Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bangladesh after Hasina

D. Syeda Sharmin Absar, a development policy analyst, has done some forward-thinking in the following two-part articles:

Ist part

In 2nd part she asks: What can Sheikh Hasina do given the fact that the PM with all her power is constrained by the limitations of geopolitics, terrorist organisations, aid dependent economy in times of recession and most importantly, a hostile bureaucracy?

Friday, May 22, 2009

BDR probe report and media onslaught

From weekly HOLIDAY:

When thunders roar above, birds flee from the sanctuary. The blame for the plight of the birds does not lie with the birds themselves. The blaming of the media by some senior ministers of the Government for the alleged misreporting of the 311-page investigation report submitted last week to the army chief by the 20-member army investigation team into the BDR rebellion of February 25-26 is as good as unleashing thunder from above, at a time when the other two reports await submission.

The uncalled for controversy over the report - without assessing its authenticity and ramifications - is tantamount to obstruction of justice by directly influencing the outcome of one of the most tragic incidents of our national history. Such a tactic is also aimed at diverting the focus of the investigators and the prospective jurors away from the main concern, suspect analysts.

Allegation unfounded
Blaming the media for reporting selectively from an investigation report that the concerned ministers themselves claim not to have seen is one thing (although one of the principal undertakings of any mass media is to employ expertise to obtain in advance what otherwise may seem a secret), the accusation of spending Taka 15 crore to implicate the Government for the tragedy is quite another. Such an allegation being unfounded and dangerous in so far as its impact on the ongoing investigations and the upcoming trial is concerned, the proven contradiction in blaming the media and the army team deserves scrutiny.

Also observable is the lack of coordination within the Government. For instance, the Awami League spokesman and LGRD Minister, Syed Ashraful Islam, said on May 17 that certain quarter is spending Taka 15 crore to heap the blame on the Government, and, the "army report was half-done." If the LGRD minister does not believe the authenticity of the media reports, or have not read the report itself, his criticism of the report being 'half done' and the media being speculative are both presumptuous. The same day, the Government-appointed coordinator for the three reports, Commerce Minister Faruk Khan, also maintained that the newspaper reports were based on speculations and "Findings of the report were not known to anybody except the investigators." If one must presume that the concerned ministers did not read the report, how then the Home Minister too says, "They could (army) analyse so many things, why not the colour of the mouth wrappers (cloak) used by the mutineers which are the colour of Islamic militants."

'Colour blind?'
Being in charge of the BDR forces, the Home Minister must not criticise a probing report unless she had seen and analyzed it. Her criticism is also 'colour blind' in nature. For, Shahara Khatun is mistaken by terming those colours with Islamic militancy, given that none of the mutineers wore Green mouth wrappers, which is the colour of Islamic militants. Then again, there may or may not be any specific reason why the colours of the cloaks were what they were. Above all, the public declaration by the Commerce Minister that no one had seen the report other than the investigators is not true. Sources say, the army chief, in accordance with standing procedure, had sent copies of the report to the Defence Minister and the Supreme Commander following the report's submission.

Thus it may be inferred that certain quarters are aware of the report's contents. Why then this scathing onslaught against the media and the army probe report? And, why not follow the prescribed method of seeking explanation from the concerned media for 'reporting based on speculations' instead of choosing a tactic to accuse some unspecified quarter of spending money to blame the Government. Do the ministers imply that both the media and the army investigators were bribed by those unspecified quarters?

Political nexus
Be that whatever, sources however confirmed that, the army-prepared report named a retired JCO (Junior Commissioned Officer) of the BDR, Torab Ali (who is a local Awami League leader in the Hajaribagh area), and his son -- a local hooligan named "Leather" Litton -- as being directly involved in the planning of the BDR mutiny of February 25 - 26. Sources also say, the report named one particular MP from the AL who had campaigned for votes in the Hajaribagh area (where many BDR families are voters) before the parliamentary election of December 29, 2008, with the assurance that the alleged grievances of aggrieved BDR members would be addressed upon his becoming an MP due to the concerned MP being a relative of the PM.

The army-prepared report is learnt to have further stated that, a group of BDR soldiers and Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) were scheduled to meet with the Home Minister on February 20th to discuss the grievances of BDR soldiers, but the meeting got postponed due to the Home Minister's apparent preoccupation with the incident of grenade explosion in Gazipur that very day.

Sources further say the army-team-prepared report may never see the light of the day, despite serious controversy. That may be another reason for this unwarranted controversy. Besides, given that the media is unlikely to report on as sensitive a matter as the BDR rebellion investigation by the army itself -- unless there was deliberate leakage for public consumption, knowing that the report itself will never be made public -- the ongoing furore seems deliberately calibrated to achieve a political aim.

BAA: Rules, Instructions
That notwithstanding, those who know how the military commissions any investigation may understand that the mandates to the investigators were strictly delineated pursuant to the guidelines noted in the Bangladesh Army Act - Rules (BAA-R) and Army Act - Instructions (BAA-I). The two books mandate an investigation team to ascertain only (a) causes of a concerned incident (b) apportion blame, and, (c) set out recommendations, only if asked to.

That is exactly what seemed to have happened in this instance too, and, that is precisely why the report has recommended convening of another committee to discover linkages between the BDR rebellion and the involvement of political personalities who are not otherwise subject to the legal dispensation prescribed under the Bangladesh Army Act (BAA).

In order to implicate persons not otherwise subject to the BAA in any act of mutiny or insubordination, the accused must be proven to have, beyond reasonable doubt, either participated, or aided and abated the crime of rebellion pursuant to section 31 (and other allied sections; from section 31 through 37) of the BAA, as well as the other relevant provisions of laws, inclusive of the Bangladesh Penal Code (BPC) and the laws relating to the discipline and Code of Conduct of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) members.

Trial of non-combatants
Another reason for the pre-emptive screaming of senior AL leaders is that: Pursuant to the 20th Amendment Regulation 1976 - which became an Act of the Parliament and was gazetted on July 31 of that year -- any involvement of non-combatant persons with the mutiny in the disciplined forces is a "crime punishable by death." The same is applicable to anyone propagating political opinion among the members of Bangladesh Armed Forces.

Given that the Bangladesh Rifles Order of 1972 emphatically says about the BDR that the 'force shall be deemed as a disciplined force' as defined in Article 152 of the Bangladesh Constitution, any mutiny or other act of insubordination within that force can either be tried in court martial, or, in civil courts, pursuant to charges enumerated in Chapter Seven (embodying Section 131 through 140) of the Bangladesh Penal Code (BPC).

Observers hence fear, as things stand now, unless the other two reports (led by former bureaucrat Anisuzzaman Khan and the CID team) shed specific lights on the involvement of outsiders in the planning and execution -- or in aiding and abetting -- of the BDR mutiny, there is no prospect of the trial of any one from outside the rank and file of BDR in this heinous conspiracy against the nation and its sovereignty.

DADs and Jawans
That dreaded and unfortunate prospect will simply boil down to one single outcome: The trial will end up punishing perhaps hundreds of BDR Jawans (many of them innocent) and few Deputy Assistant Directors (DADs); unless the reported recommendation of the army probe report is heeded to commission a separate probing body to unearth the involvement of people who are not members of the BDR.

The mass arrests being conducted to nab thousands of BDR members across the country does bear out the bona fide of such an apprehension, as it equally indicates the certainty of the ultimate decimation of this hardy force and the nation's first line of defence.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

BDR Revolt: A deadly strategic game plan

Received via e-mail. Posted on: http://www.bdsdf. org by Shah Mohammed Saifuddin

India has its own agenda to diminish our defense capability because it needs a subservient military in Bangladesh to easily establish total domination on 4096 km Indo-Bangla border and use our defense and intelligence resources to its advantage to quell ongoing insurgencies in its North East region. India's abortive misadventure inside Bangladesh territory in 2001 forced them to reorganize their security policy vis a vis Bangladesh and emphasize the need to search for new avenues to play larger role in the matters related to defense of Bangladesh and neutralize Chinese influence on our defense forces.

Since the independence, Bangladesh Rifles, the first line of defense, have been combating smuggling, human trafficking, drug trafficking and other illegal activities along the border and have made supreme sacrifices to protect the lives and properties of the people from enemy invasion with great courage and valor. Bangladesh Rifles have earned worldwide recognition for its determination, patriotism, and professionalism when they successfully repelled a large invasion by Indian border security force at Roumari point in 2001.

Despite its performance and patriotism, the members of Bangladesh Rifles got little attention from successive governments to alleviate the problem of poor pay and benefit structures allowed for them. Nevertheless, they continued to discharge their duties with utmost sincerity and took part in all nation building activities maintaining professionalism and discipline. On 25th Feb, 2009, the nation was shocked at the news that some BDR members had revolted and killed many officers who were on deputation from Bangladesh army to protest against poor pay and benefit structures and alleged corruption by the late Director General.The mutineers asked the government to implement a set of demands on a priority basis to address the problems of the members of Bangladesh Rifles.

Some of these demands are as follows:
1.withdrawing army officers from all command posts of BDR and recruiting new officers from BCS cadres
2.allowing full rationing for BDR members
3.sending BDR personnel to U.N. peacekeeping missions
4.revamping salary structures and promotion procedures
5.allowing defense allowances for BDR members
6.procuring more transportation vehicles to guard the long porous border with India and Myanmar
7.increasing the quality of food and
8.improving educational and medical facilities for the family members of soldiers.

Because of defense strategy and lack of manpower, it will not be possible to withdraw army officers from the command posts of BDR, but the rest of the demands deserve due consideration because these are logical and should have been given to the BDR members a long time ago for they put their lives in danger to safeguard the frontiers of the country. It is, therefore, hoped that the government will take appropriate measures to remove the grievances of BDR members to stop the occurrences of similar incidents in the future.

Now, let us examine whether there are any political motivations behind this unfortunate incident that shocked the entire nation.

The revolt: actors involved, motivations and methods employed
The relationship between Awami League and the defense forces of the country has never been cordial because of latter's security outlook that anticipates no security threat from India and considers defense expenditures needless. A few clauses of the 25 year friendship treaty that virtually eliminated Bangladesh's sovereign right to seek assistance from other friendly nations to expand and modernize its armed forces and the subsequent step motherly attitude of the government and the formation of Rakkhi Bahini had cerated widespread resentment among the army officers.

Instead of taking appropriate measures to remove the legitimate grievances of the army officers, the then government continued with their suppressive and discriminatory policies to neglect, humiliate and alienate the armed forces, which ultimately led to the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family members at the hands of a few young army officers. Awami League has never forgotten the incident nor forgiven the armed forces for the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and left no stone unturned to avenge the incident in 1975 by creating divisions in the armed forces through various political machinations.

The comments of LGRD minister after the BDR mutiny is a testament to the fact that his party still holds grudges against the army for the death of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and other four prominent leaders of Awami League in 1975 at the hands of a section of army officers. He said, "If the trial of Bangabandhu and four national leaders killing cases were held in time and the offender were brought into justice, the Pilkhana tragedy was not take place" (Feb, 28, 2009, The Daily Star).

Does it not show the deep resentment of the current government against the army for the incidents in 1975? After the political change in 1/11, the military backed government had thrown many Awami League leaders into jail for their alleged involvement in financial scandal and abuse of power, which, many believe, has caused further deterioration in the relationship between the armed forces and Awami League. After the elections, Awami League's virulent verbal attack on the army for its role in 1/11 is a testament to the fact that they wanted to weaken the army so that the latter could never repeat a 1/11 like situation to bring about political changes in the country.

India has its own agenda to diminish our defense capability because it needs a subservient military in Bangladesh to easily establish total domination on 4096 km Indo-Bangla border and use our defense and intelligence resources to its advantage to quell ongoing insurgencies in its North East region. India's abortive misadventure inside Bangladesh territory in 2001 forced them to reorganize their security policy vis a vis Bangladesh and emphasize the need to search for new avenues to play larger role in the matters related to defense of Bangladesh and neutralize Chinese influence on our defense forces. But this could only be accomplished through active cooperation from a friendly government in Bangladesh to create tension within our defense forces to break their morale and make it imperative for Bangladesh to seek Indian help in reorganizing the defense system.

So, the BDR mutiny may be the case of a teamwork between a foreign external intelligence agency and some political elements within the country to set the stage for the departure of the army officers from Bangladesh Rifles to weaken it and to tarnish the image of the army before the whole nation to break their morale.The assertion that some local political elements and India are working together to weaken the security systems of Bangladesh may be true because the government's quick decision to grant general amnesty to all rebellious members of Bangladesh Rifles without assessing the ground reality and to not allow any military action to quell the rebellion, which gave the mutineers enough time to put forth a set of demands and flee in groups from the BDR headquarters seems to be a preplanned strategy to instigate a rebellion, break the chain of command, kill large number of officers, and to ensure safe exit for the mutineers.

If the local and foreign conspirators who planned, directed, and implemented the rebellion are not identified and the rebellious members of BDR who broke the chain command are not brought to justice such occurrences of rebellion may be repeated in other security forces to destabilize the entire nation and create a situation for external powers to intervene in the name of peacekeeping.

Findings of the army report

The army formed its own 20 member probe committee on 2nd March, led by Lt. General Jahangir Alam Chowdhury, to investigate into the gruesome murder of army officers by the rebels at BDR headquarters on 25th Feb, 2009 and this probe committee acted separately from the committee formed by the government to investigate into the same matter. After investigating for more than two months, the committee has made the summary of their report public for the sake of transparency of their work. The army report published in various newspapers identified the following reasons for the BDR mutiny:

1. Wrong impression about the facilities of the army
2. Lack of transparency in establishing and running BDR shops
3. Delay in payment of duty allowances for the 2008 national elections
4. Misunderstanding about lease and contracts of different works in the BDR headquarters
5. Wrong impression about the BDR's director general Shakil Ahmed, and his wife Nazneen Shakil and Dhaka sector commander Mujibul Haque's alleged in irregularities
6. Delay made by the Home and Finance ministries in resolving BDR problems.

The army report on BDR mutiny did not find any convincing evidence of any direct or indirect militant links simply because of the fact that the extremists did not have the elaborate network and manpower to plan and execute a mission deep inside the military establishment of Bangladesh with a pinpoint accuracy to kill almost 15% officers of Bangladesh army within the space of 24 hours as the previous democratically elected government had already dismantled the countrywide terror network of JMB, the most powerful extremist group in the country and executed its top masterminds as part of continuous effort to fight terrorists for which Bangladesh has partnered with international community and received high praise from across the world.

Criticism of the army report
In investigating such a complex and dangerous incident that paralyzed the entire defense system of the country, the investigators should have proper authority to contact, interrogate, and collect information from people who had direct or indirect contacts with the rebels before and after the mutiny to explore local and external linkages. They also should have followed a similar structured method described below to accomplish the investigation process:

1. Identifying and defining the scope of the problem
2. Setting and determining the scope of the investigation objectives
3. Assembling adequate manpower with appropriate skills and experience to form a committee
4. Identifying target population for interrogation/ questioning
5. Verifying and confirming collected information for accuracy
6. Submitting the findings and recommendations to the government.

But the military investigators had to narrow down their scope of investigation to exclude exploring the possibility of political and external connections because of lack of proper government authorizations to contact and interrogate certain people. Many believe, the restrictions on the investigators may have been imposed to protect the local and external conspirators who had teamed up to play havoc with the defense system of the country.

Even though the army report did not find any convincing links of politicians and external powers to this sad episode that shook the entire defense system of the country, the involvement of some elements within the government and some foreign intelligence agencies should not be ruled out because, as per the report, the government imposed restrictions on investigators to limit their power to collect necessary evidence, verify obtained information, and confirm information sources to identify, investigate, establish and confirm involvement of political and foreign elements in the mindless killing of the officers at the BDR headquarters.

The events in the BDR headquarters were meticulously planned by some powerful quarters to use BDR against army to kill as many officers as possible to leave no able hands to lead this force in order to achieve the goals of destroying the border defense system of the country, avenging the incident in Roumari in 2001, proving BDR as an indisciplined force to create a situation to make it imperative to reorganize it with the help of a certain neighbor and creating a permanent mistrust and suspicion between the two forces entrusted with the responsibilities of protecting national security.

The political connections to the incident are visible from a series of events, including a section of politicians and media launched a vituperative attack on the army for its role in the events on and after 1/11 to instigate anti army sentiment across the country; the government did not order 350 RAB personnel, who reached the gate of BDR headquarters at 10:10 am, for an action against the mutineers, who were yet to be organized and set up heavy arms at the gates of the headquarters; the government ordered the 46th brigade of Bangladesh army, who reached the gates of the BDR headquarters at 10:50 am, to go out of sight from the headquarters which gave the rebels enough time to organize themselves to kill and torture more people in the BDR complex; the mutineers were given a chance to contact the media to propagate unfounded accusations against Bangladesh army; and a list was prepared in advance to torture and kill the wives of the army officers.

Even though the army report attributed the failure of Juba League's president Jahangir Kabir Nanak and general secretary Mirza Azam in the negotiation with the rebels to surrender arms and release the hostages to lack of professionalism, the thing that is still bugging a lot of people is the reason why the prime minister chose these two fellows who had no prior experience in crisis management and had a criminal record of killing 11 Innocent civilians by setting fire to a double decker bus near Sheraton hotel in 2004. Let me quote the passage from the report published in a newspaper( The New Nation, Jun, 3, 2007), where one of the top Awami League leaders, Mr. Sheikh Selim, disclosed the cold blooded murder of innocent civilians by Nanak and Azam:“He also disclosed that AL's front organisation Juba League's president Jahangir Kabir Nanak and general secretary Mirza Azam were involved in killing 11 people by setting fire to a double-decker BRTC bus near Dhaka Sheraton Hotel in 2004.

Both Nanak and Azam held a meeting at Juba League office in the evening on that day and made a plan to commit the arson. "I protested the incident to our party chief and told her the politics cannot be done in such a way," the investigators said quoted Selim as saying.”Although the investigators were able to confirm the involvement of a local Awami League leader, Torab Ali, in the mutiny, they, however, were unable to establish a link between him and his partners in the political circle due to absence of government authorizations to contact and question the top ruling party leaders.

This, many believe, may have been done to conceal the political connections to the mutiny and the subsequent murder of scores of brilliant army officers.It is astounding that the military investigators did not even try to explore external connections to the mutiny because such an impeccable operation to carryout large scale killings of army officers was not the work of a bunch of youngsters, but rather the work of a professional organization who had inside information to plan and execute such a flawless military mission at the heart of the nation's defense establishment to take out all the intended targets and ensure safe exit for all those who took part in it.

There is a growing fear of Indian involvement in the BDR revolt and the mass killing of the army officers at the BDR headquarters because of the comments of Mr. Pranab Mukharjee who said, "I had to go out of my way to issue a stern warning to those trying to destabilise the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh that if they continued with their attempts, then India would not sit idle." (OUTLOOK, Mar, 16, 2009) , which is another way of saying that India would have approved a direct military intervention if developments in Bangladesh had gone against their strategic interest.The same report also said, “New Delhi had conveyed it was willing to take counter-measures in Dhaka, direct intervention included.”

Now the question is why did the Indian minister issue such a warning to Bangladesh? Did he not believe the people and the security forces of Bangladesh are capable enough to protect their own prime minister? Or did he want to conceal India's own involvement in the mutiny through intimidation? Whatever the case may be, India's over enthusiasm in our internal affairs has raised some serious suspicions about its intentions with regard to our national security. The order to put Indian air force on a stand by mode (, mar, 2, 2009) and deploy para commandos from Agra to West Bengal (The Times of India, Mar, 4, 2009) to deal with emergency situations can also be construed as Indian attempts to interfere in our internal affairs using the tensions created after the mutiny, and if we combine this with the comments of Mr. Pranab Mukharjee then a strategic scenario emerges where Bangladesh is being destabilized with the intent to force herself into a long term bilateral security arrangements to pave the way for India to play greater roles in the matters of Bangladesh's security and defense.

And the proof of it can be found in a report in The Telegraph, a Calcutta based newspaper, where India offered to send a peace mission to give security to the Calcutta-Dhaka- Calcutta Moitree express and termed it as the first international bilateral peace mission by India after its peace mission in Sri-Lanka (The Telegraph, Feb, 27, 2009). Another report from the same newspaper that said “Details of the talks were not immediately available but the US has been keen that India plays a stabilising role in the South Asian region.

It is in this context that the Indian effort to send a peace mission, not only for the security of the train service between Dhaka and Calcutta, but also in a larger context, preferably on an appeal from Dhaka, will be internationally acceptable to Washington.”( The Telegraph, Feb, 28, 2009) is detrimental to our national security because it proves, in light of recently concluded Indo-U.S. Strategic agreement, there is ample international support for India to play larger role in South Asia, in general, and Bangladesh, in particular. This is what many have been saying for a while that the bilateral task force, military exercise between Bangladesh and Indian armed forces and the revolt by the BDR members are all part of a grand design to make the security forces of Bangladesh subservient to the strategic and political interests of India and Awami League.

External linkages to the BDR revolt can also be found by the seizure of various fire arms, equipment and other military gadgets at the BDR headquarters that are not used by any security agencies in the country (The Daily Star, Mar, 3, 2009). Experts believe such sophisticated military gadgets were supplied by external sources to perform the killings of the army officers in the BDR headquarters complex.

Concluding observations
With the growing suspicion of involvement of some elements within the government in the well orchestrated revolt at BDR headquarters firstly, to rid BDR of army officers for the purpose of weakening our border security and secondly, to kill the brightest army officers with an ultimate plan to destroy our defense system, the government is feeling the heat from both the army and the people of the country.

Sensing the impending danger of being exposed, a certain quarter has revived the old arms smuggling case and is frantically trying to associate the opposition parties, the intelligence agencies, and even Pakistan and its external spy agency, ISI, with ULFA to convince the public of the existence of a nexus among the nationalistic forces and defense establishment of the country, Pakistan and United Liberation Front of Assam with a sole purpose of falsely accuse them of sponsoring terrorism and masterminding the carnage at the BDR headquarters. In order to make their case more convincing and deal a heavy blow to our national defense, they even dragged China, the largest arms supplier and trusted defense partner of Bangladesh, into this complex scenario.

Gruesome murder of the army officers, prompt announcement of general amnesty by the prime minister without properly understanding the ground reality, unabated media propaganda to humiliate the army, reluctance of the government to order for a military action against the rebels, decision to send Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Mirza Azam, who have criminal records of killing 11 innocent civilians, as negotiators, stern warning by Indian minister Pranab Mukherjee of military intervention against Bangladesh, and the subsequent deployment of Indian troops along the border suggest the involvement of powerful local and external elements in the BDR revolt to accomplish a diabolical plan to inflict enormous damage upon the defense system of Bangladesh.

The army investigators should have done an exhaustive investigation into the possibility of involvement of political and foreign elements in the BDR revolt to expose the real conspirators for the sake of our national security, but unfortunately the army report made no attempts to do so probably because it had no mandate to explore political and foreign connections, or the Indian threat of military intervention might have forced them to confine their investigation to only a small area just to identify the BDR jawans who were involved in the killings of the officers and bring charges against them.

Lastly, the defense forces of the country should know that similar attempts to incite rebellions in other security forces will be attempted in future if the real culprits are not exposed and punished with iron fist.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bangladesh military submits BDR probe report

Finally, a probe report on BDR incident has been produced by 20-member Bangladesh military enquiry team and handed over to Army Chief General Moeen on 10th May. Although those military officials oathed that they will not divulge any findings of the report to media or other sources, some salient features of the report have already appeared in two Bangla dailies today.

Manabjamin's today's 'revealations' are merely a compilation of already-known public information while Amardesh says only six copies of the 300-page report have been made, a copy of which will go to the Prime Minister as she also holds the defense portfolio.

Amardesh's readers' comment section is already filled with usual accusations and counter-accusations about this report.

Meanwhile, CID report is due on 29 June, and the official inquiry committee has already finalised its report, according to bdnews24, but yet to submit it to the authorities.

Well, we may get plenty of information in these reports, but not the truth, which is dead already in Bangladesh.

Monday, May 11, 2009

India breaks China's 'String of Pearls' strategy


The Chinese “String of Pearls” strategy around India appears to be have broken. By definition, the “String of Pearls” describes the manifestation of China’s rising geopolitical influence through efforts to increase access to ports and airfields, develop special diplomatic relationships, and modernize military forces that extend from the South China Sea through the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, and on to the Arabian Gulf (USAF Lieutenant Colonel Christopher J. Pehrson, “string of Pearls: meeting the challenge of china’s rising Power across the asian littoral” July 2006, Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College).

Around India, the Chinese pearls include Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles and Pakistan.Currently there might be no comprehensive policy by the current Indian government to contain it, but, a mix of luck, some policy, some internal and external events seem to have worked in favour of India.

Myanmar ( Burma): Sittwe Port, Coco Island, Burma Hianggyi, Khaukphyu, Mergui and Zadetkyi are the main names associated with Chinese interest in Myanmar. India shares a border of more than 1,600 kms with Myanmar. Myanmar also serves as a gateway to South East Asia and ASEAN and is supposed to be the Eastern Flank to the Bay of Bengal.

“Look East” policy by former Indian Prime minister, Father of Modern India, Hon. PV Narasimha Rao, had brought Myanmar in Indian sights. Subsequently, India had toned down its criticism of the junta, supplied Myanmar with military spares, joint action on rebels in each others borders and offered economic co-operation. Vice Senior General Maung Aye visited India from 2 to 6 April 2008. During his visit, The Kaladan Muti Model Transit Transport Project agreement was signed which saw India gaining access to Sittwe. India also signed Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with Myanmar. India and Myanmar are engaged in various sectors like cross-border developmental projects, trade, IT, Telecommunication, hydrocarbon etc.

Myanmar does not lean towards China or India. It makes best of the competition between China and India which are competing for Myanmar’s resources.

Bangladesh: Bangladesh currently has an India friendly government and army. Before this Bangladesh had an anti-Indian government and Army. China had taken full advantage of it.

Nepal: China and India are currently locked under a tussle over Nepal. China can do little but has increased considerable influence with the Nepali Maoist. India is not expected to loose its clout in Nepal.

Sri Lanka: This is another area where China is trying to influence. Hambantota port is being developed by China and China is a supplier of military wares to Sri Lanka. Indian influence in Sri lanka is not expected to be lost.

Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles: China is trying, but, it is not successful in getting ports or bases in these countries due to Indian objections.

Pakistan: Pakistan is currently involved in counter insurgency in its own country and has a very heavy US influence. Pakistan proxy is not currently available to China due to US influence. Gwadar port, which was built with Chinese assistance is under the management of Singapore based company. Chinese have not been able to complete central Asia - Gwadar link due to US influence and Indian friendly government in Afghanistan.

There are two more countries that are within the Chinese String of Pearls strategy, i.e, Thailand and Cambodia. Thailand has a proximity with Indian Andaman and Nicobar Island. India needs to work on relations with Thailand. Cambodia is currently of less direct significance to India. For China, the fight for dominance over these regions is not yet over as it needs to secure its energy and trade route with Middle East and Africa. India needs a strategy to keep these gains and discourage Chinese dominance within Indian Ocean.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Every government is legitimate and legal in Bangladesh

This editorial by the Bangladesh Today highlights about a new political development in Bangladesh that has the potential to produce unwelcoming results for newly acquired democracy in the country. Read the editorial:

The AL government, by backing out from challenging the High Court (HC) verdict declaring illegal the 5th amendment to the Constitution, has opened up a new front in an already acrimonious tussle between the AL and the BNP. This time the battle is a legal-constitutional one, over the legitimacy of the Martial Law government under General Zia ur Rahman from 15 August 1975 to 9 April 1979.

The whole matter started when the High Court on 29 August, 2005 declared illegal the 5th amendment to the Constitution on a writ filed by someone. Almost as an after thought the HC observed that although the 5th amendment was illegal, history cannot be altered and many of the acts done between 15 August 1975 and 9 April 1979 were in public interest. That HC verdict and observation does not clarify much because what constitutes "public interest" not being defined either in law or in the Constitution, is left open to perceptions, just as what constitutes "legitimate government" is also left open to perceptions.

Moreover, it has little or no practical implications because whoever - be it the President, the Parliament or the Military - wants to declare a Martial Law, he or they will, regardless of whether it is declared by a court to be illegal, long after the event.

Governments by definition have law-making authority as long as governments can impose their wills on the governed and as long as they can implement the laws which they promulgate thereby affecting the way people live their economic, social and political lives - that is how every sort of government from monarchy, to oligarchy, to single-man dictatorship, to multi-party parliamentary democraciesjustify and legitimize themselves and co-exist side-by-side in different polities. So, every government is legitimate and legal as long as it continues to exist.

In our case, if one takes elected governments and elected parliaments as holding sole legitimacy to govern and to make laws respectively, then the HC verdict and observations have opened up a whole new can of worms because then every form of government and governance imposed by the 4th, 6th, and 7th amendments to the Constitution, as well as the last Emergency government are also illegitimate and illegal by the same token as the 5th amendment.

Therefore, now we place ourselves in a position where every government from 15 August 1975 to 01 October 2001, is or may be considered to be illegal. So, where do all these leave us, the citizens of this country whose lives and history has been defined by these governments?The "public" do not understand these weighty questions of constitutional law and history or are concerned about legitimacy of past governments; all they care about is surviving the next day and so by raking up irresolvable issue with no practical implications today, the HC, the government and the political parties are making themselves irrelevant to the people to whom these Sate purportedly belongs.

The courts including the HC ought to concentrate on the judging the hundreds of thousands of cases hanging somewhere within its labyrinthine folds; the AL government ought to concentrate on providing the basic rights of food, shelter, education, health-care, employment, security, law and order to the 150 million people of this country and the political parties ought to stop bickering and look after the interests of people whom they claim to represent or uphold - all these are essential, necessary and practical.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jungle training in the Bay of Bengal!


HALFWAY across the world and just over the horizon from some of its most brutal, unstable regimes, the crew of HMS Bulwark are flexing their muscles and flying the flag. The vessel is in the muddy waters of the Bay of Bengal, testing its own personnel as well as building bridges with Commonwealth partners India and Bangladesh.

But while these two countries are trusted partners, a relative stone's throw away is a powder keg.

The xenophobic military dictatorship of Myanmar (formerly Burma) is close, as is Pakistan – a nuclear power bordering Afghanistan with its own burgeoning Taliban threat – and Sri Lanka and Thailand, both fighting hardline domestic insurrections. It means that this leg of the operation, called Shomodro Torongo, the Bengali for Sea Wave, is far from a benign extended exercise. And leading from the front is Bulwark, whose captain, Wayne Keble, admits that simply being here is a risk.

"There is a threat all the time," he said. "All of this area is difficult because of its location and some of it is particularly difficult because of the association with terrorists and the threat from al Qaida. "When we were leaving harbour at India, there were plenty of little fishing skiffs around. "If one of those skiffs was bent on a suicide mission, it would be hard to deal with. It's a constant threat."

There remains a strong argument for the Royal Navy to familiarise itself with a region where so many British people live, should they require help. And the threat is as real from natural disasters as it is from terrorism. Bangladesh was just last week hit by a cyclone which displaced 200,000 people.

"There is a yearly threat from cyclones disaster and the region we are in is ripe for us to offer assistance," said Capt Keble. "It is better we know the territory now than in an emergency."
However, the chance to train personnel to cope with some of the most testing terrain in the world is the main driving force behind Operation Taurus.

Already, the larger taskforce which set sail from Plymouth in February – including Falmouth-based RFA Mounts Bay, and Devonport's HMS Argyll – has taken part in valuable exercises in Cyprus, Turkey and the Persian Gulf. Ahead is challenging jungle training in Brunei.

During the phase in the Bay of Bengal, Bulwark will be joined by an unprecedented number of military and civilian organisations from Bangladesh.

While the ammunition may not be real, again the threat is.

Royal Marine Commandos landing on the flatlands around the mouth of the Ganges will face exceptional challenges of infested mangrove swamps, foul water, extreme temperatures and a densely populated region. Bulwark always carries a medical team, but has had more flown in just in case.

"We are here to deal with real scenarios," said Surgeon Commander Peter Taylor, who was born in Dittisham, near Dartmouth, and is on a seven-week break from NHS duties. "Back home we are frantic when we are at work," said the 45-year-old, whose parents John and Bryony are former Paignton GPs.

"But here we are waiting for the unexpected. "Once we are happy we have the right equipment, we are waiting for something to happen, which is in contrast to other Naval officers." Medical teams have been told the area is "relatively" free of snakes, but have formulated plans to deal with emergencies like venomous bites. "They might be exercises and the ammo isn't live, but the danger is from an environment like this. We have to know how to deal with the worst case scenario."

Commodore Peter Hudson CBE, who is in command of the taskforce from the flagship Bulwark said the scope of the entire Operation Taurus – from Plymouth to just over the equator south of Singapore – is entirely justified.

"Why go to the Far East? Well, we have a lot of obligations over here," said the Stonehouse-based Commodore, who has just been promoted to Rear Admiral.

"We need to exercise and we cannot just do it in the English Channel. "Jungle capability is something we need in the armed forces and we can't do that sort of training in Cornwall."
Operation Taurus is the Royal Navy's most sweeping exercise in more than a decade and positive proof it is an active, exceptional force.

"We are one of the best navies in the world. We are in the premier league and the way we do that is the ability to sustain forces for a long period of time," Commodore Hudson added. "Not many navies can do that. But this is what we do."

Shame on Baroness Paula Uddin!

Read an investigative piece by the Sunday Times, exposing grand corruption of Bangladesh-born British MP Baroness Paula Monzila Uddin. Our own MPs have been shaming the nation for so long, now we have another version of Bangladeshi corruption in foreign soil! Didn't she come recently in Dhaka and had an audience with our new PM? Here is the full story:

THE small two-bedroom apartment in a quiet corner of Maidstone had been a mystery to its neighbours for years. As far as they could see, it had been vacant and unfurnished since the day it was bought. Nobody had ever attempted to let it. However, after darkness fell last Sunday night a BMW 4x4 entered the gated apartment block and parked outside the flat.

A neighbour saw four people, including two women in saris, apparently carrying something into the house. “They were there for about half an hour,” said a postman who lives next door but one to the flat. “They did take in something: it was either a television or a computer screen.” By the next morning thick curtains protected the two bedrooms that had been visible from the street, a light was on in the hallway and a striped mat had been placed outside the flat’s front door. “I thought, ‘There’s a mat. Someone must have moved in’,” said Yvonne Adams, whose own front door is a few feet across the corridor. “No one’s been living there.”

What the neighbours did not know was that the property is owned by Baroness Uddin, 49, a Labour peer. She has designated the flat as her “main address” so she can claim almost £30,000 in accommodation expenses a year from the House of Lords while continuing to live in her London home.

The flurry of activity in the flat on Sunday night came after The Sunday Times had asked the baroness questions about her “main address” the previous day. Neighbours also report a brief visit by the same car the previous night.

Yesterday MPs and a peer called for a full investigation into the baroness’s expenses claims. She has received more than £100,000 (this figure includes an estimate for last year) since buying the Maidstone flat. She also claimed a further £83,000 for the same allowance from 2001, four years before she bought the flat.

Despite repeated questions, she has declined to discuss whether she actually owned or rented a main home outside London during this period. Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader in the Commons, said: “I will be writing to the House of Lords authorities and the police and asking them to investigate this report.”

Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, said: “The system stinks. Peers should get a simple taxable daily rate instead of these allowances. An empty property can’t be a peer’s main residence. The Lords authorities must investigate.”

Born in Bangladesh, Manzila Pola Uddin came to Britain as a teenager and went on to become a community worker and social services officer while pursuing a political career that saw her rise to be deputy leader of Tower Hamlets borough council in the early 1990s. She was made a peer by Tony Blair in 1998 and took the title “Baroness Uddin of Bethnal Green in our London Borough of Tower Hamlets”. Aged 38, she was the youngest woman in the Lords.

As a campaigner on women’s and ethnic minority issues she has become part of the new Labour establishment, befriending Cherie Blair. Her Facebook friends include the cabinet ministers Harriet Harman, Hazel Blears and David Miliband and Alastair Campbell, the former spin doctor.
However, she has never forgotten her roots. Her Facebook entry lists London as her home town and she has continued to work and live there. She and her family have resided in the same three-bedroom house in Wapping since the early 1990s. A page entitled “my back-yard” on her personal website says: “I have a great sense of belonging to the East End which has been my home for over 30 years . . . it is where my professional and political career has taken shape, where my children have grown up, and also where I served as a local councillor for eight years.”

Yet she designated the family house in Tower Hamlets – where her children lived and went to school – as a “second home” and this allowed her to claim the cost of overnight accommodation in London.

The purpose of the allowance is explained in a House of Lords guidance note that says: “A member whose main residence is outside greater London and who maintains a residence in London for the purpose of attending sittings of the House may claim this allowance towards the cost of maintaining such a residence.”

In the Commons a “main residence” is considered to be the home where an MP spends most nights, but in the Lords there is no fixed definition. Mary Morgan, director of public information at the Lords, says: “A member will know what his main residence is. It’s where they live . . . For the purpose of claiming expenses, it’s where they travel to and from. There is no official definition.”

The Sunday Times began looking into Uddin’s expenses claims as part of an inquiry into peers who clock in to the House of Lords chamber briefly so as to claim overnight allowances. We photographed her going into the Lords through the peers’ entrance, saw her appear in the chamber for less than a minute and then leave the building. The whole visit took just three minutes.

In the latest published list (the year to March 2008) she claimed £29,600 from the Lords for overnight subsistence – one of the highest sums for any peer. She gave the location of her main residence as Kent.

This was curious because there appear to be no public documents linking the baroness to the county. The only reference is a speech to the Lords in 2006 which she began with the words “I am a resident of Maidstone borough council”. She is listed on the electoral roll at the Wapping address from 1996 to the present.

She has been a director of seven companies in the past 10 years and each time has said she lives at her Wapping home. The Companies Act says directors must give their “usual” address.
Uddin has a brother, Rousseau Khan, who lives in Bromley, south London. Khan owns the house and a neighbour said Uddin did not live there.

When a reporter rang her London home, her husband Komar picked up the telephone. He appeared confused about his wife’s “main residence” in Kent.
Reporter: “Have you lived there [the Tower Hamlets family home] for a long time?”
Husband: “Yeah, We came here in ’93.”
Reporter: “Ninety-three, I see. Am I also right in thinking you have a place down in Kent?”
Husband: “Sorry?” Reporter: “Do you have a place in Kent?”
Husband: “Kent?” Reporter: “Kent, as in the county Kent? No?”
Husband: “No.”

Minutes later the reporter spoke to Uddin about her three-minute visit to the House of Lords that day. She said she had been working on Lords business outside the building and had gone to the chamber but left quickly after realising she had another meeting.

The reporter attempted to broach the subject of her overnight expenses claim but she put the phone down. That evening she instructed Carter-Ruck, the libel lawyers, to speak on her behalf.
At the same time a reporter went to her London home. It is a three-storey building in a block of about a dozen flats built by Spitalfields Housing Association. The association’s housing stock is for people requiring affordable housing and the average rent for one of the association’s three-bedroom houses is £500 a month. The baroness is claiming more than £2,000 a month for running and maintaining a house in London.

Neighbours confirmed that the baroness shares the home with Komar, two of her sons and a daughter. Komar was outside the house smoking a cigarette. When asked where his home was, he said, “I live here”, apparently surprised by the obvious question. When reminded about the home in Kent, he added: “I live in both places.” Later Carter-Ruck said that he had initially answered “no” when asked on the telephone whether he had a property in Kent because it belonged to his wife.

Fozlu Miah, 28, lives next to the Uddins in the same building, having moved in with his parents in the early 1990s, about the same time as the baroness. “As far as I know she lives here,” said Miah. “I see her most days through the window, coming in and going out. I sometimes talk to her . . . I call her auntie.”

Rafique Uddin (no relation), another neighbour, has known the family for years: “We all moved in at the same time. I don’t know anything about a house in Kent. I’m surprised to hear that because almost every day when I’m parking my car I can see their car. The mum [baroness] is going in and out. They are continuously living here as far as I know.”

Her daughter Masuma Siddiqah, 17, is best friends with the baroness’s daughter. She said: “[The baroness] is always there. I hear her beep her car every day when she gets home.” Siddiqah added that Uddin’s daughter had never told her anything about the family having a home in Kent.

In a statement last Saturday, Carter-Ruck confirmed the baroness owned a property in Maidstone which is registered as her main address with the House of Lords. The solicitors also offered to disclose the Kent address if The Sunday Times undertook not to publish details or approach members of the baroness’s family at the address. We declined.

Where was it? Overlooking a nature reserve on the fringes of Maidstone’s central shopping area lies a block of apartments built in 2005. Land registry searches confirmed that Uddin owns a street-level flat there.

She bought it for £155,000 in September 2005, nine months after peers’ expenses claims for overnight subsistence were made public for the first time. There is a mortgage on it.
It has two small bedrooms on the roadside and a lounge incorporating a kitchen area at the back. It is part of a group of six apartments that all share the same main entrance.

The Sunday Times has interviewed residents from all five of the other flats and others living nearby. They all said they had never seen Uddin, who cuts a distinctive figure, at the property. The neighbours said the property had been left empty since it had been bought. Three remembered peering into the two bedroom windows at the front and noting the rooms were unfurnished.

The windows now have thick curtains drawn across them after last weekend’s visit. The postman said some of the people who entered the flat on Sunday had arrived in a BMW four-wheel-drive. His description of the vehicle, including two letters from its registration plate, match Uddin’s car.

He said: “Nobody has ever lived in there. If you’d have come down a week ago you could have peered in and said nobody lives there.”

Adams has lived across the corridor from the baroness’s flat for three years. “I can’t emphasise enough how no one has lived there. I know that for a fact,” she said.

“There was a time when they had a sheet or something at the window which had fallen down and the security light was coming on, just shining into a completely empty flat . . . No, there has never been a stick of furniture in there.”

Matthew Hollis, whose flat is directly above the baroness’s property, confirmed there had been no furniture in the bedrooms. When initially asked about the flat, he responded: “I don’t think anyone does live there. I’ve never seen anyone in there . . .”

Stuart Brown and his girlfriend Gemma Fox lived directly below Uddin’s flat for three years before leaving recently. He said: “We never had anyone living above.”

The other ground-floor neighbour, who requested her name be withheld, said: “I thought it was empty, too. I posted a note through there about two months ago because my friend was interested in renting.”

A woman in a house that looks directly onto the back of the flat said she often saw people on the balconies above and below the baroness’s flat. “That sweater has been hanging over that middle flat balcony probably since the end of last summer,” she said.

“Every few months some people would just visit, but you are talking 10 minutes max,” Adams said.

On Friday evening the baroness issued a solicitors’ statement saying: “I do not believe that I have done anything wrong or breached any House of Lords rules. Should the relevant House of Lords authorities wish to investigate the matter I will, of course, co-operate fully.

“The Wapping house is rented, while I own the property in Maidstone. The Maidstone property is furnished and I strongly deny that I have never lived there. Indeed I have stayed there regularly since buying it.”

Yesterday evening a reporter spoke to Mark Ryan, a plumber who had entered the flat last weekend to fix the boiler. He described how the property was covered in dust and sparsely furnished.

“I’ve been in more flats than I care to remember, but this place looked like someone had left it ages ago,” he said. “It was very dusty. There were odds and sods of furniture around. There was an old mattress on the floor of one bedroom. It wasn’t made up. There was a fold-up clothes dryer in the other bedroom.

“It didn’t look lived-in. It certainly didn’t look like a family home.They told me they were just moving in.”

— Born Bangladesh 1959
— Arrives in east London 1973
— Begins working for Newham social services 1988
— Deputy leader of Tower Hamlets 1994-6
— Fails to become Labour parliamentary candidate for Bethnal Green 1997
— Made Labour life peer 1998
— Starts Jagonari Centre to train and educate Asian women 1999
— Meets Blair as part of delegation to tackle Islamic extremism 2005
— Made chairwoman of ethnic minority women’s taskforce 2008
Main address
Two bedroom flat
Bought three years ago
Neighbours have never seen her there and say flat was "empty" and "unfurnished"
Not registered to vote
Second address
Three bedroom house
Lived there for 15 years
Children went to school in the area
Neighbours see her regularly
Registered to vote at address

Friday, May 1, 2009

Reversing military intervention in Bangladesh through constitutional means

Sharing a thought-provoking editorial in New Age which calls for constitutional measures to stop future military intervention in our politics.

Mere rhetoric won’t pre-empt military intervention
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, said on Tuesday that Bangladesh could not attain the desired level of development yet as military and military-backed forces have ruled the country frequently in the past with disregard for people’s welfare. We find a strong point in her observation made, while addressing the two-day inaugural ceremony of the Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre silver-jubilee celebrations in the BPATC conference centre at Savar.

We have repeatedly argued, particularly during the two-year tenure of the last military-controlled interim government of Fakhruddin Ahmed, that truly representative democracy and the rule of law are prerequisites for sustainable and equitable development of the country. Authoritarianism, elected or unelected, only leads to the confiscation the people’s fundamental rights and reduces both transparency and accountability, which in turn leads to greater abuse of power by authoritarian regimes that adversely affects people’s welfare.

Now that the prime minister has hit the nail on the head with her observation, we feel that her government should follow it up with steps to ensure that no room or scope is given to apolitical and anti-democratic forces to usurp state power in future. There are two ways to do this in our view. First, the major political parties and forces in our country must not only become more internally democratic but also change their undemocratic pattern of behaviour towards each other.

If the major political forces can establish a democratic culture in politics, that will act as a major deterrence to the usurpation of power by the military, in the first place. The military, after all, has most of the time used either civilian authoritarianism or political confrontations between feuding parties to seize state power. However, to avoid political confrontation, we believe that the political alliance in power, and particularly the Awami League, which leads that alliance, should take the initiative and lead by example.

Unfortunately, though the Awami League promised change as its principal electoral pledge prior to the December general elections, the way the party and its front organisations have behaved since the elections suggest that the party is determined to continue with the confrontational politics of the past. And second, the government should use its overwhelming majority in parliament to amend the country’s constitution to make any unconstitutional usurpation of power a grave criminal offence. We believe that the scope for the past military and pseudo-military dictators to usurp state powers and to get away with such usurpation has set a terrible precedent, which only encourages such unwanted interventions into the political process.

This must be reversed through making such usurpations a punishable offence, and the punishment prescribed by law must be sufficiently stern for it to act as an effective deterrent. Several politicians, academics and jurists have also suggested that the government should incorporate such a provision into the constitution and we believe that it is high time that the government gave the matter due consideration.

If the government of Sheikh Hasina is serious about pre-empting potential military interventions of the future, it must do what is necessary to achieve that objective. Deterrence will require determined political and constitutional actions, not mere rhetoric. We shall wait to see whether the prime minister has the will to back up her words with actions.