[CHUTNEY OF THE DAY: The problem is that there is a huge demand for Indian cattle, mostly cows and bulls, in Bangladesh. Indian cattle caters to their leatherMessage 1 of 1 , Aug 29, 2005View Source[CHUTNEY OF THE DAY: The problem is that there is a huge demand for Indian cattle,mostly cows and bulls, in Bangladesh. Indian cattle caters to their leather and fertiliserindustries and also contributes to the vibrant meat export business. All this adds up toseveral thousand crores of rupees. We have around 1500 km of border, which is
either not fenced, or fencing in those sectors need immediate repairs. Also, one fourthof the 4000-km-long Indo-Bangladesh border is riverine, where policing is very difficult.]
1. A Regime In Denial
2. Bangladesh: Brace yourself for a bumpy ride
3. Bangladesh worried about 'illegal' stay by Indian truckers:-
4. Indian cattle feeds Rs 2000 cr industry in Bangladesh
5. Why does China need that navy?
6. Noose Is Nigh
7. Manhunt begins for top militant
8. Asian Economies Starting to Feel Effect of Oil Prices
1. A Regime In Denial
The 500 explosions were real, what's unreal is Dhaka refusing to recognise extremism
JULFIKAR ALI MANIK
When a bomb exploded in front of Dhaka's National Press Club, little did the city's press corps know of the grisly hours awaiting them on August 17. Soon the news began trickling in from across Bangladesh: a bomb here, a bomb there, yet another bomb at a third place. By noon, the figure had ballooned to 500, spread over 63 of Bangladesh's 64 districts, killing two and injuring 100.
It triggered an expected wave of panic. Dhaka wore a deserted appearance. As calm eventually descended, it became obvious that the bombs had been too crude to inflict devastation on a mind-numbing scale; that the 500 explosions were triggered more to communicate a warning to society than to kill randomly.
Those trying to decode the terrorists' message need not have bothered. The Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), banned earlier this year, claimed responsibility for the bombings. One of its leaflets read, "We are the soldiers of Allah. We have taken up arms for the implementation of Allah's law....
Those who want to give institutional shape to democracy are the enemies of Islam." There was also an outpouring against the Bush-Blair duo, together with a warning of bloody retaliation should the government arrest its cadres.
The government anyway arrested nearly 150 people. Four of them told interrogators that they were JMB members and had carried out the attack at the behest of their chief Moulana Abdur Rahman. Also arrested was Moulana Fariduddin Masud, a former senior official of the government-run Islamic Foundation, who was on his way to London. Masud told the court, "Grill Nizami and vital clues to the bombings will come out."
Hold your breath. Nizami is none other than Moulana Matiur Rahman Nizami, chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami and the industry minister in the federal government. Nizami had earlier convened a press conference to accuse Indian and Israeli intelligence outfits—RAW and Mossad respectively—for perpetrating the bombings. "They are the patrons of the serial bombings as they don't want good relations between Bangladesh and China. That's why the incident took place when Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia is in China," Nizami said. (India denied these charges.)
Also looming large over Bangladesh is the menacing shadow of Bangla Bhai, who has attained notoriety for his violent reprisals against banned Left groups in western Bangladesh. Bangla Bhai belongs to the JMB; his mentor is Moulana Abdur Rahman. His bloody acts against Left radicals, though, were carried out under the banner of the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB). Both the JMB and the JMJB are overlapping outfits.
Bangla Bhai's possible role in the August 17 bombings pushed the Zia government into a corner. On January 26 this year, state minister for home affairs Lutfuzzaman Babor had rubbished the media about its report on the JMJB and Bangla Bhai. A month later, the government banned the JMB and the JMJB. The government's vacillation on militancy prompts Dhaka University's Prof Sirajul Islam to ask, "What will the government do now after denying the existence of such groups? After this well-planned attack, they can't deny their existence any longer."
The BNP leaders, however, are doing exactly that. Nadim Mostafa, a BNP lawmaker from western Natore district, told this correspondent, "I do not believe there is any extreme militant force in the country." He claimed the bombings were aimed at sabotaging the SAARC summit in November. Deputy minister for land Ruhul Quddus Talukder, also an MP from the same area, told this correspondent, "The (main opposition) Awami League must have done this using fake leaflets to destroy Bangladesh's image internationally. The JMJB and the JMB may have some hold in some areas, but they are not strong (enough to launch a countrywide attack). Those who are doing this are aiming to grab power by creating anarchy." Both these leaders and state minister for housing Alamgir Kabir had been earlier accused of bringing in Bangla Bhai to counter the outlawed left-wing Sarbahara Party in western Bangladesh.
Apart from the JMB and the JMJB, another outlawed group—the Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh (AHAB) of Muhammad Asadulllah Al Galib—is under scrutiny for the bombings. Intelligence sources say these three Islamic militant groups are interlinked, and have connections with Islamic groups in Muslim countries in West Asia, and Pakistan. One school of opinion in intelligence circles believes AHAB is a mass platform of the JMB, and most AHAB workers are involved in JMB activities. Another school says JMB militants through Galib have utilised the facilities of some 700 mosques built across the country by the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS). This Kuwait-based NGO, they say, has funded Galib with crores of takas over the last one decade.
Worried citizens feel August 17 is perhaps the last warning before the country spirals into a vortex of violence. Brig General (retd) Shahed Anam Khan told Outlook, "The organisation behind August 17 was extremely sophisticated and networked. It's clear that at least 500 people were used to place the bombs; their strategy was classic—send in men who don't know the core group which had planned and assembled the bombs. This is something which we never encountered in the past."
Khan, like so many others, thinks August 17 has brought into question the very existence of the nation. Its citizens can only hope that both the BMP and the Awami League sink their differences and come together to fight the monster called terrorism. Before it consumes them
2. Bangladesh: Brace yourself for a bumpy ride —Taj Hashmi
Sections of frustrated, angry young men have swelled the ranks of the Islamist militants, including the ultra-extremist JMB. The situation is very similar to what Algeria and Afghanistan have experienced — class war between the Western (secular) and vernacular (Islamic) elites
It is disturbing that two innocent people died, hundreds wounded and millions were terrorised by synchronised bombing in 63 district towns of Bangladesh, including Dhaka, on the morning of August 17. Around 400 "home-made" bombs, with not-so-crude electric timers, went off in government offices, court houses, public parks, universities, airport, and shopping centres and on roadsides. Although the number of dead and injured is not very large, the message is frightening for those who do not want Bangladesh to turn "Islamic" or unstable.
The most alarming part is the widely perceived assumption that there was the direct involvement of some clandestine Islamist group, linked to Al Qaeda, in the bombing. Leaflets in Bengali, and in Arabic, were found nearby, which conveyed an ominous message in the name of the Jamaatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB), a party of holy warriors:
"People who are against Allah are now running the country. The process, under which the head of the state and other officials are elected, is not in accordance with the Islamic rule. Neither the Koran nor the Hadis approves democracy or secularism, formulated by Kafirs [non-believers] and Mushriks [pagans]."
It calls upon the government and the political parties to abandon democracy and adopt the Sharia. "Otherwise, the organisation will resort to Qital [all-out killing] for the establishment of the rules of Allah on His land." It also prescribes punishment for George W Bush and Tony Blair and their local supporters in Bangladesh, including those who run NGOs and work for the government.
The shadowy JMB, banned earlier by the government for terrorising people in pockets of north-western Bangladesh under the leadership of one "Bangla Bhai", drew the attention of New York Times correspondent, Eliza Griswold in early this year ("The Next Islamist Revolution?" January 23, 2005). Griswold is not the first Western reporter to draw such an alarmist picture of Bangladesh. In April 2002, Bertil Lintner wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review and the Wall Street Journal, that an "Islamic revolution" was in the offing in this poor, overpopulated and the most corrupt country in the world.
However, the then US ambassador Mary Anne Peters registering her anger at the FEER and WSJ for publishing such biased articles on "a liberal Muslim nation" demanded an investigation into the motive behind the story. Philip Bowring, former editor of the FEER, also came forward to criticise Western "Islam-bashers". Many Bangladeshi academics, journalists and politicians condemned Lintner and Griswold for their stories. The government continued denying the existence of any "Bangla Bhai" and his terrorist gang for some time.
After the arrest of some workers of several clandestine Islamist groups by the Government, including Dr Asadullah Ghalib, a university professor and one of the top leaders of the JMB, there have been sporadic bomb attacks on public rallies, movie theatres and Muslim shrines since early 2005. Attacks on Ahmaddiya mosques and properties and demands to declare the community "non-Muslim" have also become endemic. The present British High Commissioner and Sheikh Hasina, former prime minister and present leader of the opposition, narrowly survived grenade attacks during the last one year.
From police interrogations, it appears that more than 1,500 JMB activists planted the bombs to pressurise the government to release Dr Ghalib and to warn both the ruling and the main secular opposition parties of the dire consequences of not establishing a Sharia-based government in the country.
The JMB is just the youth front of the global jihadi network of Al Mujahideen. There are scores of branches and offshoots of the parent organisation in Bangladesh. They often take new names and banners to evade arrest and detection. The Harkatul Jihad, Hizbut Tawheed and Shahadat-i-Hikmah have been some of the offshoots since the mid-1990s.
It is widely known that several ruling party lawmakers and a minister are directly connected with some militants in northwestern Bangladesh. It is widely believed that the Islamists of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (and most probably Taliban sympathisers from Pakistan) have been indoctrinating, arming and financing the JMB for quite some time.
The sharp polarisation of the polity between the so-called secular "pro-Independence" and the not-so-secular "Islam-loving" groups has contributed to the Islamisation of the country. Both the "secular" group under Sheikh Hasina and the "Islam loving" group under Prime Minister Khaleda Zia have been championing the cause of Islam ever since the overthrow of military dictatorship in 1990. It seems, as if the two major parties, Hasina's Awami League and Khaleda's BNP, have been competing with each other to prove their Islamic credentials to secure more votes from God-fearing Bengali Muslims.
President Ziaur Rahman had formally scrapped "Secularism" and "Socialism" from the Constitution. His successor, General Ershad further Islamised the polity by making Islam the "state religion" through an amendment of the Constitution in 1988. Three successive governments under Khaleda and Hasina since 1991 could neither restore "Secularism" as enshrined in the original Constitution, nor scrap the "state religion" amendment. Realising the political importance of Islam in this backward and predominantly Muslim country, no major political party champions the cause of secularism by scrapping the "state religion" clause from the Constitution.
It seems that the biggest stumbling block in the way of secularism is the popular culture of the vast majority of the population. Since the immediate post-independence government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1972-75), regarded by many as the founding father of the nation, miserably failed in delivering the promised poverty-free, prosperous Bangladesh in a "secular" and "socialist" authoritarian democracy, most Bangladeshis have become suspicious of secularism and socialism.
And while democracy has remained elusive, the average Bangladeshi Muslim has remained loyal to traditional Islamic and authoritarian values. The changed circumstances of the post-Cold War era — the disappearance of Soviet style socialism and the advent of market economy and Globalisation — also brought Islam in the arena of global politics. This time it appeared not as an ally but as an adversary of the hegemonic West, mainly represented by the US and its allies.
Bangladesh's Islamism has similarities with its counterparts in Muslim majority countries like Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia. All of them had gone through secular national socialism and autocracies under civil/military rulers before turning Islamic during the last decade and a half. Islamism in these countries may be attributed to the failure of the promised welfare state under pseudo-socialism or corrupt and inefficient state capitalism.
Although Bangladesh emerged as a symbol of freedom and equality, unfortunately, it is only symbolic and historical. Since its emergence in 1971, the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer, far faster than anywhere else in South Asia. Around 50 percent of the population is very poor and more than 35 percent are practically unemployed. The tax-evading rich, the absolutely corrupt politicians, bureaucracy and thousands of bank defaulters have accumulated more than $60 billion in "black money" since 1971.
While the rich and powerful get their children educated in English medium schools, at home and abroad, and are the most employable in the country, the fast disappearing middle class sends its children to Bengali medium schools and the poor mostly send their children to Islamic seminaries or madrassas. Besides the stream of the under-employed Bengali medium graduates are millions of unemployed/underemployed madrassas graduates. No wonder, sections of these frustrated, angry young men have swelled the ranks of the Islamist militants, including the ultra-extremist JMB. The situation is very similar to what Algeria and Afghanistan have experienced — class war between the Western (secular) and vernacular (Islamic) elites.
Taj Hashmi teaches at Simon Fraser University, Canada. This is the first of a two-part series
3. Bangladesh worried about 'illegal' stay by Indian truckers:-
Bangladesh says it will closely monitor what it calls the illegal overstay and movement of trucks from India following an official report that this posed a threat to national security.
A home ministry official told IANS Sunday that the government had formed a committee to look into the matter after the Bangladesh Rifles, which patrol the border between the countries, said in a report that overstay by Indian truckers was a cause of concern.
The committee, headed by the home ministry's joint secretary (border) Mohammad Harun Chowdhury, was formed Saturday. Officials from the customs and intelligence agencies, land port authorities and communications ministry will be part of the body.
The move comes 10 days after a wave of over 400 near simultaneous blasts rattled the entire country. The government said the banned Islamist group called Jamaatul Mujahideen was responsible for the Aug 17 blasts that killed two people and injured 150. The government beefed up security across the country after the blasts.
The Bangladesh Rifles said in its report that the illegal stay and movement of foreigners, especially Indians, was posing a threat to national security.
Some 1,500 to 2,000 Indian trucks are estimated to enter Bangladesh daily through 26 land ports for facilitating export and import.
Due to lack of effective measures by the customs and port authorities, hundreds of Indian truck drivers, helpers and labourers were illegally staying and moving inside Bangladesh territory near the land ports, the report said.
"Many of the Indian trucks are parked four to five kilometres inside Bangladesh and are being driven to the capital, which is very alarming," said another home ministry official.
In its report, the Bangladesh Rifles voiced serious concern at different types of firearms, explosives and illicit drugs being smuggled into the country.
It said spies, in the guise of truck drivers and helpers, could easily enter the country because of lax security at the land ports.
"This kind of espionage and anti-state activity is very dangerous in the context of the current world situation," said the report, calling for immediate steps to tackle the problem.
All the trucks cannot manage to unload their cargo on the day of arrival and have to stay overnight in the country. As per customs rules all the trucks, while unloading goods, must stay within customs areas, but most ports do not have such areas.
As the trucks remain out of sight of the port authorities, smugglers could easily import illegal goods along with legal ones and unload them in the country at night, the Bangladesh Rifles report said.
4. Indian cattle feeds Rs 2000 cr industry in Bangladesh
SHANTANU NANDAN SHARMA
NEW DELHI: THE Border Security Force (BSF) faces a strange challenge at the Indo-Bangladesh border. The smuggling of cattle from India to Bangladesh, which is valued approximately at Rs 1000 cr per annum, has turned out to be a major menace for the BSF personnel, manning the posts. It is estimated that Indian cattle feeds a Rs 2000 cr industry in Bangladesh covering leather, meat supply and meat export etc.
R S Mooshahary, Director General of BSF, told ET that the porous border coupled with a massive demand of cattle in Bangladesh have made their task of checking this illegal trade even more difficult. "The problem is that there is a huge demand for Indian cattle, mostly cows and bulls, in Bangladesh. Indian cattle caters to their leather and fertiliser industries and also contributes to the vibrant meat export business. All this adds up to several thousand crores of rupees. We have around 1500 km of border, which is either not fenced, or fencing in those sectors need immediate repairs. Also, one fourth of the 4000-km-long Indo-Bangladeh border is riverine, where policing is very difficult."
Significantly, Indian cattle is bought from states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, UP and Bihar. The middlemen who get lucrative commissions and trade at cattle haats of Malda, Kalyani and Berhampur in West Bengal. The cattle are brought into Bangladesh in small batches of three to four.
"It's not that we don't catch illegal traders. We hand over the cattle to the customs department, which in turn auctions them, but the same middlemen somehow manage to buy the cattle. As long as the demand remains so huge, it will be difficult to stop this menace. For Bangladesh, an Indian cow is very valuable. It gives meat, fertiliser, leather and other products," Mooshahary said.
In fact, India would have earned some revenue, if it had legalised the cattle export to Bangladesh. But no government can take the initiative of legalising it because of the sensitivity of cattle export.
The BSF has 157 battalions with a total manpower of over 200,000. The DG added: "Though we are supposed to man the border areas, many of our battalions are being posted for counter-insurgency operations. We have requested the ministry of home affairs to give us 20 additional battalions and I hope, that will help a lot in managing the situation at Indo-Bangladesh border better."
5. Why does China need that navy?
By Richard Halloran
The Washington Times
Published August 26, 2005
HONOLULU -- The new commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Gary Roughhead, an interested onlooker of the joint Chinese-Russian military maneuvers during the past eight days, has posed a critical question about the rapidly modernizing Chinese navy: "What do [the Chinese] see as the intended use of that navy?
"Clearly, the Chinese are developing a very capable modern military, especially the navy," Adm. Roughead said in an interview at his Pearl Harbor headquarters.
If that navy "is to ensure the free flow of commerce, that would not be surprising," he said, nodding toward the sea lanes in the South China and East China seas through which pass the oil and raw materials that feed China's expanding economy, not to mention its soaring exports.
The admiral added, however: "What if the intent is not purely to defend the sea lanes?" He left the question open.
Adm. Roughead said his command had been watching the maneuvers centered in China on the Shandong Peninsula across the Yellow Sea from the Korean Peninsula.
He was keenly interested in learning what ships and aircraft the Chinese and Russians had sent into the war games, how they operated together, and how they integrated their commands and communications.
The exercise marked another step in a gradual Sino-Russian reconciliation after decades of rivalry during the days of the Soviet Union.
It appeared to have had three purposes: Put the United States on notice that it has military competitors in the Western Pacific; show the Taiwanese once again that China would use force if that island nation declared formal independence; and market more Russian weapons to China, which already has bought Russian warships and aircraft.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet was not invited to send observers to the maneuvers, nor would Adm. Roughead or any other officer discuss ways in which intelligence was being gathered.
It would have been normal practice, however, for U.S. forces to have been watching and listening closely, using U.S. submarines, reconnaissance aircraft and surveillance satellites.
Adm. Roughead, who took command of the Pacific Fleet's 200 warships, 1,400 aircraft, and 190,000 sailors and Marines on July 8, said he would not drastically change course from that set by his predecessor, Adm. Walter F. Doran.
"When you come on watch," Adm. Roughead said, "normally you don't try to trim the sails right away."
Much of his attention will be directed to continuing the transformation of the armed forces as ordered by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
In the Pacific and Asia, that objective is adding to Navy responsibilities as the United States plans to depend on sea power and air power rather than ground forces in most contingencies.
On the dispute over Taiwan, for instance, the United States would rely on ships and planes to help defend Taiwan if China sought to enforce its claim of sovereignty with an assault, and if President Bush decided it would be in the U.S.'s interest to resist.
Adm. Roughead said he planned to invite more Asian and Pacific navies to take part in multilateral exercises, in contrast to bilateral drills.
To increase their ability to operate together, he would like to persuade allied navies to codify their procedures.
That would be true not only with blue-water navies, such as those of Japan, Australia and India, but also with the smaller navies of Southeast Asia fighting pirates that prey on merchant ships in those constricted waters.
The admiral stressed, however, that he would seek informal arrangements, not another NATO one.
The need for codified procedures is also needed within the U.S. Navy, Adm. Roughead said.
Not many years ago, the United States really had two navies, the Atlantic and the Pacific, each with its own way of operating. With a smaller Navy today, ships could be deployed from one fleet to another and must be able to fit in to a new assignment seamlessly.
With an eye toward China's expanding submarine force, Adm. Roughead emphasized anti-submarine warfare.
The Navy relies on submarines, said to be the best weapon against other submarines, and surface ships equipped with sonar and torpedoes. It also depends on new anti-submarine missiles and low-flying aircraft such as the PA-C Orion laden with detection devices and weapons.
"This is an area that we want to be able to dominate," the admiral said.
6. Noose Is Nigh
Was Sarabjit a RAW agent? Why the apathy from the Indian side in the case? Updates
Damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. That's the situation India finds itself in after the Pakistan SC sentenced Sarabjit Singh aka Manjeet Singh, an Indian national, to be hanged on charges of carrying out a series of bomb attacks in Pakistan 15 years ago. Since the news broke out, relatives and politicians have cranked up the pressure on New Delhi to intercede and save him from the gallows. His family have written to the president, prime minister as well as the Pakistani president saying Sarabjit is innocent. To make matters more poignant, family members are now threatening suicide the day Sarabjit is executed. Politicians have also got into the act, lobbying with the foreign minister and the PM. Subsequently, there have been reports that Manmohan Singh is going to make a phone call to Pervez Musharraf on the matter. "The PM assured us he will speak to Musharraf and that the government will do all it can to save Sarabjit," Punjab PCC chief Shamsher Singh Dullo declared.
That's only one side of the story. After confirming that New Delhi has sought consular access, the government has gone all quiet on the issue. Consular access, if granted, will only be a first step in verifying the antecedents of the accused, whether he's an Indian and is indeed Sarabjit.
A little of history, first. Sarabjit disappeared in August 1990; a year later he wrote to his family in Bhikhiwind village, Amritsar, informing them that he was in a Pakistani jail. It isn't clear what efforts the family undertook to bring his misfortune to the notice of the authorities. In 2005, though, the family suggests he was in an inebriated state at the time he inadvertently crossed over to Pakistan.
Reports from Pakistan suggest otherwise. His prosecutors claimed Manjeet was an agent of RAW (Research and Analysis Wing, India's external spy agency) who carried out five bombings, reportedly earning Rs 8,000-10,000 for each. These blasts occurred in Anarkali and Bhatti Gate in Lahore, Bhawana Bazar in Faisalabad, and on a Ghazi-bound bus from Lahore. He was arrested on August 30 when he was leaving Pakistan after allegedly perpetrating the blasts.
During the investigation, the prosecutors say, it emerged that the accused joined Indian military intelligence in 1987 and subsequently became a RAW agent, visiting Pakistan as many as 14 times for clandestine duties earmarked by his bosses.
Manjeet's counsel differs, claiming his client had only been smuggling liquor into Pakistan, where prohibition remains in force. Court arguments apart, is there a possibility that Manjeet (or Sarabjit) could have been a RAW agent guilty of destabilising Pakistan?
Sources say it's common for both Pakistan and India to launch people into one another's territory for minor probing operations. Usually, such agents are from border areas; it provides scope for claiming their illegal forays were accidental; it also ensures the blame doesn't fall on the agency.
Nevertheless, the Sarabjit issue can prove tricky. Should the PM make the call to Musharraf and claim that Sarabjit is a victim of mistaken identity, then he could prompt reciprocal calls asking New Delhi to free or at least not hang those Pakistanis in jails here. Sources point out that instances of Indians being named for crimes in Pakistan are far less than Pakistanis apprehended in India on similar charges.
At the time of writing this report, it was not clear whether Pakistan would grant consular access to Sarabjit. Did New Delhi seek consular access earlier or had it been corralled into asking for access because of the din over the issue? Such questions will arise if he is actually hanged.
Ultimately, it is to be said that Manjeet's case is not unique. There are hundreds of prisoners whose lives are wasting away for much lesser crimes, both in Pakistan and India. The real story is the institutionalised apathy towards these people. Sarabjit's case is unique in this only because he's been sentenced to death.
7. Manhunt begins for top militant
From our correspondent
KOLKATA — Indian intelligence agencies have begun a manhunt for Sheikh Abdur Rahman, the alleged mastermind of the daring serial bombings in Bangladesh in which 434 bombs exploded in 63 main cities and towns across the country on August 17 killing two people and injuring over 150.
Bangladesh's most wanted man is believed to have slipped into India's West Bengal with armed key lieutenants, including his bodyguards, to evade the police dragnet in his country.
West Bengal is home to an ever-growing population of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Besides a 4,000-km long land and riverine border, Bengal and Bangladesh share a common language — Bengali — and culture. "The intensive search operation under way is exceedingly difficult and challenging", said an Indian government official.
Under extra surveillance are West Bengal madrassas and transit points along the India-Bangladesh border. Rahman is the supreme leader of the banned Islamist militant group Jamaatul Mujahideen of Bangladesh (JMB) headquarterd in southern Satkhira district.
Besides requesting New Delhi to hunt down Rahman, Dhaka has sought the help of Paris-based Interpol. Bangladesh charged Rahman in absentia on Friday.
Investigators say that those involved in the simultaneous blasts in more than five dozen towns 63 across the country wanted to convey that their national network is capable of bigger and deadlier coordinated attacks. Leaflets found at blast sites demanded introduction of Islamic law in Bangladesh and criticised the presence of American and British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A senior Intelligence Bureau (IB) official said here that no stone is being left unturned to catch Rahman and Siddiqul Islam, alias Bangla Bhai, who heads Jagrata Muslim Janata (JMJ) which is closely allied with JMB. Besides para-military Border Security Force and IB, New Delhi has deployed Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Special Services Bureau (SSB), two highly-secretive espionage units, to nab the fugitives from across the border.
An official disclosed that while Indian intelligence and security agencies were building up lots of background information on Rahman and Islam, such as who they might be with, they had no no real new leads. "But if they are hiding in India, we will find them sooner than later", he said.
Several Kolkata hotels where Bangladeshis usually stay when they come shopping or for medical treatment are being closely watched.
Analysts say New Delhi has a vested interest in nabbing Rahman and Islam because of their strident anti-India stand. JMJ and JMB are the prime suspects in grenade attacks on Awami League party leaders, particularly former prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, because of her pro-India tag.
Both outfits accuse Hindu-majority India' of trying to colonise Bangladesh and grab its natural resources. An Indian official said that Rahman's father collaborated with the Pakistani army in 1971 prior to the birth of Bangladesh. East Pakistan seceeded with Indian help and became Bangladesh.
8. Asian Economies Starting to Feel Effect of Oil Prices
Countries in the region are taking steps to cushion the effect of soaring energy costs.
By Evelyn Iritani, Times Staff Writer
The global economy has shown few ill effects from rising oil prices, but the latest surge is starting to exact a toll on Asian economies.
In Thailand and Indonesia, where high fuel prices have sparked political protests, governments have slashed growth estimates for the year.
Other countries, including Japan and the Philippines, are employing energy conservation programs to blunt the effect of oil costs.
India faces the prospect of political instability from expected price hikes, and analysts say high energy costs could soon become a drag on China, which relies heavily on cheap fuel and other raw materials to prime its manufacturing growth.
Skyrocketing oil prices are "a heavy tax on most Asian economies," said William Overholt, director of Rand Corp.'s Center for Asia Pacific Policy.
Oil has doubled in price since the start of the year, ending last week at $66.13 a barrel. That's worrisome news for Asia Pacific economies, which rely on imports for 67% of their oil needs. Not only do they face unexpectedly high oil bills, but they fear that high energy costs, coupled with rising interest rates, will spook consumers in one of their largest export markets, the U.S.
As U.S. companies trim their energy consumption and consumers pare their spending, the slowdown is already being felt across the Pacific.
"Some of these countries are facing some real issues," said Kenneth Courtis, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs Inc. "Their trade numbers are going bad, inflation rates are moving up and people are grumbling" because governments are being forced to let energy prices rise.
The World Bank predicts that the global economy will slow to about 3% this year from 4% in 2004, but the effect on individual countries will vary widely.
Oil-rich nations in the Middle East and Central Asia will reap an extra $100 billion this year in oil exporting receipts, according to the International Monetary Fund. Similar good fortune will befall Latin American countries with vast oil reserves, such as Venezuela.
But oil importing countries in Eastern Europe and Africa will suffer, and the poor will be hit particularly hard because they depend heavily on kerosene for cooking and warmth, according to the World Bank.
Some economists warn that the global picture could darken if political tensions between the U.S. and Iran or Venezuela, or a natural disaster, lead to a sudden squeeze on oil supplies.
"We are very concerned, even more so than in recent years, that these kind of supply shocks will be much more difficult to handle for the global economy," World Bank economic forecaster Hans Timmer said.
Much depends on where oil prices are headed, with at least one prominent energy analyst — Matthew R. Simmons, chairman of Houston investment bank Simmons & Co. International — predicting oil prices could reach $100 a barrel.
Robin Bew, chief economist at Economist Intelligence Unit, a London-based economic analysis firm, disagrees with that prognosis. Barring a major supply disruption, he believes that oil prices will stabilize soon and soften next year as the U.S. and Chinese economies start to slow, demand eases up and new refining capacity comes on line.
John Kingston, director of oil for Platts, a New York-based global energy information service, said a tight supply and political uncertainty in key oil-producing regions had made markets unusually jittery. Last week, prices spiked to record levels on news of a temporary oil shutdown in Ecuador, a power outage in Iraq that hit the refineries and the sight of Hurricane Katrina bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico.
"Without much spare capacity out there, these things tend to get magnified," Kingston said.
The biggest worry right now is Asia, which, with the exception of Malaysia, depends heavily on imported oil. Even Indonesia, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, is a net oil importer.
Asian experts are not predicting a replay of 1997, when a collapse of the Thai baht triggered a financial contagion that impoverished millions. They said most Asian economies are stronger today, having developed new markets in China, pared back their debt and rebuilt their foreign reserves. Japan, the region's largest economy, is also a world leader in energy efficiency, thanks to steps taken after the two oil shocks of the 1970s.
Nevertheless, Asian governments are taking steps to cushion the economic effect of energy costs. Some have imposed emergency energy restrictions in hopes of avoiding more draconian, and unpopular, price hikes. Filipino workers have been ordered to take three-day weekends. Japanese salarymen are wearing short-sleeved shirts and abandoning their ties so they can turn off their air conditioners.
Ifzal Ali, chief economist at the Asian Development Bank in Manila, said those steps had simply delayed the pain for countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, which will experience much slower growth in 2006.
"Countries have been in denial, and now it is gradually sinking in that this is here to stay for the foreseeable future," he said.
As oil prices have risen, many Asian governments have spent billions of dollars to avoid raising prices for kerosene and other fuel. But those expensive subsidies are eating away at governments' reserves and forcing them into debt to maintain them, said William Belchere, chief Asia economist at Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong. "At some point, that will begin to grind into their economies," he said.
That has already happened in Thailand, which was forced to abandon price controls on diesel fuel this summer after spending $2.5 billion in subsidies, said Eugene Davis, managing director of Finansa, a Bangkok-based investor group. He said the government's mishandling of the energy situation had contributed to a loss of investor confidence and put pressure on the currency.
Davis said Thailand's growth could slow to 2% this year, less than half its projected growth.
Elsewhere, high oil prices are extracting a political price. In Indonesia, there were nationwide protests this spring when the government raised fuel prices to cover soaring energy costs. But the government recently warned that fuel subsidies could double this year to $15.3 billion if prices held at current levels, which would force another price hike.
In India, where state-owned energy companies are running huge losses, the government will soon be forced to raise fuel prices, said Amitabh Dubey, an analyst at Eurasia Group in New York. He predicted that energy would be a hot issue in next year's elections in the Communist-controlled states of Kerala and West Bengal. "There will be political instability," he warned.
Energy prices have also become a problem in China, where fuel prices are heavily subsidized, said Jason Kindopp, a China specialist at Eurasia Group. Last week, the government dispatched extra police to Guangzhou after service stations ran short of gas and motorists were forced to endure lengthy waits and rationing.
Kindopp said the shortages occurred because some of the state-owned refineries had trimmed production or exported their gasoline because they were tired of operating at a loss under the government's strict price controls. Since the start of the year, retail gas prices in China have risen by 15%, while global oil prices have risen by 50%, he said.
To avoid future shortages, the Chinese government may have to raise retail prices, which will not only be politically unpopular but also stoke inflation and put a brake on the economy.
"It'll certainly have a dampening effect," Kindopp said, "because so much of what is driving China's economic growth relies on low-cost inputs."
Hungry for oil
In 2005, the Asia Pacific region will import nearly 16 million barrels of oil a day, representing 67% of its daily needs. That figure is expected to rise to 71% in 2010.
Imported oil as a percentage* of total consumption, 2005 estimates
Indonesia (An OPEC member): 15%
*Oil dependence ratio is based on net, not gross, oil imports
Source: FACTS Inc.
Los Angeles Times