Friday, March 30, 2012

Bangladesh Ruling Party Fails In Resolving Electricit​y Crisis

At least two intelligence agencies in Bangladesh have warned the ruling party of sudden spark of mass revolt by the civilians following limitless sufferings caused by extreme shortage of electricity, which not only is jeopardizing public life, but also is destroying country’s economic backbone. “One or multiple mass revolt may break out at any time in the country during the month of June-September, as there is no sign of any improvement in the existing severe power crisis”, the report said.

It said the opposition parties may now pick up the power crisis issue at the top of their anti-government agenda, which will help them in getting huge support from the masses, who already are totally frustrated and annoyed on the ruling party. Meanwhile, seeing the power crisis continuing to increase, the energy advisor of the Prime Minister, Dr. Tawfiq Elahi Chowdhury has visibly gone into isolation from the media, as he too is now nervous thinking the ultimate consequences of his failures, which may cause any political setback in the country. Meanwhile, Bangladesh Nationalist Party is reportedly taking series of movement plans on the issue of power crisis to press the ruling party into corner. The opposition will also make countrywide appeal to the people to raise voice against the failure of the ruling party in addressing the power crisis as well as limitless looting of public wealth in the name of Quick Rental Power Plant(QRPP). Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) may sponsor several Writ Petitions in the apex judiciary in the country by various people from different walks of life, demanding court’s order in releasing White Paper on the existing situation prevailing in the power sector. Political analysts feel, if BNP top-brasses will ultimately give green signal to such movement strategies, it will surely put the ruling party into serious political challenges.

The urban Bangladesh now faces almost 10-12 hours load shedding every day while the situation in the rural areas are even worst, where in most cases, the length of load-shedding range between 18-20 hours. Though the current government led by Bangladesh Awami League made specific pledges to the nation of greatly resolving the power shortage maximum by 2012, in reality the situation is getting worst from bad. Power crisis has already affected country’s production sector, while severe environmental pollution is continuing due to use of generators at domestic, commercial and industrial establishments. Diesel-run generators not only create unbearable noise, it also releases hazardous smokes or gas, which is extremely vulnerable to human health.

Bangladesh Awami League led government signed dozens of contracts with various private companies for getting quick rental power plants in the country, which were expected to contribute in prompt resolving the existing power shortage. As of August 2011, establishment and timely commencing production of the major segments of the power plant, contracted to be established on “Quick Rental” basis in Bangladesh were failing gradually, thus not only causing huge amount of financial loss to national exchequer but also increased sufferings of the citizen of the country. Up to April, 2011 all the 14 Quick Rental Power Plant (QRPP) projects, which were undertaken by the ruling Bangladesh Awami League government on a fast-track basis to generate electricity to meet the current acute power crisis in the country, have miserably failed to commence production. According to contract, these projects were scheduled to start production latest by April 2011.

The policy of letting private companies establish QRPP was greatly criticized by experts in the country. Many said, this was a mere money-making project of some of the influential figures in the government and the ruling party. Awami League government adopted a Crash Program in October 2009 to set up power generation plants in next five years having total capacity of 7,000 MW. So far, the government has signed contracts for 33 power plants in the public and private sectors. Among those, most are costly quick rental and rental power plants. The private sector sponsors were supposed to install these plants from which the government would purchase electricity at a very exorbitant rate of between TK 9.75 (US$ 0.13) and TK 22 (US$0.29) per unit.

Power Development Board (PDB) said, the rental, quick rental and peaking plants were undertaken on a fast-track basis to address the nagging power crisis. The QRPP projects were supposed to add about 1,000 MW of electricity to the national grid. These QRPP projects are Meghnaghat 100 MW, Khulna 115 MW, Meghnaghat 100 MW, Ghorasal 78.5 MW, Ashuganj 80 MW (gas-generated), Keraniganj 100 MW, Ashuganj 53 MW, Noapara 40 MW, Amnura 50 MW (Chapainawabganj district), Juldha 100 MW, Siddhirganj 100 MW and Katakhali 50 MW.

Energy ministry sources in Bangladesh claimed that, QRPP were considered to be quickest method of meeting the growing demands of electricity in the country, and end consumers will pay the same or a bit less for their electricity.

Opposing the idea of QRPP, experts said that mostly second-hand equipments and machinery are used in such plants, which will be less efficient and the tariff will ultimately rise. They argue that the government would be better off spending money on upgrading the existing power stations. It was also told by the experts that almost eighty percent of the QRPP in Bangladesh were drawing bills from the government without supplying any electricity to the national grid or were making false bills showing fake production capacity. Another source said, almost all the QRPPs in Bangladesh are not producing even 5 percent of their contracted electricity, while they are continuing to receive bills for the total volume of contracted electricity by establishing a syndicate of looters with the help of few extremely influential figures in the government as well as the ministry and the departments concerned. Since the current government came in power and started giving contracts to QRPPs, a few million hundred dollars have been regularly looted every month from the national exchequer, while the government is engaged in exorbitant increase in price of electricity as well as fuel. The situation is like, as if the ruling party is snatching money from the people with the promise of improving the power crisis, while in reality major segment of such money is not only looted in free-style, but also smuggled out of the country.

Bangladesh’s energy infrastructure is quite small, insufficient and poorly managed. The per capita energy consumption in Bangladesh is one of the lowest (136 kWH) in the world. Non-commercial energy sources, such as wood, animal wastes, and crop residues, are estimated to account for over half of the country’s energy consumption. Bangladesh has small reserves of oil and coal, but very large natural gas resources. Commercial energy consumption is mostly natural gas (around 66 percent), followed by oil, hydropower and coal.

Electricity is the major source of power for country’s most of the economic activities. Bangladesh’s installed electric generation capacity was 4.7 GW in 2009; only three-fourth of which is considered to be ‘available’.

Only 40 percent of the population has access to electricity with a per capita availability of 136 kWh per annum. Problems in the Bangladesh’s electric power sector include corruption in administration, high system losses, and delays in completion of new plants, low plant efficiencies, erratic power supply, electricity theft, blackouts, and shortages of funds for power plant maintenance. Overall, the country’s generation plants have been unable to meet system demand over the past decade.

In generating and distributing electricity, the failure to adequately manage the load leads to extensive load shedding which results in severe disruption in the industrial production and other economic activities. A recent survey reveals that power outages result in a loss of industrial output worth US$1 billion a year which reduces the GDP growth by about half a percentage point in Bangladesh. A major hurdle in efficiently delivering power is caused by the inefficient distribution system. It is estimated that the total transmission and distribution losses in Bangladesh amount to one-third of the total generation, the value of which is equal to US$ 247 million per year. Bangladesh has 15 MW solar energy capacities through rural households and 1.9 MW wind power in Kutubdia and Feni. Bangladesh has planned to produce 5 percent of total power generation by 2015 & 10 percent by 2020 from renewable energy sources like air, waste and solar energy.

The Ministry of Power and Energy has been mobilizing TK. 40,000 crore (US$ 5.88 billion) to generate 5,000 MW of electricity to reduce load shedding into a tolerable level within next three years during the term of the present government, which came in power in January 2009. Under this plan, Power Development Board (PDB) was supposed to generate 500MW gas-generated electricity between July-December 2009. 

The PDB was also supposed to hire furnace-oil based 1000MW electricity from private sector during January-June 2010. According to this plan, the government was also supposed to install furnace-oil based 800MW power plant. But so far, most of such five-year plans have miserably failed.

Meanwhile the government decided to establish a 1000MW Nuclear based power plant with Russian technical assistance at Rooppur. Bangladesh government already has signed a framework agreement with Russia in this regard. Commenting on possible risk of radiation leaking from the damaged nuclear plant as it happened in Japan, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, “those power plants were constructed 40 years back, whereas present security systems at the nuclear power plants have improved significantly.”

Bangladesh government aspires to complete the first 1000MW nuclear based power station at Rooppur by 2015 while another plant is planned to be established at the same site with same production capacity by 2018.

Ministry sources indicate that, Russians though have signed contract with the Bangladesh government for the establishment of nuclear based power station, it has not yet submitted the details on how Bangladesh would dispose off the nuclear waste that would be released from the plant.

Experts have already issued warning of potential hazards; much ahead of Bangladesh concluded the deal with Russia, without properly evaluating the risk hazards. Sources within the energy ministry, on condition of anonymity told Times of Assam that, decisions related to power plants are being exclusively dictated and finalized by Prime Minister’s advisor Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi, who, according to energy experts, greatly lacks in proper knowledge and experience on such nuclear power plants. Moreover, there are serious allegation of manipulation and corruption by Dr. Tawfiq in finalizing power plant deals. Many opine that, he is solely responsible for the current failures of establishment of QRPP by private and public companies.

Meanwhile, a local company named Quantum Power Limited (an enterprise of OTOBI Limited) was already fined TK 200 crore (US$ 25 million) for their failure in commencing production of a 105MW plant at Bheramara district in Bangladesh. Quantum Power Limited got this contract against QEPP project. The authorities concerned though have collected an amount of TK. 6.4 million (US$ 90,000) only as penalty money out of the total amount of TK 200 crore (US$ 25 million), while, OTOBI is actively pursing with various important figures in the government including the energy advisor in averting payment of the remaining amount of penalty.

QRPP projects have already come totally messed up as the policymakers in the energy ministry, instead of looking into national interest were busier in making evil cash. A large number of projects were also illegally awarded to a company owned by two of the influential and controversial ministers in the government.

Even 20 months after a major gas-fired power plant in Ghorashal went out of order due to negligence of its technicians; the Power Development Board (PDB) could not select a contractor to repair it due to a slow bidding process and change of decisions. The damage of the 210 megawatt plant in July 2010 worsened the country’s load shedding situation. As it remains out of order, the government is spending extra money to buy similar amount of power from rental power plants, said a well-placed PDB official. While the lowest purchase price of power from rental plants is TK 4.8 per kilowatt hour, the same amount of power from Ghorashal plant, built by Russian company Technopromexport, costs less than TK 3. This means the government is counting heavy replacement cost. Some insiders at Energy Ministry seeking anonymity said the 210-megawatt power station at Ghorashal is kept shut-down by the syndicate of looters, who are taking undue advantage of this situation and continuing to visibly rob-off the nation.

Bangladeshi ‘Roopkatha’ Now World's Youngest Computer Programmer

Wasik Farhan Roopkatha, a six-year-old Bangladeshi boy, has hogged the headlines of the international media as he created history by clinching the title of world's youngest computer programmer.

The story of Roopkatha, Bangla for 'fairytale', has overshadowed even (a) fairytale. The New York Herald Tribune, California Observer, Estate News, Children Post and many international websites have recognized him as the youngest computer programmer on earth.

The UK-based globally-acclaimed TV show, Ripley's Believe It or Not, informed his parents recently that the Ripley's would include Roopkatha in its new book, which would hit bookshops worldwide in September this year. His parents have already penned an agreement with Ripley's to this end.

At this tender age of six, when most of the children play games with toys, Roopkatha develops his own computer system (with windows) and runs tags and code of computer programming like an expert.

The born genius, a resident of Gulshan in the capital Dhaka, unbelievably started computing when he was hardly seven months old, and learned writing on computer at the age of only two, said his proud mother Cynthia Farheen Risha.

"Every day, the wonder boy spends more than 12 hours on computer and knows how to change the games' characters by using emulator. He has also an excellent command over computer programming language (C & C++)," she said.

At the beginning, his parents tried to refrain him from playing on computer as they though that spending much time on computer may damage his eyes.

"But our efforts went futile as the boy made a hullabaloo and stopped taking food protesting our move. At last, we were compelled to allow him to play on computer, and now he spends 12-13 hours on computer every day," Risha said.

She said her son's curiosity about computer had started a couple of days after his birth. He would look at computer monitor with eyes unblinking and refrained from eating until the computer was switched on.

She said Roopkatha never took IT lessons and learned everything without taking anybody's help.

Risha said he has already played more than 700 games and completed many complicated games like Sonic-knuckles(all sonic series), Prince of Persia, Terminator 3, Hercules, Air Conflicts, Age of Mythology, lock on, azangara, Metal Gear Solid, Mig-29 fulcrum, Mario Forever(all Mario series), Super Mario64 Nintendo 64, Need for Speed series, The bugs life, legend of Zelda, Star Defender, Red dead redemption, lock on flaming cliffs, Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun, Flight simulator lll, Eve online, Modern Warfare 2, FPS mechanics, Age of Empires 3, Rise of Legends, Castle vania - legacy of darkness act.

The computer prodigy can develop software using various emulator such as project64 1.7, dolphin, Game Cube, Nintendo 64, Gameboy Advance, Virtual Boy, DeSmuME and Computer Emulators. PC- Engine Emulators, Wonderswan Emulators, Atari 2600 Emulators, Atari Jaguar Emulators, MSX Emulators, Microsoft XBox, Microsoft XBox 360 act.

He knows operating system setup and troubleshooting. And more than 5000 English words are in his store and with the words, he can make sentences.

Typing is a very simple matter to him as the boy can type words with his tiny fingers as swift as any highly efficient typist without having a look at the keyboard.

The computer wizard can perfectly manage games project tools and
synchronize any project with other projects. He can also use different complex codes and run them easily.

Roopkatha can browse internet and send emails without any help. He can also enter any website and search any information through search engines. He has also good knowledge about hardware side by side with an excellent command over MS Word, Windows XP, Power Point, Angle and Photo Shop.

Creating file through MS Word, text design, picture ad, graph and table work, accounting through excel, picture moving operation through power point, slide show and sound and music ad work are matters of minutes to him.

Roopkatha can edit any picture in photo shop easily and insert the character of one game into another by changing information. He can install gaming software on computer after downloading from internet. Besides, he also can install various software and games in the PC from compact disc (CD).

Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Service (BASIS) accorded a reception to Roopkatha recently as a youngest computer programmer.

"I must say from the technological point of view that Roopkatha is definitely a wonder baby. I am amazed knowing the time and energy he dedicates to this complex programming, " said Aksadur Rahman, programmer and project manager of MediaSoft.

Roopkatha's businessman father Wasim Farhan and mother Risha hope that their son would become a great programmer in future and introduce a new episode in the cyber world.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bangladesh has no final say

It appears the UPA government has finally succeeded in convincing Bangladesh on the multi-purpose Tipaimukh dam. Despite protests from the opposition and environmental activists, Bangladesh has recently expressed its intention to support the proposed Tipaimukh Dam through its High Commissioner in New Delhi Tariq Ahmad Karim. It is the result of the recent visit of Gowher Rizvi, Foreign Affairs Advisor to the Bangladesh Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina to New Delhi. Gowher Rizvi alongwith his colleague Dr. Mashiur Rahman and Bangladesh High Commissioner Karim had met with a number of Indian leaders including the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ministers for home, finance, power, rural development, and water resources and the national security advisor. With the assurances given by India, the Awami League government in Bangladesh seem convinced that there will be no diminution in the flow of waters in Surma and Kushiyara rivers and that the high dam would have no adverse environmental or ecological impact, no aggravation of the floods during the monsoon. Yet, the government of Bangladesh is proposing to send an expert team to the Dam area to examine the features and likely impact of the dam on the flow of water into the Surma and the Kushiara. Here, we need to remember that, extending support to the Tipaimukh dam is not the unanimous opinion of Bangladesh. Bangladeshi experts have said the massive dam will disrupt the seasonal rhythm of the river and have an adverse effect on downstream agriculture and fisheries. Also, the Khaleda Zia led opposition BNP is dead against it. The Awami League government has dismissed the opposition to the dam as mere demagogy, stridency, devoid of substance and playing to the gallery. It also said, partisan politics and propaganda has replaced the pursuit of truth amongst many commentators. An interesting point to be noted here is that the Indian Prime Minister had invited Bangladesh to become an equity partner in the Tipaimukh project and take a share of the power that will be generated. Bangladesh believes this would guarantee them a place at the decision-making table and the ability to oversight the project at all stages. Here lies the cream icing.

Tipaimukh Dam is a proposed embankment dam on the river Barak in Manipur. The stated purpose of the dam is flood control and hydroelectric power generation. The project has led to controversy between India and Bangladesh over water rights as well as controversy with Manipuri people to be relocated by the reservoir. The dam will be 390m long and 162.8m high, across the Barak River. The dam`s crest elevation will be at an altitude of about 180 m. above mean sea level with a maximum reservoir level of 178 m. The dam was originally designed to contain flood waters in the lower Barak valley but hydro power generation was later incorporated into the project. The project will have an installation capacity of 1500 MW, supplied by six 250 MW Francis turbine-generators. Here we have to be very clear in our mind, that the support of Bangladesh in the matter of the proposed Tipaimukh Dam does not necessarily mean that all the roadblocks have been cleared. They must remember that, it is not only activists but the general public of Manipur is against the dam also. Besides being an earthquake zone, the water reservoir for the proposed dam would lead to massive loss of precious flora and fauna. It will also uproot many villages who they say would be relocated in various locations. But this is entirely against human logic. We have to take into account the man-land relationship and the attachment that people have with the land on which they were born. One cannot simply relocate living people. Yes, Manipur needs power. But it should not be at the cost of precious flora and fauna and of the man-land relationship.

‘Under an elected parliamentary dictatorship with an irresponsible opposition’

Bangladesh is ‘now under an elected parliamentary dictatorship’ with an ‘irresponsible opposition’, says left-leaning writer and activist Syed Abul Maksud.

The Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party act in one way when they are in power and in altogether a different way when in opposition, he said in an exclusive interview with New Age on Tuesday.

Society is now in the grips of a sense of fear, which the incumbents have given rise to, Maksud said.

‘The extent of the space for dissent, freedom of expression and freedom of press ultimately marks the difference between a democratic government and a despotic regime — military or otherwise,’ he said.

In the past four decades since independence, successive governments have developed an ‘economy of thugs’, Maksud observed.


The government has honoured the country’s foreign friends for their contribution to the war of independence in 1971. What is your view about the initiative?

I appreciate the move to honour the foreign friends who provided immense moral and material support in our struggle for independence. It was a moral duty of the government to formally recognise their contribution.

It is not that the government has taken the move all on a sudden. Many people, in fact, demanded recognition for the country’s foreign friends. I myself have written on the issue. I am happy that the process has begun, belatedly though, and hope that it will continue.

The Awami League is, however, reluctant recognise the contributions of the members of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to the war of independence, and vice versa. In fact, each more often than not questions of the role of the leaders of the other. Why is it so?

It is a reflection of their parochial political mindset. In a liberal democracy, you can differentiate political parties on the basis of their activities and ideologies. You can differentiate a socialist party from a conservative or a democratic party abroad.

Here in Bangladesh, however, you cannot differentiate the two major political parties on the basis of their policies and programmes and what their leaders say. They pursue identical political policies. They have made Bangladesh politics hostage to two families — the Sheikh family and the Zia family.

You have talked about liberation war honour. It could have been better if the foreign friends were honoured from a united platform.
The government ‘did not involve’ the opposition parties in the process. It is an unfortunate political reality.

Political empowerment of the people was one of the motivations of the war of independence. Have we achieved it in the past four decades?

We have achieved some kind of political independence and a flag. But we are yet to achieve political independence in the true sense of the term. Instead, we have become politically dependent on India. Yes, India provided us with moral and material support in 1971. But the Indian ruling class has also obstructed our efforts to be politically independent through their dominating attitude.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was a towering personality, somehow managed to overcome the dominance of India. After his assassination, most of the military rulers and the political governments have largely pursued anti-Indian stance. As such, the relations between the two countries have remained strained and distrustful for several decades. The Awami League, which is exceptionally friendly towards India, has also failed to improve the strained relationship.

The January 11, 2007 intervention in the political process put our political freedom at stake. In the subsequent two years, former army chief General Moeen U Ahmed tried to make sure that we remained politically dependent on India. The regime made dependent — politically, economically, socially and culturally — on India.

We watch Indian television channels in Bangladesh but India does not allow Bangladeshi television channels to broadcast their programmes there. It is suffocating and people cannot raise their voice against such duplicity.

Why have India not given Bangladesh even its due share on different issues during the AL-led government if the Awami League, as you say, is ‘exceptionally friendly towards India’?

The government goes out of the way to accommodate the agenda of India but such a ‘friendly’ gesture is not reciprocated. Most people now understand that India never goes against its interests — genuine or otherwise.

What would be the political cost of maintaining such ‘exceptionally friendly relations’ with India?

Why has the Indian ruling class become adamant about not signing the Teesta agreement and so indifferent to continued border killings? The answer is that the Bangladesh government has lost its capacity to bargain with India. They compromise national interest to maintain personal and party friendship.

Not only the Awami League but its political allies also are in the race to be exceptionally friendly towards India. They would have to pay for it in the next general elections, certainly.

Some Awami League leaders have, however, remained true nationalists but their top leadership is pro-Indian. The pro-Awami League intelligentsia, cultural activists, writers and journalists have also become pro-Indian.

An interesting phenomenon is that the persons who used to be ‘pro-Pindi before and during the liberation war have become pro-Indian all on a sudden. They are sheer opportunists. This section of the people have lost nationalist zeal over the past four decades and given rise to a national crisis.

Ministers often allege that the advisers to the prime minister take many decisions for their ministries. In such circumstances, what is your opinion about the government’s decision making process?

In British and Indian democracy the cabinet is responsible to parliament. But, in our parliamentary form of government, parliament has hardly anything to say as the constitution has given unlimited power to the prime minister. The ministers are expected to perform according to the wishes of the prime minister.

The prime minister has also set a new layer — six unelected advisers —between her and her cabinet members. The government cannot make any decision, policy and law without the consent of the advisers. We are now under an elected parliamentary dictatorship.

People’s perception is that corruption is rampant in almost all public offices. What is the reason for such a perception?

Systemic corruption is there in different offices where a few honest people cannot stop the menace. There is hardly any accountability in the government machinery as there is no parliamentary oversight.

Parliament is not holding any meaningful debate. The ruling party MPs are busy flattering the government in general and the prime minister in particular. The associate organisations for youths, students and workers of the ruling party have emerged as a new threat. They, together with a small number of government officials, have taken corruption to a new height.

Shouldn’t the opposition play a role to make the government accountable to parliament?

Yes, indeed. But the opposition, in our system, has become irresponsible opposition, no matter which party they belong to. They prefer to remain outside parliament but draw monetary and other facilities related to their positions.

Had they been in parliament throughout its tenure, they could at least have raised their voice against the decisions and laws made by the government. They could have stopped things going unchallenged.

All these things happen because there is hardly any difference between the two major political parties — the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party — in terms of principles, goals and policies.

I believe the opposition should go to the House and play a critical role remaining above narrow partisan and personal gains.

The main opposition BNP has alleged that the government created obstruction to its March 12 rally, imposed restriction on the movement of the leader of the opposition Khaleda Zia when she came out of her house for visiting the National Martyrs’ Memorial at Savar on March 26 morning, and the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel authorities cancelled, upon instructions by an intelligence agency, the booking for a programme where she was scheduled to be chief guest. What is your view about these incidents?

These were highly undemocratic behaviour by an elected government. It is unfortunate. It will ultimately make the government loser. The leader of the opposition in a parliamentary democracy is part of the government. Creating obstructions to her programmes and movements are violation of constitutional rights.

Economic emancipation was a motivation for the war of independence. At what phase of economic emancipation are we, as a nation, now?

Before replying to this question, I need to mention that none of the governments, including the Awami League, has upheld state principles mentioned in the 1972 constitution in the past four decades.

The Awami League has emerged as a bourgeois nationalist and capitalist political party after the war. It has kept socialism merely as a word in the constitution. Sheikh Mujib nationalised all industries and developed state capitalism. State capitalism and corruption are synonymous in countries like Bangladesh. Corruption has become institutionalised over the years.

Amid the surge of consumerism, the entire nation has lost its nationalistic principle. We have in fact submitted ourselves to consumerism.

Democracy was, and is, not practised in its minimal form in and outside the parties.

The rural people have, however, come out of severe poverty thanks to non-government organisations which were supported by the capitalist world.

Why has the level of income inequality remained unchanged?

At least 30 per cent of the people were
bare-bodied in the rural markets in 1972 and 1973. At least 60 per cent of them were bare-footed.

Yes, we have come out of a certain level of poverty. But 15 per cent of the people remain deprived of one out of three meals a day when MPs use Tk 3 crore cars. It is because successive governments have developed an ‘economy of thugs’ in the last 41 years.

My point is that these governments’ contribution to reduction of poverty is negligible. People have established small businesses and applied technology in agriculture and changed their fate themselves.

Despite their absolute majority in parliament, the Awami League government did not fully restore the secular principle of the state. Why?

The Awami League, by nature, is a secular political party. It, however, did not fully restore the secular principle of the state keeping its vote banks in considerations.

What is the state of freedom of the press amidst intimidation and obstruction of journalists by ruling party men and powerful quarters often?

Both the freedom of expression and freedom of press are now vulnerable. The press is now under close watch. The electronic media could not telecast live the March 12 rally of the opposition due to undue obstructions. It is uncalled for.

What is your position about the non-party caretaker government?

We could hold election under a party government if we were in a good democratic environment. But, unfortunately, the situation is different here.

The level of distrust between the two major political parties is very high. The government often obstructs the programmes and movement of the opposition.

The people in general and the opposition parties in particular are losing confidence in the government, which appears to be despotic in nature.

In this situation, a non-party interim government is a good option.

What is the state of society?

We are in transition. Consumerism is becoming prominent across society. The country has been made a springboard for international conspiracy. The government controlled by General Moeen U Ahmed has almost decimated the nation’s self-confidence.

We lack the sense of social justice. A sense of helplessness is grabbing the people. The number of dissenting voices is gradually decreasing. It is frustrating.

Only a strong and genuine nationalistic leadership can help people to come out of this situation.

You say the number of dissenting voices is decreasing. Why?

It is because the governments have been getting oppressive and repressive in nature.

The two political parties, which fought for democracy together against an autocratic government, now behave like autocrats. They act in one way when in power and in altogether a different when in opposition.

A sense of fear prevails and the government itself is creating fear across society. It is not democracy.

The extent of the space for dissent, freedom of expression and freedom of press ultimately marks the difference between a democratic government and a despotic regime — military or otherwise.


Strategically Speaking : Shrinking political space for the opposition

It is not only shrinking, political space of the opposition is shrinking at a frighteningly increasing rate. And that is alarming for any country that claims to be democratic and civilised. To be civilised is the first essential criterion that makes for a democratic nation, and one that is not cannot claim to be fully democratic. Looking at the way the government has gone about curtailing the political freedom of the opposition by denying them the room to conduct legitimate and lawful political and civil activities, and which were neither potentially disruptive nor posed danger to public life and property or to national security, one wonders whether we can claim to be either democratic or civilised. 

On the heels of the government action in respect of the March 12 BNP rally, which went ahead despite everything that was done by deploying the entire state machinery including the AL party appendages to see that the programme did not come through, the two recent incidents concerning the BNP leader make one wonder whether by acting in this manner the government is not shooting itself in the foot. 

What can one make of the repoprt that the leader of the opposition was hindered from going to the National Memorial by the law enforcing agencies? As reported in the media, she was stopped right at her doorsteps till she and her entourage literally forced themselves through the barricade and moved towards Savar. And obstructions were set up in quite a few places along the road also, reportedly by AL cadres.

The predictable denial was not long in coming. We are by now used to the overused remarks of the home minister in such instances. In reply to question from journalists whether such action was ordered from the top, she said that the government had not passed any such order to any agency to bar the movements of Begum Zia on the morning of March 26. Really? Then what we saw and read in the media, of policemen in uniform creating obstruction for the opposition leader's entourage, must either have been stage managed by the BNP to malign the government or these were some cosmic apparitions doing the dirty job for somebody. 

That these people were neither apparitions nor cosmic interventions was clear from the way they behaved with the people around them. Pictures don't lie and unoriginal explanations do not wash with the public. But the explanation given by another person holding responsible position in the government sounded so comically ridiculous as to compel one to wonder whether we are destined to suffer at the hands of little men with little minds who take the people for granted and give no credit to their intelligence. He said, without directly answering the question, that nobody would be allowed to create law and order problems in the name of exercising political or civic rights. Are we to believe that the intention of the leader of the opposition on the morning of our National Day was to create law and order situation for the government? 

It is for the government to enquire as to who ordered, and on what grounds, the obstruction of the opposition leader on her way to the National Memorial, because if we take the claims of the government to be true then there is reason to be worried because it seems that there is somebody who is acting over the head of the legitimate authorities. And if the police were there without specific instructions from the lawful authorities we are surprised that the relevant persons have not been asked to account for their actions.

As for the other incident, the proposed launching of some books on the late BNP leader, it could not be held because the reservation of the programme venue, which happened to be a hotel owned by the government, was cancelled at the very last minute. 

Here again it seems that some non-corporeal entity must have been at work, because nobody has taken the responsibility of having passed the order to cancel the booking. In fact the government has denied having instructed anybody to that effect. But as reported in the media, the cancellation was done on the orders of the "higher authority." We are confused once again, and, even more, disappointed that no one has the gumption to own up the responsibility for passing the order to cancel the reservation. And if it was not a part of an underhand wily scheme of some half-witted mind in the administration, then the government should come up with a plausible explanation as to why the hotel management acted in the way they did.

These actions of the government, and we find very hard to accept what the government has said with regard to these two incidents, puts the political wisdom of the AL in very poor light. Such is not expected of a party with a long political tradition. One wonders whether it is an indication of the party's political bankruptcy or is it that the AL has run out of options to counter the opposition. 

Curtailing the opposition's political freedom demeans the significance of the month of March. 


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dhaka to give India telecom transit rights

Bangladesh has, in principle, agreed to provide India telecom transit through the state owned submarine cable operator. The decision was made after a high level delegation from India approached the Bangladesh government for providing telecom transit to the North Eastern countries through Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL), the custodian of the lone fiber optic cable SEA-ME-WE-4, senior officials of the ministry of Post and telecommunication (MoPT) told The Independent on Tuesday.

The transit would be provided through the surplus bandwidth as almost two thirds of the country's allocated bandwidth through the submarine cable SEA-ME-WE-4 remains unused, Haslul Mahmud Khan, joint secretary of the MoPT said.

Khan informed that last year, a high level delegation from Assam, led by a member of the state legislative assembly (MLA) visited Bangladesh and discussed with MoPT about providing telecom transit through the BSCCL.

BSCCL managing director (MD) Monwar Hossain said that currently the mobile and internet connectivity of northeastern states of India are laid through the 'chicken neck' (a narrow strip of corridor ) from Mumbai and Chennai (two entry points of SEA-ME-WE-4).

"As India can save a lot of money by laying the telecom connectivity between Agartala and Dhaka via Akhaura in Bangladesh and between Sabroom in south Tripura and Cox's Bazar in Chittagong where the SEA-ME-WE-4 enters Bangladesh", he said.

MD of BSCCL said that through this connectivity Bangladesh would be benefited as it will be able to make use of its unused bandwidth and earn a lot of money in foreign currency.

Meanwhile, according to a PTI report, RK Upadhayaya, managing director of Indian state owned telecom company Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) told reporters in Agartala on Monday that the company was planning to set up telecom connectivity through Bangladesh for North Eastern region of the country due to tough terrain and geographical isolation.

"Ministry has attached much importance to consolidating telecom network in NE region and we are interested in setting up an alternative route through Bangladesh due to tough terrain," BSNL Chairman and Managing Director R K Upadhayaya said.

Connectivity would be set up between Agartala and Dhaka via Akhaura in Bangladesh and between Sabroom in South Tripura and Cox's Bazar in Chittagong in Bangladesh to provide smooth telecom connectivity, he told reporters at Agartala.

Upadhyay was in Agartala to discuss with the Chief Minister, Manik Sarkar about the development plans in Tripura and the region. The government has planned to extend OFC to 25,000 panchayats across the country to provide broadband services, he said.


'Zia knew about Mujib's proclamation'

Even though BNP claims its founder Ziaur Rahman, then an army major, had proclaimed independence of Bangladesh, a confidential military document of Oli Ahmed, who was one of his close associates, has a different story to tell.

Oli's annual confidential report (ACR) prepared during his days in military in 1974 reads he had informed Zia about the proclamation of independence by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the night of Mar 25, 1971.

Oli's then brigade commander Mir Shawkat Ali in his ACR praised the young military officer and wrote that he had informed Zia first about Mujib's Mar 25 proclamation of independence amid great risks.

Oli Ahmed's ACR

On Aug 20, 1974, then deputy chief of Army Ziaur Rahman signed Oli's ACR, a copy of which is available with

Mir Shawkat and Oli both later joined BNP, a party formed by Zia after assuming power as chief martial law administrator. The trio had served in the East Bengal Regiment. Mir Shawkat and Oli were with Zia in the beginning of independence war in 1971.

However, Mir Shawkat was later alienated from BNP. He died last year.

While a minister in Khaleda Zia's cabinet Mir Shawkat once claimed Zia was the man who proclaimed independence. "Zia proclaimed independence on the night of Mar 25 standing on a drum," Mir Shawkat had said.

Oli Ahmed left BNP at the fag end of Khaleda Zia's tenure in 2006 and floated his own party, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). He then joined Awami League-led Grand Alliance alleging persecution by BNP. But he left the ruling alliance and joined the BNP-led alliance in 2011.

Oli's ACR was full of praises for his organisational abilities and his role in 1971. It reads he could be an asset for the army if he was guided properly.

On the back of a controversy by BNP over proclamation of Bangladesh's independence, the High Court in a verdict in 2009 said it was none other than Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who proclaimed it.

The court also banned volume III of "Bangladesher Swadhinota Juddher Dolilpatra" (Documents of Bangladesh's Independence War) as it mentioned that Ziaur Rahman had proclaimed independence.

Despite the court order BNP has been claiming that Zia had proclaimed independence.

On Mar 25, BNP's acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said, "Zia led the nation to the war by proclaiming Bangladesh's independence." 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Role of R&AW in Liberation of Bangladesh

Covert action capability is an indispensable tool for any State having external adversaries. Its purpose is not just collection of intelligence, but the protection of national interests and the safeguarding of national security through deniable actions of a political, economic, para-diplomatic or para-military nature. A State resorts to covert action if it finds that its national interests cannot be protected or its national security cannot be safeguarded through conventional political, economic, diplomatic or military means or if it concludes that such conventional means are not feasible.

Any intelligence agency worth its salt will have a covert action capability ready for use, when necessary. The Governments of some countries openly admit the availability of such a capability in their intelligence agencies, but not the details of their operations, which have to be secret and deniable. Others don’t admit even its existence.

In India too, the IB, under the foresighted leadership of the late B.N.Mullik, its second Director, had a limited covert action capability for possible use. The covert action division of the IB played a notable role in the then East Pakistan to counter the activities of the ISI in India’s North-East.

The R&AW had inherited from the IB its intelligence collection and covert action capabilities relating to Pakistan and China. These were not up to the standards of the intelligence agencies of the Western countries and Israel.

In India, one tends to think that Pakistan’s use of terrorism against India started in 1989 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). It is not so. It started in 1956 in Nagaland. The ISI trained the followers of Phizo, the Naga hostile leader, in training camps set up in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of East Pakistan. It also provided them with safe sanctuaries in the CHT from which they could operate in the Indian territory through northern Myanmar.

In the 1960s, it started providing similar assistance and sanctuaries to the Mizo National Front (MNF) headed by Laldenga in the CHT. The ISI’s set-up in East Pakistan also enabled the Naga and Mizo hostiles to establish contact with the Chinese intelligence. This paved the way for the training of the Naga and Mizo hostiles in training camps set up by the Chinese intelligence in the Yunnan province of China.

It was partly to put an end to the activities of the ISI in India’s North-East from East Pakistan that Indira Gandhi decided to assist the Bengali-speaking people of East Pakistan in their efforts to separate from Pakistan and achieve an independent State to be called Bangladesh. This was in the wake of the widespread disturbances in East Pakistan in the beginning of 1971 following the refusal of the military regime of Pakistan headed by Gen. Mohammad Yahya Khan to honour the results of the December,1970,general elections in which the Awami League of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won a majority in the Pakistani National Assembly.

When the people of East Pakistan rose in revolt in March,1971, the R&AW was two and a half years old. It was still in the process of finding its feet as a full-fledged external intelligence agency, with a hardcore of professional intelligence officers capable of operating under cover in foreign territory as well as across the border in the neighbouring countries.

The poor sense of communications security in the Pakistani Armed Forces was evident from the careless use of telephones by senior officers, including Gen.Yahya Khan, for conveying instructions to their officers in East Pakistan.

The R&AW had inherited from the IB its intelligence collection and covert action capabilities relating to Pakistan and China. These were not up to the standards of the intelligence agencies of the Western countries and Israel. They had many inadequacies, which had become evident during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962, during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965 and during the counter-insurgency operations in the North-East.

The late Rameshwar Nath Kao, who headed the external intelligence division of the IB, was appointed by Indira Gandhi as the head of the R&AW when it was formed on September 21,1968. In the first few months after its formation, he gave it two priority tasks— to strengthen its capability for the collection of intelligence about Pakistan and China and for covert action in East Pakistan.

A little over two years is too short a time to build up an effective covert action capability, but the R&AW managed to do so. It went into action the moment Indira Gandhi took the decision to help the people of East Pakistan achieve their independence from Pakistan.

The 1971 war against Pakistan was not a war won by India alone. It was a war jointly won by India and the people of East Pakistan. It would be wrong to project that India was the architect of an independent Bangladesh. India’s role was more as a facilitator than as a creator.

Without the desire and the will of the people of East Pakistan to be independent, there would have been no Bangladesh. Their sacrifices for their cause were immense. How many of them were brutally killed by the Pakistan Army! How many of the Bengali intellectuals were massacred by the Pakistan Army and by terrorist organizations such as Al Badr and Al Shams created by the ISI! It is their sacrifice, which laid the foundation for an independent Bangladesh. What India did under the leadership of Indira Gandhi was to make sure that their sacrifices were not in vain.

The Indian Armed Forces under the leadership of Field-Marshal (then General) S.H.F.J. Manekshaw and the Border Security Force (BSF) headed by the late K.F.Rustomji overtly and the R&AW and the IB covertly ensured this. But, they would not have been able to succeed as well as they did without the political leadership provided by Indira Gandhi and the phenomenal work done by the civilian officials of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura in organizing humanitarian relief for the millions of refugees who crossed over into India from East Pakistan.

Indira Gandhi’s dramatic decision to ban all Pakistani flights over India to East Pakistan in retaliation for the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight by two members of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) to Lahore in January,1971, paved the way for the ultimate victory in East Pakistan. When the Pakistani aircraft tried to fly round India over the sea by availing of re-fuelling facilities in Sri Lanka, Indira Gandhi pressurized the Government of Sri Lanka to stop providing the re-fuelling facilities. This greatly weakened the ability of the headquarters of the Pakistani Armed Forces in West Pakistan to send reinforcements to East Pakistan and to keep their garrisons in East Pakistan supplied.

The R&AW’s role was five-fold: Provision of intelligence to the policy-makers and the armed forces; to train the Bengali freedom fighters in clandestine training camps; to network with Bengali public servants from East Pakistan posted in West Pakistan and in Pakistan’s diplomatic missions abroad and persuade them to co-operate with the freedom-fighters and to help in the freedom struggle by providing intelligence; to mount a special operation in the CHT against the sanctuaries and training camps of the Naga and Mizo hostiles;and to organize a psychological warfare (PSYWAR) campaign against the Pakistani rulers by disseminating reports about the massacres of the Bengalis in East Pakistan and the exodus of refugees.

Indira Gandhi’s dramatic decision to ban all Pakistani flights over India to East Pakistan in retaliation for the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight, paved the way for the ultimate victory in East Pakistan.

The flow of intelligence to the policy-makers from the R&AW and the IB was continuous and voluminous. This was facilitated by the co-operation of many Bengali public servants of East Pakistan and by the poor communications security of the Pakistani Armed Forces. One of the first acts of Kao after the coming into being of the R&AW was to set up a Monitoring Division headed by a distinguished retired officer of the Army Signal Corps to collect technical intelligence (TECHINT) from Pakistan and China and a Cryptography Division, headed by a cryptography expert from the IB. While the performance of the Monitoring and Cryptography Divisions in respect of China was unsatisfactory, they did excellent work in intercepting electronic communications within West Pakistan as well as between West and East Pakistan and in repeatedly breaking the codes used by the Pakistani authorities for their communications.

The poor sense of communications security in the Pakistani Armed Forces was evident from the careless use of telephones by senior officers, including Gen.Yahya Khan, for conveying instructions to their officers in East Pakistan—-without even taking basic precautions such as the use of scrambling devices to make their conversations unintelligible to anyone intercepting them. Almost every day, Indira Gandhi and others entrusted with the conduct of the war had at their disposal extracts from the telephonic conversations of Yahya Khan and others with their officers in East Pakistan.

1971 in East Pakistan was a dream situation for professional intelligence officers. Often, they did not have to go after intelligence. It came after them. There was such a total alienation of the people of East Pakistan that many were eager and willing to convey intelligence to their own leaders as well as to the Indian intelligence agencies. Co-operation with the Indian intelligence agencies was looked upon by them as their patriotic duty in order to facilitate the liberation of their country.

The IB before 1968 and the R&AW thereafter had built up a network of relationships with many political leaders and Government officials of East Pakistan. They were helped in this networking by the sense of humiliation of the Bengali leaders and officials at the hands of their West Pakistani rulers. This networking enabled the R&AW and the leaders and officials of East Pakistan to quickly put in position the required infrastructure for a liberation struggle consisting of a parallel government with its own fighters trained by the Indian security forces and its own bureaucracy.

The only sections of the local population, who were hostile to India and its agencies, were the Muslim migrants from Bihar. These Bihari migrants were loyal to their West Pakistani rulers and co-operated with them in carrying out the brutal massacre of the Bengalis. However, since their number was small, the Bihari migrants could not come in the way of the liberation movement.

The main hostility to India was from the US and China. Neither of them wanted India to succeed in what they perceived as its designs to break up Pakistan.

1971 also saw the coming into being of the R&AW’s Psychological Warfare (PSYWAR) Division, euphemistically called the Information Division. Media professionals from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as well as from the Army were given by Kao the task of ensuring that international spotlight was kept focused on the brutalities being committed by the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan and the resulting exodus of millions of refugees into India.

They did excellent work, but if the international community became aware of the seriousness of the ground situation and of the compulsions on India to act, the real credit for it should go to Indira Gandhi. She was a born Psywarrior. Through her travels across the world to draw attention to the situation in East Pakistan and the bordering States of India, she managed to create an atmosphere, which would not have been hostile to the ultimate Indian intervention—-even if it was not supportive of it.

The main hostility to India was from the US and China. Neither of them wanted India to succeed in what they perceived as its designs to break up Pakistan. They had convinced themselves that what they saw as the Indian designs was not the immediate outcome of the disturbances in East Pakistan and the resulting exodus of refugees. Instead, they tended to agree with the military rulers of Pakistan that the disturbances and the refugee exodus were the outcome of the Indian designs. India’s perceived closeness to Moscow under Indira Gandhi added to their hostility.

Those were the days of the first covert contacts between the administration of President Richard Nixon in Washington DC and the regime of Mao Zedong in Beijing. These contacts were facilitated by the military rulers of Pakistan. Yahya Khan earned the gratitude of both the US and China by making possible the first secret visit of Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s National Security Adviser, to Beijing in July,1971, for talks with Mao and his associates.

To counter the perceived Indian designs, the Chinese stepped up the supply of arms and ammunition to Pakistan.

The developing Washington-Beijing understanding was mainly directed against Moscow, but India too, which was perceived by both the US and China as the USSR’s surrogate, came under their scan. There was an undeclared convergence of views between Washington DC and Beijing that Pakistan should be protected from India and that India should not be allowed to emerge as the dominating power of the South Asian region.

In view of the widespread revulsion across the world over the brutalities of the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan, both Nixon and Mao realized that there was not much they could do to help Pakistan retain its control over East Pakistan. Even while mentally reconciling themselves to the inevitability of Pakistan losing its eastern wing, they were determined to thwart any designs of Indira Gandhi to break up West Pakistan after helping the Bengali people of East Pakistan in the liberation of their homeland. They had convinced themselves that Indira Gandhi had such designs and that after Bangladesh, she would turn her attention to Balochistan on the Iranian border, where there were already signs of growing alienation of the people against what they perceived as the Punjabi domination of their homeland.

To counter the perceived Indian designs, the Chinese stepped up the supply of arms and ammunition to Pakistan. They also expedited the construction of the Karakoram Highway, which would link the road network of the Xinjiang region of China with that of Pakistan, and thereby enable the Chinese Armed Forces to intervene in support of Pakistan, if necessary, in future. However, this could be completed only in 1978. 

The Nixon Administration colluded with the Yahya regime by initiating a covert action plan for the destabilization of India. This plan envisaged the encouragement of a separatist movement among the Sikhs of India’s Punjab for an independent State to be called Khalistan.

There was a Sikh Home Rule Movement headed by one Charan Singh Panchi in the UK even before 1971, but it had practically no support from the Sikh diaspora and was ignored by the international community and media. In 1971, one saw the beginning of a joint covert action operation by the US intelligence community and Pakistan’s ISI to create difficulties for India in Punjab. US interest in this operation continued for a little more than a decade and tapered off after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh security guards on October 31,1984.

In 1971, as Indira Gandhi and the R&AW’s Psywar Division stepped up their campaign against Pakistan on the question of the violation of the human rights of the people of East Pakistan, one saw the beginning of an insidious Psywar campaign jointly mounted by the US intelligence and the ISI against the Indira Gandhi Government, with dissemination of stories about the alleged violations of the human rights of the Sikhs in Punjab.

After Indira Gandhi came back to power in the elections of 1980, the US suspected that India supported the presence of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan and that the Indian intelligence was collaborating with its Afghan counterpart.

Dr.Jagjit Singh Chauhan, a Sikh leader of Punjab with not much following, went to the UK, took over the leadership of the Sikh Home Rule movement and re-named it the Khalistan movement. The Yahya regime invited him to Pakistan, lionized him as the leader of the Sikh people and handed over him some Sikh holy relics kept in Pakistan. He took them with him to the UK and tried to use them in a bid to win a following in the Sikh diaspora in the UK. At a press conference at London in September,1971, he gave a call for the creation of an independent Khalistan.

He also went to New York, met officials of the United Nations and some American journalists and voiced allegations of the violation of the human rights of the Sikhs by the Indira Gandhi Government. These meetings were discreetly organized by officials of the US National Security Council Secretariat then headed by Kissinger.

With American and Pakistani encouragement, the activities of Chauhan continued till 1977. After the defeat of Indira Gandhi in the elections of 1977 and the coming into power of a Government headed by Morarji Desai, Chauhan abruptly called off his so-called Khalistan movement and returned to India.

After Indira Gandhi came back to power in the elections of 1980, the US suspected that India supported the presence of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan and that the Indian intelligence was collaborating with its Afghan counterpart. Chauhan went back to the UK and resumed the Khalistan movement.

In addition to stepping up the supply of arms and ammunition to the Pakistani Armed Forces and expediting the construction of the Karakoram Highway, the Chinese also wanted to destabilize India’s North-East by helping the Naga and Mizo hostiles in their insurgencies against the Government of India. However, their interest in the North-East was not the outcome of the events of 1971 in East Pakistan. It began in 1968.

While the intelligence agencies of the US and Pakistan co-operated with each other in creating difficulties for India and Indira Gandhi in Punjab, the ISI and the Chinese intelligence co-operated with each other in creating difficulties for them in India’s North-East. The Pakistani aim in destabilizing the North_East was to keep the Indian security forces preoccupied with counter-insurgency duties in the North-East, in the hope of thereby reducing any Indian threat to their position in East Pakistan. The Chinese aim was, in addition to helping Pakistan retain control over its Eastern wing, to weaken the Indian hold in this area in order to safeguard their own position in Tibet and to facilitate the eventual achievement of their objective of integrating India’s Arunachal Pradesh with Tibet.

Even as the Indian Army—ably assisted by the Air Force and the Navy—was moving towards Dhaka , covert action units of the R&AW and the Directorate-General of Security (DGS), which also came under Kao, raided the CHT in order to put an end to the insurgency infrastructure of the Naga and the Mizo hostiles. They found that the Nagas, anticipating the raid, had already shifted their infrastructure to the Burma Naga Hills area. The Mizos had not shifted, but they managed to escape capture by the units of the R&AW and the DGS and crossed over into the Chin Hills and the Arakan Division areas of Burma. Laldenga, the head of the MNF, proceeded to Rangoon from where he was taken to Karachi by the ISI. Apart from destroying the physical infrastructure of the hostiles, the only other useful outcome of the raid was the capture of all the documents kept in the MNF headquarters, which gave a lot of valuable intelligence about the contacts of the MNF with the ISI and the Chinese intelligence.

The Naga and the Mizo hostiles lost their safe sanctuaries, but their manpower remained intact. However, the loss of the sanctuaries and an important source of funds and arms and ammunition created doubts in the minds of their leadership about the continued viability of their insurgent movement. As will be discussed in a subsequent chapter, this ultimately led to peace in Mizoram and partial peace in Nagaland.

The 1971 war and our counter-insurgency operations against the Naga and the Mizo hostiles once again highlighted the importance of Northern Burma from the point of view of the security of India’s North-East. To explain this, I have to go back to my entry into the intelligence community.

In the year before the 1962 war, the IB’s trans-border sources in the North-East were repeatedly reporting about a tremendous increase in the number of mules and Chinese muleteers in the Kachin State and the Burma Naga Hills.

I joined the IB in July 1967. After my training, Kao, who then headed the external intelligence division of the IB, told me that I had been selected to head the Burma Branch. The branch was created after the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and he felt that it was as important as the branches dealing with Pakistan and China. He wanted me to acquire expertise not only on Burma, but also on the Yunnan province of China.

I continued to be in charge of the Burma branch for nearly five years — handling analysis as well as clandestine operations — and acquired such expertise that people used to refer to me as ‘Burma Raman.’

After taking over, I thought I would familiarise myself with the background to the creation of the Branch, and sent for the relevant file. It was there that I saw a one para hand-written note by B.N. Mullik, who was the Director of the IB at the time of the Chinese invasion of India. The note had been recorded by him shortly after the war with China had come to an end.

The note said: “I have discussed with the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. They have agreed that we must urgently create a Burma Branch. It should start functioning from today without waiting for a formal approval from Finance. Action for obtaining approval from Finance may be taken separately.”

In order to understand why the Branch was created in such an urgency — almost in panic — I then requisitioned all Burma-related files of 1962 and the years before from the Record Room (Archives).

From the various notings in those files, I noticed that Mullik and others felt that the Indian Army was so badly taken by surprise in what today is called Arunachal Pradesh because some Chinese troops had entered Arunachal Pradesh not directly from the North, but from Yunnan in the East.

They had clandestinely moved across the Putao region of the Kachin state of Burma without being detected by the IB. The Kachin State and the Burma Naga Hills were a no-man’s land in those days, with practically no Burmese administrative or military presence outside the towns of Myitkyina and Putao. The Chinese had taken advantage of this.

I then went through all the pre-1962 source files in order to understand how the IB’s sources in North Burma had missed this. In those days, whatever roads were there in the Kachin State and the Burma Naga Hills had been blown up by the anti-Rangoon insurgents. The only way of moving about and carrying goods from one place to another was on the back of mules. North Burma had a large Chinese population of Yunanese origin. 

Many of them earned their living as muleteers.

In the year before the 1962 war, the IB’s trans-border sources in the North-East were repeatedly reporting about a tremendous increase in the number of mules and Chinese muleteers in the Kachin State and the Burma Naga Hills.

Towards the end of 1968 and throughout 1969, R&AW sources in the Kachin State of Burma started reporting…

The then officers of the IB had sent out a wake-up call by drawing the attention of the policy-makers to the national security implications of this development in the areas adjoining the Indian border in Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. But they were ridiculed and accused of nursing imaginary fears.

It was realised only belatedly that these muleteers were actually Chinese Army and intelligence officers based in Yunnan, who had taken up position across our border in Burmese territory in the months before the invasion. After the war was over, there was a steep drop in the number of mules and Chinese muleteers in North Burma.

In 1968, the Governments of India and Burma agreed to set up a Joint Commission for the Demarcation of the Indo-Burmese boundary except in the northern and southern trijunctions.

Kao spoke to the then Foreign Secretary and persuaded him to include me in the Commission under the cover of a Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs dealing with the North-East.

By that time, Indira Gandhi had decided to bifurcate the IB and create the R&AW under the charge of Kao. It was, therefore, decided that I, along with the Burma Branch, would stand transferred to the R&AW, but I would keep the late MML Hooja, the then Director, IB, in the picture regarding my work.

Our concern was that the continued intrusions might be linked to the developments in East Pakistan and might have been intended to deter any Indian action in East Pakistan.

Kao, therefore, took Hooja’s concurrence for my being the joint representative of the R&AW and the IB in the Commission. My membership of the Commission gave me an opportunity to travel frequently and widely in remote areas of North Burma.

The Commission used to meet alternately in India and Burma. Normally, joint aerial photography of the border areas is the starting point for the demarcation work. At a meeting of the Commission in Rangoon, the Indian delegation proposed that such aerial photography be undertaken. We added that since the Burmese Air Force might not have a plane capable of good aerial photography, we would be happy to request the Indian Air Force to do this job for the Commission and that we would not charge the Burmese Government for it. A Burmese officer could be attached to the IAF for guiding in the aerial photography mission, we said.

The Burmese replied that they already had aerial photographs of the Indo-Burma bordering areas, and that we could use them as the starting point.

The photographs were of excellent quality. Totally surprised, we asked them how they took them since their Air Force did not have a plane capable of taking such aerial photography. To our shock, they replied: “Our Chinese friends helped us. We sought their help. They sent a plane of their Air Force to fly over the Indo-Burmese border to take the photographs.”

When we strongly protested against their allowing a Chinese Air Force plane to fly over our sensitive border areas and take photographs without our permission, the Burmese replied: “We will never let down our Indian friends. We did take your prior permission.”

They then showed us a note from the then Indian Ambassador in Rangoon to their Foreign Office, stating that the Government of India would have no objection to their requesting the Chinese for assistance in the aerial photography.

On my return to Delhi, I briefed Kao about this, and suggested that he should advise the Prime Minister to order an enquiry into how a matter having serious national security implications was handled so casually, and fix responsibility.

Kao replied: “Raman, the R&AW has only recently got going. We will need the goodwill of the Ministry of External Affairs for functioning in the Indian embassies abroad. By raising this with the Prime Minister, we will unnecessarily be creating hostility to the R&AW in the MEA. I will mention this breach of security to the Foreign Secretary and let him decide what further needs to be done.” Nothing further was done.

Towards the end of 1968 and throughout 1969, R&AW sources in the Kachin State of Burma started reporting that taking advantage of the absence of Burmese military presence in the areas of the Kachin State to the East and the South-East of Myitkyina and also in the Bhamo area—-all adjoining the Yunnan border— a large number of Chinese troops from Yunnan had infiltrated into the Burmese territory in these areas and set up camps. The sources also reported that the Burmese Government had not taken any action against these intrusions.

One of my tasks as the head of the Burma branch was to closely monitor these intrusions should there be indications of these troops moving further Westwards towards the Indian border. Some of these troops went back into Yunnan in 1970, but others stayed put in Burmese territory till the 1971 war in East Pakistan was over.

Our concern was that the continued intrusions might be linked to the developments in East Pakistan and might have been intended to deter any Indian action in East Pakistan. But, further enquiries indicated that this was not so.

After the Chinese Communists extended their control over Yunnan post-1949, the surviving remnants of the anti-Communist Kuomintang (KMT) troops had crossed over into the Kachin and Shan States of Burma and set up bases there. Beijing was exercising pressure on Rangoon to expel them from Burmese territory. We assessed that the troop intrusions into the Burmese territory were meant to reinforce that pressure and had nothing to do with the developments in East Pakistan.

There was concern in the intelligence communities of India as well as the US that the Chinese might establish their control over North Burma by exploiting the weaknesses of the Burmese Government. This did not happen. The Chinese troops withdrew from the Burmese territory in the 1970s after the KMT remnants were airlifted to Taiwan.

Two questions often posed are: Indira Gandhi could have at least ordered the liberation of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan), which India considers as an integral part of its territory under illegal Pakistani occupation. Why she did not do so?

This shared concern brought about a close working relationship between the R&AW and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in North Burma. Thus, one saw the curious spectacle of the US intelligence colluding with the ISI in assisting the Khalistan movement in Indian Punjab, with the Chinese intelligence for preventing a break-up of West Pakistan by India and with the Indian intelligence for preventing a possible Chinese take-over of North Burma. This may appear strange and incomprehensible, but such things are normal in the intelligence profession.

As the war in East Pakistan was reaching its climax, Nixon, reportedly as advised by Kissinger, ordered the USS Enterprise, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of the US Navy, to move into the Bay of Bengal. It reached there on December 11,1971. What was the purpose of the movement? The generally accepted assessment held that it was meant to convey a warning to India to stop the war after the liberation of Bangladesh and not to break up West Pakistan. Pressure from the policy-makers for more intelligence about the US intentions increased on the R&AW.

The R&AW felt handicapped in meeting the demands for intelligence about the movement of US ships and about the US intentions since it had very little capability for the collection of hard intelligence about countries other than India’s neighbours and its capability for the collection of maritime intelligence was very weak. The follow-up action taken to remove these inadequacies will be discussed in a subsequent chapter.

Contrary to the fears of Pakistan, the US and China, Indira Gandhi had no intention of breaking up West Pakistan. She knew it would be counter-productive and antagonize large sections of the international community, which appreciated the compulsions on India to act in East Pakistan. Moreover, the only area of West Pakistan ripe for supportive action was Balochistan, but it did not have a contiguous border with India. 

Any Indian support could have been only by sea. This was not feasible. Moreover, any support to the Baloch nationalists would have sounded the alarm bells in Iran and antagonized the Shah of Iran. For these reasons, the idea of a possible break-up of West Pakistan was not even contemplated by her. Any intervention in West Pakistan would have added to the feelings of humiliation of the Pakistani Armed Forces and large sections of its people. This would not have been in the long-term interests of India.

As the war ended, the R&AW and Kao were the toasts of the policy-makers.

Two questions often posed are: Indira Gandhi could have at least ordered the liberation of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan), which India considers as an integral part of its territory under illegal Pakistani occupation. Why she did not do so?

India had taken 93,000 Pakistani military personnel prisoners of war in East Pakistan. Why did she hand them over to Pakistan under the Shimla Agreement of 1972, without insisting on a formal recognition in writing by Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India?

Nobody knows the definitive answers to these questions. My assessment is that she wanted to be generous to Pakistan at the hour of its greatest humiliation due to the misdeeds of its army and to strengthen the political leadership of Pakistan and enable it to stand up to the Army.

If this was her expectation, it was belied. Within five years of the Shimla Agreement, the Pakistan Army headed by Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq overthrew the elected Government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and had him executed after a sham trial. Misplaced generosity should have no place in our relations with Pakistan.

As the war ended, the R&AW and Kao were the toasts of the policy-makers. During 1971, Kao emerged as one of the most trusted advisers of Indira Gandhi. He enjoyed this trust till her assassination on October 31,1984. During 1971, she did not take any important decision regarding the crisis in East Pakistan and her conduct of the war without consulting him.

The Armed Forces had nothing but the highest praise for the performance of the R&AW in East Pakistan, but its performance on the Western front, where the Army did not do as well as in the East, came in for some criticism.

Kao and the officers, who contributed to the success of the R&AW in 1971, came to be known as the Kaoboys of the R&AW. No one knows for certain, who coined this title. Some say Indira Gandhi herself…
Despite this, everyone was agreed that 1971 was the R&AW’s finest hour. There were dozens of officers of different ages and different ranks, who contributed to its brilliant performance under the leadership of Kao and K.Sankaran Nair, his No.2.

Kao was 53 years old in 1971 and Nair 50. Nair was an Indian Police officer from the undivided Madras cadre and succeeded Kao as the head of the organization in 1977, but quit after a few months due to reported differences with Morarji Desai, the then Prime Minister. He was considered one of the outstanding operational officers produced by the Indian intelligence community since India became independent in 1947. 

He and Kao became legends in their time in the R&AW.

Kao and the officers, who contributed to the success of the R&AW in 1971, came to be known as the Kaoboys of the R&AW. No one knows for certain, who coined this title. Some say Indira Gandhi herself; others say Appa B.Pant, the former Indian High Commissioner to the UK and Ambassador to Italy; and some others say T.N.Kaul, former Foreign Secretary.

Whoever coined it, it fitted those magnificent officers, who participated in the operations of 1971. George H.W. Bush, the father of the present US President, held office as the Director of the CIA for a brief period under President Gerald Ford from November,1975 to January,1977. He became a close friend of Kao. He had heard from the CIA station chief in New Delhi about Kao and his officers being fondly called the Kaoboys of the R&AW by Indira Gandhi and others.

It is said that during a visit paid by Kao to the CIA headquarters in Washington DC, Bush gifted to him a small bronze statue of a cowboy. Kao always used to keep it on his table in his office. He had a large replica of this statue made by Sadiq, a sculptor from Kolkata, and gifted it to the R&AW. If you happen to visit the headquarters of the R&AW, you will find this statue of the cowboy in the foyer as you enter the building. Kao, who was himself a good sculptor, was a student of Sadiq. Sadiq made the face of the cowboy resemble that of Kao.

It stands there as Kao’s tribute to the magnificent, but unknown to the nation and unsung Kaoboys of 1971.