India Insight

Feared India separatist leader invests millions in Bangladesh

The military leader of a rebel group seeking independence for India’s isolated north-eastern state of Assam earns millions of dollars each year from investments in Bangladesh, a Bangladeshi intelligence report seen by a local news agency revealed.

The news could test warming relations between the south Asian neighbours who for years clashed over the issue of rebels finding shelter in Bangladesh.

Paresh Barua heads a hardline faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and is now believed to operate from camps in Myanmar, which borders Assam. The news of his investments sheds light on how he keeps his unit running. The U.S. State Department in 2006 estimated ULFA had several hundred fighters.

The report published by the Press Trust of India agency said Barua earns $1.5 million every quarter as remittance from businesses including real estate, shipping, textile and power, and another $500,000 through foreign exchange.

Barua invested $14 million in three Dhaka-based real estate firms in the name of a London-based businessman, the reports said. It was not clear where the money came from.

South Asia’s failing states

Foreign Policy magazine has just released its 2009 list of failing states or those at risk of failure and South Asia makes for sobering reading.

All of India’s neighbours, except for tiny Bhutan, figure in the list of top 25 states that are faltering, although their rankings have improved marginally over the previous year.

So Afghanistan remains at number 7 in the table of failing states topped by Somalia. Pakistan is ranked 10th, just marginally better than its 9th position in last year’s table which perhaps reflects the belief that the state has begun to fight back the militants who threaten its existence.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Change of guard in Bangladesh, hope for the region?

Sheikh Hasina, the leader of an avowedly secular party, is set to return to power in Bangladesh, the 
other end of South Asia's arc of instability stretching from Afghanistan through Pakistan to India.

And because the teeming region, home to a fifth of the world's population, is so closely intertwined 
Hasina's election and the change that she has promised to bring to her country will almost certainly have a bearing across South Asia, but especially for India and Pakistan.

Bangladesh, as far as New Delhi is concerned, is the eastern launching pad for Islamist militants hostile  to it, complementing Pakistan on the west. So even if the heat is turned on the militants in Pakistan as India is  demanding following the attacks in Mumbai, they or their controllers can unleash groups such as  Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami  (HuJI) based in Bangladesh.

With Islamist militancy, has India passed the tipping point?

Victims of the bombings in AhmedabadThe bombings that killed 45 people in the communally sensitive city of Ahmedabad have shaken India’s establishment. It is now sinking in that India faces homegrown Islamist militant groups operating with a scale and sophistication unheard of in
previous years.   

A group called “India Mujahideen” claimed responsibility for the attacks, the same group that said it carried out the bombings in Jaipur in May that killed 63 people.

For years, India had been seen as country that had largely rejected the attractions of global militancy spurred on by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. President George W. Bush notably said there were no Indians in al Qaeda.

Time for India and Bangladesh to work together

For years India has always looked west to Pakistan when bombs exploded in its cities, powerless to influence its old foe.

A rapid action force soldier looks out from his truck during a curfew in Jaipur May 15, 2008. REUTERS/Punit ParanjpeNow, it is talking peace with Pakistan, and casting aspersions eastwards to Bangladesh, a country it helped establish and should have much more leverage over.

Isn’t it time for some serious diplomacy, to improve relations with Bangladesh and work together to combat violent Islamist extremism?

Timing of Jaipur blasts will raise suspicion of Pakistani hand

Are militants, or even hawks within the Pakistani establishment, trying to undermine the peace process with India, now that President Pervez Musharraf has removed his uniform and civilians are squabbling for power?

A injured man receives treatment after a series of bomb blasts in Jaipur May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Vinay Joashi via You Witness NewsThe dust has scarcely settled on another horrific bomb attack in India, and the investigation has only just begun into the synchronised blasts in Jaipur that killed around 60 people .

It is still far too early to be drawing any firm conclusions, but the timing of the blasts is already making some people wonder whether Pakistan was involved.

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