India Officials Warn of Possible "Disruptions" During Clinton's Visit
New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - Less than a week before President Clinton begins a long-awaited South Asian tour, Indian officials have warned that attempts may be made to disrupt the visit.
"Intelligence reports indicate that Islamic fundamentalists might try to create trouble or carry out attacks during the tour of the American leader that would enable them to hog the limelight," a senior Home Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNSNews.com.
The official alleged that Pakistan's secret service, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), had directed Muslim militant groups operating in disputed Kashmir to intensify their activities during Clinton's five-day stay in India.
He said the directions were given at a meeting in Rawalpindi last month, attended by military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, ISI commanders, and leaders of various militant groups.
A Brigadier Riyaz had been appointed by the ISI to direct a concerted campaign in Kashmir to raise the temperature, before and during Clinton's visit, the official added.
Militant groups expected to create possible disturbances included Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, as well as fundamentalists affiliated with the Afghanistan-based militant, Osama bin Laden.
Delhi police special commissioner for security, R.S. Gupta, told CNSNews.com Tuesday police were planning security arrangements for the presidential visit "with an enhanced threat in mind."
While Clinton's personal security contingent and the U.S. Secret Service would provide inner-ring security, the Delhi police would be responsible for sanitizing areas surrounding the routes to be traveled by the president and providing peripheral security.
Gupta said anti-sabotage drills were being carried out with the use of electronic gadgets and sniffer dogs. Jamming equipment brought in from the U.S. would be in place to disable any remote-controlled devices.
Delhi police were sharing intelligence with the U.S. agencies. A close watch was being kept on possible hideouts, and profiles of various militant groups that could pose a threat to Clinton had been prepared, he added.
Security surrounding U.S. facilities has also been tightened.
Officials in the Home Ministry said India had given permission for American spy satellites to closely monitor routes to taken by Clinton and to provide other valuable data during his stay in the region.
In Bangladesh, meanwhile, U.S. marines and secret service personnel have landed to provide security for the American leader.
Along with police, several thousand military and para-military forces will be on guard around the capital, Dhaka, from March 19, a day ahead of Clinton's arrival for a one-day visit, a Bangladesh police spokesman said.
Parts of Dhaka will be totally closed down on March 20 from 8 AM until midnight, and "only residents whose cars carry special stickers will be allowed to enter restricted areas," the spokesman added.
Many Dhaka residents will be away from the city during the Clinton visit, taking holiday leave for the second largest Muslim festival, Eid Al-Azha.
Apart from India and Bangladesh, Clinton will make a brief stopover at the end of the visit at an airforce base in Pakistan, for talks with its military ruler.
An Indian defense analyst, known simply as Sriram, said he expected India's arch-rival, which is keen to internationalize the Kashmir dispute, to escalate tensions in the territory in the days leading up to Clinton's visit.
India has rejected third-party mediation in Kashmir, and Clinton said the U.S. could only mediate in the dispute if both sides sought its intervention.
The two nuclear-capable neighbors have fought three wars since gaining independence in 1947 and were engaged in a bitter territorial conflict in Kashmir last year.