Friday, May 12, 2000

INDIA - Save your Mangoes and the Gunny Bag!

After the death of sixteen members of the Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) while conducting aggression on Bangladesh in Barabari and Hizalmari of Roumari, other than a military offensive in the border, a media offensive has been initiated from India against Bangladesh in recent days. Where an apology to Bangladesh was due for this aggression, the Indian have chosen to term the act of self-defense by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) as 'criminal adventurism' and provocative statements by parliamentarians of the Shiv Sena and Telugu Desam Party has gone to the extreme of suggesting that that the 'BDR head office be blown up'.

Demands of 'blood for blood' and the myth that Bangladesh can be 'captured in two hours' were also reintroduced. The Central Home Minster I.D Swami went a step further to insinuate that 'without the trials of the BDR personnel's responsible for the death of the BSF, friendly relations with Bangladesh cannot be envisaged'. India has held the Chief of BDR Major General Fazlour Rahman responsible for the entire episode. In yet another development, Mr.Muchkand Dubey the former Indian diplomat had stated in an interview with CNN that the Bangladesh army is highly politicized and divided on 'anti and pro-liberation lines'. He opined that the 'anti-liberation forces' within the BDR have carried out the border operations. The Indian media also sees the 'invisible hands' of the Pakistan Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in the controversy. Unofficially the Indians have demanded Court-Martial of Major General Fazlour Rahman. Howeverowever one wonders why India conducted their aggression on the Romumari border? How much of truth is there in the accusations they make about Bangladesh? We feel it is our pertinent and patriotic duty to inform the International community to some hard facts on the ground.

Some bitter statistics:

Bangladesh has a 4156 kilometers of border with India out of which 3976 kilometers are land and the rest 180 kilometers are navigable. 6.4 kilometers of this huge border remains undemarcated i.e 2 kilometres in Muhurirchar, 1.5 kilometers in Balibaree and 3 kilometers in Lathitila. Conversely India has 'adverse possession' (read occupation!) of 3500 acres of Bangladesh territory and Bangladesh has 3000 acres of Indian Territory.

The geographical complication in relations between the two countries is in on the status of enclaves. As of date there are 111 Indian enclaves within Bangladesh and 51 on the Indian side. The size of land of Bangladesh enclaves within Indian Territory is 7083 acres while the acreage of Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh is 17248 acres. Other than Angorpota and Dahagram -the enclave disputes remain unresolved.

The Mujib-Indira Treaty of 1974:

To resolve the disputes the then Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman signed a border treaty with Mrs.Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Mininster of India in 1974, three months after which it was ratified by the Bangladesh Parilament (The Jatiyo Shongshod) in 1975. The lack of goodwill on part of India has however seen the failure of the Indian Parliament to ratify the same and the border disputes remains unresolved till date. Despite many request and pleas from Bangladesh, India has maintained a mute silence on the issue, all because of the strategic importance of the disputed Bangladesh territory to the Indian Army.

Indian Criminal adventurism:

Over the last twenty-five years the numbers of Bangladesh civilians who have died at the hands of the BSF is 415 while 10 BDR personnel's have been killed in the same period. In Roumari alone 34 Bangladesh civilian died in the hands of the BSF in the last eleven years. In Lalmonirhat adjacent to Roumari, over the last three years the BSF has killed 10 Bangladesh civilians. More than 300 civilians have also been injured in the same period. Many among the injured are now crippled for life, and some have died within the next years suffering from complications following bullet wounds.

According to a report from the Dhaka based, human rights group, Odhikar, in the year 2000, 56 Bangladesh civilians were killed and 94 injured due to blatant BSF firing. Between January to March of 2001, another 10 Bangladesh civilians were killed by the BSF.

According to defense sources from 1996 till date, there have been 340 incidents of firing along the India-Bangladesh border, and only on two occasions did BDR first open fire. 125 Bangladesh civilians were killed during the same period.

Press reports from in Bangladesh proves that all provocation's during most recent border skirmishes have always come from India. In all cases BSF has illegally infiltrated the borders of Bangladesh and looted property from homes, lifted cattle's and live stock, kidnapped civilians and raped women and set fire to homes and targeted innocent civilians inside Bangladesh to be killed.

The Indians can not convincingly prove that the BDR has ever infiltrated at any point into Indian territory, while it is evident from the book 'My South Block years' by G.N.Dixit the former Indian Foreign Secretary that India had armed tribal insurgents of the Shanti Bahini in the Chittagong Hill Tracts to wage war against Bangladesh.

Pyrdiwah and Miltary Realities:

Pyrdiwah is a border village of Bangladesh in the Meghalaya border with India which was in control of Bangladesh even before 1971, this being confirmed by statistical publications of the Government of India Department of Survey. In 1971 the village was used as a guerilla base of the Mukti Bahini which was abandoned immediately after the Independence of Bangladesh. Taking advantage of the situation India quickly set up a border observation post, and while many pleas were made over the last thirty years to remove the outpost, citing various excuses India has side stepped and dodged the requests.

In gross violation of International ethics and conduct India has been maintaining a high armed presence by deploying armored personnel carriers, and overnight took initiative to construct a ninety feet road in Pyrdiwah.

BDR instantly protested this gross violation to the BSF, who ignored the protest, and continued building the road towards Pyrdiwah while increasing its armed and hostile presence. This prompted the BDR to launch an operation on the 15th of April 2001 only to protect its territorial sovereignty. Needless to say the BDR operation was peaceful and Pyrdiwah was retaken without even a shot being fired. Had BDR failed to conduct this offensive, India would have taken steps to complete all arrangements for the permanent seizure of Pyrdiwah.

Suffering defeat at the military tactics of the BDR, a desperate BSF on receiving a signal from the highest political levels in Delhi, launched an unprovoked attack on the BDR outpost at Baraibar and Hizalmari of Roumari. More than 300 BSF personnel's launched a pre-dawn attack, and entered Bangladesh territory after crossing the border on the 18th of April 2001. The BSF used smoke screen shell, mortar and machinegun fire. They had hoped to capture the two Bangladesh border outpost without any resistance. However their unchecked military ambitions and arrogance was the cause of the serious debacle in Roumari. Only ten BDR personnel with help of villagers thwarted the BSF attack, resulting in the death within Bangladesh territory of sixteen BSF personnel including a Deputy Commander, while two of them were captured alive. They were given treatment for the wounds suffered. While fleeing the Bangladesh territory amid stiff resistance of the BDR and villagers, the BSF abandoned huge quantity of arms and ammunition that were later returned to India. Three BDR men lost their life, not inside India but within the territory that they were protecting: Bangladesh. India's role as an aggressive force was clearly exposed, and that BDR only carried out its patriotic duty is more than reinforced.

Proof of Indian Army Involvement in the attack on Roumari:

Of the sixteen BSF personnel killed in Roumari, one of the dead body recovered was wearing the uniform of the Indian Army. Yet others were discovered with bulletproof vest, which are usually issued to commandos of the Indian Army. According to a report from the Hindustan Times, many files relating to the attack on Roumari have gone missing, files that would have given us a clue to many aspects of the Indian criminal misadventure in Roumari , importantly how the BSF Deputy Commander of the operation, B.R.Mandal was killed.

The initial statements given by the two captured BSF men who were later returned to India, were quickly changed on orders from 'higher up', and the two men have not been allowed to speak to the press since.

Why This Attack ?

According to experts on International relations, geo politics and war strategies, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the so-called Socialist countries of Eastern Europe, and consequent shift in balance of power in world politics, has resulted in the loss of equilibrium and a unilateral power base with the US at the center has dangerously evolved. Despite this new development, the emergence of aggressive China is now considered a threat to this US centric 'unilateral world order'. South Asia, especially the Sub-Continent has now become a center for geo-political power exercise. According to informed sources, after the seventeenth century, the Bay of Bengal has again started to grow in importance as a sea avenue for global trading. India's geo-political and military ambition in the region, particularly in the Bay of Bengal has become an Area for its continuous military exercise and counter exercises.

To counter the Chinese initiatives the US and other Western countries have overtly and covertly been supporting India's 'regional superpower ambitions'. To further complicate matters for the West and India, China already has a land route from its Yunan region through Myanmar, that stretches all the way to the Bay of Bengal.

The US and India are both anxious about this Chinese move, as other than the over land route, the Myanmar Navy with Chinese assistance and technology has also set up an electronic monitoring facility in the Andaman's. All Indian nuclear and military moves are thus encrypted for use by Myanmar and China, and all pertinent information relating to India and Western powers in the Indian Ocean down to the Molucca Strait in the seaway is within the purview and access of this monitoring system.

According to war analyst, given the changed scenario in South Asia and the shift in the US military policy and tactics as also its geographical location, Bangladesh has emerged vital for strategic interest. In the event of a large-scale out break of war between India and China, the dire existence of India will be at stake. In such an eventuality, it will be worthwhile to see exactly who supports Bangladesh - or who Bangladesh will support! Essentially the fall or collapse of the 21 kilometer Silguri Corridor (Chicken's Neck) will result in the complete disruption of communication between India and the rest of its the restive Seven Sister States, other than by the most expensive option - AIR.

If Bangladesh denies India transit access through its own territory (which it will no doubt!) to reach to the Seven Sister States, India's defeat is inevitable. It is in keeping with the Chickens Neck reality and its military strategic considerations that India has been pressuring Bangladesh for 'corridor' in the name of transit facility for quite some times now. It is to only mount pressure on Bangladesh for 'transit' facility that India has been raising tensions in the border, and indulging in skirmishes and aggression.

Lest India Forgets:

To hypothetically analyze what may happen if the demands by 'hot headed' Indian politicians desire for 'blood for blood' and the blowing up of BDR headquarters' is precipitated to an over blown and full scale war with Bangladesh.

Assuming that Bangladesh's defense policy (as has been the case in Roumari) is at best 'Defense is the best Offense', the likelihood of a conventional war with India is slim. It will be for all practical purpose a 'peoples war', and the Bangladesh Forces instead of a face to face encounters with India will have to rely on guerilla tactics against the 'invaders'. By resorting to a guerilla war, the Bangladesh Forces will receive overwhelming support from its ordinary citizens as has been proved beyond doubt in Roumari.

The question in this hypothesis is: when India, while deploying hundred of thousands of its military and security forces has not been able to contain the self determination movements and rebels of Kashmir and the Seven Sister States, how would India deal with the highly trained and adequately equipped Bangladesh Army, Navy and AirForce, BDR, Police and other para military forces, as also the open resistance of 120 million (other than a handful of local Indian collaborators in Bangladesh and overseas!) people of Bangladesh?

Lest India forgets, they should also bring into consideration, that should there be an attack on Bangladesh, the outcome of such a war would not be limited only within Bangladesh. The fall out could well extend into the larger territories of India. Also it should be worth considering if the Kashmiris, the Seven Sister States including Rajbongshi rebels of West Bengal create a united front with Bangladesh to resist India? Let us also not forget that rebellion from these 'hardened rebels' will provide fodder for people of the old 'Princely States' that India has forcefully occupied, to rethink their future. With its intoxicant urge to become a 'regional super power' and without the Seven Sister States of North East India, or the 1200 Princely States, it will be interesting to see what the total landmass of the Indian Republic would amount to? Should the long oppressed Dalits, who have been fighting for their right to equality, declare open rebellion against their -old oppressors, it will be 'tragic' to see the fate of India dwindling. Our conclusion is: it will not be any or more worse or different than the fate of the Russians who attacked Afghanistan or the US who attacked Vietnam. India may loose the Bengalee proverbial 'mangoes' and the 'gunny bag'!

Fazlous Satter professional journalist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh asisted Mac in writing this piece