Mumbai terrorist attack : its impact in Nepal

Mumbai terrorist attack : its impact in Nepal

Triple bomb blasts rocked three busiest and most crowded areas of Mumbai, financial capital of India on the evening rush hour of July 13, 2011. 19 people were killed on the spot and more than 130 injured. 7 people have succumbed to death recently, who were said to be injured. There was a large hue and cry among those who were survived and injured, just after the blast. Blood covered bodies lay on the street and people hugged and wept. Others carried the wounded to taxis to take to the hospital. In connection to this incident, Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi just after the incident that this was a coordinated attack by terrorists. In the mean time, the administration put entire city of Metropolitan Mumbai on high alert to maintain security.

Nepal’s concern

These events have impacted security concern in Nepal in connection to the ramification of the serial blasts in Mumbai. It was envisaged that Mumbai terrorist could cross the border and may hide in Nepal. It is because that India and Nepal has an open border regime. There are some ungoverned border spaces between two nations as well. So the terrorists and unwanted element could transit from one country to another easily.

In connection to Mumbai blasts, an emergency meeting of the central security committee was held in Singha Durbar, Kathmandu. Nepal government directed to the security agencies to keep vigil on suspects in Nepal-India border and Tribhuvan International Airport. It was also instructed to ensure that the terrorists involved in Mumbai attacks may not use Nepal as their shelter and transit point. To implement the directives, special security arrangements were made along the porous borders and the only international airport.

This proves that large scale incidents in India have undoubted affects on Nepal. Generally, terrorists create havoc in India and they flee into the Nepali territory and vice versa. This is largely due to the fact that there is an open border between two nations.

Heart pinching attack  

It is really a shock that triple bombings were the worst terror attack in three locations of Mumbai within a duration of ten minutes. The first blast struck the crowded bustling Jhaveri Bazar, which is famous for the trading of wholesale gold and jewelry market. A minute later, a second blast hit the busy business district of Opera House, which is called ‘Diamond Hub’ for India’s prosperous diamond exporter. This is also the tourist destination of Mumbai. After ten minutes, the third bomb exploded in the crowded neighborhood of Dadar Kabutar Khana (Pigeon House) junction, where businessmen on their way to the railway station often stop to feed grain to the pigeons.

It was presumed that the bombs were made of ammonium nitrate, an ingredient for fertilizer commonly used in improvised devices with electronic detonators. The first bomb was planted along the road under an umbrella and the second one exploded in a scooter motorbike, and the third one was kept on the roof of a bus stop.

No radical organization has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. However, the Indian government has laid suspicions on the Indian Mujahideen (IM), an underground terrorist group sworn to avenge the massacre of hundreds of Muslims in the neighboring State of Gujarat. On the other hand, India thinks that a remote possibility is the Pakistan-based separatist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, known for its sympathies for al-Qaeda; since LeT has been providing ideological and physical training to the IM for some years.

In response to the incident, some of the countries consoled India on the loss of life of Indian people and called to unite against terrorism. Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State expressed ‘I believe it is more important than we stand with India, deepen our partnership, and reaffirm our commitment to the shared struggle against terrorism.’ Similarly, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei expressed that ‘China condemns the attack. We are willing to work together with the international community that includes India to combat terrorism.’

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed their deepest sympathies to the Indian leadership on the loss of lives, injuries and damages to property in Mumbai. Likewise, President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal sent messages to their Indian counterparts describing the blasts as a cowardly act of terrorism. It says ‘Nepal condemns terrorism in all forms and manifestations.’

It is to be noted that those who expressed condolences, they have used the word ‘terrorist.’ It denotes that the perpetrators disregard for national boundaries. So it has to call for strengthening border management to obstruct the terrorists.

Chronology of attacks

This is not the first time that Mumbai has to tolerate such bomb attacks. The November 26-29, 2008 LeT gunmen attacks on two hotels, railway station and Jewish center of Mumbai killed 195 people and 3 hundred 27 were injured. Ten militants laid siege to India’s financial capital for sixty hours and paralyzed the city. Similarly, serial explosions blasted at a time in seven railway stations on July 11, 2006 killed 209 persons and seven hundred wounded. On August 25, 2003, 50 persons died and 244 injured at the explosion in Gateway of India and Jhaveri Bazar area. There were also similar type of explosions and bomb attack in thirteen places around Mumbai Metropolis on March 12, 1993 by Dawood Ibrahim gang. As a result, 257 people risked fatalities and 1100 were injured in the incident. Numerous attacks of smaller scale have occurred in Mumbai too.

Why Mumbai is targeted?

It is well known that Mumbai is the financial capital of India. Not only the people of India, but also the people of the other side of the globe say that Mumbai is the heart of Indian economy and richest city of the nation. It is the palpitation of the progress of India. Some other says, Mumbai is the lifeline of India and it is like a golden bird.

On the other hand, large number of foreigners stays there and Mumbai is home to several powerful organized criminal gangs that run extortion, money laundering and smuggling rackets. There are active real estate and in financing and distributing Bollywood films as well.

India has long been under the threat of militant attacks by a variety of groups including separatists in the north-east Hindu nationalists and Islamists. The Maoist rebels control vast swathes of India’s countryside, the so called ‘Red Corridor.’ The Indian Mujahideen is described by global intelligence firm to carry out low to medium intensity attacks. These groups are eyeing Mumbai as their priority. If Mumbai cracks down, it will affect the economy of entire nation. So Mumbai is soft targeted by the terrorists.

Regulation of border

There is an open border regime between Nepal and India. People of both nations can cross the international boundary without any interrogation. Terrorists and unwanted element may cross the border in a disguised manner as Indian or Nepali inhabitants; as their face, attire, posture and behavior resemble. It has enhanced the cross-border crimes and illegal infiltration year after year.

It is interesting to mention that suspected criminals of 1993 Mumbai bomb attack, Salim Abdul Gani Gazi (alias Asfak Ahmed Shah) and Riyaz Khatri (alias Riyaz Ahmed Lone) were arrested by Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Crime Division in Thamel on September 4, 2008. The Police handed them over to the Indian government on the request of the National Central Bureau (NCB) Interpol, India. The duo happened to be staying in Kathmandu for 12 years in the guise of a manpower agent and an employee at a handicraft store in the city. They would often travel to Dubai and Saudi Arabia under assumed names. This was possible largely, because of the porous border. So the time has come to adopt some alternative measures to replace the existing system, to maintain security in both the nations.

The first alternative measure may be to introduce the identity card system that has to be produced while crossing the international border. Next alternative will be fencing the frontier with 180 exit/entry points. In this context, Indian State of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has demanded that the Indo-Nepal border should be properly fenced to check for illegal infiltration, smuggling of narcotics, fake currency and human trafficking, criminal and other related activities from across the Nepal as well as home grown Red-extremism’ (Times of India, February 4, 2011). It is imminent, with such incidents, that the Nepal-India border be regulated to at least to introduce ID card system and increase the number of Armed Police Force in order to block unwanted people that could not affect Nepal by such incidents occurred in Indian cities.

Boundary related to security concern

Nepal doesn’t have archives of maps

Nepal doesn’t have archives of maps

The border dispute between Nepal and India has gained prominence following the recent visits to border regions by top leaders of UCPN (Maoist) as a part of the party’s fourth phase of protest programme. Though the party on Friday called off its nationwide strike that was supposed to start on Sunday, it has stressed that its campaign for national sovereignty and civilian supremacy will continue. It is in this heated political climate that Pranab Kharel, Biswas Baral and Kamal Raj Sigdel asked Buddhi Narayan Shrestha, the former Director General of Survey Department, to shed light on various border issues.

You have just visited some of the disputed points on the Indo-Nepal border. India has been saying that 98 percent of the strip map is complete and disputes remain only over Susta and Kalapani.

Shrestha: Nepal and India share 1808-km long border. According to official estimates, 98 percent of this border has been demarcated and 182 border maps prepared. On that basis, 8,553 border pillars have been erected. Regarding the clarity of these border maps, the then Indian Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee during his official visit to Nepal had stated that since there were some disputes over these maps, they be corrected and forwarded to the plenipotentiaries of both the countries for signature. This also indicates there is some ambiguity regarding the maps. The Constituent Assembly’s (CA) Committee on International Relations and Human Rights visited the border areas from Susta to Tanakpur from Dec. 24, 2009 — Jan. 3, 2010. We had an officer from the Survey Department who had brought the maps of the disputed areas as requested by the CA committee. Upon tallying the maps in some disputed pocket areas, the team could not find the main boundary pillars — though they existed on the map.

Could you give us some specific examples?

Shrestha: The pillar number 706 located at Kushmaghat of the Bhajani VDC in Kailali district was not found. The pillars, which were erected as per the Survey Map of British India, were not found in their location. For example, pillar no 708 at Kauwakhera of Lalboji VDC of Kailali district was found to be 30 metres inside Nepal. But both the local residents and the visiting CA committee concluded that this could have happened because of the change of course of the Mohana river. Secondly, we found some subsidiary (minor) pillars missing. For example, new pillars numbered 407/1, 2 and 3 between Bhajani and Lalbhoji VDC of Kailali district were not found. In other cases, the minor pillars have been broken. Similarly, the 182 maps show half-km no-man’s land on either side of the border. But no-man’s land was not found in places like the Pyaranala area of the Parasan VDC in Kanchanpur district. At some places the Indian side had encroached upon Nepali territories. In other places, Nepal had encroached upon the border. For instance, a few years ago the no-man’s land area at Belahi border of the Rupandehi district was encroached upon by both Indian and Nepali sides. The District Magistrate from the Indian side and the Chief District Officer mutually agreed to withdraw from the encroached area. The Nepali side withdrew within eight months but the Indian side is yet to complete the withdrawal. Similarly, pillars number 62, 63, and 64 of the Chaugoji area of Gulariya municipality indicated Indian encroachment. In fact, the no-man’s land is inside Nepali territory.

You say the border pillars were not in their designated places. Could it be that some of the pillars were washed away by floods and the rivers, which are on the border?

Shrestha: Out of the 1808-km border, various rivers traverse 650 km and many border pillars have been washed away. But those pillars that are close to human settlements are found to have been removed by the Indians peasants, often in collusion with the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), the Indian paramilitary force deployed at the border.

With regard to the strip maps, how were the finalised? And what has been Nepal’s position with regard to these maps?

Shrestha: Border maps are made on the basis of the earlier maps. However, some of these old maps are not acceptable to India while Nepal rejects some others. Therefore, it is important to identify those maps which are acceptable to both the sides and demarcate the borders on the basis of the chosen maps. The tragedy is that Nepal doesn’t have a rich archive of maps. Hence it cannot produce enough maps to counter Indian territorial claims. During the British rule, they themselves conducted the survey and made maps. Nepal received only a few of those maps.

But even during that time, some maps were not acceptable to the Nepali side. When modern maps are made based on these contentious historical documents, there are bound to be problems. With regard to the strip map, the problem lies with cross holding occupation — in a map, certain areas have been demarcated border areas but in reality those have already been encroached upon. The Indians, we say, are engaged in “cross-holding occupation”. Nepal has to find more about its lands through various land surveys done at different times. Also Nepali authorities could trace the Land Owner Certificates issued by the government after the land reform of 1963-64. Based on the findings, they should sort out the outstanding issues before signing the strip map.

If the strip maps have been prepared after consulting authorities on the both sides, why doesn’t Nepal accept it?

Shrestha: The locals told the visiting CA team that the Nepali surveyors lacked professionalism when it came to demarcating the border. In principle, one side opts for demarcating the even-numbered border pillars while other side has to do the odd numbers. During the demarcation, representatives from both sides should be present. But, according to locals, the Nepali side didn’t bother to turn up when Indians were erecting the pillars.

You say the problem lies with the older erroneous maps on which the current strip map has based. But can’t Nepal through its diplomatic channels get hold of the original maps?

Shrestha: Yes, we can. The Library of Congress in America and the British Museum have the maps. But the authorities should take interest in getting hold of them. But even in those libraries, there are not enough maps. When I visited the British Library in London in 1998, I found that some of maps were already handed to Survey of India, Deharadun in 1928. I asked the map curator whether it would be possible to obtain those maps. He said that if there is an effort from the government level, we might get them.

What could be done to address the border issue immediately?

Shrestha: To prevent encroachment we could deploy a border security force. Currently Armed Police Force is doing the job. They have been deployed in 18 districts of Tarai. We should increase their numbers, say to around 4,500. We should have border observation posts at every four to five kilometre. But most importantly, it is important to build a national strategy on border issues. Diplomatic channels could be used to take up the issue at political level. Also we could opt for Track II diplomacy (using non-State actors) to prepare the required documents.

Published in The Kathmandu Post Daily on 25 January 2010

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