New Delhi: When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Myanmar State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi decided Wednesday to broaden the bilateral security and counter-terrorism partnership, the drivers were New Delhi’s concerns over ISI infiltration into the ranks of Rohingyas and Yangon’s fight against the Rakhine terrorists.
India and Bangladesh, through their joint counter-terror cooperation, have recently discovered that the ISI had allegedly played a key role in masterminding a terror attack in Myanmar’s Rakhine state ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s visit. India-Bangladesh-Myanmar may now move toward trilateral info-sharing mechanism to counter this threat in the region, people familiar with the issue said.
India and Bangladesh recently discovered that Hafiz Tohar, the military wing chief of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), has been maintaining close links with Pakistan’s ISI and the spy agency may have played a key role in the terror attacks that killed several members of Myanmarese Army, ET has learnt.
Phone calls between Tohar and ISI discussing detailed attack plans have been intercepted in the last week of August, indicated people familiar with the issue. Hafiz Tohar set up the Aqa Mul Mujahideen (AMM) and was trained in Pakistan by the Lashkar e Tayyaba (LeT), also named in the just concluded BRICS Summit declaration. Tohar is widely believed to be behind the deadly attacks on Myanmar security forces in October last year and on August 25 this year.
After the training of a few initial AMM recruits in Pakistan, new cadre members were recruited from among the Rohingya youth in Rakhine State and at refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar. They were then trained in camps set up on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, especially one at the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, according to experts who have followed this development closely.
“Brigadier Ashfaq” and “Major Salamat”, two alleged ISI operatives, have been mentoring AMM and assisting this group to develop close links with JMB in Bangladesh, according to one of the experts cited above. The ISI Brigadier also allegedly maintains close links with Bangladesh’s Opposition BNP. In this context, India and Myanmar have decided to step up counter-terror cooperation and information sharing. The joint statement issued after Modi-Suu Kyi dialogue said: “Both sides… agreed that the fight against terrorism should…hold accountable and take strong measures against States and entities that encourage, support or finance terrorism.