By Isha Khan
The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), created in 1968, has assumed a significant status in the formulation of India’s domestic and foreign policies, particularly the later. Working directly under the Prime Minister, it has over the years become and effective instrument of India’s national power. In consonance with Kautilya’s precepts, RAW’s doctrine is based on the principle of waging a continuous series of battles of intrigues and secret wars.
RAW, ever since its creation, has always been a vital, though unobtrusive, actor in Indian policy-making apparatus. But it is the massive international dimensions of RAW operations that merit a closer examination. To the credit of this organization, it has in very short span of time mastered the art of spy warfare. Credit must go to Indira Gandhi who in the late 1970s gave it a changed and much more dynamic role. To suit her much publicized Indira Doctrine, (actually India Doctrine) Mrs. Gandhi specifically asked RAW to create a powerful organ within the organization which could undertake covert operations in neighboring countries. It is this capability that makes RAW a more fearsome agency than its superior KGB, CIA, MI-6, BND and the Mossad.
Its internal role is confined only in monitoring events having bearing on the external threat. RAW’s boss works directly under the Prime Minister. An Additional Secretary to the Government of India, under the Director RAW, is responsible for the Office of Special Operations (OSO), intelligence collected from different countries, internal security (under the Director General of Security), the electronic/technical section and general administration. The Additional Secretary as well as the Director General of Security is also under the Director of RAW. DG Security has two important sections: the Aviation Research Center (ARC) and the Special Services Bureau (SSB). The joint Director has specified desks with different regional divisions/areas (countries):
Area one. Pakistan: Area two, China and South East Asia: Area three, the Middle East and Africa: and Area four, other countries.
Aviation Research Center (ARC) is responsible for interception, monitoring and jamming of target country’s communication systems. It has the most sophisticated electronic equipment and also a substantial number of aircraft equipped with state-of- the art eavesdropping devices. ARC was strengthened in mid-1987 by the addition of three new aircraft, the Gulf Stream-3. These aircraft can reportedly fly at an altitude of 52,000 ft and has an operating range of 5000 kms. ARC also controls a number of radar stations located close to India’s borders. Its aircraft also carry out oblique reconnaissance, along the border with Bangladesh, China, Nepal and Pakistan.
RAW having been given a virtual carte blanche to conduct destabilization operations in neighboring countries inimical to India to seriously undertook restructuring of its organization accordingly. RAW was given a list of seven countries (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Pakistan and Maldives) whom India considered its principal regional protagonists. It very soon systematically and brilliantly crafted covert operations in all these countries to coerce, destabilize and subvert them in consonance with the foreign policy objectives of the Indian Government.
RAW’s operations against the regional countries were conducted with great professional skill and expertise. Central to the operations was the establishment of a huge network inside the target countries. It used and targeted political dissent, ethnic divisions, economic backwardness and criminal elements within these states to foment subversion, terrorism and sabotage. Having thus created the conducive environments, RAW stage-managed future events in these countries in such a way that military intervention appears a natural concomitant of the events. In most cases, RAW’s hand remained hidden, but more often that not target countries soon began unearthing those “hidden hand”. A brief expose of RAW’s operations in neighboring countries would reveal the full expanse of its regional ambitions to suit India Doctrine ( Open Secrets. India’s Intelligence Unveiled by M K Dhar. Manas Publications, New Delhi, 2005 ).
Indian intelligence agencies were involved in erstwhile East Pakistan,now Bangladesh since early 1960s. Its operatives were in touch with Sheikh Mujib for quite some time. Sheikh Mujib went to Agartala in 1965. The famous Agartala case was unearthed in 1967. In fact, the main purpose of raising RAW in 1968 was to organise covert operations in Bangladesh. As early as in 1968, RAW was given a green signal to begin mobilising all its resources for the impending surgical intervention in erstwhile East Pakistan. When in July 1971 General Manekshaw told Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that the army would not be ready till December to intervene in Bangladesh, she quickly turned to RAW for help. RAW was ready. Its officers used Bengali refugees to set up Mukti Bahini. Using this outfit as a cover, Indian military sneakeddeep into Bangladesh. The story of Mukti Bahini and RAW’s role in its creation and training is now well-known. RAW never concealed its Bangladesh operations. Interested readers may have details in Asoka Raina’s Inside RAW: the story of India’s secret service published by Vikas Publishing House of New Delhi.
The Indians played upon Bengali sentiments in the aftermath of the 1965 Pakistan-India war through RAW so that when opportunity struck the Indians were well-prepared. It was RAW that gradually converted Sheikh Mujibur Rehman from being a staunch supporter of Pakistan as a student leader to envisaging himself as the possible ‘Father’ of a new nation – Bangladesh. Indian sources, including journalists, have put on record how much before 1971 RAW had established the network of a separatist movement through ‘cells’ within East Pakistan and military training camps in Indian territory adjoining East Pakistan. The Mukti Bahini were all in place organisationally to take advantage of the political trouble in 1971 and carry out acts of sabotage against communication lines so that Indian forces simply marched in at the ‘right’ time. RAW agents provided valuable information as well as acting as an advance guard for conducting unconventional guerrilla acts against the Pakistani defence forces. A Bengali, who was a Mukti Bahini activist, Zainal Abedin, has written a revealing book which includes his personal experience in Indian training camps, entitled RAW and Bangladesh. It was the post-fall of Dhaka period which exposed the Indians’ true intentions and made Abedin realise that It was evident from the conduct of the Indian Army that they treated Bangladesh as a colony … It is now evident that India had helped the creation of Bangladesh with the aim that it would be a step forward towards the reunification of India.
Because Mujib returned, Indian forces could not remain in Bangladesh permanently and so it fell on RAW to initiate other fronts to undermine the sovereignty of Bangladesh. RAW has since been seeking to create Indian dominance culturally, ideologically and economically in Bangladesh.
In addition, RAW has also created another insurgency force: The Shanti Bahini (Fighters for Peace). This force comprises the Chittagong Hill Tracts Hindu and Buddhists tribesmen (the Chakmas) and the intention is to bleed the Bengali military and keep the border area tense. The Chakmas used to embarrass the Bangladesh government especially when the latter protested over Indian policy on the sharing of waters’ issue (http://www.defencejournal.com/jan99/rawfacts.htm).
RAW’s involvement in Chittagong Hill Ttacts : some admissions
The Chakma guerrillas had closely assisted RAW operatives. They were assisted during and after the liberation War. The Chakmas, after the change of govt in 1975, contacted the RAW. The Chakmas offered to infiltrate among the Mizo rebels and pass on information to the Indian govt in lieu of assylum. This offer was accepted ( Inside RAW : The Story of India’s Secret Service, Asoka Raina, Vikas Publishers, New Delhi, 1981, pp.86-87 ).
In 1975, the RAW was instructed to assist the Chakma rebels with arms, supplies , bases and training. Training was conducted in the border camps in Tripura but specialized training was imparted at Chakrata near Dehra Doon. Shantu Larma’s Shanti Bahini members were flown to Chakrata and then sent back to Tripura to infiltrate into Chittagong Hill Tracts. A RAW office and its operatives at Agartala monitored the progress of the trainees. In 1976, the Shanti Bahini launched its first attack on the Bangladesh force. A new insurgency had been born and India’s secret war in the hills of Bangladesh had begun ( South Asia’s Fractured Frontier, Binalaksmi Nepram, Mittal Pablishers, New Delhi, 2002, pp-153 ).
The RAW was involved in training rebels of Chakma tribes and Shanti Bahini to carry out subversive activities in Bangladesh ( RAW’s role in Furthering India’s Foreign Policy, The New Nation, Dhaka, 31 August 1994 ).
The Indian intelligence had collaborated the armed rebels of Chittagong Hill Tracts to destabilise the region ( Indo-Bangladesh Relation, Motiur Rahman, daily Prothom Alo, 10 December 2002).
The creation of Bangladesh was masterminded by RAW in complicity with KGB under the covert clauses of Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation (adopted as 25-year Indo-Bangladesh Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation in 1972).RAW retained a keen interest in Bangladesh even after its independence. Mr. Subramaniam Swamy, Janata Dal MP, a close associate of Morarji Desai said that Rameswar Nath Kao, former Chief of RAW, and Shankaran Nair upset about Sheikh Mujib’s assassination chalked a plot to kill General Ziaur Rahman. However, when Morarji Desai came into power in 1977 he was indignant at RAW’s role in Bangladesh and ordered operations in Bangladesh to be called off; but by then RAW had already gone too far. General Zia continued to be in power for quite some time but he was assassinated after Indira Gandhi returned to power, though she denied her involvement in his assassination ( Weekly Sunday, Calcutta,18 September, 1988 ).
It has also unleashed a well-organized plan of psychological warfare, creation of polarisation among the armed forces, propaganda by false allegations of use of Bangladesh territory by ISI, creation of dissension’s among the political parties and religious sects, control of media, denial of river waters, and propping up a host of disputes in order to keep Bangladesh under a constant political and socio-economic pressure ( “RAW and Bangladesh” by Mohammad Zainal Abedin, November 1995, RAW In Bangladesh: Portrait of an Aggressive Intelligence, by Abu Rushd, Dhaka ).
RAW and Ford Foundation
Jaideep Saikia, an outward analyst, but virtually an Indian intelligence operative, hailing from Assam, abruptly tunes to India’s anti-Bangladesh campaign that the demography of Assam is being rapidly changed due to the alleged infiltration of the Bangladeshi Muslims into Northeast India, particularly in Assam in his recent book, “Terror sans frontiers: Islamist militancy in Northeast India”.
Educated, better to say trained, in school at the Rashtriya Indian Military College in Dehra Dun, Saikia recently researched on so-called Islamic Militancy in North East India under the aegis of a Ford Foundation fellowship, which was awarded for the year 2003. The research was conducted at the Program in ‘Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security’(ACDIS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It is an astonishing and utter folly how ‘For Foundation’ could sponsor and allow Saikia to use his fellowship on such an issue, which is not only controversial, but also baseless and false and a part of India’s anti-Bangladesh media campaign.
Saikia’s effort cannot be termed as research work, as this type of stories is written almost daily in India. India’s electronic and print media, including websites, are poured with such fabricated anti-Bangladesh items. It is assumed that Indian intelligence outfit RAW(Research & Analysis Wing) managed and possibly financed ‘Ford Foundation’ to award fellowship to Saikia, which he used not only to defame Bangladesh, but also to prepare a ground for India to invade Bangladesh.
Without deep and careful study it can easily be questioned, how Saikia, being a researcher could write, like his all other fellow-Indians, an essay having minimal statistics and historical facts, which he on the other hand, distorted in every possible ways. He tuning to his mentors in New Delhi chorused that Bangladeshis deliberately infiltrate into Assam to change the demography of the state either to form a new Muslim state out of Assam or merge the Muslim majority areas of the state with Bangladesh. To justify his claim, Saikia says, “The Muslims now constitute more than 70 per cent of the population of Dhubri district of Assam. But Saikia did not mention from which source he collected this religion-based demographic information, as the Indian census of 2001, did not enumerate its citizens on the basis of religion.
Secondly, he should know that at least five districts of Assam adjoining Sylhet had Muslim majority in 1947, when the subcontinent was partitioned. These districts were Goalpara, Hilakandi, Cacher, Dhubri and Karimganj subdivision of Sylhet. For this reason, the Muslims constitute about 30 per cent of the population of Assam. So whatever might be the percentage of the Muslims in any district of Assam it cannot be termed as a threat to Assam or India.
Thirdly, Assam or any other state is not richer than Bangladesh, rather many states of India, not to speak of Assam lag far behind Bangladesh to a great extent. So why should the Bangladeshis leave for a poorer region to lead a poorest life.It is to be mentioned that Assam Gano Parishad, (AGP) is the prophet of anti-immigration crusade in Assam. But during its 2-term rules, AGP government under Prafulla Kumar Mahanto could identify few Muslims as illegal infiltrators in Assam. Even the current Congress Chief Minister Tarun Gagoi and Former Chief Minister late Hiteshar Saikia officially acknowledged that there is no illegal infiltration of the Muslims in Assam.
Meanwhile, the Ahoms, including the mainstream secessionist outfit ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam), comprehended the design of RAW to divide the people of Assam into several antagonistic groups and crush them using one against the other mainly to frustrate the freedom struggle of Assam.
Realising the duplicity of Indian government, ULFA in July 1992 publicly declared the Bengali speaking migrants, which also include the Muslims, as friends. In a publication addressed to the ‘East Bengal migrants’ ULFA stated: “East Bengal migrants are considered Assamese. Without these exploited lot, ULFA cannot be successful. These are people who are educationally, economically backward. They cannot be our enemies.
These hardworking people are ULFA’s protection shield. Their contribution to the national income is immense. They can produce essential things from a small piece of land, sell without any profit, work hard for the betterment of Assam, sacrificing them for the future of the state. They are our real well wishers, our friends, better than the Indians. (‘The Revolution Comes Full Circle: Bibhu Prasad Routray.)
In the same publication, ULFA went on to define the term ‘Bidekhi’(foreigner). “Those who do not regard this state as their own, accept it as their motherland, are not ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of this country, are aliens, ‘Bidekhis for us.” Saikia should have read this statement of ULFA. He should also know that the Bengali Muslims accepted Assamese as their mother tongue and identify them as Ahoms not as Bengalis. The new generations of the Muslim Ahoms even do not know Bengali. They are not antagonistic to the interest of Assam. All these factors prompted ULFA not to brand the Muslims as foreigners.
Being failed to brand the Muslims as infiltrators or outsiders, very recently India floated another allegations that Bangladesh designs to secede the Muslim majority districts of Assam either to merge with her territory or create an independent Muslim state in Assam. Virtually, the campaign is made to create anti-Muslim sentiment among the Ahoms so that the unity among communities becomes far a cry.
Saikia and other Indians not only floated the allegation of infiltration of the Bangladeshi Muslims to Assam, but also allege that Bangladesh in one of the mentors of the decades old secessionist militancy in Northeast. According to the allegation, which Saikia also did not forget to forefront in his book, Bangladesh provides shelter, training and even arms to different militant groups of the region, particularly ULFA, ATTF (All Tripura Tiger Forces), etc.
But being an Ahom and above all a researcher, Saikia should know that secessionist insurgency in Northeast when India got its independence from Britain in 1947, well before the birth of Bangladesh. People of this region do not feel them as Indians. They are fighting to end what they call, “Indian occupation.” Previously India blamed China, Burma (Now Myanmar), Pakistan and even America. But they shortened their list over the years and ascribe the allegation on Bangladesh and Pakistan. Some of the Indians now consider Bangladesh more dangerous for northeast than Pakistan. This allegation against Bangladesh was brought to the forefront, because it will be easier to squeeze weaker Bangladesh than any other country that India blames
But India could never prove any of her allegations against Bangladesh. India officially challenged that there are 195 camps or training centres of the Northeast insurgents in Bangladesh and supplied a list mentioning their whereabouts. According to the list, training centres and camps are situated in hospitals, police stations, residential colonies, government offices, playgrounds, etc. Bangladesh repeatedly requested India to come and show on-spot the existence of these camps and centres. But India never accepted the offer, as Indian policymakers know that there is not even single such centre or camp of the northeast militants, not to speak of 195.
Still the propagandists in New Delhi deliberately continue their fabricated allegations against Bangladesh, whose brief ulterior reasons I have mentioned earlier. I really feel pity for Saikia as well as Ford Foundation for being used as the tools of RAW. How Ford Foundation could accept such a baseless research work which goes against a country, which is a main target of Indian expansionist design. I would request Ford Foundation to send a ‘fact finding mission’ to Assam and Bangladesh as well to inspect the ground realities. Such mission will surely find that all the allegations that Saikia mentioned against Bangladesh in his so-called research work are the products of exaggeration and misinformation. Ford Foundation, to uphold its neutrality and worldwide reputation and acceptability, should consider my suggestion and act accordingly(http://bangladesh-web.com/view.php?hidDate=2005-04-26&hidType=HIG&hidRecord=0000000000000000042370)
August 17 Blasts: Is there external linkage?
The controversy over Tarique Zia’s seemingly misquoted comment in the BBC interview that al-Qaeda ‘may’ have been involved in the August 17 serial blasts notwithstanding, despondency is bound to set in as the investigators have not yet unearthed any significant leads to the attacks’ masterminds (and their political goals) despite over 300 arrestees’ testimony having been recorded and a slew of clues found.
Such uncertainty does give rise to an obvious concern: Is there an external link to the blasts and, if so, who could have pulled the strings from behind the nation’s borders, and why?
A study of the post-blast behaviour of the Indian media and the intelligence apparatuses can go a long way toward understanding why terrorist incidents in Bangladesh seem to matter so much to our neighbour. Since the attacks, the Indian media has launched a virtual crusade against Bangladesh, spearheaded by the Telegraph that wrote, ‘Delhi should urge major donors to impose economic sanctions on Bangladesh.’ The paper also reported that Indian security agencies had advised the central government to ‘force Khaleda Zia to clamp down on Islamic fundamentalist outfits’.
The government of Bangladesh did respond earnestly to such pressures and diatribes and conducted a virtual witch-hunt in the preceding weeks against Islamists of suspicious hues, although the end result of the ongoing manhunt seems destined to be as much a failure as the previous ones.
Meanwhile, a just concluded study of Bangladesh’s post-blast security situation by major Indian intelligence outfits pointed the finger of suspicion for the August 17 blasts at familiar groups like the Jagrata Muslim Janata and the Jamaatul Mujahideen, which are, says the study, ‘banned, and are known to have fanned anti-Indian sentiments’. Coincidentally, the police in Dhaka say the same thing but cannot trace the attacks’ elusive masterminds.
The masterminds of a series of such attacks over the years not having been traced, one cannot resist the temptation of being suspicious about the latest attacks’ genesis and the ultimate motivation of the masterminds.
The Indian intelligence bodies’ study, however, has made some interesting observations. ‘There were 370 explosions in 63 of Bangladesh’s 64 districts. The kind of explosives used and the impact of each blast were similar to that on August 13 at a Muslim shrine in Akhaura in which one person was killed and 30 others were injured…There are insinuations that an earlier blast in August 2004 was suspected to have been inspired by India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). It is possible that efforts will be on to malign India again by pointing fingers at Delhi,’ the study opined.
In conclusion, the study noted that ‘the outfits were emboldened because of the lack of tangible action by the Khaleda government… The blasts are intended to be a message to Dhaka and to discourage the government from succumbing to international pressure to clamp down on the outfits.’
Reportedly a separate detailed study, circulated among the top echelons of the Indian security establishment, says, ‘Delhi should actively consider economic measures against Bangladesh.’
The tirades of the Indian media and comments of the intelligence agencies aside, everyone knows that the Jamaatul Mujahideen had left leaflets on the sites of bombing and many of the arrestees have reportedly confessed to having carried out the attacks at its behest. Yet BNP Deputy Minister Ruhul Quddus Talukder (also an MP) had a different view of the events. He had said earlier, ‘I don’t think they (the JM) have such a strong network. Awami League must have done this, using fake leaflets, to blacken Bangladesh’s image internationally.’ Does the Minister know something that others don’t?
A somewhat similar claim came from Mufti Fazlul Haq Amini, chairman of the Amini faction of the Islami Oikya Jote and a constituent member of the ruling four-party alliance. He said on August 19, ‘Swearing upon Allah, I say the 14-party alliance of Awami League and left parties launched the bomb attacks in a planned way to uproot the Islamic forces, but Islamic forces can never be eliminated.’
To confound confusion further, both India and Israel were whisked into the scene by the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Amir and Industries Minister Matiur Rahman Nizami. He blamed India’s external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and Israel’s Mossad for ‘playing an important role’ in the August 17 attacks. He added, ‘They are the patrons of the serial blasts as they don’t want good relations between Bangladesh and China. That’s why the incident occurred when Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was on a visit to Beijing.’
Juxtapose the above with the embedded Indian concerns over Bangladesh’s political developments over the years. The copy of a 2004 RAW report obtained by this author reads, ‘Pakistani intelligence officers in Dhaka are becoming increasingly active in espionage against India. In 2002, three modules (sic) being run by them from Dhaka, and using some Bangladeshi operatives, were busted. A large number of secret documents and photographs of sensitive defence locations were recovered from one Ziauddin Ahmed Biswas (resident of Murshidabad in West Bengal), arrested on November 17, 2002. Later, the arrest (December 2002 in Lucknow, UP) of Bangladeshi national, Mohammad Mamunur Rasheed, led to the recovery of fake travel documents and also incriminating documents indicating a plan to recruit Indian Muslim youths for training in Bangladesh and Pakistan for subversive activities within India.’
Another RAW report of 2004 implicates the Dhaka regime more directly. It says, ‘It is hardly any secret that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan has close links with Bangladesh’s Directorate-General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and operates openly and freely in that country. It (ISI) not only helps coordinate the activities of al-Qaeda and fundamentalist Islamic militant groups through the DGFI, but backs a Bangladeshi Taliban group named HUJI that runs six training camps for ULFA terrorists in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.’
A West Bengal intelligence outfit goes a step further: ‘While ULFA training camps have been organised by the sector headquarters of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), training camps of the CNLF have been organised partly by 103 and 105 infantry brigades of the Bangladesh Army at Khagrachhari and Rangamati,’ the report claims.
From hindsight, the pattern of such accusations seems a corollary to many such reports circulated in the past. For instance, prominent security experts of India have been crying wolf since the late 1990s (long before the incidents of 9/11 that acted as a harbinger to the global hunts for Islamist terrorists) that activities in Bangladesh posed a serious danger to India’s security and national interests.
Particularly, Assam Governor Lt Gen (retd) SK Sinha wrote in his report to the central government in March 1998, ‘The long cherished design of Greater Bangladesh, making inroads into the strategic land link of Assam with the rest of India, can lead to severing the entire land mass of the North East from the rest of the country.’ In another report submitted to the President of India in November 1998, Sinha wrote, ‘Continued silent demographic invasion of the North East poses a great threat both to the identity of the Assamese people and to our national security.’ Influenced by such reports, India decided to fence the entire Indo-Bangladesh border at a cost of over $500 million and nearly 70% of border fencing was completed by mid-2005. The Indian Border Security Force also killed more than 500 innocent Bangladeshis over the years since General Sinha filed his first report.
India now claims that since 1990, Assam has seen the birth of 9 Muslim militant outfits owing allegiance to Harkat ul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba, the groups that run ferocious operations against Indian forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Indian intelligence outfits believe the groups have their rear bases inside Bangladesh. Is India looking for a pretext to launch pre-emptive military assaults on Bangladesh at some point in the future, based on such reports? Policy-makers in Dhaka must mull over this prospect seriously.
Coming to the August 17 blasts in particular, one wonders why the Islamists, whose ‘profound’ aim is to create a ‘Greater Bangladesh’ by creating demographic imbalance in the neighbouring Indian states of Assam and Tripura in particular (according to Indian reports), should resort to blasting of ‘innocuous’ bombs inside Bangladesh and leave behind signatures for identification? How is the mission of creating a greater Bangladesh served by such blasts?
Isn’t it more plausible that, in the absence of any verifiable and authentic conclusion, the blasts have occurred to prove to the world that Bangladesh is infested with Islamist Jihadis determined to take on India by using Bangladesh as a launching pad? At the least, such a hypothesis does mesh well with the embedded Indian perceptions of Bangladesh, as has been learnt from the intelligence reports quoted above.
It is under such contexts that one must compare the Indian mindset with the comments made by some Bangladeshi politicians after the August 17 blasts (quoted above), and try to guess the ‘untold’ reasons behind the authorities’ inability to reach any conclusion with respect to the attacks’ masterminds. Meanwhile, with each passing day, the tone of reports in the media of the two neighbours will keep confounding the conundrum instead of decoding the hidden secrets(http://www.weeklyholiday.net/front.html#top).
Sikkim and Bhutan
Sikkim was the easiest and most docile prey for RAW. Indira Gandhi annexed the Kingdom of Sikkim in mid-1970s, to be an integral part of India. The deposed King Chogyal Tenzig Wangehuck was closely followed by RAW’s agents until his death in 1992. Bhutan, like Nepal and Sikkim, is a land-locked country, totally dependent on India. RAW has developed links with members of the royal family as well as top bureaucrats to implements its policies. It has cultivated its agents amongst Nepalese settlers and is in a position to create difficulties for the Government of Bhutan. In fact, the King of Bhutan has been reduced to the position of merely acquiescing into New Delhi’s decisions and go by its dictates in the international arena.
Post- independence Sri Lanka, inspire of having a multi-sectoral population was a peaceful country till 1971 and was following
independent foreign policy. During 1971 Indo-Pakistan war despite of heavy pressure from India, Sri Lanka allowed Pakistan’s civil and military aircraft and ships to stage through its air and sea ports with unhindered re-fueling facilities. It also had permitted Israel to establish a nominal presence of its intelligence training set up. It permitted the installation of high powered transmitter by Voice of America (VOA) on its territory, which was resented by India.
It was because of these ‘irritants’ in the Indo-Sri Lanka relations that Mrs Indira Gandhi planned to bring Sri Lanka into the fold of the so-called Indira Doctrine (India Doctrine) Kao was told by Gandhi to repeat their Bangladesh success. RAW went looking for militants it could train to destabilize the regime. Camps were set up in Tamil Nadu and old RAW guerrillas trainers were dug out of retirement. RAW began arming the Tamil Tigers and training them at centers such as Gunda and Gorakhpur. As a sequel to this ploy, Sri Lanka was forced into Indianpower-web when Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 was singed and Indian Peace-Keeping-Force (IPKF) landed in Sri Lanka.
Up to the mid-seventies the Sri Lankan government had kept India happy by following policies which followed the Indian line – domestically and externally. The trouble began in 1977 when the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) lost power to the Jayewardene-led United National Party in elections. He moved towards a more cooperative policy with the United States and Sri Lanka chose to oppose the Indian demand for the withdrawal of all foreign naval forces from the Indian Ocean. Mrs. Gandhi had already been irked by Sri Lanka’s support to Pakistan during the 1971 war when it allowed landing and fuelling facilities to Pakistan’s East-West commercial flights. So RAW saw a perfect opportunity to exploit within the prevailing dispute between the Sinhalese majority (74 percent) and Tamil minority (14 percent) over distribution of economic and social spoils of independence. Before the two sides could work out a compromise, India, through its RAW, managed to polarise the two sides as well as militarise this essentially political conflict. On the Mukti Bahini model, RAW built up terrorist training camps in India for a number of Tamil terrorist organisations, while India suddenly began orchestrating a public campaign feigning concern because of the links the Tamils had with the 50 million Indian Tamils of Tamil Nadu state – which was separated from Sri Lanka by the Palk Straits. It was only a matter of time before the militants trained in India began sidelining the moderate Tamils and instead demanding complete independence – Ealam. Ironically, the presence of Tamil training camps in Tamil Nadu often created a law and order situation when large arms were captured by the state police. The surprise for the state government came when New Delhi ordered that such captured material be returned.
According to Rohan Gunaratna, in his book Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka, RAW waged a secret war in India beginning 1983 so that when the Sri Lankan armed forces launched a major offensive against the Tamil militancy in 1987, the Indian government had already ensured that the Tamils were well supplied and were able to conduct terrorist acts that brought the war closer to Colombo. Tamil Nadu had become the sanctuary for the Tamil terrorists in their hit-and-run tactics. Already, a year prior to this offensive, that is by 1986, there were over 20,000 Indian trained and financed Tamils and India forced Sri Lanka through this militant pressure to alter its foreign policy. But even more crucial, India by now was systematically destabilising Sri Lanka. Being unable to resist the temptation to now intervene directly, India used the Sri Lankan offensive against the Tamil terrorists to force Sri Lanka to accept India’s armed intervention ostensibly to save ‘ innocent Tamil civilians’. Unfortunately for India, the controversial Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987 proved to be as much of a failure as India’s policy of direct intervention. The result was India’s massively assisted LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) turned on its benefactor and declared war against the Indian forces in Sri Lanka. All in all, this Indian adventure killed 60,000 men, women and children and forced the Indians to withdraw their forces without successfully completing their mission. The price has been steep for both India and Sri Lanka and even today Sri Lanka is paying the price for this Indian-initiated and RAW inspired polarised conflict. The extent of RAW’s role in this affair has been painstakingly documented by Gunaratna in his book on the Indian intervention(http://www.defencejournal.com/jan99/rawfacts.htm)
The Ministry of External Affairs was also upset at RAW’s role in Sri Lanka as they felt that RAW was still continuing negotiations with the Tamil Tiger leader Parabhakran in contravention to the Indian government’s foreign policy. According to R Swaminathan, (former Special Secretary of RAW) it was this outfit which was used as the intermediary between Rajib Gandhi and Tamil leader Parabhakaran. The former Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, J.N. Dixit even accused RAW of having given Rs. five corore to the LTTE. At a later stage, RAW built up the EPRLF and ENDLF to fight against the LTTE which turned the situation in Sri Lanka highly volatile and uncertain later on.(Rohan Gunaratna and J N Dixit ).
Under a well-orchestrated RAW plan, on November 30 1988 a 300 to 400-strong well trained force of mercenaries, armed with automatic weapons, initially said to be of unknown origin, infiltrated in boats and stormed the capital of Maldives. They resorted to indiscriminate shooting and took high-level government officials as hostages. At the Presidential Palace, the small contingent of loyal national guards offered stiff resistance, which enabled President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to shift to a safe place from where he issued urgent appeals for help from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Britain and the United States.
The Indian Prime Ministe Rajiv Gandhi reacted promptly and about 1600 combat troops belonging to 50 Independent Para-Brigade in conjunction with Indian Naval units landed at Male under the code-name Operation Cactus. A number of IAF transport aircraft, escorted by fighters, were used for landing personnel, heavy equipment and supplies. Within hours of landing, the Indian troops flushed out the attackers form the streets and hideouts. Some of them surrendered to Indian troops, and many were captured by Indian Naval units while trying to escape along with their hostages in a Maldivian ship, Progress Light. Most of the 30 hostages including Ahmed Majtaba, Maldives Minister of Transport, were released. The Indian Government announced the success of the Operation Cactus and complimented the armed forces for a good job done.
The Indian Defense Minister while addressing IAF personnel at Bangalore claimed that the country’s prestige has gone high because of the peace-keeping role played by the Indian forces in Maldives. The International Community in general and the South Asian states in particular, however, viewed with suspicious the over-all concept and motives of the operation. The western media described it as a display of newly-acquired military muscle by India and its growing role as a regional police. Although the apparent identification of the two Maldivian nationals could be a sufficient reason, at its face value, to link it with the previous such attempts by the mercenaries, yet other converging factors, indicative of involvement of external hand, could hardly be ignored. Sailing of the mercenaries from Manar and Kankasanturai in Sri Lanka, which were in complete control of IPKF, and the timing and speed of the Indian intervention proved their involvement beyond any doubt.
Ever since the partition of the sub-continent India has been openly meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs by contriving internal strife and conflicts through RAW to destabilize the successive legitimate governments and prop up puppet regimes which would be more amenable Indian machinations. Armed insurrections were sponsored and abetted by RAW and later requests for military assistance to control these were managed through pro-India leaders. India has been aiding and inciting the Nepalese dissidents to collaborate with the Nepali Congress. For this they were supplied arms whenever the King or the Nepalese Government appeared to be drifting away from the Indian dictates and impinging on Indian hegemonic designs in the region. In fact, under the garb of the so-called democratization measures, the Maoists were actively encouraged to collect arms to resort to open rebellion against the legitimate Nepalese governments. The contrived rebellions provided India an opportunity to intervene militarily in Nepal, ostensibly to control the insurrections which were masterminded by the RAW itself. It was an active replay of the Indian performance in Sri Lanka and Maldives a few years earlier. RAW is particularly aiding the people of the Indian-origin and has been providing them with arms and ammunition.
RAW’s gameplan for Sikkimization of Nepal
An interesting new insight has been provided into the current thinking of the Maoist leadership by Baburam Bhattarai, one of its leading lights, via a write-up which seeks to explain what he terms as a “gameplan” for Nepal’s “Sikkimization” and its nexus with the rationale of the “People’s War”.
Beginning with the “so-called” India Today’s “Nepal gameplan” report, a product of RAW (India’s external, super secret intelligence agency), the Maoist stalwart (who incidentally holds a Ph.D degree from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi) concludes with an appeal to all “patriotic” forces “to come together and, through a united front, confront all external expansionist forces” operating against Nepal.
The said write-up appears in the latest issue of Maoist-friendly vernacular weekly Jana Ahwan. Bhattarai says that against the chain of events starting with the “neo-colonialist 1950 Treaty and including the Kosi-Gandak-Mahakali agreements, the Kalapani problem, the Laxmanpur barrage and the recent bill to amend the citizenship act”, it is abundantly clear that the “process for the Sikkimization of Nepal has accelerated and has greatly advanced.” He also makes the point that the RAW-inspired India Today “Nepal Gameplan” report makes it obvious how deeply RAW, and other Indian intelligence agencies, have penetrated Nepal.
He then rhetorically asks: “If the intelligence agency of a country which does not border Nepal and whose political, economic, cultural relations and interest in Nepal is negligible in comparison with India’s has as extensive and high level connections as is made out, how much more profound would the hold of India’s intelligence agencies be, considering that Nepal is surrounded on three sides by an India which has immeasurably greater political, economic, and cultural stakes in Nepal than any other country in the world.”
To underscore that salient point, the erudite Maoist leader says that if penetration by the intelligence agency of a country whose embassy has just 25 staffers is as extensive as claimed, how much greater would that be by intelligence agencies of a country whose embassy has 300 personnel?
Recalling events leading to the “merger” of Sikkim with India, including propaganda about “China” and a “CIA” threat, Bhattarai says it is not difficult to understand the motivation behind the hue and cry about alleged ISI activities today. He then angrily refutes allegations made in a report said to be provided to the Nepal police by the Indian Embassy (disclosed in Himal magazine, 1-7 Asar, 2057 issue) charging that Timila Yami, sister of Yisila Yami (Bhattarai’s wife) has been used by the ISI for contacts with Nepalese Maoists.
Moving on, Bhattarai claims that the ruling class in India has sought support from “Hindu fascists” as it is reeling against the impact of “national liberation movements from Kashmir to Tamilandu, from Punjab to Nagaland” and the struggle against “Indian expansionism in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan” in South Asia. In particular, he claims the Indian ruling class has become unbalanced seeing the impact of the People’s War in Nepal which aims not only at “class liberation” but also at “national liberation.”
What is particularly sad, he maintains, is that Nepal’s mainstream political parties and other political forces have fallen into the Indian “trap” vis-a-vis the Maoists’ struggle. Significantly, he also declares that, today, forces supportive of and against “Indian expansionism” in Nepal can be found in “the palace, Congress, RPP, UML and even in other small groupings.”
Equally meaningful is Bhattarai’s reference to an observation by nominated Upper House member Ramesh Nath Pandey who has been quoted (vide Kantipur, 16 Jestha 2057) as having said: “In my opinion, Maoists will not precipitate a national calamity; rather, it should be preserved for safeguarding the nation in case of a calamity.”
RAW has also infiltrated the ethnic Nepali refugees whohave been extradited by Bhutan and have taken refuge in the eastern Nepal. RAW can exploit its links with these refugees in either thatare against the Indian interest. Besides the Nepalese economy istotally controlled by the Indian money lenders, financiers andbusiness mafia ( RAW’s Machination In South Asia by Shastra Dutta Pant, Kathmandu, 2003).
Since December 1979, throughout Afghan War, KGB, KHAD (WAD) (former Afghan intelligence outfit) and RAW stepped up their efforts to concentrate on influencing and covert exploitation of the tribes on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. There was intimate co-ordination between the three intelligence agencies not only in Afghanistan but in destabilization of Pakistan through subversion and sabotage plan related to Afghan refugees and mujahideen, the tribal belt and inside Pakistan. They jointly organized spotting and recruitment of hostile tribesmen and their training in guerrilla warfare, infiltration, subversion, sabotage and establishment of saboteur force/terrorist organizations in the pro-Afghan tribes of Pakistan in order to carry out bomb explosions in Afghan refugee camps in NWFP and Baluchistan to threaten and pressurize them to return to Afghanistan. They also carried out bomb blasts in populated areas deep inside Pakistan to create panic and hatred in the minds of locals against Afghan refugee mujahideen for pressurizing Pakistan to change its policies on Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s size, strength and potential have always overawed the Indians. It, therefore, always considers her main opponent in her expansionist doctrine. India’s animosity towards Pakistan is psychologically and ideologically deep-rooted and unassailable. India’s war with Pakistan in 1965 over Kashmir and in 1971 which resulted in the dismemberment of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh are just two examples.
Raw considers Sindh as Pakistan’s soft under-belly. It has, therefore, made it the prime target for sabotage and subversion. RAW has enrolled and extensive network of agents and anti-government elements, and is convinced that with a little push restless Sindh will revolt. Taking fullest advantage of the agitation in Sindh in 1983 and the ethnic riots, which have continued till today, RAW has deeply penetrated and cultivated dissidents and secessionists, thereby creating hard-liners unlikely to allow peace to return to Sindh. Raw is also involved similarly in Balochistan.
RAW has an extensive network of agents and anti-government elements within Pakistan, including dissident elements.Pakistan’s size, strength, and potential have always overawed India.It has always considered Pakistan to be the main opponent to its expansionist doctrine.India’s animosity toward Pakistan is psychologically and ideologically deep-rooted and unassailable.
India’s 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan over Kashmir, which resulted in the dismemberment of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh, is just two examples.Pakistan remains RAW’s primary concern.It runs thousands of agents and spends millions of rupees in its operations against Pakistan.It has made a three-pronged attack against Pakistan in an attempt to destabilize it,Propaganda,Espionage, and Subversion. RAW is totally committed on all these three fronts and is engaged in launching covert operations in consonance with India’s hostile foreign policy.All aspects of Pakistani activities, economic, military, industrial and cultural receive a close scrutiny of RAW. It goes to its credit that it has accomplished or at least continued in a motivated manner its assigned objectives.The Indian government spelling out the task for RAW in this regard has stated,’Pakistan should be so destabilized internally that it could not support the ‘Kashmir cause even morally, diplomatically or politically’.
Whenever and wherever there is a kidnapping, a bank robbery, a financial scandal, a bomb blast, or what have you, the I.S.I. is deemed to have.Ashok A Biswas, a Delhi-based research scholar, in his recently compiled study RAW – An Unobstructive Instrument of India’s Foreign Policy, (as quoted by Pakistan Observer in ‘A RAW deal for South Asia, 03 May, 1998) states that ‘the aim of RAW is to keep internal disturbances flaring up and the ISI preoccupied so that Pakistan can lend no worthwhile resistance to Indian designs in the region.’ He concludes, ‘RAW over the years has admirably fulfilled its task of destabilizing target states through unbridled export for terrorism had a hand in it.Reference: ( “R.A.W.: Global and Regional Ambitions” edited by Rashid Ahmad Khan and Muhammad Saleem, Islamabad Policy Research Institute, Asia Printers, Islamabad, 2005).
RAW is also being blamed for confusing the ground situation is Kashmir so as to keep the world attention away from the gross human rights violations by India in India occupied Kashmir. ISI being almost 20 years older than RAW and having acquired much higher standard of efficiency in its functioning , has become the prime target of RAW’s designs, ISI is considered to be a stumbling block in RAW’s operations, and has, therefore, been made a target of all kinds of massive misinformation and propaganda campaign. The tirade against ISI continues unabated. The idea is to keep ISI on the defensive by fictionalising and alleging its hand is supporting Kashmiri Mujahideen and Sikhs in Punjab. RAW’S fixation against ISI has taken the shape of ISI-phobia, as in India everyone traces down the origin of all happenings and shortcomings to the ISI . Be it an abduction at Banglaore or a student’s kidnapping at Cochin, be it a bank robbery at Calcutta or a financial scandal in Bombay, be it a bomb blast at Bombay or Bangladesh, they find an ISI hand in it ( RAW :Global and Regional Ambitions” Edited by Rashid Ahmad Khan and Muhammad Saleem, Published by Islamabad Policy Research Institute, Asia Printers, Islamabad, 2005 ).
RAW over the years has admirably fulfilled its tasks of destabilising target states through unbridled export of terrorism. The India Doctrine spelt out a difficult and onerous role for RAW. It goes to its credit that it has accomplished its assigned objectives due to the endemic weakness in the state apparatus of those nations and failure of their leaders.
Contributed by Isha Khan, who can be reached at email@example.com