The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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State tiptoes on Bangla camps
A border guard on patrol: What’s on the other side'

Calcutta, Sept. 6: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee spoke of the security threat from Bangladesh, without naming it, at a meeting in Delhi yesterday where the Prime Minister was present, asking the Centre to “neutralise this menace”.

Speaking at a gathering of chief ministers, Bhattacharjee sought a “multi-pronged approach” against “our neighbouring country” that was harbouring insurgent groups.

Senior police officials said the threat from across the Bangladesh border had become “a major concern” of the chief minister who has held a series of meetings in recent times to find ways to deal with it.

In Delhi, they said, the chief minister revealed only what could be disclosed in public, cushioning his call to eliminate the menace in such terms as “multi-pronged approach”.

In private, the administration — the army is in agreement with this view — believes that, given the hostility of the Khaleda Zia regime in Dhaka towards India, a military operation to bust terrorist training camps across the border might be the only answer.

There is, of course, full awareness that this strategy — which Lal Krishna Advani as home minister had first articulated when he spoke of hot pursuit of terrorists into Pakistan territory — is a diplomatic impossibility.

A police official said: “Ideally, he (Bhattacharjee) would like an operation like the one that took place in Bhutan, where Ulfa and other insurgent groups were flushed out. But he knows that is not possible in the present circumstances and has instead asked the Border Security Force to step up vigil.”

In Bhutan, the operation was carried out jointly by Indian and Bhutanese armies, to which the chief minister referred while warning that militant camps were sprouting up again in that country. The current Bangladesh government, which denies strongly the existence of terrorist training camps on its territory, cannot be expected to agree to a similar operation.

Bhattacharjee had said yesterday that the “eastern border is now the platform chosen for launching terror strikes in the Indian hinterland”.

“Training camps are flourishing inside our neighbouring country where young men are trained in the use of weapons and explosives and are infiltrating into India with the intention of carrying out terror strikes and subversive acts.”

Somesh Goyal, the inspector-general of the Border Security Force (south Bengal frontier), said the chief minister’s apprehensions were “totally justified”.

“Last year, we had submitted a list of 100 such camps to Bangladesh Rifles but they refused to accept it.”

These terrorist outfits in Bangladesh are being funded also by running fake currency rackets and drug smuggling. “We have arrested many Bangladeshis who are involved in this and confirmed it,” he said. “But we can only keep to our side of the border and not do anything even half a mile into Bangladesh.”

Sections in the army, especially those engaged in carrying out operations against insurgents in Assam, are more hawkish. “It may not be possible to weed out insurgent bases in Bangladesh either diplomatically or politically,” a general said. “A significant section within the army establishment believes that what will succeed is hot pursuit, going into the country that is harbouring the militants and demolishing their bases.”

Another senior army official said that ideally there should be a joint exercise, as in Bhutan. “If that does not happen, I believe we should go ahead and do it on our known,” the officer said. “It should be a bullet-for-bullet policy; only then can cross-border insurgency be stopped.”

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