The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A threat to any part of India should be a matter of concern, not only to the local authorities, but also to the federal government. It is befitting, therefore, that the Union home minister, Mr L.K. Advani, and West Bengal’s chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, want to jointly fight the danger posed by some fundamentalist groups across the state’s border with Bangladesh. That many of these groups are aided by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence makes it even more important for New Delhi and Calcutta to put heads and hands together in foiling their activities. The recent arrests of some ISI-backed operatives in Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal suggest that the threat perception is real. Dhaka’s denials notwithstanding, there seems to be disturbing evidence that Pakistan-sponsored subversives are increasingly using Bangladesh as a launch-pad for their operations against India. Although the ISI’s covert operations in India are not confined to Bengal, the state’s long borders with Bangladesh make it particularly vulnerable to the threat. Even if not all cross-border agents of terror are connected to al Qaida, it is hardly any cause for comfort.

It cannot be a good strategy to ring alarm bells; but it is necessary to face — and brace up to — the reality. Mr Bhattacharjee seems still a little diffident about coming clean on the threats from ISI-backed elements. That perhaps explains why he would publicly acknowledge the threats from extremist political outfits like the People’s War group of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and the Kamtapur Liberation Organization, but not those from the agents of terror from across the border. The problem, after all, is not Bangladesh or its common people but the small groups acting at the ISI’s behest across the country’s borders with Bengal. While Mr Advani and the Union government take up the matter with Dhaka at the diplomatic level, Mr Bhattacharjee’s government cannot afford to lower its guard. To his credit, there have been some successes in foiling some plots and catching some conspirators. But a better strategy is clearly needed to stop the terror groups at the border.

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