By Isha Khan
India’s premier intelligence outfit Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)’s operations against the regional countries are conducted with great professional skill and expertise. Central to the operations is the establishment of a huge network inside the target countries. It uses and targets political dissent, ethnic divisions, economic backwardness and criminal elements within these states to foment subversion, terrorism and sabotage.
Having thus created the conducive environments, RAW stage-manage future events in these countries in such a way that military intervention appears a natural concomitant of the events. In most cases, RAW’s hand remains hidden, but more often that not target countries soon begin unearthing those “hidden hand”. A brief expose of RAW’s operations in neighboring countries would reveal the full expanse of its regional ambitions ( Open Secrets. India’s Intelligence Unveiled by M K Dhar. Manas Publications, New Delhi, 2005).
Indian intelligence agencies were involved in Bangladesh since early 1960s. In fact, the main purpose of raising RAW in 1968 was to organise covert operations in Bangladesh. As early as in 1968, RAW was given a green signal to begin mobilising all its resources for the impending surgical intervention in erstwhile East Pakistan. When in July 1971 General Manekshaw told Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that the army would not be ready till December to intervene in Bangladesh, she quickly turned to RAW for help. RAW was ready. Its officers used Bengali refugees to set up Mukti Bahini. Using this outfit as a cover, Indian military sneaked deep into Bangladesh. The story of Mukti Bahini and RAW’s role in its organisation and training is now well-known. RAW never concealed its Bangladesh operations. Interested readers may have details in Asoka Raina’s Inside RAW: the story of India’s Secret Service published by Vikas Publishing House of New Delhi.
It was partly to put an end to the activities of the ISI in India’s North-East from East Pakistan that Indira Gandhi decided to assist the Bengali-speaking people of East Pakistan in their efforts to separate from Pakistan and achieve an independent State to be called Bangladesh. The IB before 1968 and the R&AW thereafter had built up a network of relationships with many political leaders and Government officials of East Pakistan.
The R&AW’s role was five-fold: Provision of intelligence to the policy-makers and the armed forces; to train the Bengali freedom fighters in clandestine training camps; to network with Bengali public servants from East Pakistan posted in West Pakistan and in Pakistan’s diplomatic missions abroad and persuade them to co-operate with the freedom-fighters and to help in the freedom struggle by providing intelligence; to mount a special operation in the CHT against the sanctuaries and training camps of the Naga and Mizo hostiles;and to organize a psychological warfare (PSYWAR) campaign against the Pakistani rulers by disseminating reports about the massacres of the Bengalis in East Pakistan and the exodus of refugees.(Role of RAW in Liberation of Bangladesh By B Raman, http://www.indiandefencereview.com/geopolitics/Role-of-RandAW-in-Liberation-of-Bangladesh.html).
An American report confirmed RAW was directly involved in the secession of East Pakistan into Bangladesh and is currently engaged in similar activities. RAW has a long history of activity in Bangladesh supporting both secular forces and the area’s Hindu minority masterminding the break up of Pakistan in 1971 (http://indianterrorism.bravepages.com/RAWterrorism.htm).
The main objective of the RAW is to create internal trouble in neighbouring countries and take benefit from the trouble that the neighbouring countries face(Machination of RAW in South Asia, Movement of RAW in Nepal, by Dr Shastra Dutta Pant).
The analysis of Indian foreign policy trends shows that the Indian governments had adopted an aggressive attitude and covert means for attaining its two permanent foreign policy goals: (a) to attain a hegemonic position in South Asia; (b) to play a role in international system based on Kautilyan principles. Indian governments have used intelligence agencies, not only for monitoring the activities of neighbouring States, but also as a covert forward base to achieve its goals and to implement its hegemonic policies in the region. Over the years RAW become an important instrument for promoting the hegemonic influence of India in the Asian region and has also played a significant role in enhancing India’s image as an important international actor. RAW has now acquired the important role of being the covert instrument of Indian national power and will remain decisive actor in furthering Indian interests and future Indian hegemonic ambitions in the region.
Ever since the partition of the sub-continent India has been openly meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs by contriving internal strife and conflicts through RAW to destabilise the successive legitimate governments and prop up puppet regimes which would be more amenable Indian machinations. Armed insurrections were sponsored and abetted by RAW and later requests for military assistance to control these were managed through pro-India leaders. India has been aiding and inciting the Nepalese dissidents to collaborate with the Nepali Congress. RAW: An Instrument Of Indian Imperialism by Isha Khan, (http://www.countercurrents.org/khan131007.htm).
India has been openly meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs by contriving internal strife and conflicts through RAW to destabilize the successive legitimate governments & prop up puppet regimes which would be more amenable Indian mechanization. Armed insurrections were sponsored and abetted by RAW and later requests for military assistance to control these were managed through pro-India leaders. India has been aiding & inciting the Nepalese to collaborate with the Nepali Congress. For this they were supplied arms whenever the king or the Nepalese Government appeared to be drifting away from the Indian dictates & impinging on Indian hegemonic designs in the region. In fact under the garb of democratization process, the Maoists were actively encouraged by the RAW to collect arms to resort to open rebellion against the legitimate Nepalese governments( RAW The Rascal by Prem Raj http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items08/300408-1.html).
Indian sources, including journalists, have put on record how much before 1971 RAW had established the network of a separatist movement through ‘cells’ and military training camps in Indian territory adjoining Bangladesh. The Mukti Bahini were all in place organisationally to take advantage of the political trouble in 1971 and carry out acts of sabotage against communication lines so that Indian forces simply marched in at the ‘right’ time. RAW agents provided valuable information as well as acting as an advance guard for conducting unconventional guerrilla acts against the Pakistani defence forces.
A Mukti Bahini activist, Zainal Abedin, has written a revealing book which includes his personal experience in Indian training camps, entitled RAW and Bangladesh. It was the post-fall of Dhaka period which exposed the Indians’ true intentions and made Abedin realise that It was evident from the conduct of the Indian Army that they treated Bangladesh as a colony … It is now evident that India had helped the creation of Bangladesh with the aim that it would be a step forward towards the total Indian subjugation. RAW has since been seeking to create Indian dominance culturally, ideologically and economically in Bangladesh. Following the independence of Bangladesh‚ it signed a seven-point secret treaty with India. According to the treaty‚ all types of employees including civil employees appointed during the Bangladesh civil war should be granted permanent status‚ other employees also could be appointed only by the Indian administrative service‚ a certain number of Indian soldiers will continue to remain in Bangladesh despite independence‚ Bangladesh will not have its own army‚ for its internal security‚ it will have only militias from among the freedom fighters who will work under the Indian military command‚ the trade between the two countries will be kept open and free‚ and matters pertaining to foreign affairs will be dealt only after close consultation with the Indian foreign ministry.
The treaty had two main points. India will have its control over foreign and defence matters and Bangladesh would open its market for Indian products. Even after this‚ Indian newspapers continued to lobby for the merger of Bangladesh into India.If European countries can become a united Europe‚ why can’t India go to status-quo-ante‚ or the situation prior to 1947? Such were the views expressed in those newspapers(RAW in the Freedom Struggle of Bangladesh, Shastra Dutta Pant, http://www.bangladesh-web.com/view.php?hidType=HIG&hidRecord=0000000000000000042901)
In addition, RAW had also created another insurgency outfit, Shanti Bahini. This force comprises the Chittagong Hill Tracts Hindu and Buddhists tribesmen (the Chakmas) and the intention is to bleed the Bengali military and keep the border area tense( India’s unconventional war strategy by Dr Shireen Mazari, http://www.defencejournal.com/jan99/rawfacts.htm).
The Chakma guerrillas had closely assisted RAW operatives. They were assisted during and after the liberation War. The Chakmas, after the change of govt in 1975, contacted the RAW. The Chakmas offered to infiltrate among the Mizo rebels and pass on information to the Indian govt in lieu of asylum. This offer was accepted (Inside RAW : The Story of India’s Secret Service, Asoka Raina, Vikas Publishers, New Delhi, 1981, pp.86-87).
In 1975, the RAW was instructed to assist the Chakma rebels with arms, supplies , bases and training. Training was conducted in the border camps in Tripura but specialized training was imparted at Chakrata near Dehra Doon. Shantu Larma’s Shanti Bahini members were flown to Chakrata and then sent back to Tripura to infiltrate into Chittagong Hill Tracts. A RAW office and its operatives at Agartala monitored the progress of the trainees. In 1976, the Shanti Bahini launched its first attack on the Bangladesh force. A new insurgency had been born and India’s secret war in the hills of Bangladesh had begun ( South Asia’s Fractured Frontier, by Binalaksmi Nepram, Mittal Pablishers, New Delhi, 2002, pp-153).
The RAW was involved in training rebels of Chakma tribes and Shanti Bahini to carry out subversive activities in Bangladesh (RAW’s role in Furthering India’s Foreign Policy, The New Nation, Dhaka, 31 August 1994). The Indian intelligence had collaborated the armed rebels of Chittagong Hill Tracts to destabilise the region ( Indo-Bangladesh Relation, Motiur Rahman, daily Prothom Alo, 10 December 2002).
RAW retained a keen interest in Bangladesh even after its independence. Mr. Subramaniam Swamy, Janata Dal MP, a close associate of Morarji Desai said that Rameswar Nath Kao, former Chief of RAW, and Shankaran Nair upset about Sheikh Mujib’s assassination chalked a plot to kill General Ziaur Rahman. However, when Morarji Desai came into power in 1977 he was indignant at RAW’s role in Bangladesh and ordered operations in Bangladesh to be called off; but by then RAW had already gone too far. General Zia continued to be in power for quite some time but he was assassinated after Indira Gandhi returned to power, though she denied her involvement in his assassination ( Weekly Sunday, Calcutta,18 September, 1988 ).
It also unleashed a well-organized plan of psychological warfare and dissension among the political parties and religious sects, control of media, denial of river waters, and propping up a host of disputes in order to keep Bangladesh under a constant political and socio-economic pressure ( “ RAW and Bangladesh” by Mohammad Zainal Abedin, November 1995, RAW In Bangladesh: Portrait of an Aggressive Intelligence, by Abu Rushd, Dhaka ).
RAW continues keeping effective contacts with the political personalities, parties and election process.
The Economist of London recently wrote: ‘Ever since 2008, when the Awami League, helped by bags of Indian cash and advice, triumphed in general elections in Bangladesh, relations with India have blossomed ( http://www.economist.com/node/21524917/print ).
A couple of years back an Indian journalist Rajesh Joshi had reported that a political party of a neighbouring country received a fund of Rupees 4.5 crore from RAW( Research and Analysis Wing, India’s premier intelligence outfit) in 1991 but the party was defeated (The Indian Express, 28 April 1991). It may be mentioned here that elections were only held in Bangladesh in 1991 in the subcontinent and AL was defeated in that election. Years later weekly Sugandha had a similar story on 24 April 1996.
Political parties, personalities and various outfits had received Indian fund, assistance, training etc in not too distant past. Some references:
‘The involvement of RAW in East Pakistan is said to date from the 1960s, when RAW supported Mujibur Rahman, leading up to his general election victory in 1970. ( https://www.fas.org/irp/world/india/raw/).
‘The Bangla Desh Operation began a year before the actual operation was underway. Even when the world did get a whiff of it in the shape of the Mukti Bahani, many remained unaware of RAW’s involvement. By 1968 Indian operatives had already been in contact with the Mujib faction. Meetings convened in Agartala during 1962-63, between the IB foreign desk operatives ( Sankaran Nair) and the Mujib faction’ ( Asoka Raina in “Inside RAW: The Story of India’s Secret Service”,Vikas Publishing, New Delhi, 1981. Also in “RAW in the Freedom Struggle of Bangladesh” by Dr Shastra Dutta Pant (http://www.bangladesh-web.com/view.php?hidRecord=42901).
‘ The RAW created ‘Mujib Bahini’, a special force during liberation war. Mujib Bahini was trained at the headquarters of the Aviation Research Center, RAW’s special outfit at Chakrata near Dehradun. The force was headed by Sirajul Alam Khan,Tofael Ahmed, Abdur Razzzak and Fazlul Huq Moni. After the war most members joined Rakkhi Bahini and JSD’ ( Major General Sujan Singh Uban in his “Phatoms of Chittagong; The Fifth Army in Bangladesh”, Allied Publishers, 1985, New Delhi).
‘Kaderia Bahini’s Tiger Siddiqui , who had contacts with the RAW crossed over the border in 1975. The Indian govternment’s support to Siddiqui is reported to have continued via RAW’ (Asoka Raina in “Inside RAW: The Story of India’s Secret Service”,Vikas Publishing, New Delhi,1981).
The Chakma guerrillas had closely assisted RAW operatives. They were assisted during and after the liberation War. The Chakmas, after the change of govt in 1975, contacted the RAW and offered to infiltrate among the Mizo rebels and pass on information to the Indian govt in lieu of assylum. This offer was accepted (Inside RAW : The Story of India’s Secret Service, Asoka Raina, pp.86-87). The Indian intelligence had collaborated the armed rebels of Chittagong Hill Tracts to destabilise the region ( Indo-Bangladesh Relation, Motiur Rahman, daily Prothom Alo, 10 December 2002).
Swadhin Bangobhumi Andolon/Banga Sena ( led by former AL leader Chitta Ranjan Sutar) also enjoy similar help from India (“Antaraler Sheikh Mujib”, Dr Kalidas Baidya, Kolkata, 2005).
Isha Khan is from Dhaka, Bangladesh, a freelancer and contributes to internet and print mags, as well as having a Masters in Sociology from the University of Dhaka.