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RAW’s Role in Bangladesh-Myanmar and Sri Lanka

RAW’s Role in Bangladesh-Myanmar and Sri Lanka

  • RAW played a significant role in the formation of Bangladesh along with the Indian army and other Indian security and intelligence agencies.
  • Besides providing intelligence to policymakers and the army, RAW trained and armed Mukti Bahini, a group of East Pakistanis fighting for the separate state of Bangladesh.
  • Analysts say that RAW also facilitated the north-eastern state of Sikkim’s accession to India in 1975, and provided military assistance to groups hostile to the pro-China regime in Myanmar, such as the Kachin Independence Army.
  • But it was the support for the Tamil separatist group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka, that brought RAW much criticism from human rights organizations.
  • RAW helped to train and arm the LTTE in the 1970s, but after the group’s terrorist activities grew in the 1980s-including its alliances with separatist groups in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu-RAW withdrew this support.                                                                      RAW’s Role in Bangladesh-Myanmar and Sri Lanka
  • In 1987, New Delhi made a pact with the Sri Lankan government to send peacekeeping troops to the island and Indian forces ended up fighting the group RAW had armed. In 1991, Rajiv Gandhi, prime minister of India at the time of the peacekeeping force deployment, was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber.
  • Since its inception in 1968, RAW has had a close liaison relationship with KHAD, the Afghan intelligence agency, due to the intelligence it has provided RAW on Pakistan. This relationship was further strengthened in the early 1980s when the foundation was laid for a trilateral cooperation involving the RAW, KHAD, and the Soviet KGB.
  • Raman says RAW valued KHAD’s cooperation for monitoring the activities of Sikh militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Sikhs in the Indian state of Punjab were demanding an independent state of Khalistan.                                                                                                    RAW’s Role in Bangladesh-Myanmar and Sri Lanka
  • According to Raman, Pakistan’s ISI set up clandestine camps for training and arming Khalistani recruits in Pakistan’s Punjab Province and North West Frontier Province.
  • During this time, the ISI received large sums from Saudi Arabia and the CIA for arming the Afghan mujahideen against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. “The ISI diverted part of these funds and arms and ammunition to the Khalistani terrorists,” alleges Raman.
  • In retaliation, in the mid-1980s, RAW set up two covert groups of its own, Counter Intelligence Team-X (CIT-X) and Counter Intelligence Team-J (CIT-J), the first targeting Pakistan in general and the second directed at Khalistani groups.                                                          RAW’s Role in Bangladesh-Myanmar and Sri Lanka
  • The two groups were responsible for carrying out terrorist operations inside Pakistan, writes Pakistani military expert Ayesha Siddiqa. Indian journalist and associate editor of Frontline magazine, Praveen Swami, writes that a “low-grade but steady campaign of bombings in major Pakistani cities, notably Karachi and Lahore” was carried out.
  • This forced the head of ISI to meet his counterpart in RAW and agree on the rules of engagement as far as Punjab was concerned, writes Siddiqa.
  • The negotiation was brokered by then-Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan bin-Talal, whose wife, Princess Sarvath, is of Pakistani origin. “It was agreed that Pakistan would not carry out activities in the Punjab as long as RAW refrained from creating mayhem and violence inside Pakistan,” Siddiqa writes.
  • In the past, Pakistan also accused RAW of supporting Sindhi nationalists demanding a separate state, as well as Sereikis calling for a partition of Pakistan’s Punjab to create a separate Saraiki state. India denies these charges. However, experts point out that India has supported insurgents in Pakistan’s Balochistan, as well as anti-Pakistan forces in Afghanistan.
  • But some experts say India no longer does this. As this Backgrounder explains, Pakistan is suspicious of India’s influence in Afghanistan, which it views as a threat to its own interests in the region. Experts say although it is very likely that India has active intelligence gathering in Afghanistan, it is difficult to say whether it is also involved in covert operations.

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