Sunday, January 11, 2009

Any foreign hand in Assam terror?

Rajinder Puri

Official police agencies have claimed categorically that Monday’s bomb blasts in Assam were carried out by the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa). The blasts coincided with Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s visit to Guwahati. They occurred along the route he was to take. They heralded the New Year. They occurred on the day when the government’s new anti-terror law went into operation. Did the timing contain a message? If so, from whom?

Pakistan is reputed to guide the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. Does any foreign power influence Ulfa? Consider the events immediately preceding the Assam blasts. China’s Vice-Foreign Minister He Yafei visited Pakistan to advise the President, the Prime Minister and the army chief to talk peace with India. All three made conciliatory statements. The Chinese dignitary then telephoned External Affairs Minster Pranab Mukherjee from Islamabad advising him to reciprocate. He indicated willingness to visit India and facilitate the process.

A leader of deputy minister rank advising the governments of India and Pakistan amounted to barely concealed impudence. Beijing clearly was attempting to assume the role of Big Brother in South Asia. Mr Mukherjee quite properly snubbed the Chinese vice-foreign minister by refusing the offer and not inviting him to New Delhi. Shortly thereafter terrorists targeted Assam. But does any foreign power influence Ulfa, which reportedly carried out the attack? After an earlier Ulfa attack in Assam, Indian police and intelligence officials late October 2008 had claimed that the outfit was seeking shelter in China. They claimed that Ulfa’s top commander Paresh Baruah was camped near the Burma-China border seeking sanctuary. Indian intelligence officials said that an estimated 50 Ulfa militants were holed up in China’s Yunnan Province led by Partha Jyoti Gogoi.

In quick succession after India’s snub to the Chinese official the Assam terror occurred. Should one draw any conclusions from this?

(The writer is a veteran journalistand cartoonist)

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