DEFENCE NOTES

RAW and Bangladesh

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PATRON Lt Gen (Retd) SARDAR F.S. LODI writes about RAW'S activities in Bangladesh

RAW AND BANGLADESH is an illuminating book written by Mr. Zainal Abedin, a senior Journalist of Bangladesh and published by Fatema Shahad in November 1995. It is printed by Madina Printers and distributed by Madina Publications, 38 Banglabazar Dhaka - 1100, Bangladesh.

Mr. Zainal Abedin is a former student leader and a freedom fighter who crossed over to India in 1971 for military training, joined the Mujib Bahini and fought for the freedom of Bangladesh alongside the Indian Army. Mr Abedin holds a masters degree and a BEd.

In the book Mr Abedin ponders over the events of 1971 and 'one particular incident chastises me the most', he writes, It was in April 1971 in the district headquarters of Noakhali, his home district, where the freedom fighters were gathering, that he met his neighbour. A middle-aged, mature and sober person, his most staunch supporter and admirer. 'He got hold of my hand and took me to a nearby restaurant'. Narrates Mr Abedin, 'As we sipped tea, he started narrating the history of pre-1947 Bengal. He mentioned gory details of how the Hindus used to treat the Muslims and explained the reasons for creation of Pakistan. He said that struggling for one's right is different from break up of the country. He stated that India would first weaken us by breaking our unity and then exploit us. He added that his life time experiences had told him that India would never be sincere to Muslims. With tears in his eyes and hands trembling with emotions he quipped, 'Are you again going to make us the slaves of the Hindus?'.

Mr Abedin admits that he did not give any serious thought to the urging of his neighbour at that time as he was too young and emotional. 'The said question now haunts me often', he writes. 'The realization of what lay in store for us started soon after I crossed over to India. The attitude of our Indian handlers and trainers indicated that they treated us (the Freedom Fighters) not as friends but as agents. The real Indian face lay bare after the surrender of Pakistani forces, when I saw the large scale loot and plunder by the Indian Army personnel. The soldiers swooped on everything they found and carried them away to India. Curfew was imposed on our towns, industrial bases, ports, cantonments, commercial centres and even residential areas to make the looting easier. They lifted everything from ceiling fans to military equipment, utensils to water taps. Thousands of Army vehicles were used to carry looted goods to India. History has recorded few such cruel and heinous plunders. Such a large scale plunder could not have been possible without connivance of higher Indian authorities'.

From the conduct of the Indian Army it was evident that they treated Bangladesh as a colony. That was the time the question asked by his neighbour seriously surfaced in Mr Abedin's mind. He feels that 'India through her notorious deeds has proved time and again that she is not our friend but an arch roguish foe', which has posed a grave threat to the independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh.

'It is now evident', writes Mr Abedin, 'that India helped the creation of Bangladesh with the aim that it would be a step forward towards the reunification of India'. Soon after the creation of Bangladesh, India let loose all forces at her command to cripple the newly born country. Their aim was to precipitate its collapse and eventual merger with India to realize part of the Brahmanic dream about 'Akhand Bharat'. The most significant player of this heinous game is India's notorious intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing commonly known as RAW. Established in 1968 and still 'eating into the vitals of Bangladesh'.

The author explains the main sources of inspiration for India's intelligence agencies and her foreign policy - the ancient pundi-cum-political, Koutillaya, Prime Minister of Chandra Gupta. In his book 'Arthshastra' written about 300 BC Koutillaya laid down three guidelines: when your country is weak pursue the policy of peace; when your country becomes militarily strong follow the policy of war; when another state seeks your help, apply double standards. In his book Koutillaya has recommended six principles as the basis for foreign policy. These deal with peace, war, neutrality, military preparedness, formation of alliance and duel policy. Koutillaya's final dictum is. 'Power is the ultimate truth and the main aim of an organised state should be to obtain power'.

The author shows how Mrs Indira Gandhi was an ardent follower of Koutillaya and subscribed fully to his policy of waging 'battles of intrigues' and 'secret wars' to achieve her unholy objectives. She created RAW, a secret intelligence agency functioning directly under the Prime Minister to pursue her ambitious but nefarious agenda particularly in the South Asian region.

The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), explains the author, was raised in September 1968 from the foreign Intelligence Desk of Intelligence Bureau (IB). Mr Rameshwar Nath Kao was appointed its first director and assigned the task of collection, collation and analysis of intelligence from beyond India's national frontiers. A 'Special Operations Branch' was included in its organisation for conducting secret and covert operations. RAW started with a staff of 250 persons and an annual budget of Rupees two crore. It expanded rapidly and by 1990 had a staff exceeding 8 thousand persons and a budget of Rupees 500 crore. Its present budget is around Rs. 1500 crore. It has its own aircraft and helicopters, the headquarters is located in large eleven storey building in Lodhi Estate, New Delhi. The present director is Mr. A. S. Siyali.

RAW has its own agenda particularly concerning neighbouring countries and has great influence in formulation of external policy of India. Since the last few years RAW has become so powerful and influential that it has emerged as a major player in the internal politics as well.

Besides the usual functions as an intelligence agency, RAW is relentlessly working for attainment of the following objectives. One, to extend Indian sovereignty over unprotected and vulnerable smaller neighbours. Two, to enhance Indian influence particularly in the Indian Ocean region militarily, politically and culturally, so as to project and develop India as a future super power. Three, to implement the Brahmanic dream of establishment of 'Akhand Bharat'.

The book explains how RAW's popularity, acceptability and influence increased manifold after its success in disintegration of Pakistan in 1971 and annexation of Sikkim in 1975. However, its image suffered some setbacks due to debacle in Sri Lanka during 1987 and its failure to have Pakistan declared a terrorist state. Nevertheless it retains its image as the country's premier intelligence agency wielding considerable influence in the formulation of foreign policy and internal security.

The book goes on to explain the cardinal principles of RAW inspired foreign policy. Which is to exert influence on other countries under the cover of friendship and co-operation: resort to threat and coercion to achieve desired objective when necessary; insist on policy of bilateralism etc. RAW attains these objectives abroad by conducting extensive espionage activities by the under cover diplomats and staff posted in Indian Missions abroad; recruiting leaders and other important persons; putting pressure or luring through incentives; brain washing intellectuals and spreading cultural influence; promoting internal clashes and developing separatist movements; influencing the government, members of parliament and government officials; forming pressure groups by spreading false, and distorted news; arranging assassination of important personalities etc.

The author explains the espionage set up of RAW in and around Bangladesh. Inside the country the prime centres are Indian High Commission at Dhaka and Deputy High Commissions at Chittagong and Rajshahi. Another RAW organisation operates around Bangladesh with its regional office at Malibagh, Calcutta. It has an annual budget of Rs. 20 crore and supervises the conduct of espionage and special operations inside Bangladesh. Its three regional offices are located at Darjeeling in the North Shillong, in the North East and Agartala in the East. Bangladesh is therefore very well covered from all sides.

RAW agents employed in Bangladesh can be divided into three broad categories. One, trained Indian nationals who come as diplomats, journalists, businessmen, students, cultural activists, literature etc. Two, Bangladesh nationals for a variety of motives including financial rewards, business interests, ideological considerations (some Hindus). Three, officials of multi-national organisations, NGOs, business houses etc.

The book vividly describes how RAW operated in the former East Pakistan and helped in the creation of Bangladesh. After that it has consistently tried to destabilise the new country politically and financially with the aim of merging it with India as planned by the Indian National Congress. This fact is well illustrated by a letter written by Mr. Nehru on 23 May 1947 to Mr Ashrafuddin, a congress leader from Comilla quoted by the author and attached as an appendix to the book.

'The Congress had stood for the union of India and still stands for it'. Wrote Mr Nehru, 'But we have previously stated that we are not going to compel any part against its will. If that unfortunately leads to a division then we accept it. But inevitably such a division must mean a division also of Bengal and Punjab. That is the only way to have a united India soon after. If we can have a united India straight away without such a division, that will of course be very welcome'.

This book is written by a highly educated man who was a student leader, a freedom fighter, a politician, and is now a journalist of great standing in his country. It is written with great perception and knowledge, quoting accurate facts and figures to illustrate his point of view. It should be read by our policy planners and all those concerned with the well-being and prosperity of South Asia. The book does show India's policy, present attitude and future plans concerning her small neighbours.

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