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Viewing cable 09DHAKA57, INDIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER EXPECTS CLOSER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09DHAKA57 2009-01-14 08:08 2010-12-21 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Dhaka
VZCZCXRO6297
OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHKA #0057/01 0140815
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 140815Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8129
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHHJJPI/PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 000057 

SIPDIS 

TO S/CT’S AMBASSADOR DAILEY, SETH BAILEY AND EMILY GOLDMAN 

EO 12958 DECL: 01/14/2019 
TAGS PTER, PREL, KDEM, PGOV, IN, BG 
SUBJECT: INDIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER EXPECTS CLOSER 
COUNTERTERRORISM COOPERATION WITH NEW BANGLADESH GOVERNMENT

REF: A. 08 NEW DELHI 2830  B. 08 STATE 128554

Classified By: Ambassador James F. Moriarty. Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d)

------ 
SUMMARY
------- 

1. (C) The Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh told Ambassador Moriarty on 1/13 India expected improved cooperation on security and other issues with the new Awami League government. Counterterrorism cooperation would be the central issue of discussion when the Indian Minister of External Affairs visits Dhaka in early February. The High Commissioner spoke favorably of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s call for a regional task force to fight terrorism, but stressed the importance of bilateral as well as multilateral cooperation. The Embassy will soon propose to the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (S/CT) a project to bring together civil society representatives and government officials from throughout South Asia to help advance regional counterterrorism cooperation.

--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
INDIA STRESSES THE IMPORTANCE OF IMPROVED CT COOPERATION
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 

2. (C) Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty expressed pleasure over the December 29 Parliamentary election landslide victory by the Awami League, which traditionally had warm relations with New Delhi. He told Ambassador Moriarty that improving security cooperation would be the top Indian priority with the new Bangladeshi government. Indian Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee planned to visit Dhaka on February 8 for talks that would center primarily on counterterrorism issues. Pinak said the Minister would welcome Hasina’s call for a joint task force on counterterrorism. Although India would prefer a primarily bilateral engagement, India understood that Bangladesh might insist on a regional task force to provide Hasina political cover from allegations she was too close to India. Either way, the High Commissioner stressed the importance that the task force be action-oriented and not become yet another regional talk shop. (Note: India frequently argues that international Islamic terrorists use Bangladesh as a safe haven and often cross its porous border into India for bombing and other attacks. New Delhi also says Dhaka should do more to uproot Indian domestic extremist groups, including the United Liberation Front of Assam, that use Bangladesh as a safe haven. End note.)

3. (C) Ambassador Moriarty said the U.S. Government understood the need for regional counterterrorism cooperation and was considering “Track Two” programs in which civil society would promote closer coordination among South Asian nations. Pinak said such programs were “always welcome.” The High Commissioner also responded positively when the Ambassador suggested Hasina should consider appointing a counterterrorism czar whose job would be to improve coordination among the many Bangladeshi agencies with security responsibilities. Pinak also agreed when the Ambassador argued the Hasina government should not disband the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). (Note: The RAB has emerged as the country’s premier counterterrorism force but is viewed with suspicion by some Awami League leaders because it was established by the rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party. End note.) The Ambassador stressed that the USG had started human rights training for RAB. He added that the RAB was the enforcement organization best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

--------------------------------------------- -- 
TRANSPORTATION, ENERGY AND ECONOMIC COOPERATION
--------------------------------------------- -- 

4. (SBU) Pinak recounted that in a meeting with Sheikh Hasina immediately after the elections she expressed a desire to invest heavily in Bangladesh’s moribund railway system. This included reconnecting the Bangladeshi railroad system to Agartala, the capital of the bordering Indian state of Tripura. Pinak noted he had also met the new Water Resources Minister, Romesh Chandra Sen, on 12/13. (Note: Bangladeshi media reported the following day that the Bangladesh-India Joint Rivers Commission would likely meet soon to try and resolve simmering disputes over sharing the water of rivers that flow from India into Bangladesh. End note.) The High Commissioner also said India would offer to sell up to 250
DHAKA 00000057 002 OF 002
megawatts of power from a new 750-megawatt plant near Agartala to Bangladesh, which suffers from chronic energy shortages. He acknowledged, however, the cost of the electricity had yet to be negotiated, and Bangladesh would have to build costly infrastructure to connect the plant with its national power grid. Pinak predicted Indian companies would be interested in investing in Bangladesh under the new Awami League government. Investment from information technology firms would depend in part on their ability to train local employees and Bangladeshi government support through activities such as the creation of technology centers.

--------------------------------------------- --------- 
COMMENT: BRIGHTER DAYS FOR AN OFTEN ROCKY RELATIONSHIP
--------------------------------------------- --------- 

5. (C) The Awami League victory augers well for a bilateral relationship that often founders on New Delhi’s charges that Bangladesh does not do enough to fight terrorists who target India. Sheikh Hasina’s immediate call for a regional counterterrorism task force and India’s initial positive response suggest a strong possibility of enhanced cooperation on this issue of huge importance to U.S. interests. It also creates a better environment for the USG to encourage counterterrorism cooperation in South Asia in accordance with the goals set by the Regional Security Initiative conference held in New Delhi in August 2008 (Reftel A). To build on this momentum, Embassy Dhaka will propose to S/CT the use of Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Projects funds for a program to bring together South Asian civil society representatives and government officials to encourage security cooperation (Reftel B). MORIARTY