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No evidence to prove Pakistan supports Naxals

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US intelligence group acknowledges business-type relations

BY Iftikhar Gilani

A global team of US intelligence professionals has found no evidence of any link between Maoists or Naxalites and Pakistan-based terrorist groups or that country’s Inter-services Intelligence (ISI).

Creating a flutter, Chhattisgarh Police Director General Vishwa Ranjan last week had mentioned a meeting between Naxalites and Pakistan-based militant outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). He said two LeT operatives had attended a Naxalite meeting in April or May calling it a new policy and planning for increasing “armed resistance.”

Such visions are alarmist and do not reflect the true nature of the situation, stated US-based intelligence group Stratfor after investigating the source of Naxalite weaponry and training. It concluded that the rebels appear to remain a very self-reliant group and have not established a strong partnership with Pakistan when it comes to weapons and training.

Home Ministry officials had been implicating terrorist groups and Kashmiri separatists tying up with Naxalites, referring to increasing attacks in rural parts of central and eastern India.

“Stratfor has watched Pakistan’s links with Naxalites before. But we are yet to see significant changes on the ground that would give any credence to the scenario. Many Indian officials are equally insistent that no connections exist between Naxalites and Pakistan. Although Naxalites have provided rhetorical support for Kashmiri (and other anti-India groups) opposed to New Delhi earlier, there has been little action to back up the rhetoric,” said the intelligence analyst Ben West.

While examining the Naxalites’ weaponry, West concluded, “There was evidence of some Pakistani involvement in supplying weapons,” but he hastily added, “It was through third parties.” He believed that Maoists have obtained arsenal from four different sources, from Indian security forces, theft from businesses, local arms factories and procuring from external militant and criminal groups.

The group has even recovered NATO ammunition, variants of the AK-47 assault rifle and even Israeli-made sniper rifles like the Galil 7.62mm from Naxalites. Over a period of six month, the report stated, one zone command spends more than three-quarters of the unit’s budget on weapons ($70,214) with the rest ($20,604) spent on supplies. Such evidence suggests that Naxalite weapon procurements from outside have their limitations; obtaining them locally is far cheaper and can be done by virtually any Naxal operative.

Further, the Naxalite arsenal is vast and diverse, consisting of weapons manufactured in China, Russia, the US, Pakistan and India. The lack of weapons uniformity among Naxalite groups indicates that they do not have a benefactor that has bestowed on them a reliable, standardised arsenal, and have had to build up their own from scratch.

Quoting its sources in India, Stratfor report claimed that Pakistani intelligence has established business-type relationships with Naxalites to sell arms and ammunition apart from attempts to use Naxal bases for anti-India activities. There is evidence that the ISI is providing arms to Naxalites in exchange for money or services, mostly through third parties like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) or the ostensible Bangladeshi militant leader Shailen Sarkar.

But Indian army sources told the US group that their investigations don’t have the evidence to prove a direct link between Naxalites and ISI, since the Pakistanis continue to play a peripheral role.

The group has, however, found Naxalite links with ULFA, the People’s Liberation Army of Manipur, the National Social Council of Nagaland-Issac Muivah, and Nepalese Maoists comprising the militant wing of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal, apart from Sarkar.

Home Ministry accuses Sarkar’s group of training Naxalites at ISI-funded camps in Bangladesh. The ministry also claims that Sarkar has met with Naxal leaders in India.

Admitting that evidence of direct links between ISI and Naxalites was hard to come by, the report said that murky and circuitous relationships were preferred the most in a tense diplomatic environment.

Further, the report said Naxalism is a low-maintenance, self-sustaining movement that will continue to undermine Indian rule. Pakistan does not need to expend more resources to sustain this. Naxalites are likely wary of undermining their own local legitimacy by accepting too much assistance from an outside government.

“While something like a standardised arsenal compliments of ISI would benefit the Naxalites operationally, such a move would be a high-risk, low-reward effort for Islamabad as it seeks to operate very subtly in India for the time being while tensions over the 2008 Mumbai attacks continue to cool off,” it added.