalry between Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khalida Zia, let me briefly summarise the reasons for the animosity between these two great leaders.

Sheikh Hasina is the daughter of Sheikh Mujib-ur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh. Post independence, after a brief honeymoon period, Mujib-ur Rahman became more and more autocratic. In January 1975 he declared himself to be the absolute ruler of Bangladesh and President for Life. In August 1975, a few army officers staged a coup and took over power. They killed Mujib-ur Rahman and all his family members who were present in Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina was in Germany at that time and escaped death. She stayed in exile for 6 years and returned to Bangladesh in 1981 as head of the Awami League, when Bangladesh was under General Ershad. Democracy was reinstated in Bangladesh only in 1991 and in 1996, Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League came to power.

Begun Khalida Zia (who heads the Bangladesh National Party) is the widow of Zia-ur Rahman, the army officer who had read Mujib-ur Rahman’s call for independence over the radio. Though a Bengali, Zia-ur Rahman grew up in West Pakistan and joined the Pakistani army, winning various awards and decorations for gallantry during the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. The Pakistani army had very few Bengalis, especially in the non-administrative officer class, and Zia-ur Rahman was in a small minority. When Mujib-ur Rahman gave the call for Bengalis to rise up against oppression by West Pakistan, Zia-ur Rahman was one of the Bengali army officers who answered his call. Zia-ur Rahman distinguished himself during the Bangladeshi war of independence.

After Mujib-ur Rahman was deposed in a coup, there were a series of counter coups and Zia-ur Rahman became the Chief Martial Law administrator of Bangladesh and later its 6th President. Zia-ur Rahman founded the Bangladesh National Party. One of the things Zia-ur Rahman did after coming to power was to pardon many of those involved in the coup that overthrew and killed Mujib-ur Rahman. It has never been proved if Zia-ur Rahman himself was involved in that coup. Zia-ur Rahman reversed many of Mujib-ur Rahman’s policies. Whilst Mujib-ur Rahman was a socialist, Zia-ur Rahman promoted the private sector.

Zia-ur Rahman moved Bangladesh away from the Soviet Union and started to develop close ties with the USA and later China. Bangladeshi demands for reparations and compensation from Pakistan were dropped. Many individuals accused of collaborating with Pakistan during the war of independence were rehabilitated. Close ties were forged with Saudi Arabia and other Islamic states. The constitution was amended to give it an Islamic slant. Zia-ur Rahman talked of a Bangladeshi identity rather than a Bengali one, seeking to integrate various minorities such as the Chakmas and Urdu speaking Biharis. He ruthlessly crushed all political opposition and in 1981, he was murdered by a group of army officers.

Unlike Mujib-ur Rahman who was dogged by allegations of nepotism and corruption, Zia-ur Rahman was known as Mr. Clean, even among his enemies. All his actions seem to have been motivated by a love for Bangladesh and ideology, rather than any personal vested interest.
As it would be obvious to anyone, the Indian establishment considers Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League to be much more India friendly than Khaleda Zia and the Bangladesh National Party. Most Bangladeshis believe that India does its best to keep the Awami League in power. The net result is that even when the Awami League is in power, there is not much warmth towards India from the average Bangladeshi.

In my opinion, India should not take sides in the Battle of the Begums. Even though it is unlikely that Begum Khaleda Zia and the BNP will ever be as friendly towards India as Sheikh Hasina and the BNP, India ought to treat both the ladies and their respective parties the same. Even more importantly, the average Bangladeshi on the street should not get the impression that India is partial towards one party. Not only should India be impartial, India must also be seen to be impartial.

Currently, an Awami League victory in the elections is treated as a victory for India and a victory for the BNP is treated as a victory for Pakistan. Islamic fundamentalists inimical to India have an incentive in undermining the Awami League. It is even possible that the recent mutiny by soldiers of the Bangladesh Rifles was instigated by Islamic fundamentalists who feel that by making Bangladesh unstable when the Awami League is in power, they are sending a message to India.

Another reason for the average Bangladeshi on the street to hate India is India’s treatment of Bangladeshi immigrants. As we all know, immigrant inflows and outflows are dictated largely by supply and demand. Poverty stricken Bangladesh has a large number of people willing to work very hard just to make enough to eat two square meals a day. India, despite its poverty and other problems, has many areas where an individual willing to work hard can make an honest living.

And so a large number of Bangladeshis cross the border illegally to live and work in India. India doesn’t have a system of giving work permits to unskilled workers from anywhere in the world, except to people from Nepal (who don’t need a work permit). However, India’s borders, especially its eastern borders are porous and India doesn’t have the sophisticated technology needed to prevent the inflow from Bangladesh. To be honest, not a single country in the world has been able to put a total stop to immigration.

Once the Bangladeshis are inside India, having the run the gauntlet of corrupt border security forces and cops, they are at risk of deportation at any time if they are caught. One assumes that these illegal immigrants develop no love for India during their stay in this country. In various parts of India’s north-east, immigration from Bangladesh has taken place over many decades, even prior to independence. It is common for many landlords in Assam and Tripura to lease out their lands to hardworking Bangladeshi immigrants and take from them a part of the crop as rent. Many such immigrants have Indian ID cards and therefore have voting rights.

Since (as mentioned earlier) Bangladesh has always had a component of fundamentalist Muslims, it is only fair to assume that some of the illegal immigrants to India are fundamentalist Muslims. Not all fundamentalist Muslims are terrorists, or even supporters of terrorism, but some of the Bangladeshi immigrants in India are capable of causing trouble. I have no idea what percentage such people comprise. I assume it is not very large.

To be very honest, there is no clear-cut answer to the problem of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. In my opinion (and this is only an opinion), rather than having an outright ban on illegal immigrants, India should permit a fixed number of workers from Bangladesh to work in India on fixed-term, renewable, work permits. Work permits should be issued through employers or labour contractors who must shoulder some of the responsibility for the migrants once they are in India. Those given work permits will have their finger-prints and DNA on file and I assume it will be relatively easy to keep a tab on their whereabouts.

Legal immigrants have an incentive to be law abiding, irrespective of their personal ideology. Also, they will not be able to obtain fake Indian ID and vote in Indian elections. Regulating Bangladeshi immigration, rather than banning it outright, will also generate some goodwill towards India. It is very possible that some of those who come to India on work permits may indulge in acts that are harmful towards India. However, such individuals will not be stopped from entering India even if there is no work permit scheme in place.

As long as religion plays a major role in the life of the average Bangladeshi and the common Indian on the street, I don’t think Indo-Bangla ties will get warmer beyond a point. One could say the same for Indo-Pakistani relations, but that’s for another post.

India's 'super power dream' gets a jolt!


Washington wants to concentrate and does not want any distractions from it focus on Afghanistan. Everything else is a distraction. Delhi’s bickering is more than a distraction, it is a nuisance. Washington wants it stopped.Why the US gave up India as a Strategic partner? The answer to this complex question can be summed up in a Clintonian cliche “its the economy stupid”. The Obama Administration has taken a page out of the Nixon playbook–build a relationship with China at the expense of India.

The Bush administration had tries to build up India as a counterweight to China with a strategic partnership with India “as a natural ally”. This report in the New York Times is a poignant reminder of where the world of US-China relationship is headed. One never thought that we would see a US Secretary of State in Beijing literally begging the Chinese for “loans” (actually buying Treasury bonds). Its a new world–let the begging and groveling begin.

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States called Monday on India to support rival Pakistan in rooting out extremism as Washington drafts a new “war on terror” strategy in South Asia.
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg also said the United States backed a global role for India and hailed New Delhi’s reconstruction assistance in Afghanistan, the source of unease in mutual neighbor Pakistan.

Steinberg delivered the first substantive remarks on India by President Barack Obama’s administration which is expected this week to unveil a new strategy on fighting Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“I think it will be important for India to make clear that as Pakistan takes steps to deal with extremists on its own territory that India will be supportive of that,” Steinberg said at the Brookings Institution.

He said India should “look for ways to contribute to an overall environment which can then lead to further efforts to root out extremists.

“There is obviously a complex history between the two countries but we will encourage India to see that it has a big stake in the efforts that we will be advocating to work both with Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.

He did not go into specifics, but the US Defense Department has said that the Pakistan, suspicious of New Delhi, was sending troops to the Indian border that would be better used fighting extremists in areas bordering Afghanistan.

Tensions between India and Pakistan shot up after Islamic militants went on a bloody three-day rampage in Mumbai in November, killing 165 people. Pakistan has conceded the attacks were partly planned by extremists on its soil.

India and Pakistan, which both are nuclear armed, have fought three full-fledged wars since their separation at birth on independence from Britain in 1947. AFP. US asks India to support Pakistan on extremists.

The relationship between the “worlds largest democracies” has been sacrificed once again for the sake of the almighty Dollar and the other small irritant in West Asia–aka “defeat in Afghanistan”. India finds itself on the wrong side of history once again. For the first half century of its existence Bharat supported the Evil Empire.

Then in the 80s when the USSR imploded and Yogoslavia imploded, the Indian policy makers worked overtime to come up with a strategy of survival on this third planet from the sun. Egged on by a Democratic Congress, Mr. Clinton encouraged India to explode a nuclear device.

The Pokran explosions had a affect on India like the world has never seen. It allowed the youthful nation to being thinking big–beyond the confines of reality and beyond the realm of imagination. Within a decade of meager growth, Indian had not only proclaimed themselves a Superpower, but also convinced themselves of the death of Pakistan, the subservience of Bangladesh, the destruction of Lanka and the erosion of Nepal as a political entity.

In this dream world, Bollywood stopped filming movies in India and brought world capitals, skyscrapers and modern amenities into the theatres and homes of ordinary Indians.
Pretty soon a fog enveloped the nation–they actually started believing the Bollywood baloney and got swollen heads. Like the Michelins man full of air, the Superpower began to think of its borders beyond Uzbekistan and its Navy beyond the Pacific and Atlantic.