India's secret war in Bangladesh

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By Praveen Swami

The Hindu

As a grand finale to the victorious role played in the liberation of Bangladesh and to make their final withdrawal, the Indian Army held a farewell parade at the Dacca Stadium on March 12, 1972 where the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, took the salute. Photo shows Sheikh Mujibur Rehman reviewing the parade. Photo: The Hindu Archives
As a grand finale to the victorious role played in the liberation of Bangladesh and to make their final withdrawal, the Indian Army held a farewell parade at the Dacca Stadium on March 12, 1972 where the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, took the salute. Photo shows Sheikh Mujibur Rehman reviewing the parade. Photo: The Hindu Archives
Even as the role of the Indian military in giving birth to the new nation is celebrated, the role of its intelligence services remains largely unknown.

Forty-five minutes before 12.00 pm on December 14, 1971, Indian Air Force pilots at Hashimpara and Gauhati received instructions to attack an unusual target: a sprawling colonial-era building in the middle of Dacca that had no apparent military value whatsoever.
There were nothing but tourist maps available to guide the pilots to their target ? but the results were still lethal. The first wave of combat jets, four MiG21 jets armed with rockets, destroyed a conference hall; two more MiGs and two Hunter bombers levelled a third of the main building.
Inside the building ? the Government House ? East Pakistan’s Cabinet had begun an emergency meeting to discuss the political measures to avoid the looming surrender of their army at Dacca 55 minutes before the bombs hit. It turned out to be the last-ever meeting of the Cabinet. A.M. Malik, head of the East Pakistan government, survived the bombing along with his Cabinet ? but resigned on the spot, among the burning ruins; the nervous system, as it were, of decision-making had been destroyed.
For years now, military historians have wondered precisely how the Government House was targeted with such precision; rumours that a spy was present have proliferated. From the still-classified official history of the 1971 war, we now know the answer. Indian cryptanalysts, or code-breakers, had succeeded in breaking Pakistan’s military cipher ? giving the country’s intelligence services real-time information on the enemy’s strategic decision-making.
India’s Army, Navy and Air Force were lauded, during the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence, for their role in ending a genocide and giving birth to a new nation. The enormous strategic contribution of India’s intelligence services, however, has gone largely unacknowledged.
Seven months before the December 3 Pakistan Air Force raid that marked the beginning of the war, India’s Chief of Army Staff issued a secret order to the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Command, initiating the campaign that would end with the dismemberment of Pakistan.
Operation Instruction 52 formally committed the Indian forces to ?assist the Provisional Government of Bangladesh to rally the people of East Bengal in support of the liberation movement,? and ?to raise, equip and train East Bengal cadres for guerrilla operations for employment in their own native land.?
The Eastern Command was to ensure that the guerrilla forces were to work towards ?tying down the Pak [Pakistan] Military forces in protective tasks in East Bengal,? ?sap and corrode the morale of the Pak forces in the Eastern theatre and simultaneously to impair their logistic capability for undertaking any offensive against Assam and West Bengal,? and, finally, be used along with the regular Indian troops ?in the event of Pakistan initiating hostilities against us.? Continue reading “India's secret war in Bangladesh”

Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who provides the best security of them all..?

By Rahnuma Ahmed

In the aftermath of the `underwear’ bomber incident, an increasing clamour of voices insist that the rest of the world should learn airport security from Israel, and El Al, its national airlines.
Their record is impressive, writes Christopher Walker. Global Traveller magazine has named El Al, the “world’s most secure airline” (`Air security: rest of world needs to learn from El Al,’ The First Post, 21 January 2010).
Their deterrents, both seen and unseen, are most effective. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) provide updated specifications of weapons and explosives likely to be used by terrorists and militants. Security staff, often women, trained in psychological techniques begin questioning passengers as they approach the terminal. El Al terminals the world over, are patrolled by plain-clothes agents, fully armed police, and military personnel. Passenger names are checked at passport control with FBI, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Scotland Yard, Shin Bet (Israel’s domestic security service), Interpol and French Deuxieme Bureau databases. To divert missiles, all aircrafts are fitted with Flight Guard Civil Aviation Missile Protection System. All bags are routinely put in a decompression chamber which simulates on-flight pressure needed to trigger explosives. Sky marshals, armed but often in plain-clothes, travel on flights. All these are routine matters.
As is its pro-Jewish racial profiling.
Human rights campaigners the world over may “object” to it, some may think it “shameless,” others may regard it as “blatant” but, Walker writes, its inclusion ensures “thoroughness.” After all, what is more important? Differential treatment toward some passengers? Or, risking the lives of all?
Absence of the Israeli-kind-of security in Britain’s recent measures, is likely to lead to failure. (Only) No-fly lists. (Only) Cancelling all flights between Britain and Yemen. (Only) Seamlessly tracking and disrupting all terrorist movements. (Only) Introducing full body scanners at all British airports. These are just “not enough,” says Walker. Nothing short of racial and religious profiling, and fitting aircrafts with anti-missile systems?will do.
Delia Lloyd is similarly enthusiastic about Israel, which has “pioneered” and “perfected” aviation security. A full-scale Israelification of US and UK airports is needed, and even though sheer numbers, costs of re-training employees make it daunting, we should start thinking of “moving towards the Israeli model.” (`Airport Security: Is Israel the Answer,’ Politics Daily, 1/08/10).
Not everyone agrees. As a reader comments on Lloyd’s piece: “No, Israel isn’t the answer, Israel is the problem. Why do you think we are the object of attacks? Because we prop up Israel, and behave like Israel.” [TAWNY JONES 5:58 AM, JAN 8, 2010; CHECKED AT 21:26, 24 JANUARY, HAS BEEN REMOVED]
Interestingly enough, the clamor for Israelification began soon after serious doubts and questions surfaced about what actually occurred at Schipol airport in Amsterdam.
But there are questions about other airports too. About private firms who were in charge of security. Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris (2001). Logan airport in Boston (2001). For the underground, as well. The London Underground (2005).
But more on Schipol first. In an earlier column (`Padded Underwear,’ 10 January 2010), I’d written that airport security in Amsterdam is contracted to an Israeli controlled company; the same company which developed the concept of security profiling.
XRay images at airport

New Airport Security

Newer information since: it’s called International Consultants on Targeted Security (not `ICTS Europe,’ a different company), and was established in 1982 by former agents of Israel’s internal Shin Bet security service and former El Al airline security agents. It is Netherlands-based and has two subsidiaries (I-SEC, and its daughter company P-I, or Pro-Check International). These provide security services consisting of consultation, instruction, training, inspection and supervision. Links between El Al security and Mossad (Israeli intelligence) are very close, according to Gordon Duff of Veteran Today, with “abundant cross-pollination of senior personnel back and forth.” ICTS’s senior management are all ex-Israeli security officials, many work for El Al security (e.g., retd Major General Amos Lapidot, an ICTS board member, had served as a commander of the Israeli Air Force).
Abdulmutallab’s father had gone to the US embassy in Nigeria, in November. His son, he said, was being influenced by “unidentified extremists,” and was planning to travel to Yemen (incidentally, Nigerian intelligence services are tied to, and trained by, Israel). Intelligence officials, said president Obama, had failed to “connect those dots.”
But being on a terrorist watchlist means (a) not being permitted to board a commercial airline
(b) being put under immediate surveillance. In Abdulmutallab’s case, not even his US visa was withdrawn. Well. Okay. It? could happen. It did. But what about security officers at Schipol? Despite his “age, name, illogical travel route, high-priced ticket purchased at the last minute, his boarding without luggage (only a carry on) and many other signs” they were not suspicious (Haaretz, 10 January 2010). Despite the fact that ICTS is renowned for using security measures “pioneered” in Israel: assessing the threat level of passengers based on name, age, nationality and behaviour during questioning.
The official account gradually began losing credibility. Kurt Haskell (American lawyer, passenger) recalled having seen a wealthy looking Indian man with Abdulmutallab at Schipol, (“an odd pair”). He heard the elder man tell the ticket agent, he doesn’t have a passport, he’s Sudanese, he needs to board the plane. “We do this all the time.” The agent suggested they go and talk to the manager. The next thing he knew, Abdulmutallab was on the same flight, trying to ignite explosives.
At first Dutch security insisted, Abdulmutallab had a passport. Later, it was revised: he did not have to “Go through normal passport checking procedures” but he did undergo “a security interview and check” (But if he did not have a passport, how could they have known that he had a valid US visa?) Haskell says, what is important is the presence of an apparently successful accomplice who can “skirt normal passport boarding procedures in Amsterdam.” Dutch security says there was no Indian man, but it has not released any video footage. “I have no doubt that if the video indicated that my account was wrong… [it] would have already swept over the entire world wide web.” As did video footage of the death of Iranian protestor Neda Agha-Soltan.
Another passenger, Richelle Keepman says, a man with a camcorder had calmly and without interruption filmed the entire incident (“he was standing up [when] we were supposed to be seated”). After the plane landed in Detroit, FBI agents arrived with sniffer dogs, handcuffed a younger Indian man, and took him away. Nothing has since been heard about him, or the person who video-recorded the foiled attempt. Interestingly enough, FBI’s account of what happened has changed 5 times, while Haskell’s remains unchanged.
Richard Reid, shoe bomber (22 December 2001): Reid attempted to board an El Al flight from Schipol to Tel Aviv six months before the attempted shoe bombing. El Al security identified him as a terrorist suspect (one-way ticket, cash payment) but instead of handing him over to Dutch security, they allowed him to board the plane so that his movements during his 5 days in Israel could be monitored by Shin Bet. Six months later, he tried to ignite his shoe on AA flight 63 from Paris to Miami. Israel had not informed British, American, French or any other security agency of their concerns about Reid. He later claimed that El Al had failed to detect the explosives in his shoes.
The name of the security company which allowed him to board the AA flight in Paris? ICTS.
London Bombings (7 July 2005): A series of successive and coordinated bomb attacks on 3 London Underground trains (and a double decker bus) killed 56 people. Calls for a full, independent inquiry dismissed by prime minister Tony Blair, a “ludicrous diversion.”
Security for London’s Underground train network was provided by Verint Systems (Israeli).

9/11 terror attacks (9 September 2001): ICTS sold services to all 3 airports?Logan International (Boston), Washington Dulles International, Newark International (New Jersey)?from which the four hijacked planes operated on 9/11, including security, sometimes through wholly-owned subsidiaries like Huntleigh USA Corporation. As a 9/11 researcher puts it, this means an Israeli company had “automatic inside access to all of the[se] airports…”
Hours before the House version of the first Patriot Act went to a vote, “technical corrections” were inserted making foreign security companies such as ICTS-International immune from lawsuits related to 9/11. The act was signed into law by president Bush on 26 October 2001.
No independent inquiry has been held on 9/11. According to Thomas Kean, chairman of the official 9/11 Commission, it was “set up to fail.” Pentagon, Federal Aviation Administration, and NORAD officials said things “just so far from the truth.”
And, `the Indian man’? Wayne Madsen, an ex-US navy lieutenant turned investigative journalist and blogger, thinks the attempted terrorist attack on the Detroit-bound plane was actually a false flag operation (covert operation, designed to deceive the public). That it was carried out by the “intelligence tripartite grouping of the CIA, Mossad, and India?s Research and Analysis Wing.”
To assume a RAW connection just because the man was Indian, is surely stretching it a bit too far? But then, I remember Israeli prime minister Netanyahu’s words, ?Our ties with India don?t have any limitation??
Published in New Age, 25 January 2010

Military Ties Unlimited. India and Israel

By Rahnuma Ahmed

?Our ties with India don?t have any limitation?.? Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister (1997)

Ariel Sharon was the first Israeli prime minister to visit India. It was 2003, and the Financial Times, while reporting on the impending visit, had this to say: it is “one of the world’s most secretive relationships.” As for the reason of the visit: it was to be a “coming-out party” (`India and Israel Ready to Consummate Secret Affair,’ 4 September). The party, unfortunately, was cut short by two Palestinian suicide bombings in Jerusalem which killed 16 people.
Many more parties have been held since, but neither side has cared to shed any light on the nature of their relationship. It has remained a secret.
A status that has been vetted and certified by Mark Sofer, Israel’s ambassador to India. I quote his memorable words: “We do have a defence relationship with India, which is no secret. On the other hand, what is a secret is what is the defence relationship. And with all due respect the secret part of it will remain secret” (Outlook India, 18 February 2008).
What is one to make of that? That defence and intelligence co-operation, which includes sales of high tech weapons systems and mutual access to military facilities and training?is mere surface? What lies underneath then? Something which is so hidden, so momentous that His Excellency needed to utter the word `secret’ four times?
Whatever be the true nature of this `limitless’ relationship, it took time to develop, to mature. Full diplomatic relations were established in 1992, a good forty-two years after India had recognised the state of Israel. And, why?
Earlier, India had been supportive of anti-colonial struggles. It was one of the first non-Arab states to recognise Palestinian independence, to allow the setting-up of an embassy. There had been tactical reasons, too. To counter Pakistan’s influence in the Arab world. To safeguard its oil supplies. To ensure jobs for Indian migrants in Middle Eastern countries . Also, out of respect for its alliance and friendship with the Soviet Union. After all, those were the good old Cold War days and as a founder-member of the Non-Aligned Movement, India had maintained a self-respecting distance from US imperialism. But not everyone will agree, pointing instead to prime minister Indira Gandhi’s instructions to Rameshwar Nath Kao, founder of RAW (Research and Analysis Wing), way back in September 1968. Cultivate relations with Mossad, she had said. It’ll help monitor developments likely to threaten both nations.
Everyone agrees however that the Kargil war (May-July 1999) “cemented” the relationship between the two nations. Israel had leapt to India’s assistance. As Air Marshal PS Ahluwalia puts it, it had not been very easy to locate Pakistani intruders. They had merged into the stony terrain. Tel Aviv assisted with unmanned reconnaissance aircrafts. These UAVs, or drones, could not only fly longer i.e., 24 hours, but were able to “sense even simple movements on the ground.” The Israeli Heron and Searcher UAVs are now flown by the Indian Armed forces. It had also, reportedly, provided an emergency shipment of artillery shells to India, on credit.
These cementing steps were preceded by events which had caused alarm in New Delhi, had led to strategic re-assessments. Guerrilla warfare had begun in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the late 1980s, this had coincided with the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in the face of? the ISI-trained and CIA-sponsored mujahidin insurgency, the subsequent collapse of the USSR. New Delhi’s re-assessment of its relationship with America and Israel led to the discovery of convergences; these mirrored assessments arrived at in both Washington and Tel Aviv. Realignments followed soon, ones that were vigorously pursued by Indian and Jewish lobbies in the US.
To modernise its Soviet-era arsenal, India plans to spend $100 billion on defense over the next decade. Having overtaken Russia, Israel is now India’s No 1 supplier of arms and ammunitions; 50% of Israel’s defence exports are to India, which relies on Israel for 30% of its imports. Israel supplies a range of defence products, which include Barak missiles, assault rifles, night fighting devices, radar network, hi-tech warfare systems and information technology related equipment. The growing defence ties were expressed by India’s launching of Tecsar, an Israeli spy satellite (also known as Polaris), from Sriharikota launch site, in 2008. According to Israeli press reports, the satellite will improve Israel’s ability to monitor Iran’s military activities. In early November last year, the signing of a $1.1 billion contract was announced while India’s army chief General Deepak Kapoor was in Israel for high-level talks. The sale of Barak-8 systems, an upgraded tactical air defence system, is expected to be delivered to India by 2017. Since Kargil, India has bought $8 billion worth military hardware and software from Israel. Some of the defense contracts however, have been dogged by controversy surrounding alleged kickbacks (the name of a London based businessman cropped up in the Barak deal; the director of India’s Ordnance Factory Board was arrested with others, on corruption charges).
Israel India arms trade copyIndia’s army chief General Deepak Kapoor visited Israel November 2009 to complete $1.1 billion deal to purchase upgraded tactical air defense system, Barak – 8. ? Alexz/
Militarisation, armament, as feminists argue, is deeply gendered. The Israeli armament company Rafael, unveiled an ad at the Aero-India show in Bangalore (2009) a dance and music video, Bollywood style, to woo the Indian defence establishment. The 3 mt 21 sec video shows a man, presumably Rafael (Israel) wooing a woman (India) singing a song, accompanied by dancing shokhis:

We will never be apart, dinga-dinga, dinga-dee….Israeli armament company Rafael displayed this Bollywood dance number-based marketing video at Aero India 2009 in Bangalore.

[Man] “We have been together for long…

Trusting friends and partners…
What more can I pledge to make our future strong?”
[Woman] “I need to feel safe and sheltered…
security and protection, commitment and perfection,
defence and dedication.”
[Chorus] Dinga-dinga, dinga-dinga, dinga-dee.
Some of the shots show missiles, part of the set design, around which the dancers gyrate their bodies. The phallic symbolism was surely not lost on India’s elite defence establishment.? A senior defence officer?probably distraught at India’s depiction as a helpless woman, in need of a manly man, one that goes against its image as an emerging superpower, one which India would like its less fortunate South Asian kin to revere?told the Times of India, the ad was “quite tacky.” Like a “C-grade Hindi movie song.” The Times was more sophisticated. Its headline said, the ad had “raised” Indian eyebrows.
Arms sales can be tracked, says Vijay Prasad. “But this counterterrorism relationship is very, very covert” Prasad’s suspicions reverberate when Richard Boucher, US assistant secretary of state?described as Obama administration’s point man for South Asia?says, India will be “a key stakeholder” in Obama’s so-called Af-Pak strategy. After all, “They’ve made an important contribution in Afghanistan?I think their total (contribution to the rehabilitation and reconstruction in Afghanistan) is up to about $1.2 billion. They’ve been very instrumental in key areas like training, civil service, and helping build Afghan institutions,” but “they will not do anything militarily or put boots on the ground” because of regional issues involved with Pakistan.
The left’s opposition to India’s `limitless’ relationship with Israel seems to have died down after the Mumbai attack in November 2008, India’s 9/11. A fact compounded by the electoral results last year, one of the biggest wins for the Indian National Congress, “no longer under the pressure of the left front”. The Mumbai attack has made it easier for sentiments about Israel-India’s similarities to be voiced: both are targeted by Islamist fundamentalists. In one case, Palestinians/Hamas, in the other, Pakistanis/jihadists.
But, Jeff Gates writes, as Afghanistan and Pakistan join other nations in being destabilised one cannot help but raise questions about how the crises which have wracked the sub-continent in recent years, were so “well-timed”: Benazir Bhutto’s murder, Musharraf’s departure, the terror attack in Mumbai which served to draw Pakistani forces away from the western tribal region. Incidents which served the tactical goals of both Muslim extremists and Jewish nationalists. Did Mossad have any role to play? asks Gates.
Israeli writer and peace activist Gideon Levy recently wrote, the time has come to send Israel for observation. Only psychiatrists can explain Israel’s behaviour. Its acts have no rational explanation. It suffers from a loss of touch with reality. Temporary or permanent insanity. Paranoia. Schizophrenia. Memory loss. Loss of judgment.
Maybe, not having `any limitation’ is not a good idea, after all. Maybe, there is still time for India to part company with Rafael. To retrieve its sense of judgment.

Published in New Age 18 January 2010