03/02/2011 - 00:00

Indian forces struggle with Naxalite push

03/02/2011 - 00:00


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Little reported in the Western press, an insurgency in India may threaten that country’s growth plans.

THE South West town of Collie received a welcome gift just before Christmas.

I’m referring to the $825 million acquisition of failed Griffin Coal by Indian energy giant, Lanco Infratech.

This was good news for Collie because uncertainty over a major employer’s future has ended. Moreover, Lanco is said to be planning to ship coal to India, so mining activity is set to grow.

Now, State Scene isn’t a party pooper and doesn’t intend to become one in 2011.

But Collie’s good news presents an opportunity to alert Western Australia’s business sector that not all is rosy across Lanco’s homeland.

I stress that what’s outlined below is in no way related to ever-expanding Lanco, but rather to India, the sub-continent’s biggest country, that’s being increasingly seen as Asia’s next likely tiger economy.

Unfortunately, our local mainstream media never highlights a longstanding threat facing India that Western Australians should be alerted to.

I’m referring to India’s Naxalites, who existentially threaten the corrupt parliamentary democracy in India, a country many contend is headed for uninterrupted economic growth.

Early last April, India announced that bandits killed 75 Indian soldiers in a series of carefully planned attacks on security convoys in eastern Chhattisgarh state.

To those closely following Indian affairs, such an event was no surprise.

The perpetrators were Maoist insurgents, called Naxalites, who have, since being formed in the late 1960s, been responsible for the deaths of about 6,000 Indian soldiers and government officials.

The 2009 death toll exceeded 1,100, up by more than 300 on 2008. Wilfully targeted killings are the Naxalites’ forte.

The name Naxalites hails from Naxalbar, a West Bengalese village where a far leftist splinter group within the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M), led by Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal, launched a violent uprising in 1967 in opposition to their party’s leadership.

Like Mao Tse-tung during his rarely highlighted Kiangsi Soviet period, the Naxalites sided with the peasantry in disputes and confrontations with landlords, thereby being able to portray themselves as progressive land-reformers.

By 1969 the dispute within the CPI (M) saw the formation of a new Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), or CPI (M-L).

Although the Naxalites are now a complex network of disparate fighting groups and factions – about 30 were operational by 1980 – all trace their beginnings to the CPI (M-L), which harbours a hardline ideological core of some 10,000 cadres.

The Chhattisgarh attack came two days after rebels killed 10 policemen and injured 10 others in a landmine attack on a bus in the eastern state of Orissa.

But Chhattisgarh’s clash was far more deadly. One report said that more than 1,000 Naxalites were involved in two ambushes. As well as the 75 soldiers killed, 50 were wounded.

Almost every tree within a three-kilometre radius of the battle-zone was mined, so whenever soldiers used trees for cover they were blown up.

According to BBC reporter Soutik Biswas: “It is clear it will not be easy for security forces to defeat the rebels in their stronghold – vast swaths of remote mineral-rich jungles, home to tribes people who form the main support base for the rebels.”

Indian home secretary Gopal Krishna Pillai said: “Preliminary reports indicate that the Maoists planted pressure-bombs in surrounding areas at places where the security forces might take cover. As a result of this, the bulk of the casualties have arisen from the pressure-bomb blasts.”

That action was evidence of a further stepping up of attacks in response to a major government offensive across what’s called the ‘red corridor’, a huge swath of eastern India – about 30 per cent of the country.

A force of 50,000 federal paramilitary troops and tens of thousands of policemen took part in the operation across several red corridor states.

Naxalites are now active across 220 districts in 20 of India’s 28 states and seven union territories.

The fact is that there are two divergent, quite different, Indias. And we rarely hear of the eastern, the Naxalite, or red corridor India.

There’s the fast-developing western segment, plus the eastern red corridor that increasingly resembles the forgotten Kiangsi Soviet of central China, which Mao used as a base to begin his military defeat of the Kuomintang or Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek, which fell in 1949.

The Kiangsi Soviet was an independent government during 1931-34 that, after enormous difficulties, Chiang’s forces suppressed.

Like India’s red corridor, Mao’s Soviet was a state-within-a-state and used as a base to refine guerrilla, or people’s, warfare tactics and administering of peasant organisations to later help occupy China’s cities and Bolshevise the entire country, minus Taiwan.

The fact that Mao fled northward to Yenan in the face of Chiang’s concerted anti-guerrilla action shows that embedded Soviets or guerrilla enclaves like those created by the Naxalites can be crushed and disbanded.

But the manpower and effort needed exceeds what the Indian government has so far used against the Naxalites. Moreover, Chiang used German military advisers to clear Kiangsi.

In the early 1920s, Russia’s Bolshevised Red Army did the very same across Czarist Russia.

India may therefore be the third to tread this path.

Like Russia’s Bolsheviks and China’s Maoists, the Naxalites claim they’re struggling for the rights of the rural poor who, they say, have been neglected by central governments for decades.

But there’s even worse news.

Security analyst Ben West of the Texas-based think-tank Strategic Forecasting Inc (Stratfor) said: “The Naxalites have been meeting with members of the outlawed Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), according to the director-general of police for India’s Chhattisgarh state.

“Based on information from a police source, state police chief, Vishwa Ranjan, said on November 11, [2010] that two LeT operatives attended a Naxalite meeting in April or May.

“While their presence at the meeting still needs to be corroborated, the chief said, it appears very likely the Naxalites held the meeting to adopt a new policy and plans for increasing ‘armed resistance’ in order to seize political power in India.

“Indian authorities are using the alleged meeting between LeT operatives and Naxalites as evidence that Pakistan is trying to forge relationships with the Naxalites, which India has long suspected.

“For the Indian public, LeT also has become synonymous with Pakistan’s intelligence operations.”

Captured Australian al Qaeda fighter David Hicks, who went to Pakistan in 1999, began his guerrilla training with LeT.

India blamed LeT for the 2008 Mumbai massacres and the 2001 attack on its parliament.

“Stratfor sources in India claim that Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has established business relationships with Naxalites to sell arms and ammunition and lately has tried to use Naxal bases for anti-Indian activities.” West said.

“There is evidence that ISI is providing weapons and ammunition to the Naxalites in exchange for money or services, mostly through third parties like the United Liberation Front of Asom, or the ostensible Bangladeshi militant leader Shailen Sarkar.”

Where’s all this heading?

Either India is Bolshevised or faces protracted internecine warfare, like Afghanistan, for which Pakistan’s terrorist-sympathising and untrustworthy ISI may become increasingly responsible.

Businesses with Indian links should monitor the under-reported Naxalite insurgency.



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