BDR Carnage and the geo-political equations | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 21, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 21, 2009

BDR Carnage and the geo-political equations

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THE recent carnage inside the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) headquarters shocked the whole country. Some BDR soldiers (along with some suspected outsiders) carried out a massacre by killing more than 80 people including 72 BDR top brasses (deputed from army). The grisly incident once again proved how badly we manage our national security and how easily one can penetrate through the system. The whole nation mourned and was virtually at a stand still for a few days sensing much trouble in future. However, the situation is easing now. But that left some urgent questions that need to be paid attention to immediately. Although the government has formed an inquiry committee vis-à-vis allowing the army to enquire the event by its own, will it consider some very crucial geo-political equations in fixing the event? Given the nature of Bangladesh's geographical advantages almost splitting its big neighbor, which has an intention of emerging as a global power, Bangladesh, for many years, has been capitalized by many quarters indulging many extra-territorial activities. The reason, of course, is its unique geographical location which, in any case, can induce huge trouble to its big and ambitious neighbor. Therefore, the conflict of India with other nations can easily be stretched to Bangladeshi territory. And any conflict within Bangladesh can also easily have a link with the interests of many. The BDR carnage is no exception, rather the sophistication of the execution of the plan reminds us that the incident has a much deeper root.
Since dividing up into two independent sovereign nations India and Pakistan - the Indian sub-continent has been in perpetual political chaos. The two neighbours hardly passed a stable political time since gaining their own flags. The core issue of the conflict was the status of Kashmir which both countries claimed as their own land. The matter was even taken to the UN Security Council which had later passed a resolution (47 adopted on April 21, 1948) on the same issue. Besides, Pakistan used to blame India for its dubious role in the affairs of East Pakistan. And India also alleged Pakistan for meddling in Punjab through patronizing Khalistan movement during 1970s. These hostilities between the two have always induced them to seek more fronts of new confrontation, resulting in several wars with few gains.
China, on the other hand, has also its own dispute with India over Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin that China claims as its own territory, and for that the both has already fought a bloody war in 1962. And Chinese and Indian forces also clashed in the Sumdorong Chu valley of Arunachal Pradesh in 1986-87. On 3 May, 1998 the then Defence Minister, George Fernandes, publicly labelled China as India's number one threat alleging China for stockpiling nuclear weapons in Tibet, expanding naval activity off the Burmese coast, and conducting surveillance against India from Burma's Coco Islands. At present their bilateral relations are complicated by the issues ranging from Tibet (Xizang) to Sikkim (China continues to portray Sikkim, which was absorbed by India in 1974, as an independent country) to Kashmir. Further, India plays host to the Dalai Lama and a large number of Tibetan refugees who present an implicit threat to Chinese control of Tibet.
Bangladesh, once a part of Pakistan, has somehow been embroiled in all of these equations. It's not only for that that the country was a part of Pakistan, but also for its geographical edge which can pose the biggest threat to Indian territorial integrity. And all of Indian rivals naturally have found their common interest here. For this reason, the war of independence of Bangladesh was also viewed as the showing of muscles of these rivals while India aligned with Bangladesh's just struggle and China and the United States with Pakistan. The battle of 1971 was not the end of the game but the beginning of a new front of the enduring war of these rivals. Unfortunately, Bangladesh, who struggled solely for its political and economic emancipation, had been mired into that equation. That has done many untoward and horrific damages to the newly independent country including the killings of its founder father and later another president.
After nearly four decades, the equation of that new front still remains with a major reshuffle of alignment. While the United States found its new ally India, the other big power China remains the partner of Pakistan. And the Chinese and Pakistani hostilities with India still continue in many forms. All intelligence games remain alive; calculating Bangladesh with either side can immensely sophisticate the nature of the game.
During the last tenure of BNP-Jamaat government, we were the spectator of gruesome political events. Among them, at least two were directly linked to our national security system. The notorious one was the seizure of the 10 truck-loads of deadly weapons. Many believe that the consignment was meant for the northeast India's rebel group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), which would have a safe passage through Bangladesh with the help of the then bigwigs of BNP-Jamaat government including some top brasses of the intelligence agencies. Anthony Davis of Jane's Intelligence Review was one of them who reported on July 6, 2005 that the shipment involved ULFA and Isak-Muivah faction of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), another insurgent group of Indian northeastern part. The startling feature Mr Davis mentioned that the purchases were financed by a foreign intelligence service (India alleged it's ISI of Pakistan) seeking to destabilise India's northeast. But, as Anthony Davis pointed, following a tip-off from (probably) Indian intelligence sources, the cache was interrupted and later seized.
Another event was the Bogra arms haul case where more than one lakh bullets and 174 kg powerful RDX explosives were recovered from Kahalu, Bogra in 2003. Regarding the case, the finger was also pointed in the same direction.
The issue of financing and arming Indian rebels benefits whom does not need any further explanation. But the focal issue is that any unfavourable government is not that safe a passage of doing such dealing; the then government also captured one of the top rebels of ULFA Anup Chetia. Therefore, any unfavourable government (to that equation of intelligence game) is not only a threat to Indian north-eastern rebel groups but also can jeopardize a long existing line of intelligence battle. Therefore, that unfavourable government in Bangladesh will become a natural target of many. Furthermore, reviving the 10 truck-loads arms hauling case at present is also an existential threat to the network that worked for more than three decades successfully. The question is - will those stakeholders allow anybody to cause that sort of damage?
The recent BDR mutiny is not a simple game. If that game worked, it was, apparently, the present government who would be the first victim. The incident could lead to the ousting of the present government, causing more bloodshed, igniting more hatred and deepening the existing political divide between the parties. Who would take full benefit of all of these? The players who long played the game? The players who don't want to lose their edges in that battle of intelligentsia where they made Bangladesh a guinea pig and the victim of their bloody game? Probably.
The author is a researcher.

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