With gift of six horses, India woos Bangladesh army chief

February 21st, 2008 - 10:06 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) With a gift of six horses worth a little over Rs.35 million ($850,000), New Delhi is attempting to build bridges with Bangladesh’s army chief in an attempt to persuade the eastern neighbour to cease support to anti-India insurgent groups operating from that country. The Indian Army chief, Gen. Deepak Kapoor, will present two stallions and four mares to Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed as he begins a six-day visit - the first by a Bangladesh army chief - on Monday.

“It’s an attempt to build bridges, to move forward in persuading Bangladesh to stop supporting anti-India insurgent groups that are operating from its soil,” an official source said Thursday.

“In the last four or five years, there has been an engagement of a positive nature, but there have been no concrete achievements. We need to turn that around,” the source told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Even more worrisome than the anti-India groups are the operations of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HuJI) extremist group. India blames the HuJI that was established in 1992, reportedly with assistance from Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front, for two sets of blasts in Hyderabad last year.

“The activities of the ISI and the HuJI will also figure in the discussions with Ahmed,” the source said.

Ahmed will be presented a ceremonial guard of honour when he arrives at the South Block defence ministry headquarters, after which Kapoor will present him the six horses.

Apart from Kapoor, Ahmed will call on Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta and Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major.

Speaking about the horses, Lt. Gen. Narayan Mohanty, who heads the Indian Army’s Remount and Veterinary Corps (RVC), said they would be used for breeding and for helping to improve the standard of equestrian sports in Bangladesh.

“Their offspring will be trained in show jumping and other equestrian sports,” Mohanty told reporters here Thursday.

The horses have been bred at the RVC’s equine breeding farms at Hissar in Haryana and Babugarh in Uttar Pradesh, both an hour’s drive from Delhi.

Each of the stallions is worth Rs.10 million, while each mare is valued at Rs.4 million.

Interestingly, one of the stallions - Valiant - is the fourth generation offspring of a horse named Sumrak that the then Soviet government presented to India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

The horses will be taken by truck to the Bangladesh border, where they will be handed over to the authorities there.

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