The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani lends Buddha hand

New Delhi, Nov. 23: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, who has been keeping tabs on the crackdown on Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agents and its army moles in Bengal, was today briefed exhaustively by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

At a 30-minute one-to-one this morning, the duo put in place a joint strategy to combat terror after agreeing that it would be impossible for Bengal to tackle the spurt in terrorist activity single-handed. Advani assured the chief minister that the Centre would fully back all his efforts.

The leaders also decided to step up intelligence sharing between the state and the Centre. This process is already under way, and some recent arrests in the state followed tip-offs from the Intelligence Bureau.

To tackle the rising threat from fundamentalists, a decision was taken to speed up the putting together of a special combat force — drawn from the state police — for which a training academy is coming up in Durgapur. Advani suggested that commandos be trained at the police academy in Hyderabad at present.

Like all state leaders, Bhattacharjee sought more Central forces for Bengal. Advani agreed to despatch more paramilitary forces but only after the Gujarat elections were out of the way.

Moving on to the rise in anti-India activity from Bangladeshi soil, Bhattacharjee said police had noted an increase in the activities of both the ISI and al Qaida since the coming to power of Begum Khaleda Zia.

But sources said while it could be true that terror modules were proliferating in Bengal, there was little evidence that al Qaida cadre were involved.

“The ideology may be from al Qaida, but these are the same fundamentalist groups which have been operating from Bangladesh. It is true that with the current regime they have got more encouragement to operate as they like. But I would not call these outfits al Qaida in the sense that they take orders from Osama bin Laden,” an official said.

“Al Qaida is the latest buzzword all over the world. Mention of al Qaida immediately captures the public imagination and all Muslim fundamentalist groups are being dubbed as al Qaida,” he said.

But, he added, the outfits were dangerous whatever the name they used, and action had to be taken against them.

The fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, now part of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led coalition, has always been in the forefront of anti-India protests. Active in Sylhet, Jessore and Rangpur districts, it has stepped up its border activities with the government looking the other way.

Unless Bangladesh reins in these forces, India may find itself exposed to terrorists on its eastern border as well. Advani expressed satisfaction that Bengal had taken the initiative to pre-empt this.

Bhattacharjee declined to give out much on his meeting with Advani. He merely said he discussed the activities of various terrorist groups operating in the state, including the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation in North Bengal and People’s War in the south.


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