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Priyajit Debsarkar
Priyajit Debsarkar

Preface

This book is primarily about the role, policies, politics and decisions of the 50th Chakma king, Raja Tridiv Roy, in the period beginning with his coronation as king in 1953 up to the independence of Bangladesh in 1971-72 and contextualising them in the political relationship between East and West Pakistan at that time. The idea of understanding and evaluating the decision of the Chakma king, Raja Tridiv Roy, to stay loyal to Pakistan till the end struck me personally on my visit to Bangladesh in the year 2014. It is not often that we hear of a Buddhist King carrying the historical and cultural burden of his ancient people dating back a thousand years opting to merge with and stay loyal to a newly-formed Islamic state that was set up only on the basis of religion. The decisions of Raja Tridiv Roy and the political context in which they were made had far-reaching consequences both for the Chakma people and the Raja himself. It was particularly this fascinating piece of history between East and West Pakistan that attracted my attention. Not only does this book identify the historical background of the Chakma people and its kingdom but also it exposes the political issues surrounding the region. As a result of my interest and research I have written which started in note form into a fully fledged book.

This book starts with a brief historical narrative about the Chakma Rajas and then enters the politics of that period. It examines briefly the decision of Raja Nalininako Roy, to merge with Pakistan in 1947 (after the independence of India and Pakistan) as a backdrop to the more controversial decisions and politics of Raja Tridiv Roy. The language movement of 1952 and the elections of 1954 were watershed events in the modern history of Bangladesh's evolution as a sovereign nation-state. The book explores the Raja's role and politics in that period after his coronation in 1953 all the way through key episodes in the restive 1960s till his abdication and fleeing to West Pakistan in 1971-72. It has been interesting to explore the contestation for power between the East and West Pakistan in the 1950s and 1960s leading up to the war for independence in 1971-72 through a critical evaluation of choices and decisions made by Raja Tridiv Roy. 

 

Much of this book is about raising the question as to why Raja Tridiv Roy chose to adopt a maximalist policy when engaging with the military-bureaucratic establishment in West Pakistan after becoming King in 1953 and continued with that policy prior to, during and well after the 1971-72 war. Conversely, it also raises the corollary question as to why the Raja was never interested in adopting even a minimalist engagement policy with the newly formed democratic nationalist parties in the East and always viewed such engagement policy as a zero-sum game for himself. The complexity of this period in the history of the two nations, Pakistan and Bangladesh, throws me into an inter-disciplinary vortex of conflicts, questions, and, an unending search for answers. This book, in this context, is first of it's kind in that it briefly explores the history of Bengal, exposes the issues surrounding the region and goes back to the roots of the Chakma people and its monarchy.

 

The book's uniqueness lies in its ability to identify and plug a crucial gap in the modern history of the Indian sub-continent through new insights of Raja Tridiv Roy as a fundamental important character who played his part fully in trying to chart an alternative pro-Pakistani path for Bangladesh between 1953-72 and the reasons as to why he chose to side with West Pakistan.

 

My research during the writing of this book led me to retrace the footprints of Raja Tridiv Roy in that tumultuous period of Bangladesh's history which took me across the globe. It started from Rangamati, Chittagong in East Pakistan, crossed over to Islamabad in West Pakistan, Bangkok in Thailand, Colombo in Sri Lanka, and then spread well over to Buenos Aires in Argentina, and numerous other countries in Latin America. It was impossible to cover all that expanse of time and space by myself and that made me put together a multinational research team for sourcing primary and secondary data to aid my research. I wanted to visit Pakistan as part of my research but was constrained from doing so due to a rigorous visa regime. My research team, therefore, played a critical role in sourcing sensitive data, tracing people involved in or having specific knowledge of the various key events at that time, organising interviews and meetings with them and helping me plan my programmes and interviews with them. The research unveiled remarkable details about the Raja's policies and politics and offered me new insights into how the Raja operated during this momentous period. My research team's contribution is invaluable in the writing of this book and I thank them many times over.

 

The limitations that I have faced in writing this book arise mainly from the lack of primary sources on Raja Tridiv Roy's side. I have tried to compensate for that limitation by careful analysis of all material about Raja Tridiv Roy that I could lay my hands on which were in the public domain as also from the memory of various people involved at different stages and levels and associated with key events in that period. There were quite a few who spoke to me on the condition of strict anonymity, as is so often the case when writing a book about the recent past. I have respected their request in the book. Overall, the sources and the information are both considerable, in terms of materials in books, newspapers, journals, magazines, periodicals both conventional and online as well as conversations under anonymity. Last but not the least, an added challenge was to get documents in regional languages like Bengali, Sinhala, Spanish and Urdu translated to the exact possible context within a specific deadline, given the huge amount of material I had to filter through.

 

The book presents a set of fresh critical perspectives when evaluating the policies, choices and decisions made by Raja Tridiv Roy in the context of the competing nationalisms based on language and ethnicity and contestation of power between the main political players between the east and the west. The relevance of the book lies in the fact that the choices and decisions a king or ruler in a small country has to make is becoming more and more relevant in today’s world given the competing nationalisms based on religion, language, ethnicity and culture across the world. 

 

This book would not be complete without the unconditional and continuous support of my family, especially my loving wife, who uncomplainingly sat through long hours proof-reading my endless drafts. Without her understanding, co-operation and willingness to take over day-to-day family responsibilities in the last year or so, this book would never have been written. Also, my gratitude goes to my publisher for being so patient with me and for bearing with me in difficult times. Finally a big thank you to each of my friends and well-wishers without whose constant encouragement the writing of this book may not have been possible, especially to Barrister Islam Khan for intensively commenting and constructively criticising contexts whilst editing this book, who also co-authored annex 1, at its final stages whilst maintaining his busy practice. All the contributors deserve an equal share of credit if any credit is due, as regards any shortcomings in this book; the responsibility rests squarely on my shoulders.

 

 

 

The Atlantique Attack And Arbitration -

 

This book is primarily about the Atlantique Incident which took place on 10th August, 1999 in the backdrop of the Kargil war and it contextualises the actions of the Pakistan Air Force to perform such a high risk, high yield mission just a few months after a full-fledged war in the Himalayan heights. The idea of understanding and evaluating the decision of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) struck me when I was researching the recent geo-political developments under the realm of International Court of Justice (ICJ). It is not often that we hear an International Court case between India and Pakistan which was ruled in favour of India. The decisions of the Pakistan military in the political context in which they were made, had far-reaching consequences for both the nuclear-armed neighbours. It was this fascinating piece of history between India and Pakistan that attracted my attention. Not only does this book identify the historical background of the incident (dating back to 1965) but also exposes the geo-political issues surrounding the region. As a result of my interest and research on the subject, what started as notes, was soon transformed into a full-fledged book.

This book starts with a brief evaluation of the technical specifications of the Atlantique aircraft. It examines what kind of operational and attack capabilities the aircraft itself is capable of and why, despite its comprehensive defeat at the Kargil heights, PAF ventured into Indian Airspace for a classified mission. This book details the chain of events as they occurred on 10th August, 1999. It is a minute-by-minute analysis, from the time the Pakistan Air Force, Naval Wing Atlantique Aircraft took off from the base in Karachi (Sharae – Faisal Air Base) and flew into Indian Air space. The Pakistan Air Force aircraft, despite repetitive warnings from the Indian side, refused to land and made a hostile combative gesture. Once the aggressive gesture was locked there was no room for mercy. The Atlantique met its fate and was shot down over Indian territory. 

 

After the incident, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan decided to seek a huge financial compensation for the loss of lives and the aircraft itself. They internationalized the issue and approached the International Court of Justice, The Hague, Netherlands. In a landmark judgement, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in favour of the India stating that the ICJ had no Jurisdiction on the issue and hence the case was dismissed. Not only did the Pakistani side face utter humiliation at a global level but the judgment also exposed the rogue nature of naked aggression shown by the Pakistani Armed Forces.

 

The book also evaluates the political consequences of the incident on the very nascent democratic institutions of Pakistan. The ever-powerful Pakistan Army seized the reigns of power from the democratically elected government in a bloodless coup a few months after the incident and the Kargil war. Once again, the military establishment had cast its iron grip and the deep State of Pakistan was in absolute control of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

 

The book's uniqueness lies in its ability to identify and plug a crucial gap in the modern history of the Indian sub-continent through new insights of the Atlantique incident and its aftermath. There were far reaching consequences, both in the political and the military affairs of Pakistan and of course on the entire region. I also draw parallels with the unfortunate Beechcraft incident of September 19, 1965 in which the first democratically elected Chief Minister of Gujarat was murdered in cold blood by a trigger happy Pakistani Fighter jet pilot who deliberately trespassed into Indian Territory to carry out such a heinous act. This incident happened in heels to the 1965 India-Pakistan war of 1965 (Operation Gibraltar).   

 

My research during the writing of this book led me to retrace the flight path of the Atlantique aircraft. What were its objectives and how well equipped it was to carry out such a kind of gambit mission in Indian territory? Moreover, what were the merits of the case that the Pakistani establishment decided to launch a highly complicated and extremely risky strategy of approaching the ICJ to intervene? What if the lawsuit did not go according to the wishes of the military establishment? And rightly so on the merits of the case, it was dismissed accordingly. It also sets a precedent and upholds the bilateral treaties between India and Pakistan. It also reiterates the Simla Accord of 1972 and another futile attempt by Pakistan to make any third party the stake holder in the state-sponsored terrorism with reference to the Kashmir valley.

 

I also have retraced the Beechcraft incident on September 19, 1965 in which His Excellency, Balwant Rai Mehta, First Chief Minister of Gujarat, was murdered in cold blood by the deep rogue state of Pakistan. His civilian aircraft was shot down over Indian territory by a Pakistani jet, deliberately violating Indian air space. This incident interestingly occurred right after the 1965 India-Pakistan War (Operation Gibraltar).

 

It was impossible to cover all that expanse of time and space by myself, so I put together a multinational research team for sourcing primary and secondary data to aid my research. I wanted to visit Pakistan as part of my research but was constrained by the rigorous visa regime. My close associates, therefore, played a critical role in sourcing sensitive data, tracing people involved in or having specific knowledge of the various key events at that time, organising interviews and meetings with them and helping me plan my programmes and interviews with them. The research unveiled remarkable details about the Atlantique incident and its far-reaching consequences. My research associates’ contribution is invaluable in the writing of this book and I cannot thank them enough for their vital inputs during the process.

 

The limitations that I have faced in writing this book arose mainly from the lack of primary sources of the sensitive data pertaining to the incident. I have tried to compensate for that limitation by conducting a careful analysis of all the material on the incident that I could collate from the public domain as also from the memory of various people involved at different stages and levels associated with key events during that period. There were quite a few who spoke to me on the condition of strict anonymity, as is so often the case when writing a book about the recent past. I abide by their request in the book. Overall, the sources and the information are both considerable, in terms of material available in books, newspapers, journals, magazines, periodicals (conventional and online) as well as conversations under anonymity. Last but not the least, an added challenge was to get documents, in regional languages like Hindi and Urdu, translated without losing its essence, within a specific deadline, given the huge amount of material I had to filter through.

  

This book would not be complete without the unconditional and continuous support of my family, especially my loving wife, who patiently sat for long hours proof-reading my endless drafts. Without her understanding, co-operation and willingness to take over day-to-day family responsibilities in the last year or so, this book would never have been written. Also, I extend my gratitude to my publisher for being so patient with me and for bearing with me in difficult times. Finally, a big thank you to each of my friends and well-wishers without whose constant encouragement the writing of this book may not have been possible, especially to all my associates for intensively commenting and constructively criticizing contexts whilst sharing respective opinions in this book. All the contributors deserve an equal share of credit, if any credit is due. As regards any shortcomings in this book, the responsibility rests squarely on my shoulders.

 

 

 

 

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