Nov. 11: Indian intelligence has satellite pictures of camps located in Bangladesh of militant groups active in the Northeast and reports suggest Dhaka has already begun a crackdown, rounding up several activists.
These satellite images cannot, however, be used as evidence to prove Dhaka’s support for militancy in India. They are generally makeshift huts, which can be quickly dismantled and shifted to another area, making it difficult to establish that they are training camps for militants.
As vindication of their stand, enumerated by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani last week, intelligence agencies are citing reports of the recent arrest of 70-odd militants from the northeast in the border areas of Bangladesh.
These areas were mentioned by the director-general of the BSF in a list he handed over to his Bangladesh counterpart within the past fortnight.
The controversy set rolling by Advani’s statement that Bangladesh was harbouring militants operating in the Northeast refused to die down despite Dhaka’s strong denial and summoning of the Indian high commissioner to lodge a protest.
Two chief ministers from the Northeast met Advani today to keep up the heat on Dhaka.
This time there are no differences within the political establishment. Assam’s Congress chief minister Tarun Gogoi dropped a bombshell after the meeting, saying: “Intelligence reports available with us show that these insurgent groups have become more active in Bhutan and Bangladesh.”
Gogoi also said that in recent months Pakistan’s ISI had stepped up its activities in the border areas of Assam, backing Advani up on his statement that “al Qaida and ISI activities had increased” after the Khaleda Zia government took over.
Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, who belongs to the CPM, lent his voice to the growing chorus of accusations against Bangladesh before Khaleda Zia’s trip to India next month.
Sarkar, who too met Advani, claimed that there were 52 camps of separatists operating from Bangladesh.
He said the “identified” camps belonged to the banned National Liberation Front of Tripura and the All Tripura Tiger Force.
Tripura has the longest border with Bangladesh among the northeastern states. “We have good neighbourly relations with Bangladesh and the government there should not allow its soil to be used by insurgents and terrorists,” Sarkar said.
Chief ministers of northeastern states, long plagued by insurgency, hope that they have at long last got the Centre to pay attention to their problems. They believe that with Advani airing their concerns, Bangladesh will be forced to take action.
Home ministry officials said India’s patience with Bangladesh’s “double talk” is running out. Delhi’s worries have been conveyed to Dhaka time and again, but so far Bangladesh has shown no willingness to fulfil promises made at bilateral meetings.
The officials have been in constant touch with the northeastern chief ministers and fully endorse their complaint that militant groups are operating out of Bangladesh.
They say that despite claims by the Bangladesh government about not allowing its soil to be used for anti-India activities, the ISI as well as northeastern separatists are finding safe haven across the border.
The view was subtly conveyed by Indian high commissioner M.L. Tripathy when he was summoned to the foreign ministry in Dhaka yesterday. In response to Bangladesh’s protests against Advani’s statement, he said: “(Advani) speaks with full sense of responsibility based on reliable information available to him.”