The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bhutan brief for Saarc, heat on Dhaka

New Delhi, Dec. 30: India wants its neighbours to follow the example of Bhutan’s operation against Northeast insurgents entrenched in its territory to show their commitment to “good neighbourly” relations.

Foreign secretary Shashank said the issue of Indian terrorists camping in neighbouring countries would be raised at the discussion of senior officials of the Saarc summit beginning in the Pakistani capital tomorrow.

In Guwahati, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi accused Bangladesh of playing a major role in the growth of insurgency in the Northeast, saying its reluctance to admit the presence of militant camps had marked it out as a country that was “not friendly”.

He said Assam had long been requesting Delhi to mount diplomatic pressure on its neighbours, especially Bangladesh, to demolish camps of the Ulfa, the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) and other militant groups of the region.

The chief minister cited the success of the offensive by Bhutan as a good reason for India to put “more pressure” on Bangladesh to get cracking against the militant groups.

But Dhaka denied the charges. New high commissioner Hemayetuddin, who presented his credentials to the President today, said his country has never played host to militants.

“Bangladesh wants and always desires to build good and strong relations with India,” he said, pointing out that soon after Bhutan launched its operation, Dhaka had sealed its borders to ward off the fleeing rebels.

“We want our friendship to grow stronger and it does not serve Bangladesh’s purpose to encourage such elements to camp in its territory,” the high commissioner said.

Bhutan launched Operation All Clear on December 15 to drive out the insurgents camping in its territory for more than a decade. The successful operation — into its last leg now — has been hailed by the Indian leadership.

“A strong message against terrorism would come out of the forthcoming Saarc summit,” Shashank said before leaving for Islamabad. He hinted that the additional Saarc protocol on terrorism under discussion would allow the South Asian countries to firm up their reso lve to fight the menace in unison.

But it seems unlikely that Delhi will get a response similar to Thimphu’s from the other countries.

India has cried itself hoarse against its other neighbours — Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh — for not taking action against militant groups carrying out anti-India activities from their soil.

In the past, Nepal was frequently used by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence to direct subversive activities at India. But there has been a significant shift in Kathmandu’s attitude since the hijack of Indian Airlines Flight 814 three years ago.

South Block’s chief grievance has been against Pakistan. The unresolved issue of Kashmir has led Islamabad to encourage cross-border terrorism and other activities detrimental to India’s interests from its soil.

Though relations are improving, Delhi maintains that the stalled “composite dialogue” will not be resumed till Pakistan gives up its policy of terror.

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