Isha khan’s Weblog

US unfurls Bangladesh minutes: Aug 15: Untold story
August 19, 2009, 10:24 am
Filed under: Bangladesh, India, USA

US unfurls Bangladesh minutes: Aug 15: Untold story

The New Nation – August 17, 2009

After killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on August 15, 1975 Khandoker Mushtaque Ahmed government was worried about possible Indian military intervention in Bangladesh. David Corn US Consul General posted in Calcutta was instructed by US secretary of state Dr. Henry Kissinger to keep watch on General Jacob, the chief of the Indian Eastern Command. US Ambassador in Dhaka Davis Booster said, US Calcutta-based Consul General David Corn was adequately briefed in this regard.

The minutes of the US staff meeting on Bangladesh situation released recently said, the coup in Bangladesh had met a very little resistance. There is no sign of counter rebellion in any part of the country. The US had obtained the information from their separate network which was run by the aid workers. Booster said, it was imperative to let India know that Bangladesh was not declared Islamic republic as it was earlier presumed. Seventy-nine years-old Corn is now leading a retired life in Washington.


The just-released Bangladesh minutes of the US Foreign Ministry revealed that in a meeting in Calcutta on August 16, 1975 Gen Jacob asked US Consul Corn what more he had on the Bangladesh situation? Corn said, coup in Bangladesh was successful. Gen Jacob retorted, he had information that there were some disturbances outside Dhaka. Jacob said, Bangladesh had least chance of attaining stability adding there was still a possibility of counter-coup. He expressed his concern over declaration of Bangladesh as Islamic republic. When Gen Jacob was asked whether there was exodus of minority Hindus from Bangladesh, he parried the question and said they were watching the situation. David Corn said, he again met Jacob on August 24 at Fort William, the headquarter of Eastern Command.Jacob said, the Bangladesh situation appears to be peaceful. But he hastened to add that he had no source other than the media. When asked about movement of Indian troops around Bangladesh border he said, they were not regular troops. They are border security forces, he said. India has no concern on internal situation in Dhaka. India will be concerned if communal divide persists in Dhaka and there was fresh exodus of Hindus from Bangladesh. He ruled out any military intervention in Dhaka unless there was exodus of minority people from Bangladesh.Jacob told Corn that then President of Bangladesh Khandoker Mushtaque was known in India as pro-Pakistani and pro-Chinese.
William B Saxby, a former US senator and US ambassador in India, in his letter said, the situation in Bangladesh in any way should not be construed as a flick. Indian Press was barred from printing editorial on Bangladesh situation. Ninety three years old Saxby is living in Washington. Saxby wanted to know Indian stand on Bangladesh. Indian reply to Saxby’s query was that Mushtaque wanted to have some sort of adjustment with Pakistan during the liberation war. Now he will undoubtedly try to improve relation with Pakistan, the Indian reply said.
US said, the foreign policy of Bangladesh will remain mostly unchanged. India, Bangladesh and Pakistan can collectively contribute to restore peace in the sub-continent.Earlier India had apprehension that there would be a coup in Bangladesh. Even an Indian diplomat tried to ascertain that it could have been in August. He named a group of ‘disgruntled’ politicians led by Mushtaque behind the plot. He also named a sacked military official who could be Major Dalim behind the conspiracy.Dr Kamal Hossain, former foreign minister of Bangabandhu’s cabinet, in a recent TV interview said, the Bangabandhu was alerted by the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on the sideline of NAM summit in Jamaica that there might have been destabilisation move in Dhaka and he may be the target. He brushed off the idea and said there was none in Dhaka who can kill him.
A minute of US staff meeting led by Kissinger revealed the US was aware of the plot to kill Mujib. They also alerted Mujib against the sinister move. Atherton, US Assistant Secretary said, the US had lot of indications in March that some quarters were plotting to kill Mujib. But he was little concerned about it. Kissinger remarked he was one of the world’s prize fools.
Atherton naming new Bangladesh leaders said, they are less pro-Indian unlike their predecessors. They did not change the name of Bangladesh as Islamic republic. But they had dropped securalism as state pillar.
Indian foreign minister Y B Chavan had a meeting with US secretary of state Kissinger on October 6 in 1975. Chavan told Kissinger that they were worried about the anti-Indian posture of Bangladesh. Kissinger wanted to know whether Bangladesh Army is anti-Indian. Chavan said, there was some anti-Indians in Bangladesh Army. India expressed her concern that China which had recognised Bangladesh for the first time after killing of Mujib may exploit the new situation in its favour. Chavan sought Kissinger’s good offices to put the thing on right tract. India also told Kissinger that they don’t want to have any exclusive relation with Bangladesh. But they will oppose a move to give Bangladesh an Islamic twist.Henry Byroad, the US Ambassador in Pakistan, in his update to Washington said, Pakistan seems to be over-enthusiastic in recognising the new government in Bangladesh. It was Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto who quickly secured Pakistani and Chinese recognition for the new government of Bangladesh.
US Ambassador Booster said, Mujib was getting isolated from the people very fast. People’s euphoria with the great leader seemed to be over. His telegrams to the State Deptt appear to have been carefully planned so that the course of events of the August 15 coup was not obstructed. Mujib’s regime began to suffer from despotic symptoms. Dynastic reasons were also attributed to his fall.

Indo-Bangla Relation: A Strategic Analysis
August 7, 2009, 10:55 am
Filed under: Bangladesh, India, SubContinent
Indo-Bangla Relation: A Strategic Analysis
Shah Mohammed Saifuddin
The independence movement under the leadership of Congress was for establishing independent undivided India through eviction of British rulers from the soil of India, but the degeneration of Hindu-Muslim relation into hostility and the demand of Muslim league for a separate state for the Muslims of the region thwarted the dream of an independent undivided India and made the partition of subcontinent inevitable. While the initial proposal for the partition met with steep resistance as most of the senior leaders of Congress namely, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawharlal Nehru, and Moulana Abul Kalam Azad vehemently protested such proposal and termed it as British conspiracy to divide India, the Congress finally gave its nod of approval in the fear that outright rejection of the partition proposal might be used by the British colonial rulers against the independence movement to perpetuate their political domination over the country and in the hope that with a small resource base, peculiar geographic reality that separates both the wings of the country by one thousand miles, and paucity of leaders with political experience, Pakistan would not survive too long and would return to India in the end.

There is no surprise that partition of India came as a shock to Congress leaders and that they could never reconcile themselves to the idea of an independent Pakistan because their freedom struggle was for undivided India, and therefore they wanted to roll back the geographical changes made to Indian subcontinent through partition and their intention was clearly demonstrated to Pakistan from the very beginning, which gave rise to a plethora of problem and a paucity of trust between the two nations.

What Pakistan needed in those formative years was national unity and balanced development in the two wings to ensure security and progress to consolidate its position as a powerful nation in the subcontinent and to thwart Indian attempt to undo the geographical arrangements after partition. But the then Pakistani leaders myopic failure to recognize Bengalis as equal partners and to give them due share of political power and economic resource caused widespread resentment among the East Pakistanis, which was cunningly used by India against Pakistan in the subsequent years. The Indian political leaders in later years used their diplomatic channels and intelligence agencies to cultivate close relations with East Pakistani political establishment in order to involve themselves in almost all political movements in East Pakistan to use the prevailing sense of deprivation among East Pakistanis to their own political advantage and to instigate East Pakistanis against West Pakistanis to accelerate the process of disintegration of Pakistan firstly, to weaken it, and secondly, to bring it back to India’s lap through various political machinations to realize the dream of undivided India.

No amount of political negotiations between the two wings could improve the situation in Pakistan due, mainly, to the stubbornness of West Pakistanis, which gave rise to increasing sense of alienation and deprivation among the people of East Pakistan, and finally when Sheikh Mujib was denied the premiership in 1970, Bengalis decided to get out of the relationship once and for all. So, for the first time and certainly for the last time in history, the disintegration of Pakistan became a common goal for both India and the Bengalis as the former wanted to break Pakistan to realize its vision of undivided India and the latter wanted to establish a separate independent nation to rid themselves of an insensitive and repressive political regime.

As soon as the Pakistani army cracked down on unarmed East Pakistanis, India, under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, took bold steps to help the Bengalis in their just struggle for independence against the fascist regime of Yahya Khan. The Indira government set their objectives to do the following things to ensure a desired outcome in the war for both Indians and East Pakistanis:

  1. To give safe passage to top Awami League leaders to India and to help form Mujibnagar government
  2. To help form Mukti Bahini and to provide necessary training and weapons
  3. To form Mujib Bahini as an alternative force and to use them in special operations
  4. To provide asylum to ten million refugees from East Pakistan
  5. To launch a vigorous diplomatic campaign worldwide through its foreign services to garner support for East Pakistan’s just struggle for freedom
  6. To use its military and intelligence resources to the extent possible to help the freedom fighters sustain a prolonged war against the powerful Pakistan army

India never lost sight of its strategic goal

Some people may argue that India’s decision to help in 1971 was based purely on humanitarian grounds, but the reality is that India’s decision to extend its wholehearted support to Bangladesh’s liberation war was a premeditated one and was primarily based on its own strategic goal of disintegrating Pakistan to undo the changes made through partition. Former Indian foreign secretary Mr. Dixit said, “We helped in the liberation of Bangladesh in mutual interest, it was not a favor,”[1] and a senior RAW intelligence officer said, “Bangladesh was the result of a 10 year long promotion of dissatisfaction against the rulers of Pakistan”[2]. These statements from two top former Indian government officials are testaments to the fact that Indian help for Bangladesh was not an altruistic one, but rather for implementing it’s own strategic goal of disintegrating Pakistan and that the intelligence agencies of India were engaged in fomenting unrest in East Pakistan long before 1971. With their strategic goals in mind, India concluded a seven point agreement with Mujibnagar government to seal the fate of a negotiated settlement between East and West Pakistan and to cripple Bangladesh by depriving it of its sovereign right to raise a standing army and to independently formulate foreign policy. Now, for the benefit of the readers let me briefly describe the points of the ‘seven point agreement'[3]:

  1. Bangladesh government will select only those people for administrative posts who have actively participated in the liberation war and any shortfall therein will be filled by the Indian government officials.
  2. A joint force will be formed comprising of the Indian army and the Mukti Bahini and this force will be placed under the command of the chief of staff of the Indian army who will lead the liberation war.
  3. Bangladesh will have no standing army.
  4. India will help raise a paramilitary force to protect the internal law and order of the country.
  5. Open market will be the basis for trade relation between the two nations and this arrangement will be subject to periodical reviews.
  6. The Indian army will be stationed in Bangladesh for an indefinite period of time, but the time frame for their gradual withdrawal will be determined through annual meetings between the two governments.
  7. Bangladesh will formulate its foreign policy only in consultation with India.

The conclusion of the seven point agreement only ensured that the Mujibnagar government would continue the war until Bangladesh gained full independence from Pakistan, but it did not give the guarantee that China and America would not interfere in the event the Indian army directly intervened in East Pakistan. So, the Indira government approached the former Soviet Union for a security guarantee against impending Chinese and American threats, and it was made available to them in the shape of ’25 year friendship treaty’ by the erstwhile Soviet Union, which was also seeking to play a substantial role in the subcontinent to expand its own sphere of influence.

The signing of the seven point treaty with Mujib Government and the 25 year friendship treaty with the Soviets removed all obstacles for the Indian forces to directly intervene in East Pakistan, and it took them less than two weeks to overrun the defensive positions of the Pakistan army, which was already exhausted by a nine month long guerrilla war against Mukti Bahini and was at the final stages of disintegration and collapse. At the end of the war, Bangladesh got its much cherished independence and India could break Pakistan into two pieces for which it had been scheming since 1947.

Bangladesh steps into a strategic trap

While the public of Bangladesh, in general, and the Mujib government, in particular, was extremely grateful to India for her help and support in the war of liberation and wanted to maintain the best possible relationship with the Indian people, the political and military establishment of India had already done their strategic planning in line with the seven point agreement to reduce Bangladesh’s relevance as an independent nation through limiting her power to formulate national policies. A strategic trap was set for Bangladesh in the form of ’25 year friendship treaty'[4] which took away most, if not all, options for Bangladesh to independently establish foreign, defense, and economic relations with other nations in the world. I would like to briefly mention a few clauses of the ’25 year friendship treaty’ that had deleterious effects on our foreign, defense, and economic interests:

Article 4: Both the nations will hold regular meetings with each other at all levels to discuss major international issues for mutual benefit.

Article 5: Both the nations will cooperate with each other in the field of trade, transport, and communications on the basis of equality, mutual benefit, and the most favored nation principle.

Article 8: None of the nations will ever enter into a military alliance against each other and will refrain from allowing a third party from using their soil for military purposes that could constitute a threat to national security for either of the nations.

Article 9: Both the nations will refrain from providing any assistance to a third party taking part in an armed conflict against either of the nations to ensure regional peace and security.

Article 10: Neither of the parties will undertake any commitment, secret or open, toward one or more states, which may violate the spirit of the treaty.

Article 4 practically eliminated Bangladesh’s power to devise an independent foreign policy and made it compulsory for Bangladesh to consult India about any major foreign policy matter.

Article 5 created an unequal economic relation between the two nations because contrary to India, Bangladesh, being a smaller economy, was unable to avail itself of the opportunities of most favored nation status.

Article 8 ensured that if there was a military conflict between Bangladesh and India, Bangladesh, as a weaker power, could not seek help from outside world to protect its territorial integrity.

Article 9 was included to protect India’s strategic interest in its insurgency infested North Eastern states by imposing restrictions on Bangladesh to provide help and support to the insurgents, but India itself broke the sanctity of this clause by providing military and political assistance to Shanti Bahini in Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Article 10 restricted Bangladesh’s power to sign a defense deal with a third party to improve its armed forces.

By dint of this treaty India was able to diminish Bangladesh’s power to protect herself and the right to establish political and economic relations with other nations independently, and consequently India became the de-facto power over Bangladesh to whom the new born country had to depend for her security and economic development only to lose her relevance as a sovereign nation. Thus the entrapment of Bangladesh was complete.

Political change in 1975 and new equation in Indo-Bangla relationship

After the independence, the war ravaged country needed solid leadership with political maturity to overcome the seemingly insurmountable problems created by nine month long war of liberation and to steer the nation to build a society free from corruption, deprivation, and exploitation through creating national unity, establishing rule of law, strengthening democratic institutions, and creating economic opportunities for the people. Unfortunately, within three years of its rule, the new government banned all but four state owned national newspapers, dissolved the parliament to create one party rule, put incompetent party men in different state owned industrial establishments, neglected and humiliated the military, raised an alternative security agency to suppress oppositions to destroy all hopes for the new born country to establish democracy and to attain economic self sufficiency. One of the leading Indian news dailies in one of its recent reports titled “Fifty years of blood and sweat” summed up Mujib’s rule during the period of 1972-1975 as “The truth, however, is that the League’s popularity seemed to have suffered even during Mujib’s brief rule. The 1974 famine and the Mujib government’s inept handling of the situation led to the country being placed under Emergency. Shaken by a breakdown in law and order, Mujib switched to the presidential form of government in early 1975, imposed a one-party system and banned the publication of all newspapers except government-controlled ones. Mujib the liberator had, to many even in his own party, become Mujib the dictator.”[5] This created widespread discontent throughout the country which resulted in a military coup in 1975 to end the rule of this unpopular regime.

The new government was installed and gradually undertook plethora of measures to restore law and order of the country, to bring back discipline in economic sector, to lift ban on national newspapers and political parties, to increase budgetary allocation for the defense forces, and to change foreign policy direction to establish close and productive relationships with China, the U.S.A., Europe and the Middle East so as to diminish Indian influence over the nation. The inevitable result of such a drastic measure by the new government of Bangladesh was confrontation with India which saw it as an attempt to challenge its supremacy in the region and considered it a security, political, and strategic threat from a country which it helped gain independence from Pakistan. Strategically Bangladesh was too important for India to let it slip off her radar so they adopted a new set of strategies to keep Bangladesh within its sphere of influence in light of new political reality. The next section of this article will discuss the strategic importance of Bangladesh and will elaborate the strategies India had undertaken to get a firm hold on Bangladesh.

Strategic importance of Bangladesh

Despite her small size, Bangladesh does have certain geographical advantages that make her important to regional and extra regional powers which may drag her into a complex strategic scenario of big power rivalries. Bangladesh may be seen as a key player in strategic game plan of India, Pakistan, the U.S.A., and China because of the following reasons:

1. Bridge between India and North East: The unique geographic location of Bangladesh which cuts the troubled North East region of India off from the mainland constitutes a significant security weak point for India for the fact that the region shares border with China and that various insurgent groups are active within the region who are fighting against the Indian government for self determination. In light of their experience in Indo-China war in 1962, the Indian defense planners consider the strategic chicken neck to be inadequate and see Bangladesh to be the safest and the shortest route to transport military logistics to North East region in case of a future military conflict. A strategic corridor through Bangladesh is also seen as important to conduct sustained military campaign against the insurgents in North East.

The corridor through Bangladesh has economic significance as well because it is the most cost effective route to connect North East to the rest of India for the transshipment of industrial goods and to improve the economic condition of this land locked region.

2. Bridge between SAARC and ASEAN: Bangladesh, which is seen as a land bridge between SAARC and ASEAN, has enormous geographic advantages for its proximity to Myanmar and to other South East Asian nations to promote inter regional economic, political, and security cooperation. Once connected via Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway, the South and South East Asian nations will be using Bangladesh as the main transit point to increase economic interactions amongst themselves. Bangladesh with appropriate policies and infrastructures in place will be playing pivotal role in defining the direction of economic relations between the two emerging regional groups.

3. Gateway to Bay of Bengal: Bangladesh is considered the gateway to Bay of Bengal with its 45000 sq. miles of sea territory in which lies valuable marine resources such as hydrocarbon, fisheries etc. Its well developed sea ports offer enormous economic opportunities because India can use the port facilities to increase trade with its land locked North East region while other South and South East Asian countries and China can use the same facilities to increase inter-regional economic interactions. With the ambition to protect the oil transshipment and trade routes in the Indian Ocean, the Chinese navy is making rapid progress in developing relations with coastal nations such as Myanmar and Bangladesh to gain access to their port facilities so as to conduct sustained naval operations in the sea. In light of recently concluded Indo-U.S. Strategic agreement, it can be assumed that the U.S.A might also seek similar facilities from Bangladesh as a response to Chinese naval presence in the Bay of Bengal. Therefore, the military and strategic significance of repair, maintenance, docking, and refueling facilities of Bangladesh’s sea ports is great.

4. Energy security: Because of her burgeoning population, high economic growth rate, and rapid industrialization, India has become the sixth largest energy consumer in the world, but she has to import oil to meet 70% of her domestic demand which cost 40% of her total export earnings. She has to diversify import source for uninterrupted supply of energy, but due to international politics importing hydrocarbon from Iran and Venezuela has become uncertain leaving Bangladesh and Myanmar as only cheap and secure sources of energy supply. While Bangladesh has a speculative gas reserve of 33 TCF, its proven reserve is only 12 -15 TCF which is inadequate to meet its own domestic demand so the government has already decided against exporting gas to other countries unless new reserves are found. Even though Bangladesh has expressed her inability to export gas at the moment, India considers Bangladesh a major source of energy in the long run because of its potentials to discover huge hydrocarbon reserves in the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh also is the most cost effective route for India to import gas from Myanmar, and therefore Bangladesh may emerge as a significant player in regional strategic energy game.

5. Balance of power: Bangladesh is significant because of the complex strategic scenario that has emerged due to India’s strategic alliance with the U.S.A to contain China and its rivalry with Pakistan for regional supremacy. India has to take cognizance of the fact that Bangladesh has established deep military relations with China and has repaired her fractured relations with Pakistan to correct the problem in balance of power situation in her relation with India. So, the possible military role of Bangladesh in case of a war either between India and China or between India and Pakistan could be a strategic concern for India.

Indian strategies to dominate Bangladesh

In light of Bangladesh’s endeavor to take control of her own affairs and her attempt to seek greater independence in foreign policy matters, India formulated a set of strategies to isolate, intimidate, and coerce Bangladesh to submit to Indian domination to reap the strategic benefits of breaking Pakistan. The following strategies have been put into action by Indian foreign and defense services to create pressure on Bangladesh:

1. Delaying tactics to solve bilateral problems: Having shared land and maritime borders, both Bangladesh and India should have demarcated their borders based on mutual cooperation, trust, and interest for the sake of peaceful co-existence, but regrettably, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by Bangladesh, India refused to respond adequately to resolve border disputes in an amicable fashion and employed a delaying tactics to create pressure on Bangladesh. Bangladesh, on the other hand, showing political maturity and the spirit of amicable co-existence has already ratified the border agreement signed between the two governments in 1974 and has also made several diplomatic moves to demarcate maritime border only to be frustrated by lukewarm Indian response. Non ratification of the border agreement by India[6] and its reluctance to find solution to maritime border dispute have caused a gradual deterioration in bilateral relations giving birth to mutual suspicion and mistrust.

2. Show of force: The aggressive posture of its border security forces along 4096 km. Indo-Bangla border and the deployment of its navy near a disputed Island named South Talpatty in the Bay of Bengal in the 80s to erect illegal structures are signals that in case Bangladesh fails to accommodate Indian interests causing further deterioration in bilateral relations, India will not hesitate to use military power against Bangladesh. Mr. Harun ur Rashid, an ex foreign secretary of Bangladesh, described the episode of illegal occupation of South Talpatty by India as, “While bilateral discussions were pending to resolve the dispute, on May 9, 1981, India sent an armed ship “INS Sandhayak” with one helicopter and some military personnel to the island. Some huts, tents, one aerial mast and one pole bearing the Indian flag were seen erected there. Bangladesh was taken by surprise at India’s aggressive mood to claim the island. Bangladesh on 11 May 1981 lodged a strong protest against such unwarranted, unilateral and illegal action of India that was in breach of the agreements reached at the highest political level.”[7]

3. Policy of supporting secessionist movements in Bangladesh: Chittagong Hill Tracts, which is one tenth of the total size of the country, with its enormous natural resources and strategic geographic location is vital for the existence of Bangladesh. Taking advantage of geographic proximity to its Tripura state and the desire of the local Chakma tribes for greater autonomy with an ultimate goal of creating Jumma land—an independent state for Chakmas— India sponsored the worst kind of terrorism in Chittagong Hill Tracks using its military and intelligence resources. The surreptitious Indian involvement in providing money and weapons to tribal insurgents in the Chittagong Hill Tracks since 1976 was acknowledged by Bimal Chakma—a Shanti Bahini official– in an interview with ‘The New York Times’ on June 11, 1989.[8] India used the insurgents against Bangladesh as a tool to gain political and economic concessions which she would not otherwise be able to extract from the government of Bangladesh. Finally, Bangladesh entered into a peace agreement with Shanti Bahini in 1997 to end insurgency and to restore law and order in Chittagong Hill Tracks, but the security and intelligence agencies of the country are still convinced that a lot of ex-Shanti Bahini members and other terrorists are still getting help from Indian security agencies and are hiding in the North East states of India.

4. Policy of proving Bangladesh as a safe haven for Indian insurgents: Because of India’s step motherly attitude towards its landlocked North Eastern states, a growing sense of deprivation, exploitation, and insecurity is prevalent among the people of this region, which has contributed to give birth to a number of insurgent groups who have taken up arms against their own government for self-determination. India’s myopic decision to crush insurgency through military means without finding the root causes to better understand the problem and the absence of a mature policy of providing economic and social incentives to remove inequalities have created myriad of problems causing further alienation of indigenous people. India in an attempt to portray itself as a victim of terrorism is now trying to find a scapegoat in Bangladesh to blame for the insurgency and to conceal its failure to contain insurgencies in the North East and to disprove its own involvement in secessionist movement in Chittagong Hill Tracks. Bangladesh, however, boldly rejected all such false allegations by India.[9]

5. Media propaganda: Notwithstanding its small landmass, Bangladesh, in terms of population, is the seventh largest country in the world and a home for 130 million Muslims. She has been playing a major role in international peace efforts and war against terrorism through contributing the second highest troops to U.N missions and through introducing tough anti terrorism ordinance with a provision of death sentence for those convicted of terrorism. Bangladesh was termed as a unique example of democracy in South Asia region by the then U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns and as a model for democracy and tolerance by Harry K Thomas—ex U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh. Disregarding the support and appreciation of International community for Bangladesh’s role in the war against terrorism, Indian media keeps inventing fictitious stories about Bangladesh’s alleged inability to respond to the security needs of India, in particular, and the world, in general to create pressure on the government of Bangladesh. But the fact of the matter is, Bangladesh is taking regional and global security matters seriously and is working closely with the international community to stop her soil from being used by elements inimical to regional and global security. It can be mentioned that the international community including the United States has welcomed Bangladesh’s dismantling of the terror network of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and its execution of the top terror leaders after following due process of law and has termed Bangladesh as a valuable partner in the war against terrorism.

6. Trade imbalance: In bilateral trade relations with its neighbors, India follows a policy of deriving maximum benefits by securing duty free access for its commodities, by cornering other smaller regional countries by not allowing them to have similar privileges, and by imposing non tariff barriers on their exports. The SAARC trade leaders have also termed India as the major roadblock in boosting regional trade.[10] Bangladesh is a victim of the same exploitative Indian trade strategy and suffers from a trade deficit to the amount of $2 billion with India which can be attributed to non removal of tariff and non tariff barriers on her exports. To offset the negative impact of this yawning trade gap, India has so far not offered any significant amount of investments and loans to Bangladesh.

7. Water sharing: The Indian strategy of bilateral ism and non implementation of water sharing treaties has caused enormous difficulties to its lower riparian neighbors because India uses prevailing asymmetry of power to its own advantage to deprive its neighbors of their due share of water. This has caused enormous ecological damage to riverine Bangladesh as supply of water during dry season has dwindled at an alarming rate. Renowned water expert, Dr. Ainun Nishat in an interview with a local daily said, “But Article-2 (2) stipulates that India will protect the flow at a specified level. Unless this protection mechanism is in operation the residual flow that arrives at Farakka may not be the flow that matches 40 years average condition. In short, the flow distributed has not been protected by India as per provision of the treaty…………..What India is doing now is that it is supplying residual water to Farakka to be shared by Bangladesh as India is either withdrawing water from upper riparian rivers or diverting water flows to other rivers within India by river linking projects.”[11]

Asymmetry in power and strategic options for Bangladesh

With 20 times larger landmass, 10 times larger population, and 10 times larger military, India is placed in an advantageous position to negotiate with Bangladesh from the position of strength to define the bilateral relation that suits its own political, strategic, and economic interests.

Being the weaker party, Bangladesh has to be creative in devising strategies to utilize India’s geographical and security vulnerabilities to her advantage through using her own geographical advantages, through forming alliances with strong friendly nations, and through being part of powerful international security forums to reduce her strategic vulnerabilities that arise from asymmetry in power vis a vis India and to protect her national interest.

The government of Bangladesh will define the responsibilities of different agencies to design, to implement, and to enforce strategies to deal with existing power inequalities with India, and they will also establish policies to review the current strategies to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses to ensure effectiveness to respond to current risks and to adjust to future risks.

No single strategy is enough to deal with a country as big and powerful as India, so Bangladesh has to employ several different strategies to diminish India’s strategic advantages over Bangladesh through identifying India’s security weak points and using them as Bangladesh’s own strategic assets, and through internationalizing bilateral issues to seek help from powerful friends and international forums so as to force India to resolve any disputes on the basis of justice, equality, and mutual respect.

In light of the above discussion, Bangladesh may employ following strategies to protect her national interest vis a vis India:

1. Diplomacy: To use bilateral diplomatic channels to resolve disputes in an amicable manner, and if that fails then use regional forums to raise the issues and involve other regional actors in the dispute resolution processes, and if still that doesn’t work then use the United Nations to take diplomatic actions to prevent disputes from escalating into conflicts.

2. International security forums: To make exhaustive efforts to raise bilateral security issues with India in ASEAN Regional Forum in an attempt to engage all the members of the forum in constructive security dialogues to resolve disputes through confidence building or through preventive diplomacy.

3. Strategic alliance: To form strategic alliance with China to obtain security guarantee in the event of a military conflict with India, and to obtain political guarantee that China will use her veto power to thwart Indian attempt to use the United Nations Security Council to legitimize its actions with respect to disputes with Bangladesh. Bangladesh will also work with China on matters that affect Chinese security interests based on mutual cooperation, interest, and utmost respect for each others sovereignty.

4. Strategic chicken neck: To consider the ‘chicken neck’ as strategic asset and to take political decision based on national consensus to not allow India to get transit rights on a bilateral basis through Bangladesh to transport goods, military or industrial, to its North East region. This will give Bangladesh a clear strategic advantage over India because the latter will be forced to rely on Bangladesh for stability and economic development of its North East region.

5. Military strength: To gain substantial military power to tie the entire Eastern Command of India in a long term war to cause erosion in its ability to fight a simultaneous war against Bangladesh and China or the insurgents in North East region, and to give Pakistan an opportunity to escalate the dispute over Kashmir into a major conflict on the Western side.

To the path of cooperation and partnership:

Despite having divergent strategic and security outlook, Bangladesh and India, being so close neighbors and part of so many regional and international forums, should try to take solid actions to minimize differences to foster understanding and cooperation in various socio-economic and security issues for amicable co-existence and regional stability. The following set of actions are recommended to achieve a peaceful bilateral relation:

  1. To promote regional cooperation to harness water resources for the benefit of agriculture and electricity production
  2. To provide duty free access for each others commodities to promote greater economic cooperation
  3. To take prompt diplomatic actions to demarcate land and maritime borders in the spirit of justice, equality, and good neighborliness
  4. To work closely to combat sea piracy, illegal arms trade, drug trafficking and human trafficking for the sake of regional security and stability
  5. To create culture of non-interference in each others internal affairs to promote trust, confidence, and cooperation


    1. J N Dixit, Congress to follow cooperative policy with Bangladesh and SAARC neighbors…-04-11&id=7
    2. RAW: Top-Secret Failures, p: 5
    3. Dr. Kalidas Baidya, Bangalir Muktijudhe Antoraler Sheikh Mujib, p:166-167
    11. BD deprived of Ganges water as India violates treaty, The Bangladesh Today – February 17, 2009

Tipaimukh Dam Is A Geo-tectonic Blunder Of International Dimensions
June 15, 2009, 10:38 am
Filed under: Bangladesh, India
Tipaimukh Dam Is A Geo-tectonic Blunder Of International Dimensions

By: Dr. Soibam Ibotombi (Dept. of Earth Sciences, Manipur University)


The proposed Tipaimukh dam is to be located 500 metres downstream from the confluence of Barak and Tuivai rivers, and lies on the south-western corner of Manipur State (24°14¢N and 93°1.3¢E approximately). It is a huge earth dam (rock-fill with central impervious core) having an altitude of about 180 M above the sea-level with a maximum reservoir level of 178m and 136m as the MDDL (minimum draw down level). The dam was originally conceived to only contain the flood water in the Cachar plains of Assam but later on, emphasis has been placed on hydroelectric power generation, having an installation capacity of 1500MW with only a firm generation of 412MW (less than 30 per cent of installed capacity). In order to appease the people of Manipur state, the project proponent, NEEPCO, has been building up a list of benefits that include high-class tourism, free power sharing, resettlement and rehabilitation package and an all round rosy picture of development.

Over the past decade and half, the issue of Tipaimukh dam has created a lot of disenchantment in regard to scientific, technical, economic and environmental feasibility of the dam especially concerning with the state of Manipur. An attempt is, therefore, made here to provide a brief geological, structural and tectonic account of Tipaimukh and its adjoining region in terms of tectonic framework of Indo-Myanmar [Burma] Ranges (IMR) in general and that of Manipur in particular and possible socio-economic impacts of the dam. Such a consideration would reveal the nature and extent of the geotectonic risk being taken by constructing a mega-dam at Tipaimukh.

Some basic geological informationTipaimukh and its adjoining areas are basically made up of Surma Group of rocks. The rocks of Surma Group are mainly light grey to brownish grey generally medium to coarse grained sandstones having occasional shale and silt/sand intervening bands between massive to thickly bedded sandstones. Conglomeratic (loosely cemented pebbles and gravel)) horizon at the base of Bhuban Formation, though, can be observed in the field easily due to its wide areal extent; other conglomeratic horizons are generally often missing which is probably due to their localised nature.

In general, this group of rocks are predominantly arenaceous with subordinate shales. Usually shales are less sandy and sandstones are less argillaceous. Some typical natures of bedding similar to turbidite character are also found at places. Like Barails, Surma Group of rocks is also marked by primary structures such as cross bedding, ripple marks, etc. All these geologic features, lithocharacters as well as primary st ructures suggest a different depositional environment from that of the Disangs and Barails. So, these groups of rocks as well as the younger Tipams are treated as molasse sediments.

The rocks of Surma Group are well characterised by folds and faults having regional strike similar to that of the Barails i.e. NNE-SSW. Fractures are also well developed which have close relationship with the topographic features and drainage patterns. The geometry of folds found in the region is quite typical as in other parts of the Surma Basin and Western Manipur. Antiforms are generally sharp and angular forming ridges while synforms are broad and rounded representing valleys and river beds. Such geometry of the folds might have been controlled by hidden faults called, blind thrusts. And these thrusts could be potential earthquake foci any time in future.

Geomorphic and topographic features around Tipaimukh and its adjoining region is also quite interesting not only because of thickly vegetated low-lying hill ranges but also due to the intimate relationship between the topography especially the drainage system, and the structural and tectonic lineaments of the region. The drainage pattern of the Barak river and its tributary system around Tipaimukh displays how delicately Barak river takes a turn of about 360° at Tipaimukh giving rise to what is called, barbed pattern. Such a drainage pattern is always resulted from the structural control of the river. And practically the main Barak River opposite to Tuivai River itself is also controlled by the Barak-Makru thrust fault. Further it is also observed that main Barak river course and its tributary system are all controlled by faults and fractures as they all show rectangular to sub-rectangular drainage patterns.

All these faults and fractures cause localised shifting or deflection of the main river course, and even at the confluence of Barak River and Tuivai River. Such faults are potentially active and may be focal and/or epicentres of any future earthquake. 1 The author thanks the Centre for Organisation Research & Education (CORE) for substantial inputs into this article from sources based in Bangladesh. The International Tipaimukh Dam Conference 2005, Dhaka saw international water, seismological and geological experts gather along with social activists, academics, writers and leaders from 11 countries.

North-East region among six major seismically active zones of the world Tectonic setting of Northeast India is one of the most interesting aspects in the tectonic framework of Southeast Asia. In this region, two typical tectonic settings are found resulting from the convergence between Indian and Eurasian plates. The Eastern Himalayas represent a continent to continent collision mechanism while the Indo-Myanmar Range is an island arc type of subduction mechanism. Indo-Myanmar Range, therefore, evolved as an accretionary prism where major structural and tectonic features spread out in the form of an imbricate thrust system. The Tipaimukh area, about which the dam is proposed to construct, lies in the Barak-Makru Thrust zone of the imbricate thrust system.

The structural and tectonic pattern of Manipur is transitional between the NE-SW trending pattern of Naga-Patkai Hills and N-S trend of Mizoram and Chin Hills. The general structural and lithological trend of the rock formations of the state is NNE-SSW. It frequently varies between N-S and NE-SW although sometimes NNW-SSE trends are locally common. Almost all the major structural elements such as folds, thrust and reverse faults follow this regional strike. Majority of the extensional structures e.g. normal faults have WNW-ESE trend. While the structures having neither compress ional nor extensional affinities strike in the NW-SE and NE-SW quadrants. Dip of the lithounits varies between moderate to steep angles towards east or west. The geological and structural settings suggest a very interesting tectonic evolutionary history of the state. The state, forming an integral part of the Indo-Myanmar Range lies in the boundary region of the Indian, Eurasian and Myanmar plates having typical interaction nature. As a result, the region is also one of the most seismically active zones in the world (Zone V, earthquake zones of India).

The North-East region of India is one of the six major seismically active zones of the world that includes California, North-East India, Japan, Mexico, Taiwan and Turkey. So, it is essential to have a brief discussion on these aspects also.Plate Kinematics The root cause of earthquakes in a particular region is more or less exclusively a function of the tectonic setting of that region and its proximity to plate boundary. Therefore, the tectonic setting, plate movements and palaeo- and neo-stress analyses of the region are very important aspects in order to know about the seismic activity of that region. It, not only, will reveal the deformation mechanism of the region but also, will provide knowledge about the structures that may be easily reactivated as a function of the plate kinematics in that region.

Analysis conducted by the author about the plate kinematics in and around Manipur reveals that the structural and tectonic features of IMR in general and that of Manipur in particular evolved through the interaction between the Indian and Myanmar plates rather than Indian and Eurasian (China) plates under a simple shear deformation mechanism.From the analysis it is found that the region has compression in the WNW-ESE direction while extension lies in the NNE-SSW direction. As a result, structures such as folds, reverse and thrust faults oriented parallel to NNE-SSW direction will suffer maximum compression and shortening while structures such as normal faults, tension fractures and joints running parallel to the WNW-ESE direction will undergo maximum extension.

And structures lying in the NW-SE and NE-SW quadrants will have strike-slip movement. The faults and fractures around Tipaimukh dam axis belong to the category that may undergo strike-slip and extensional movements. So, these structures can be easily reactivated causing small to considerable displacement along them by any tectonic phenomena e.g. moderate and large earthquakes. By such a process, if the dam axis is displaced by a few centimetres a serious damage may occur causing a dam disaster leading to huge loss of lives and property.Seismicity Northeast India is one of the highest earthquake potential area in the world due to its tectonic setting i.e. subduction as well as collision plate convergence. Analysis of earthquake epicentres and magnitudes of 5M and above within 100-200km radii of Tipaimukh dam site reveals hundreds of earthquakes in the last 100-200 years. It is found that within 100km radius of Tipaimukh, 2 earthquakes of +7M magnitude have taken placed in the last 150 years and the last one being occurred in the year 1957 at an aerial distance of about 75km from the dam site in the ENE direction.

Beside the frequency of such large earthquakes within 100km radius, it is also further observed that a number of epicentral points align in the form of a linear array parallel to regional strike NNE-SSW or N-S revealing how this Barak-Makru Thrust zone is seismically active. Another important aspect of seismic activity is that shallow earthquakes are far more disastrous than the deeper ones even if magnitude is relatively low since destructive surface waves can be quickly and easily propagated from the focus/epicentre. And majority of the earthquakes that takes place on the western side of Manipur are shallow (50km focal depth or less) which is due to the tectonic setting of the Indo-Myanmar Range.

Under these circumstances whether it will be a wise policy to construct a huge dam or not need to be thoroughly discussed and investigated. The trend of earthquakes shows that the regions which have experienced earthquakes in the past are more prone to it; the magnitude of future earthquakes may be uniform to the past ones; and the earthquake occurrence, geological data and tectonic history all have close correlation (Mollick). The Tipaimukh Dam site has been chosen at the highest risk seismically hazardous zone .

The dam proponent, NEEPCO claims that seismic hazards are being taken care of through consultations with Rourkee University (However, the Government of Indian has requested NEEPCO to also consult with the Geological Survey of India). Here it is pertinent to state that extreme seismic hazards cannot be addressed adequately or satisfactorily through consultations with seismologists, as the risk inducing and impact factors are mechanical, geophysical, tectonic and socio-economic in nature.The author thanks the Centre for Organisation Research & Education (CORE) for substantial inputs into this article from sources based in Bangladesh.

Water Scarcity and the Threat of Water Wars in South Asia – A Bangladesh Perspective
June 6, 2009, 6:29 pm
Filed under: Bangladesh, India, Nepal, SubContinent

Water Scarcity and the Threat of Water Wars in South Asia – A Bangladesh Perspective

MBI Munshi


South Asia is known for many wonderful and beautiful things such as its varied cultures, languages, religions, landscapes and peoples but above all it is known for its volatility and sudden outbreaks of violence and often brutal and destructive conflicts. The Indian subcontinent, as it was once known, was partitioned on the basis of religion in 1947 according to the concept of the two-nation theory. Since then several wars have been fought over territory, sovereignty and in one case for independence which eventually led to the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971 as an independent nation-state. As things now stand the next war in the South Asia region could well be over water. This appears almost inevitable unless India adopts a more accommodative attitude towards its neighbour’s claims for reasonable and equitable water sharing rights. Recent history has, however, suggested quite the opposite with New Delhi ignoring the just demands of Bangladesh which as the lower riparian nation is wholly dependant for its survival on the regular and sustained flow of water coming through India from the Himalayas.  

Since 1971 Bangladesh has generally adopted a defensive attitude in its relations with its large neighbour in recognition of the economic and military might of India. However, if New Delhi continues with its policy of draining the life blood of Bangladesh it is more than likely that this small but populous nation would be forced to take on a more assertive role in its relations with India and in realizing its just demands for water, as well as in addition to other contentious bilateral issues, could ultimately lead to conflict in the coming decade. Policy makers in Bangladesh are yet to wake up to this reality but as a new generation of leaders emerge faced with the calamitous consequences of the large scale withdrawal and diversion of water by India they may have few choices but to confront New Delhi in a more aggressive and confrontational manner. This may appear at first glance to be highly unlikely but with millions displaced by desertification and the numerous other adverse effects (some of which has wrongly been attributed to climate change to distract world attention to the actual causes of environmental damage in Bangladesh) of the Indian water withdrawal policy such a scenario cannot be easily dismissed. Fueling this growing animosity would be decades of mistrust caused by an arrogant and duplicitous policy devised and practiced by India’s politicians and diplomats in their dealings with Bangladesh.  


The very geographical location of Bangladesh makes it the lowest riparian country of more than 50 trans-boundary rivers. The waters of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and other trans-boundary rivers have been sustaining the life and living of millions of Bangladeshis. Without these waters, the livelihood of millions of Bangladeshis would come under severe stress. Unfortunately, since independence, Bangladesh has been observing with great concern, the gradual reduction of the dry season flows of the Ganges, Teesta and many other trans-boundary rivers due to anthropogenic interventions across the borders – primarily by India. Since its independence in 1947, India has made intensive efforts to harness and develop the water resources in the Ganges basin. The data indicates that India now has several dozen large barrages and other diversionary structures operating in the basin which are capable of diverting 100,000 cusec flows from the Ganges and its different tributaries. Moreover, India has constructed more than 400 major, medium and small storage dams in the basin area. Of these, the major storage reservoirs have a total capacity of 2221 billion cubic feet or 63 billion cubic meters (BCM). Bangladesh itself could not embark upon any such major development of the waters of the trans-boundary rivers including the Ganges in the face of uncertainties of its dry season availability from across the border. Moreover, the flat terrain of Bangladesh does not allow any storage of excess monsoon waters for use during the dry season and such projects would in any case be extortionately exorbitant for the country at its present stage of development and with its limited financial resources.

The consequences for Bangladesh of India’s policy of diversion and withdrawal of water have been both dramatic and devastating. Upstream diversion of the precious dry season flows of the Ganges has adversely affected the hydrology, river morphology, agriculture, domestic and municipal water supply, fishery, forestry, wildlife, industry, navigation, public health and biodiversity in large areas of Bangladesh dependent on the Ganges water. Western analysts have been duped into believing that these negative environmental affects are caused by climate change that will in a few decades result in the rise of sea waters that will inundate large areas of the country. However, the actual cause of increased salinity in the south-western region of Bangladesh has been India’s diversion and withdrawal of water which allows ingress of sea water from the Bay of Bengal due to the reduced natural fresh water flows in the opposite direction during the dry season. Another extremely serious but indirect consequence of this water diversion policy is the contamination of ground water with arsenic. With the reduction of water from India millions in Bangladesh are now forced to access ground water which if pumped continuously over a prolonged period assists a chemical reaction that oxidizes naturally occurring arseno-pyrites deep in the soil resulting in the release of arsenic into the water – a process which may properly described as almost akin to mass poisoning. This consequential alarming degradation of the environment and water supply in south-western Bangladesh has already forced thousands to leave in quest of survival elsewhere. In the face of deteriorating human health, reduced economic productivity and loss of amenities, life and living in this part of Bangladesh people are becoming increasingly vulnerable, insecure and resentful. These are probably the prime causes of conflict between states if history is to be any guide.


 If we leave aside the period between 1947-1971 when Bangladesh was called East Pakistan and considered by India as a hostile entity the likelihood of agreement on water sharing was obviously limited. However, it was during this period that Indian diplomacy became a byword for duplicity and this approach was to continue in its relations with Bangladesh after it obtained independence from Pakistan with the help of the Indian military – which in hindsight had very little to do with altruism or kind hearted generosity and more to do with Indian geo-strategic imperatives. In any case, it was on October 29, 1951 that the then Pakistan government drew the attention of the Indian authorities to the report of a scheme for diverting large amounts of dry season flow of the Ganges. Four months later, on 8 March, 1952 India replied that the project was only under preliminary investigation and described Pakistan’s concern over probable effects as purely hypothetical. Again on May 22, 1953 India reassured Pakistan that the Farraka and Gandak projects (a tributary of the Ganges) were still being investigated and India would appreciate cooperative development of the water resources of the Ganges. Nine years after the issue was first mooted the Government of India announced that it was going ahead with the plan to build a barrage across the River Ganges at Farraka[i] and Pakistan was formally informed. Talks took place occasionally between 1961 and 1970 but real negotiation and consultations did not. By 1970 India completed construction of the Farraka Barrage. The 24 mile feeder canal was, however, not yet ready.

While the Indian government’s behaviour towards Pakistan during this 19 year period (1951-1970) is explicable on the grounds that both nations were inherently inimical towards each other having just fought two wars within just thirty years it is still not explainable why India would adopt the same negotiating tactics towards the new nation of Bangladesh which it had recently assisted in its liberation war? I have provided my own theory in my book ‘The India Doctrine’ where I draw attention to India’s policy of domination over South Asia and an underlying resentment over the 1947 partition which seemingly allows Indian policy makers to ignore the just grievances of its smaller neighbours and not merely in the area of water sharing but including the whole array of bilateral issues that now bedevil interstate relations in the region.

After Bangladesh gained independence in 1971 relations with India gradually deteriorated and this was reflected in negotiations between the countries over water sharing rights. The Governments of India and Bangladesh decided in March 1972 to set up the Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission (JRC). One of the major functions of the JRC was to maintain liaison between the participating countries in order to ensure the most effective joint efforts in maximizing the benefits from common river systems to both the countries. The question of sharing the water of the Ganges was, however, kept out of the purview of the JRC, to be settled at the level of Prime Ministers. In this regard, many in Bangladesh felt at the time that the Awami League government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was too compliant and would easily buckle to Indian demands which actually turned out to be the case. The Prime Minister of India and Bangladesh met in New Delhi in May 1974 and discussed amongst other things, the Ganges issue. Following this meeting, there was a Joint Declaration on May 16, 1974, wherein they observed that during the periods of minimum flow in the Ganges, there might not be enough water and, therefore, the fair weather (dry season) flow of the Ganges in the lean months would have to be augmented to meet the needs of Calcutta port and to fulfill requirement of Bangladesh. They also agreed that the best means of augmentation through optimum utilization of the water resources of the region available to the two countries should be studied by the Joint Rivers Commission. The two sides expressed their determination that before the Farakka project is commissioned; they would arrive at a mutually acceptable allocation of the water available during the periods of minimum flow in the Ganges. The JRC accordingly took up the issue of augmentation of the Ganges flows but was unable to reach any agreement.  

At a subsequent minister level meeting in April 1975 the Indian side proposed a test-run of the feeder canal of the Farakka Barrage for a limited period during that dry season. On good faith, Bangladesh agreed to India’s request and allowed it to operate the feeder canal with varying discharges in ten-day periods from April 21 to May 31, 1975, ensuring the continuance of the remaining flows to Bangladesh. Although India was supposed to divert limited quantities of water from the Ganges for the said test-run up to May 31, 1975, it continued withdrawals from Farakka to the full capacity of the feeder canal during the dry season of 1976 without entering into any understanding or agreement on sharing the flows despite Bangladesh’s repeated requests. The consequences of India’s actions had been tragic. The unilateral Indian withdrawals throughout the dry seasons of 1976 caused a marked reduction in the dry season Ganges flows in Bangladesh. This sudden change in the flow pattern caused an alarming situation in the south western region of Bangladesh.

To cut a long story short, Bangladesh repeatedly requested India to stop the unilateral withdrawals but this bore little fruit. Bangladesh then took the issue to the United Nations in 1976 and the General Assembly urged both sides to seek an immediate solution. Between 1977 and 1988 Bangladesh and India signed several temporary agreements but no permanent understanding could be reached. Between 1988 and 1996 there was no instrument for sharing the dry season Ganges flows between the two countries. In the absence of any agreement, India again started unilateral withdrawals from Farakka. It was not until the Awami League returned to power in 1996 in Bangladesh under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina (daughter of the slain leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) that a treaty between the countries was signed on the sharing of the Ganges Water at Farakka. This treaty has not been viewed favourably in Bangladesh as it was felt to be a subservient arrangement without the usual safeguards and guarantees and contrary to norms of international law. It appears these apprehensions were well founded as recent reports suggest that the quantity of water flowing down from the Farakka point has been declining due to the withdrawal of water by India through various canals in violation of the water sharing agreement.  

The treaty is now under legal challenge in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh on the following grounds amongst others –

  1. That Bangladesh has been receiving lesser amounts of flows at Farakka as its share compared to the quanta it should be receiving as agreed between the contracting parties set out in the schedule contained in Annexure II of the Treaty.
  2. The instruments signed by Bangladesh and India do not provide entitlement to the former to participate or to become party to negotiations on any water course or in any consultations thereof e.g. Bangladesh cannot participate in the bilateral negotiation between India and Nepal which aim to implement projects on major tributaries of the Ganges river emanating from the Nepalese territory like the Pancheswar and Saptkosi High Dam Projects.
  3. Over the last three decades the Bangladesh government has repeatedly requested India for upstream hydro-meteorological data of the Ganges, Brahamputra and other rivers. The Indian side has declined to supply or exchange such upstream data and information. The 1996 treaty and other Indo-Bangladesh agreements are totally silent about the provisioning of this information.
  4. India either unilaterally or bilaterally with Nepal and Bhutan are undertaking planned measures for harnessing and regulating water resources of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Meghna and some of their tributaries without informing or providing notification to the downstream riparian country of those rivers which is Bangladesh.
  5. The 1996 Treaty and other Indo-Bangladesh do not provide for any third-party arbitration on settlement of disputes.  

These are only a few of the grounds that are claimed by the petitioner to be in contravention of customary international law and in particular the provisions of the 1997 UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses and the Berlin Rules on Water Resources[ii] which both contain internationally accepted safeguards and guarantees that were omitted from the 1996 treaty. In particular, India’s withdrawal of waters in an unreasonable and inequitable manner and the terms of the 1996 treaty appear to be in violation of Articles 7,8,13,17,29,56,57,58,59,60,68,72 and 73 of the Berlin Rules but most importantly and significantly Article 12 which states –

1. Basin States shall in their respective territories manage the waters of an international drainage basin in an equitable and reasonable manner having due regard for the obligation not to cause significant harm to other basin States.

2. In particular, basin States shall develop and use the waters of the basin in order to attain the optimal and sustainable use thereof and benefits therefrom, taking into account the interests of other basin States, consistent with adequate protection of the waters. 

And Article 16 which provides –  

Basin States, in managing the waters of an international drainage basin, shall refrain from and prevent acts or omissions within their territory that cause significant harm to another basin State having due regard for the right of each basin State to make equitable and reasonable use of the waters. 

Regardless of the outcome of the case, relations between Bangladesh and India are likely to deteriorate as agreement on water sharing in an equitable and reasonable manner appear a distant and forlorn prospect making conflict a more likely scenario. In some respects, a low level conflict has already begun as there are frequent and bloody skirmishes between the two countries border security forces and occasionally fighting has occurred over construction of groins and spurs on the Indian side intended to divert the course of rivers so that they encroach further into Bangladesh territory while supplementing the Indian side.


 If the Farakka Barrage dispute had been the only bone of contention between the two countries then some minimum resolution to the dispute may have been forthcoming but with India (in total disregard of the environmental harm that would be sustained by Bangladesh) now undertaking the massive River Linking Project (RLP) a further serious deterioration in relations is inevitable. Quite astonishingly, the RLP concept was conceived not by an expert committee or by the relevant government department but instead by the Indian Supreme Court which ruled (in relation to a Public Interest Litigation hearing) that there should be interlinking of rivers to offset drought and flooding in various parts of the country. Justice Kirpal set a 10 year deadline for implementation of the project. A brief six-page order passed on October 31, 2002 formed the basis on which the Indian government set up a high powered task force which devised a Perspective Plan comprising two components –

  1. Peninsular Rivers Development; and
  2. Himalayan Rivers Development

The Peninsular Rivers Component envisages the inter-linking of several major rivers at several different points along their course. The Himalayan Rivers Component which poses more serious difficulties for Bangladesh envisages construction of storages on the principal tributaries of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra in India, Nepal and Bhutan. Also, canal systems are to be inter-linked to transfer surplus flows of the eastern tributaries of the Ganges to the West apart from linking the (main) Brahmaputra and its tributaries with the Ganges and the Ganges with Mahanadi.

The effect of the RLP on Bangladesh has been variously described as devastating, catastrophic and also causing incalculable and irreparable damage to the country’s environment and ecological balance. This unfortunately is not mere exaggeration since the Brahmaputra and the Ganges provides more than 85% of the total surface water available in Bangladesh during the dry season. Of the two, the Brahmaputra provides 67% of the water. The diversion and withdrawal of these waters under the RLP would constitute a similar proposition to Bangladesh as the Iraqi WMD program did (under the Saddam Hussain regime) for the United States and the United Kingdom. In the present context the threat to Bangladesh is not hypothetical.

In the face of this looming crisis the Government of Bangladesh has already lodged protests to the Government of India expressing serious concern over the RLP and has urged India to refrain from implementation of the plan. The Government has also communicated Bangladesh’s serious concern over the Indian plan to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank and requested them to desist from providing any support to India relating to this plan. The matter was also raised during several meetings of the JRC where India was urged to desist from such a move without the consent of Bangladesh. It appears, however, that the Indian political leadership is committed to go ahead with this plan at the cost of its neighbours. The feeling is intensifying in the minds of the general public in Bangladesh against the Indian plan and their voice of protest is growing louder with the passage of time.

Considering that the Farraka Barrage and the RLP are only two of the many projects being undertaken by the Indian Government to divert and withdraw waters from the common rivers indicates that water sharing disputes with Bangladesh will progressively increase and naturally lead to growing tensions between the countries. The other major disputes on water sharing now include the Teesta, Feni, Meghna, Mahananda, Monu, Khowai, Gumti, Muhuri and Kodla Rivers and also construction of the Tipaimukh Dam in Manipur district of India. This last mentioned project has had the effect of eroding a large portion of Sylhet district in Bangladesh with almost 5000 acres drifting towards the Indian side following erosion of the riverbanks due to an artificial change in the course of the rivers Surma and Kushiara. All these water sharing disputes and the continued disregard for the concerns expressed by Bangladesh about these projects and the continuation of diversion and withdrawal of water in an unreasonable and inequitable manner is being viewed as an attack on the sovereignty of the country which if not restrained and outstanding issues settled amicably could lead to conflict in the coming decades.    



[i] India constructed the Farakka Barrage on the Ganges to divert the water flowing through Bangladesh to maintain navigability of the Calcutta Port 260 km away, whereas Crow et al. support that stagnation of the Port of Calcutta was due to the decline of the industrial activity and overall economic activity, and that a minimum research efforts or unfinished investigations for possible alternative to the construction of Farakka Barrage was performed. The growth of the Calcutta Port was one-fortieth of the growth of other Indian ports. It was at the acme of development during the British rule in India (1870-1947) when the port carried 40-50% of India’s exports and imports. The port growth had declination of 23%, 11%, and 10% in the mid-sixties, late seventies, and in the late eighties of the last century, respectively. Dredging of the port was the best solution since the port failed to demonstrate convincingly the importance of the Farakka Barriage.

[ii] The Rules present a comprehensive collection of all the relevant customary international law that a water manager or a court or other legal decision maker would have to take into account in resolving issues relating to the management of water resources. These Rules set about to provide a clear, co-gent, and coherent statement of the customary international law that applies to waters of international drainage basins, and to the extent that customary international law applies to waters entirely within a State, to all waters as well. These Rules also undertake the progressive development of the law needed to cope with emerging problems of international or global water management for the twenty-first century.


Dr. Miah Muhammad AdelUpstream Controller’s Dual Benefits at the Cost of Downstream Drainer’s Double Trouble (NFB – August 13, 2007)

Megh Barta – River linking project of India (4-August-2007)

International Law Association – BERLIN CONFERENCE (2004)  WATER RESOURCES LAW (

The Daily Star – Rivers dying as Ganges project remains in limbo (January 26, 2008)

The Daily Star – Tipaimukh dam to destroy ecology in Meghna basin (October 28, 2007)

The Daily Star – Unilateral withdrawal of Brahmaputra waters? (June 8, 2007)

The Daily Star – We can’t assure availability of water due to climatic reason (May 29, 2007)

The Daily Star – New courses of frontier-rivers changing Bangladesh’s map (May 7, 2007)

The Daily Star – Bangladesh loses land due to erosion by Sylhet border rivers (July 5, 2008)

New Age – Debunking the ‘NASA’ doomsday climate prediction for Bangladesh (July 5, 2008)

New Age – India’s violation of water sharing deal hampers irrigation (April 5, 2008)

New Age – Water should be used to unify South Asian people: experts (July 13, 2008)

The BD Today – Natural catastrophe apprehended along river Padma (May 23, 2008)

The BD Today – Unilateral withdrawal of waters threatens ecology in Padma basin :Indo-Bangla treaty grossly violates water sharing (November 14, 2007)

The News Today – River navigability in southern region on decrease (June 13, 2008)

The News Today – Death of the Rivers (May 23, 2008)

The News Today – Indian Tipaimukh dam to be death trap for Bangladesh (February 12, 2007)

The New Nation – Structure on other side blamed: Ichhamati shifts into Bangladesh (July 6, 2008)

The New Nation – Indian HC’s remark repudiated: Bangladesh deprived of dry season river flow (May 8, 2008)

The New Nation – Damned hearings on Tipaimukh Dam (May 5, 2008)

India Express – River sutras :The river interlinking project is another disaster waiting to happen (April 26, 2005)

John Vidal – India’s Dream, Bangladesh’s Disaster (The Guardian – 24 July, 2003)

Shailendra Nath Ghosh – Interlinking Rivers -The Millennial Folly ( 15 May, 2003)

Abdur Rahman Khan – Bangladesh drying up as India withdrawing Ganges water (HOLIDAY – April 1, 2008)  

NFB – India provides less Ganges water for Bangladesh : Dhaka’s protest remains unheeded  (February 17, 2008)

NFB – River Linking Project of India- Expectations (May 16, 2008)

Priyo – Bangladesh drying up as India withdrawing Ganges water (April 3, 2008)

India’s Farakka Barrage to Tipaimukh: Bangladesh’s Options
June 5, 2009, 7:18 am
Filed under: Bangladesh, India

India’s Farakka Barrage to Tipaimukh: Bangladesh’s Options

M.T. Hussain

The unpalatable

After getting nod of Bangladesh for the river Ganges’ water withdrawal by India in May 1974 at the Farakka Barrage point up 17 kilometers of the common border of the two countries, and what is called at the downstream the Padma river of Bangladesh in the west, India has taken now to build two dams at Tipamukh and Fulertal in the east on the river Barak that forms upper riparian of the Kushiara, Surma and mighty Meghna rivers of Bangladesh. The evils of Farakka in the three and a half decades in the downstream incurred yearly losses in money term at 150,000 lakhs crores Taka and the incoming Eastern two are estimated to incur yearly loss for Bangladesh at Taka 225,000 lakhs crores. Farrakka Barrage adversely affected the western and southwestern territory of one third Bangladesh and the eastern two dams to affect one fourth of Bangladesh in the eastern area.   

My experience and some works

On the Farakka Barrage issue I had my first book (India’s Farakka Barrage…  now out of print) published in 1996. I was then fortunate not only to have facts from documents of the Bangladesh Government source but also from other published documents about the issue here and elsewhere at the international level. I was also fortunate to have a very close rapport with the renowned hydrological expert B M Abbas during his last days before passing away in Dhaka, in addition to useful information I had from his authoritative book The Ganges Water Dispute. Just a few months back I had two articles, one in Bengali and the other in English on the same topic of Farakka losses incurred by Bangladesh that I took advantage of an occasion of follow up of a surface scratching by the BBC Bengali Radio discussion meeting held at Rajshahi a few months earlier on the effects of the India’s Farakka Barrage in Bangladesh as the razzmatazz of the discussion had nothing of losses of Bangladesh in concrete terms of money figure. In the two articles mentioned and published in dailies in Dhaka I cited figures in specific calculated terms. The figure of Bangladesh losses for 33 years since May 1974, the time the Farakka went on in full commission to 2007 at nearly 49 lakhs crore Taka, that made yearly average of about one and a half lakh crore Taka. A research organization based in the USA and corroborated by a local organization in their calculation for likely losses of Bangladesh due to the India’s Tipaimukh Dam would still be higher at over two lakhs crore Taka than the yearly average due to the Farakka, thus exceeding yearly average of about one lakh crore Taka losses that Bangladesh has been incurring due to the death trap of the Farakka Barrage.

Miseries of millions on both sides

Although there were groups against the Farakka project in West Bengal and Bihar before the barrage was erected, as one was renowned irrigation engineer Kapil Bannerjee (See weekly Holiday, 29 May 09), there are groups, as well, against the other two proposed dams. The Tipaimukh dam to be built at 500 meters downstream of the confluence of the Barak and Tuivai rivers is planned for generation of 1,500MW of hydro-electricity and the Fulertal one for irrigation purpose there in the Eastern India. The likely affected ones included common poor people as also objections raised by area experts, environmentalists, etc. Because, the Dam if erected and made operational is certain to affect lives and livings of many people engaged in agriculture in the project region, fisheries and fishing trade, river craft works and to adversely affect ecological balance that may even add to risks of bigger scale earth quakes in the region according to the noted earth science expert and famous geologist like Dr. Soibam Ibotombi, Professor of the Indian Manipur University

International river rules and conventions

International rivers are well designated so for that they flow through many countries. The Ganges and the Barak are international rivers. There are international rules and conventions that guide modes of sharing waters of such rivers between countries in the riparian regions.  The upper riparian country, in particular, is not permitted by the rules and conventions to withdraw and divert water of any amount that would harm the lower riparian country/s. The 1997 UN convention adopted two key issues, one, in gist stated by two words, ‘no harm’ and the other ‘equitable sharing’. To elaborate the implications of the two set of terms, one can safely state that the upper riparian country can do no harm to lower riparian country by withdrawing or diverting normal natural flow of water, and if any such withdrawal and diversion is at all to be done, such mode must have prior sanction of the lower riparian country subject to the condition of mutually agreed equitable sharing. There are examples of such water sharing treaties between countries like Egypt and Sudan for the Nile waters, Germany and Hungary for the Danube, Pakistan and India for the Sind just to cite as instances. The Ganges water dispute with India started about four decades ago, but unfortunately no equitable sharing agreement had been possible. In 1974 there had been a memorandum of understanding for ‘experimental operation’ of the Farakka Barrage by India for ‘forty days’ only. But that experimental forty days went on and on, India cared little for the lower riparian Bangladesh. During Presidennt Zia’s time there had been two-year treaty first in 1977 for sharing water of the Ganges and renewed once only, but during President Ershad there had been no treaty at all. Instead the Indian Government suggested the then President Ershad to forget about making any water sharing treaty and advised him to dredge Bangladeshi part of lower riparian area of the rivers for storing bigger volumes of water. Such dredging action program is not only very costly but also a recurring and very expensive matter having no durable solution to the problem due to siltation of river beds for obstruction of flows in the upper riparian region. The 1996 agreement made by the then government for 30 years duration sealed the ill fate of Bangladesh, at least, until the expiry of the period of the unequal an inequitable treaty until 2026.

1996 humiliation

I recall very clearly from a TV news item on the day in December 1996 how the 30-year treaty was undertaken by the then Sheikh Hasina during her visit to Kolakata and Delhi. The day previous to the treaty was signed in Delhi, Hasina not only met the West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, but in her meet she fell on his feet to pay respect in somewhat Hindu style, Shashtyange Pronipat, and so pleased the Chief Minister blessed her as usual putting palm on her forehead and then made a brief remark that said that India would make a treaty for water sharing at the Farakka Barrage point for two to three years. Amazingly, the next day the treaty was signed for duration of 30 years and not for two or three years as Jyoti Bosu had predicted in blessing Hasina.  

India pitied Bangladesh

If one would recall further back about the facts about 1974 MOU, 1977 water treaty for two years and renewed for another two years, no treaty whatsoever during the nine years term of Ershad and also none during the first term of Khaleda during 1991 to 1996 with the amazingly 30 year treaty made in December 1996 with P.M. Hasina that Bosu had predicted for a very short period. This treaty had no right standing so far as it did not meet international rules and conventions. Further that the treaty had no guarantee clause at all. These meant that the treaty went against the interest of lower riparian Bangladesh and violated international standard rules, conventions and norms. Thus it became a fait accompli that continues to harm Bangladesh, its ecology, economy and thus subservience to Delhi made in reality a mockery of sovereignty of Bangladesh. During the last 13 years it is the sad reality that India released for Bangladesh less quantities of water than Delhi had promised in the terms and schedule of the treaty; their excuse keeps on telling that they had no flow enough in the upper region and hence the lower quantum for Bangladesh became obvious.

Aggravate further

Having had the sad and painful experience due to India’s Farakka Barrage being operated for the last 35 years, the Tipaimiukh dam has been floated to further aggravate the position of Bangladesh in this case in the eastern region involving one fourth of the much smaller and impoverished geographical area.

Redress at the UN

Being the Tipaimukh a life and death question for Banglkadesh, Bangladesh has to stand solidly united to restrain India to abandon the Tipaimukh dam project for good. But if she does not restrain on their own, Bangladesh has no option left to bring the matter in the knowledge of international bodies like the UN and the possibly into the International Court of Justice at the Hague for appropriate redress.

BDR Revolt: A deadly strategic game plan
May 21, 2009, 12:12 pm
Filed under: Bangladesh

BDR Revolt: A deadly strategic game plan

By Shah Mohammed Saifuddin

Since the independence, Bangladesh Rifles, the first line of defense, have been combating smuggling, human trafficking, drug trafficking and other illegal activities along the border and have made supreme sacrifices to protect the lives and properties of the people from enemy invasion with great courage and valor. Bangladesh Rifles have earned worldwide recognition for its determination, patriotism, and professionalism when they successfully repelled a large invasion by Indian border security force at Roumari point in 2001.

Despite its performance and patriotism, the members of Bangladesh Rifles got little attention from successive governments to alleviate the problem of poor pay and benefit structures allowed for them. Nevertheless, they continued to discharge their duties with utmost sincerity and took part in all nation building activities maintaining professionalism and discipline.

On 25th Feb, 2009, the nation was shocked at the news that some BDR members had revolted and killed many officers who were on deputation from Bangladesh army to protest against poor pay and benefit structures and alleged corruption by the late Director General.

The mutineers asked the government to implement a set of demands on a priority basis to address the problems of the members of Bangladesh Rifles. Some of these demands are as follows:

1.withdrawing army officers from all command posts of BDR and recruiting new officers from BCS cadres

2.allowing full rationing for BDR members

3.sending BDR personnel to U.N. peacekeeping missions

4.revamping salary structures and promotion procedures

5.allowing defense allowances for BDR members

6.procuring more transportation vehicles to guard the long porous border with India and Myanmar

7.increasing the quality of food and

8.improving educational and medical facilities for the family members of soldiers

Because of defense strategy and lack of manpower, it will not be possible to withdraw army officers from the command posts of BDR, but the rest of the demands deserve due consideration because these are logical and should have been given to the BDR members a long time ago for they put their lives in danger to safeguard the frontiers of the country. It is, therefore, hoped that the government will take appropriate measures to remove the grievances of BDR members to stop the occurrences of similar incidents in the future.

Now, let us examine whether there are any political motivations behind this unfortunate incident that shocked the entire nation.

The revolt: actors involved, motivations and methods employed

The relationship between Awami League and the defense forces of the country has never been cordial because of latter’s security outlook that anticipates no security threat from India and considers defense expenditures needless. A few clauses of the 25 year friendship treaty that virtually eliminated Bangladesh’s sovereign right to seek assistance from other friendly nations to expand and modernize its armed forces and the subsequent step motherly attitude of the government and the formation of Rakkhi Bahini had cerated widespread resentment among the army officers. Instead of taking appropriate measures to remove the legitimate grievances of the army officers, the then government continued with their suppressive and discriminatory policies to neglect, humiliate and alienate the armed forces, which ultimately led to the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family members at the hands of a few young army officers.

Awami League has never forgotten the incident nor forgiven the armed forces for the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and left no stone unturned to avenge the incident in 1975 by creating divisions in the armed forces through various political machinations.

The comments of LGRD minister after the BDR mutiny is a testament to the fact that his party still holds grudges against the army for the death of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and other four prominent leaders of Awami League in 1975 at the hands of a section of army officers. He said, “If the trial of Bangabandhu and four national leaders killing cases were held in time and the offender were brought into justice, the Pilkhana tragedy was not take place” (Feb, 28, 2009, The Daily Star). Does it not show the deep resentment of the current government against the army for the incidents in 1975?

After the political change in 1/11, the military backed government had thrown many Awami League leaders into jail for their alleged involvement in financial scandal and abuse of power, which, many believe, has caused further deterioration in the relationship between the armed forces and Awami League. After the elections, Awami League’s virulent verbal attack on the army for its role in 1/11 is a testament to the fact that they wanted to weaken the army so that the latter could never repeat a 1/11 like situation to bring about political changes in the country.

India has its own agenda to diminish our defense capability because it needs a subservient military in Bangladesh to easily establish total domination on 4096 km Indo-Bangla border and use our defense and intelligence resources to its advantage to quell ongoing insurgencies in its North East region. India’s abortive misadventure inside Bangladesh territory in 2001 forced them to reorganize their security policy vis a vis Bangladesh and emphasize the need to search for new avenues to play larger role in the matters related to defense of Bangladesh and neutralize Chinese influence on our defense forces. But this could only be accomplished through active cooperation from a friendly government in Bangladesh to create tension within our defense forces to break their morale and make it imperative for Bangladesh to seek Indian help in reorganizing the defense system.

So, the BDR mutiny may be the case of a teamwork between a foreign external intelligence agency and some political elements within the country to set the stage for the departure of the army officers from Bangladesh Rifles to weaken it and to tarnish the image of the army before the whole nation to break their morale.

The assertion that some local political elements and India are working together to weaken the security systems of Bangladesh may be true because the government’s quick decision to grant general amnesty to all rebellious members of Bangladesh Rifles without assessing the ground reality and to not allow any military action to quell the rebellion, which gave the mutineers enough time to put forth a set of demands and flee in groups from the BDR headquarters seems to be a preplanned strategy to instigate a rebellion, break the chain of command, kill large number of officers, and to ensure safe exit for the mutineers.

If the local and foreign conspirators who planned, directed, and implemented the rebellion are not identified and the rebellious members of BDR who broke the chain command are not brought to justice such occurrences of rebellion may be repeated in other security forces to destabilize the entire nation and create a situation for external powers to intervene in the name of peacekeeping.

Findings of the army report

The army formed its own 20 member probe committee on 2nd March, led by Lt. General Jahangir Alam Chowdhury, to investigate into the gruesome murder of army officers by the rebels at BDR headquarters on 25th Feb, 2009 and this probe committee acted separately from the committee formed by the government to investigate into the same matter. After investigating for more than two months, the committee has made the summary of their report public for the sake of transparency of their work. The army report published in various newspapers identified the following reasons for the BDR mutiny:

1. Wrong impression about the facilities of the army

2. Lack of transparency in establishing and running BDR shops

3. Delay in payment of duty allowances for the 2008 national elections

4. Misunderstanding about lease and contracts of different works in the BDR headquarters

5. Wrong impression about the BDR’s director general Shakil Ahmed, and his wife Nazneen Shakil and Dhaka sector commander Mujibul Haque’s alleged in irregularities

6. Delay made by the Home and Finance ministries in resolving BDR problems

The army report on BDR mutiny did not find any convincing evidence of any direct or indirect militant links simply because of the fact that the extremists did not have the elaborate network and manpower to plan and execute a mission deep inside the military establishment of Bangladesh with a pinpoint accuracy to kill almost 15% officers of Bangladesh army within the space of 24 hours as the previous democratically elected government had already dismantled the countrywide terror network of JMB, the most powerful extremist group in the country and executed its top masterminds as part of continuous effort to fight terrorists for which Bangladesh has partnered with international community and received high praise from across the world.

Criticism of the army report

In investigating such a complex and dangerous incident that paralyzed the entire defense system of the country, the investigators should have proper authority to contact, interrogate, and collect information from people who had direct or indirect contacts with the rebels before and after the mutiny to explore local and external linkages. They also should have followed a similar structured method described below to accomplish the investigation process:

1. Identifying and defining the scope of the problem

2. Setting and determining the scope of the investigation objectives

3. Assembling adequate manpower with appropriate skills and experience to form a committee

4. Identifying target population for interrogation/questioning

5. Verifying and confirming collected information for accuracy

6. Submitting the findings and recommendations to the government

But the military investigators had to narrow down their scope of investigation to exclude exploring the possibility of political and external connections because of lack of proper government authorizations to contact and interrogate certain people. Many believe, the restrictions on the investigators may have been imposed to protect the local and external conspirators who had teamed up to play havoc with the defense system of the country.

Even though the army report did not find any convincing links of politicians and external powers to this sad episode that shook the entire defense system of the country, the involvement of some elements within the government and some foreign intelligence agencies should not be ruled out because, as per the report, the government imposed restrictions on investigators to limit their power to collect necessary evidence, verify obtained information, and confirm information sources to identify, investigate, establish and confirm involvement of political and foreign elements in the mindless killing of the officers at the BDR headquarters.

The events in the BDR headquarters were meticulously planned by some powerful quarters to use BDR against army to kill as many officers as possible to leave no able hands to lead this force in order to achieve the goals of destroying the border defense system of the country, avenging the incident in Roumari in 2001, proving BDR as an indisciplined force to create a situation to make it imperative to reorganize it with the help of a certain neighbor and creating a permanent mistrust and suspicion between the two forces entrusted with the responsibilities of protecting national security..

The political connections to the incident are visible from a series of events, including a section of politicians and media launched a vituperative attack on the army for its role in the events on and after 1/11 to instigate anti army sentiment across the country; the government did not order 350 RAB personnel, who reached the gate of BDR headquarters at 10:10 am, for an action against the mutineers, who were yet to be organized and set up heavy arms at the gates of the headquarters; the government ordered the 46th brigade of Bangladesh army, who reached the gates of the BDR headquarters at 10:50 am, to go out of sight from the headquarters which gave the rebels enough time to organize themselves to kill and torture more people in the BDR complex; the mutineers were given a chance to contact the media to propagate unfounded accusations against Bangladesh army; and a list was prepared in advance to torture and kill the wives of the army officers.

Even though the army report attributed the failure of Juba League’s president Jahangir Kabir Nanak and general secretary Mirza Azam in the negotiation with the rebels to surrender arms and release the hostages to lack of professionalism, the thing that is still bugging a lot of people is the reason why the prime minister chose these two fellows who had no prior experience in crisis management and had a criminal record of killing 11 Innocent civilians by setting fire to a double decker bus near Sheraton hotel in 2004. Let me quote the passage from the report published in a newspaper( The New Nation, Jun, 3, 2007), where one of the top Awami League leaders, Mr. Sheikh Selim, disclosed the cold blooded murder of innocent civilians by Nanak and Azam:

“He also disclosed that AL’s front organisation Juba League’s president Jahangir Kabir Nanak and general secretary Mirza Azam were involved in killing 11 people by setting fire to a double-decker BRTC bus near Dhaka Sheraton Hotel in 2004. Both Nanak and Azam held a meeting at Juba League office in the evening on that day and made a plan to commit the arson. “I protested the incident to our party chief and told her the politics cannot be done in such a way,” the investigators said quoted Selim as saying.”

Although the investigators were able to confirm the involvement of a local Awami League leader, Torab Ali, in the mutiny, they, however, were unable to establish a link between him and his partners in the political circle due to absence of government authorizations to contact and question the top ruling party leaders. This, many believe, may have been done to conceal the political connections to the mutiny and the subsequent murder of scores of brilliant army officers.

It is astounding that the military investigators did not even try to explore external connections to the mutiny because such an impeccable operation to carryout large scale killings of army officers was not the work of a bunch of youngsters, but rather the work of a professional organization who had inside information to plan and execute such a flawless military mission at the heart of the nation’s defense establishment to take out all the intended targets and ensure safe exit for all those who took part in it.

There is a growing fear of Indian involvement in the BDR revolt and the mass killing of the army officers at the BDR headquarters because of the comments of Mr. Pranab Mukharjee who said, “I had to go out of my way to issue a stern warning to those trying to destabilise the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh that if they continued with their attempts, then India would not sit idle.” (OUTLOOK, Mar, 16, 2009) , which is another way of saying that India would have approved a direct military intervention if developments in Bangladesh had gone against their strategic interest.

The same report also said, “New Delhi had conveyed it was willing to take counter-measures in Dhaka, direct intervention included.” Now the question is why did the Indian minister issue such a warning to Bangladesh? Did he not believe the people and the security forces of Bangladesh are capable enough to protect their own prime minister? Or did he want to conceal India’s own involvement in the mutiny through intimidation? Whatever the case may be, India’s over enthusiasm in our internal affairs has raised some serious suspicions about its intentions with regard to our national security.

The order to put Indian air force on a stand by mode (, mar, 2, 2009) and deploy para commandos from Agra to West Bengal (The Times of India, Mar, 4, 2009) to deal with emergency situations can also be construed as Indian attempts to interfere in our internal affairs using the tensions created after the mutiny, and if we combine this with the comments of Mr. Pranab Mukharjee then a strategic scenario emerges where Bangladesh is being destabilized with the intent to force herself into a long term bilateral security arrangements to pave the way for India to play greater roles in the matters of Bangladesh’s security and defense. And the proof of it can be found in a report in The Telegraph, a Calcutta based newspaper, where India offered to send a peace mission to give security to the Calcutta-Dhaka-Calcutta Moitree express and termed it as the first international bilateral peace mission by India after its peace mission in Sri-Lanka (The Telegraph, Feb, 27, 2009).

Another report from the same newspaper that said “Details of the talks were not immediately available but the US has been keen that India plays a stabilising role in the South Asian region. It is in this context that the Indian effort to send a peace mission, not only for the security of the train service between Dhaka and Calcutta, but also in a larger context, preferably on an appeal from Dhaka, will be internationally acceptable to Washington.”(The Telegraph, Feb, 28, 2009) is detrimental to our national security because it proves, in light of recently concluded Indo-U.S. Strategic agreement, there is ample international support for India to play larger role in South Asia, in general, and Bangladesh, in particular. This is what many have been saying for a while that the bilateral task force, military exercise between Bangladesh and Indian armed forces and the revolt by the BDR members are all part of a grand design to make the security forces of Bangladesh subservient to the strategic and political interests of India and Awami League.

External linkages to the BDR revolt can also be found by the seizure of various fire arms, equipment and other military gadgets at the BDR headquarters that are not used by any security agencies in the country (The Daily Star, Mar, 3, 2009). Experts believe such sophisticated military gadgets were supplied by external sources to perform the killings of the army officers in the BDR headquarters complex.

Concluding observations

With the growing suspicion of involvement of some elements within the government in the well orchestrated revolt at BDR headquarters firstly, to rid BDR of army officers for the purpose of weakening our border security and secondly, to kill the brightest army officers with an ultimate plan to destroy our defense system, the government is feeling the heat from both the army and the people of the country.

Sensing the impending danger of being exposed, a certain quarter has revived the old arms smuggling case and is frantically trying to associate the opposition parties, the intelligence agencies, and even Pakistan and its external spy agency, ISI, with ULFA to convince the public of the existence of a nexus among the nationalistic forces and defense establishment of the country, Pakistan and United Liberation Front of Assam with a sole purpose of falsely accuse them of sponsoring terrorism and masterminding the carnage at the BDR headquarters. In order to make their case more convincing and deal a heavy blow to our national defense, they even dragged China, the largest arms supplier and trusted defense partner of Bangladesh, into this complex scenario.

Gruesome murder of the army officers, prompt announcement of general amnesty by the prime minister without properly understanding the ground reality, unabated media propaganda to humiliate the army, reluctance of the government to order for a military action against the rebels, decision to send Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Mirza Azam, who have criminal records of killing 11 innocent civilians, as negotiators, stern warning by Indian minister Pranab Mukherjee of military intervention against Bangladesh, and the subsequent deployment of Indian troops along the border suggest the involvement of powerful local and external elements in the BDR revolt to accomplish a diabolical plan to inflict enormous damage upon the defense system of Bangladesh.

The army investigators should have done an exhaustive investigation into the possibility of involvement of political and foreign elements in the BDR revolt to expose the real conspirators for the sake of our national security, but unfortunately the army report made no attempts to do so probably because it had no mandate to explore political and foreign connections, or the Indian threat of military intervention might have forced them to confine their investigation to only a small area just to identify the BDR jawans who were involved in the killings of the officers and bring charges against them.

Lastly, the defense forces of the country should know that similar attempts to incite rebellions in other security forces will be attempted in future if the real culprits are not exposed and punished with iron fist.

Playing the Fear Card : Diverting Attention from the BDR Massacre Probe?
April 24, 2009, 6:19 am
Filed under: Bangladesh, India

Playing the Fear Card : Diverting Attention from the BDR Massacre Probe?


Dr. K. M. A. Malik


The recent (April 12-13) visit to Dhaka by India ’s foreign secretary Mr Shiv Shanker Menon has raised a lot of questions and speculations. He landed in Dhaka without being invited by the foreign office and met with prime minister Sheikh Hasina and army chief Gen. Moeen, few junior ministers and foreign secretary M. Touhid Hossain. Few details of his discussions with the Bangladesh authorities were made public. It was initially suggested in Dhaka media that he had invited some Bangladesh officials to visit the controversial Tipaimukhi Dam project on the Indian side of the Barak river. But nobody believed this cock and bull story. It was also assumed that the discussions had involved bilateral issues such as cross border terrorism and infiltration, road and river transit facilities, use of the Chittagong port facilities for transporting goods to India ’s north east regions, opening up Bangladesh market for Indian exports and investments, etc. But these are also long-standing issues and could not possibly prompt the Indian official’s surprise visit to Dhaka .


In principle, there is nothing wrong in India ’s foreign secretary visiting Bangladesh by arrangement with foreign ministry to discuss issues that affect the interests of both countries. But there are questions regarding the abrupt timing and the undiplomatic manner in which the visit was conducted. Under normal protocol, Mr. Menon should have met with his Bangladesh counterpart Mr. Hossain to discuss any relevant issue and then probably could have visited the ministers as a matter of courtesy. Instead, he first met with prime minister Sheikh Hasina, without anybody else being present, and then with army chief, Gen. Moeen, obviously to discuss some ‘secret’ issues or a hidden agenda. Naturally one may ask the question: Can Bangladesh foreign secretary go to New Delhi and meet with the Indian prime minister and India ’s army chief on a very short notice and bypassing the South Block? What message Mr. Menon conveyed to Gen. Moeen that cannot be made public ? And is it within the normal protocol for a foreign civil bureaucrat to call on the army chief of another sovereign country? Has Bangladesh under the new regime already become another Bhutan or a satellite state of India ?


The true purpose of the Indian official’s emergency visit to Dhaka is shrouded in mystery. An initial report on April 15 (2009) in The Indian Express [1] revealed that “Menon emphasised the need to crack down on elements that aim to destabilise peace and security in the two countries.” Menon was said to be “very satisfied” with the discussion in Dhaka .


The nature of the ‘elements’ to be cracked down was not made explicit, but one can easily understand that he was talking about the ‘Islamic’ terrorists and ULFA and other insurgents in India’s north east. But these issues again are not new; Indian rulers embedded have been raising these issues for more than a decade now, mainly to corner Bangladesh in international arena and to justify their ever-increasing militarism and subversion in Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries.


Another story on the purpose of Mr. Menon’s visit, according to a report in The Indian Express on April 18 (2009) [2], was to ‘warn’ Dhaka of a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Hasina. The report again said that there was a plot by ‘terrorists’ to target the new Sheikh Hasina Government, which “prompted India to go ahead and warn the Bangladesh top brass of the threat. Given the sensitivity of the information, Menon himself went to Dhaka to convey the information.” Menon also “exchanged notes with his counterpart on the activities of the radical groups operating in Bangladesh and are suspected to have played a role in the recent BDR massacre.”


The plot to assassinate Sheikh Hasina was given extra coverage in the Ananda Bazar Potrika of Kolkata on the same day (April 18, 2009) [3]. The story, written by Mr. Joyanta Ghosal, dealt with the recent BDR rebellion in Dhaka (February 25-26, 2009) and said that the plot was aimed at killing Sheikh Hasina and destabilising her government by ‘Islamic terrorists’. Mr. Ghosal blamed the outlawed ‘Harkat-Ul-Jihad – Bangladesh (HUJI-B) for two earlier attempts to assassinate Sheikh Hasina.


Mr. Ghosal also engaged in shameless fabrication and propaganda against the BDR forces. He alleged that on April 18, 2001, BDR forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Fazlur Rahman abducted and killed a number of BSF forces (Padua–Roumari border area) which was an act of aggression against India and also had militant (Jongi) links.


This type of propaganda carried by the ‘big brothers’ in India and supported by some of their ‘little brothers’ in Bangladesh is clearly motivated. It is clearly directed against the BDR forces by portraying them as aggressors and main barrier for peace along the border. However, for the sake of truth, it should be noted that on April 18, 2001, a contingent of heavily armed BSF forces forcibly entered into Bangladesh territory in Boraibari (Roumari) and faced a fierce resistance by the local BDR soldiers and Bangladesh villagers. About 18 BSF intruders were killed, all inside Bangladesh territories, which confirmed that it was BSF that was the intruder and aggressor and that BDR only did what was required of them, that is, to defend their country’s lands and people from foreign aggression. It is a shame on the part of Bangladesh governments and the self-styled ‘pro-liberation intellectuals’ that the BDR soldiers and common citizens (some of them gave their lives) who faced the enemy aggression have not been accorded their due honour and recognition. A nation that does not honour its heroes, inevitably end up being ruled by cowards, villains and traitors.


That the Indian official went to Dhaka to have exclusive meetings with the prime minister and the army chief just to warn Dhaka of a possible plot to assassinate Sheikh Hasina does not seem credible either. Even if there were a plot, Indian government could have simply passed on the specific information to Dhaka without the necessity of any controversial visit. In recent years, Bangladesh army together with different security and intelligence agencies have suffered setbacks due to a variety of reasons, but the country is still capable of protecting her prime minister by taking the necessary security measures.


The most likely reason for Mr. Menon’s unscheduled visit was probably connected with the investigations of the BDR massacre on February 25-26. By now, Bangladesh army’s own probe committee must have some definite idea about the real criminals and traitors within the BDR ranks as well as their external masterminds. Whether they will disclose the details (or will be allowed to do so) is another matter. But we want to know. Our people want to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The nation would not accept any cover up.


The tragic event has shaken in a very significant way the very fabric of Bangladesh state and its defence forces. The ruling government and their Indian ‘friends’ have been dishing out what seems to be a propaganda ploy by suggesting the involvement of, in their words, ‘anti-liberation forces’, HUJI-B/JMB, opposition Jamat or a section of BNP. Hundreds of BDR forces who took part in the conspiracy and/or the actual mayhem have been taken into custody and being interrogated. But nothing concrete has resulted so far. The investigations that should have taken only one week to finish according to the boastful Home Minister’s original announcement have now dragged on for nearly two months, without any immediate end in sight. The process is very complicated and may take some time, but there is a growing concern regarding the true intentions of the BAL government, since a national tragedy is being manipulated for political purposes.


It is now known that the trial of the BDR personnel involved in the Peelkhana crime would be held under military rules. It is most likely that all those found guilty in the murderous campaign would be given severe punishment including death sentence. But these are the foot soldiers. Many of them would pay a very high price for being involved (willingly or unwillingly) in somebody else’s deadly conspiracy.


But what about those who masterminded the commando-style operation to destroy the country’s defence forces? What about those elements belonging to the ruling BAL party who held conspiratorial meetings before the actual event on February 25? What about those ruling party MPs and leaders who were in contact with the BDR rebels? What about the crores of taka that were distributed within Peelkhana as Mr. Nanak said? What about the various killer groups and their leaders hiding in India during the last 5/6 years (to avoid ‘encounters’ with RAB) but returning home after the present government came to power in January last? Is it not mysterious that Indian Intelligence knows everything that happens or about to happen in Bangladesh while it fails to unearth hundreds of conspiratorial plots within its own boundaries?


What about the possible involvement of foreign commandos capable of planning and executing such a surgical strike against Bangladesh army? Who will gain most if the country and its defence forces collapse? Was the real mastermind ISI, R&AW, MOSSAD, CIA, MI6 or any other foreign agency determined to destroy Bangladesh defence forces? Was it, as alleged by some Indian media outlets, some elements of the Bangladesh Army itself who were supposed to be ‘anti-liberation’ and ousted by the ‘pro-liberation’ Gen. Moeen during the last two years?


We have to wait for few more months to see exactly what the government would do to identify the masterminds behind the Peelkhana conspiracy.


The threat to Sheikh Hasina’s life is not new; she had been targeted for assassination several times before by some ‘Islamic’ terrorist groups. But assassination of political leaders in South Asia (and also in other countries) is not something new and all the conspirators are not Muslim fanatics. The murderers of Sheikh Mujib and Ziaur Rahman were not ‘Islamic’ terrorists but agents of foreign powers. Assassins who took away the lives of M. K. Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rajib Gandhi in India were Hindu or Shikh fanatics. The true identities of the assassins of Liakat Ali Khan and Benazir Bhutto are still shrouded in mystery. So, conspiracy for terrorism and assassination is not an exclusive reserve for some ‘Islamic terrorists’ alone, as implied by Indian media and their cohorts in Bangladesh . The culture of terrorism was first introduced in Bengal in early 20th century by the ‘nationalist’ Hindu youths (Anushiloni and similar underground groups). The culture of ‘suicide bombing’ was first introduced in the South Asian region by the Tamil Tigers (Hindu) in Sri Lanka .


The reports on the threat to Sheikh Hasina’s life by ‘Islamic terrorists’ are not ordinary ‘news stories’. These are designed to create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty in the minds of Bangladeshi people as a part of ‘information war’ by India ’s rulers. This game of the ‘fear card’ is being played by Indian ‘information warriors’ in collusion with their surrogates and agents in Bangladesh . There are many historic and strategic reasons for this game against Bangladesh but the most important one at the moment is to divert public attention from exposing the real masterminds behind the Peelkhana massacre. The dark hands of R&AW and India’s other special forces (trained by MOSSAD) are widely believed to have planned and executed the commando-style operation at Peelkhana, with the use of some misguided BDR soldiers as front covers and cannon fodders. Whether Mr. Menon came to Dhaka to warn Sheikh Hasina and Gen. Moeen of ‘dire consequences’ in case India ’s involvement in the conspiracy is made public is not known. But such a possibility cannot be ruled out.


Let me conclude this essay with a quote from columnist M. Sahidul Islam, “The broader strategy involving the fate of Bangladesh is being implemented by phases. Now that the spotlight is being carefully shifted from the BDR tragedy to the removal of Khaleda Zia from her legitimately owned house, and to the bogey of Islamic militancy, we once again are scared to the hilt by the ongoing deflections and deceptions.” [4]


( Cardiff April 21, 2009)


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[Dr. K. M. A. Malik is a former Professor of Chemistry, Dhaka University , and a Lecturer in Chemistry, Cardiff University (UK). He has published about 370 research papers in chemistry journals. As a freelance columnist, he also writes regularly on contemporary political and social issues. His published books include: Challenges in Bangladesh Politics – a Londoner’s view (2005); War on Terror – A pretext for new colonisation (2005), and Bangladesher Rajniti – Mookh O Mookhosh (2003). His e-mail contact:]