Watch out for trouble in East, N-E

Over the past few weeks, there is serious concern in India’s intelligence community. Heads of the IB and NSG along with the National Security Advisor have reviewed the situation arising out of bombs exploding in a house in Burdwan in West Bengal and many more bombs being found strewn around in neighbouring districts.

The NIA has reportedly found Al Qaeda links with terror organisations in West Bengal whose tentacles go beyond the borders with Bangladesh and Myanmar.

These reports are to be seen in the context of Al Qaida declaring their plans to set up operations in India and the terror outfit Islamic State attracting recruits in India for their worldwide jihad. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has stated repeatedly that Al Qaida is trying to set up its network in that state. The very nature of illegal immigration and infiltration that has been going unchecked in the region provides fertile ground for terrorism to thrive not just in Assam but in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Manipur as well.

It is widely reported that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is in the crosshairs of erstwhile HUJI, now called JuMB. That Bangladesh is going through a massive unrest due to ongoing prosecution of pro-Rawalpindi murderers of 1971 fame is well known. Terrorists from West Bengal are reported to be escaping to Nepal which has a long history of being an ISI managed conduit for infiltration of terrorists, Kalashnikovs, narcotics and fake currency into India. Maoists in Nepal, though somewhat subdued in recent months, can hope to get a new lease of life.

China has serious strategic interests in Myanmar and has made deep inroads into its infrastructure, economy and politics. Links between NSCN, ULFA and sundry terrorist groups in the region with China and Pakistan are well documented. Myanmar is no stranger to Islamic or sectarian strife and terrorism. The Rohingiya problem lies just below the surface.  Geography, terrain and underdeveloped communication systems in Myanmar offer unparalleled opportunities for terrorist to establish safe havens.

What needs to be recognised is that IS, Al Qaeda, the Haqqani network, Afghan Taliban, Tehriq-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh and the ISI of Pakistan are basically playing to the same tune of Sunni Islamic terrorism. Danish (IS) is already reported to have recruited 10,000 or more volunteers in Pakistan.

It is to be understood that Indian political parties can no longer be allowed to play partisan politics over terror. Nor can state governments be allowed to argue pros and cons of federalism at the cost of national security.  State police forces and Central intelligence agencies cannot be allowed to play mutual hide and seek.

Central police forces guarding borders with Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar have to be energised for zero tolerance to illegal infiltration. Surveillance over unlawful and suspicious activities has to be sharpened. Nexus between police and smugglers and between political goons and local administration has to be broken. Political resolve has to be found to launch a vigorous campaign to identify and push back illegal immigrants and to reign in agencies promoting and protecting dubious interests of the infiltrators.

Importance of synergy

What is most important is to synergise the intent and actions of the state and Central governments and to coordinate operations of Central and state forces on the one hand and the military on the other. It needs to be understood that what the defence forces are planning to defend in the NE can be sabotaged or even lost by the police and paramilitary forces because of lack of synergy.  Government of India should seriously consider placing the BSF, Seema Suraksha Bal and ITBP deployed along these borders under operational command of the military. Gravity of the situation demands such measures.
On the external front, we need to sensitise and re-energise our diplomats into actively seeking to build objective synergy with the governments of Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Our relations with countries in the immediate neighbourhood must receive immediate and urgent attention. In the larger  interests of India and its neighbours in the north and east, India must help and encourage friendly regimes in Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar to face this grave challenge together and deny space to those who may try to fish in troubled waters. Hopefully, the powers in Delhi and more particularly their advisors are listening.  
Without sounding alarmist, the latest manifestations of terror in east and Northeast India need to be taken note of especially their  scale, spread and audacity.  Imagine the impact on the region if Sheikh Hasina and  Begum Khalida Zia come to harm, as has been reported. Imagine the scenario if the IS is able to establish a caliphate in and around Bangladesh resulting in devastating destabilisation.  Sandwiched between a caliphate around Afghanistan and an East Indian one around Bangladesh, India could start to resemble the West Asia.

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