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Cablegate: India-Bangladesh Counterterrorism Cooperation Hits Northeast

VZCZCXRO2691
RR RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHNEH
DE RUEHCI #0334/01 3561103
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221103Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL KOLKATA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2517
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 2419
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 1021
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 1024
RUEHNEH/AMCONSUL HYDERABAD 0087
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0643
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 3146

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KOLKATA 000334

TERREP
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/INSB (TITUS), S/CT, INR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PINS PGOV CASC IN BG
SUBJECT: INDIA-BANGLADESH COUNTERTERRORISM COOPERATION HITS NORTHEAST
INDIAN ULFA INSURGENCY

REF: DHAKA 1092

1. (SBU) Summary: India's recent arrests of United Liberation
Front of Assam's (ULFA) chairman and senior leadership is a
setback for the northeastern state's most prominent insurgent
group. While Bangladesh has officially denied facilitating the
arrests, its cooperation with India appears to be an open secret
amongst security professionals and journalists. According to
analysts who cover northeast insurgencies, ULFA and other
northeast insurgent groups no longer view Bangladesh as a safe
haven from where they can operate with impunity. The arrests
will adversely impact, but not eliminate, ULFA's ability to
conduct terrorist attacks in India. More importantly, it may
bring ULFA to the negotiating table. Kolkata's PolFSN traveled
to Assam's capital of Guwahati from December 7 - 9 and spoke
with a range of people - security experts, academics, police,
journalists and ordinary people - and found that the prospects
for peace appear to be brightening in this insurgency-wracked
northeastern state. This emerging bilateral counterterrorism
cooperation may help convince India of the value of a regional
approach to counterterrorism.

Bangladesh: No Longer a ULFA Safehaven

2. (SBU) On December 2 the government of Assam arrested ULFA
founder and chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, deputy military
commander Raju Baruah, and their families. ULFA's foreign
secretary Sasha Choudhury and finance secretary Chitraban
Hazarika had been arrested earlier on November 5. Officially,
the insurgents either surrendered to, or were arrested by,
Indian police on Indian territory without the involvement of the
Government of Bangladesh (Reftel). However, according to G.M.
Srivastav, the security advisor to the Assam state government,
Rajkhowa's arrest at the India-Bangladesh border in Dawki,
Meghalaya, was the result of a long planning and coordination
process between Indian and Bangladeshi security agencies.
Bangladesh preferred to "push back" or render the detained
individuals to India in the absence of a formal extradition
treaty. The Assam state police officer in charge of law and
order, B.J. Mahanta, told PolFSN that Bangladesh had recently
frozen ULFA bank accounts; however, this could not be confirmed
with Bangladesh bank officials.

3. (SBU) Since ULFA's founding in 1979, and particularly in
the last two decades, Rajkhowa and his colleagues are alleged to
have led the violent movement from safe houses in Dhaka and
other locations in Bangladesh and Bhutan. According to analysts
who cover northeast insurgencies, ULFA and other groups
targeting the Government of India no longer view Bangladesh as a
safe haven from where they can operate and plan their attacks
with immunity. Press has reported that ULFA's military
commander, Paresh Barua, has fled Bangladesh and is hiding in
the jungles of Northern Burma along its border with China's
Yunnan province.

The Guwahati Consensus: ULFA Down, But Not Yet Out

4. (SBU) Security experts, academics and journalists in
Guwahati agree that Rajkhowa's arrest and Paresh Barua's
departure from Bangladesh will adversely impact, but not
eliminate, ULFA's ability to conduct terrorist attacks in India.
B.J. Mahanta told PolFSN that ULFA is "still able to set off
the occasional blast" either by itself, or by outsourcing it to
another sympathetic insurgent group. However, more important
than the reduced ability to conduct attacks is the propaganda
value of Rajkhowa's arrest and the perceived counterterrorism
cooperation with Bangladesh. According to a previous ULFA
negotiator, the leader's arrest and elimination of a Bangladesh
safehaven will enhance the GoI's bargaining position with ULFA,
if it decides to return to talks. According to conflict
resolution analyst Nani Mahanta, ULFA is looking for a
face-saving measure to return to the table. A second analyst,
Mrinal Talukdar, opined that in order to break the stalemate, it
was necessary for the GoI to isolate Barua, who had been adamant
on sovereignty, and establish Rajkhowa as the only credible

KOLKATA 00000334 002 OF 002


negotiator who could lead ULFA on a path of political dialogue.

Comment

5. (SBU) The recent India-Bangladesh counterterrorism
cooperation is a positive development that will improve the
GoI's ability to counter insurgency and encourage separatist
groups to enter negotiations. Furthermore, the tactical
cooperation is an important confidence-building measure in the
run-up to the visit by Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
to India in January 2010. The insurgencies in Assam and the
rest of northeast India have had limited effect on U.S.
interests, as American citizens and companies are not targets in
the campaigns. However, given the U.S. interest in improved
regional stability and promoting host country support for
regional counterterrorism initiatives, it is worthwhile
considering how the USG can further support the nascent
counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries.

6. (U) Embassy Dhaka has cleared on this cable.
PAYNE

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