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US report warns of Bangladesh militancy
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | September 06, 2006 04:19 IST
The US Institute of Peace, created by Congress and partially funded by the US government, in a new report published by its Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, has raised concerns about the connections between rising terrorism in India and Bangladesh-based militant groups.
The report titled 'The Rise of Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh', has stated that Indian security agencies as well as policymakers believe that Bangladeshi Islamists, with the full knowledge of Dhaka, are exacerbating the ongoing insurgencies in India's north-east by turning a blind eye to growing illegal immigration and "cooperating with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate in nefarious designs against India".
The report authored for USIP by Prof Sumit Ganguly, who teaches Political Science at Indiana University in Bloomington and is a specialist on regional security issues in South Asia, states that in light of these developments questions persist about Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's coalition government to respond decisively to "Islamist terrorism, conduct free and fair elections in 2007, and address the deterioration in the rule of law and respect for human rights."
It notes that "because of Bangladesh's regional importance and the implications of internal security developments, the United States has limited policy options to promote its regional goals and ensure democratic elections."
The report, based partly on field research and interviews Ganguly conducted in the region in 2005, including in West Bengal and Assam, warned that "the rise of Islamist militant groups in Bangladesh and their possible ties to Pakistan should be of concern to US policymakers."
"Given the weak governance and lack of political order in Bangladesh, the increase in Islamist militancy could easily turn it into a fertile area for various radical groups to take root and flourish," it predicted, and added, "on the regional level, the emergence of such groups could worsen already strained relations with India. They also could adversely affect US security interests if Islamist insurgents from South East Asia and the Middle East come to see Bangladesh as a possible haven, especially as they face US pressure in Pakistan and Afghanistan."
While acknowledging that "unequivocal evidence of Pakistani involvement is hard to establish, and most of the assertions about Pakistani involvement come from Indian sources," the report argued however that "given the increasing cooperation between Washington and New Delhi on issues of counterterrorism and intelligence, the United States should take these claims seriously."
It said that while the US, particularly its embassy in Bangladesh, has identified several areas of concern in that country, "including the prevention of and response to terrorism, development of democratic systems, and respect for American values", Washington has yet to develop "a sophisticated and effective means to promote its goals in Bangladesh -- a serious problem that needs immediate attention."
"As one of Bangladesh's principal aid donors, the United States is in a position to exert considerable pressure on the current government in Dhaka," the report stated.
It also stated that Washington "should pay heed to India's concerns about illegal immigration and Bangladeshi (and potentially Pakistani) support for the ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) and other insurgent groups", even as the US "also must unequivocally, if quietly, urge India to address longstanding political grievances in its north-eastern region."