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Myanmar, Bangladesh: Flash points for India’s counter insurgency moves

Nava Thakuria
The Indian security personnel may step up military crack down against the armed cadres of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the operation in eastern Assam (now known as Asom) and Arunachal Pradesh bordering Myanmar (also known as Burma) might yield preliminary result, but the absolute outcome, New Delhi believes, can be expected only after the bases of ULFA militants in northern Myanmar are destroyed.

Immediately after the carnage during the first half of January that took the lives of more than 70 migrant labours by the ULFA militants, the government of India launched an intensified operation against the insurgents in eastern Asom. The armed cadres of ULFA, which is fighting New Delhi for an Independent Asom (out of India) since 1979 went on killing spree that turned the districts of Dibrugarh, Tinchukia, Dhemaji, Sivsagar, Golaghat in upper Asom as the area of slaughtering. Most of the victims were identified as Hindi speaking milk vendors, workers in brick kilns and daily wage earners, who were targeted by ULFA militants at point blank ranges in those fateful incidents.

The Army, paramilitary forces and state police continued combing operation in the trouble torn locality, where nearly 20,000 soldiers are being engaged to counter the ULFA militants. The exercises even yielded outcome as security personnel arrested seven ULFA cadres from the Mon district of Nagaland, who tried to flee to Myanmar.  The arrested cadres, as relevant source claimed, belong to the    28th battalion of ULFA from whom a radio set, a dicta-phone and mobile phone SIMs were seized. However, no specific reports from the remote areas of Arunachal, where operation is going on, is available, as those areas are under jungles and without human habitation.

New Delhi has, in the meantime, sifted its focus on Burma and Bangladesh, as both the neighbouring countries are been blamed for accomplishing bases of Northeastern militants including ULFA for training and also for using as hideouts after offensives in Indian soil. India and Myanmar   share a 1,640 km long porous border, through which the armed outfits sneak to that country and continued using their soil to carry our offensives in Indian side. During his visit to Asom on January 16, the Prime Minister of India    Dr Manmohan Singh reiterated the stand of New Delhi to deal the acts of terrorism with firm hands.

Affirming that 'there should be no room for violence in a civil society, and violence will not be tolerated', Dr Singh declared, "The intensified counter-insurgency operations will continue to create a sense of security among all people including Hindi-speaking people." Answering to a query from the scribes, Dr Singh confirmed that he talked to the Burmese Prime Minister, Soe Win during their meeting at 5 th India-ASEAN summit in Philippines, where his counterpart understandably agreed to cooperate with New Delhi to flush out Indian insurgents from the Burmese soil.

India had already specially increased pressure on the present Burmese junta (popularly known as State Peace and Development Council) to launch a    massive military crack down on all Northeastern armed groups, who are taking shelter inside northern Myanmar. India suggests a Bhutan like operation (December 2003) in Myanmar also to crash the militant bases belong to ULFA, NSCN (I-M and K factions), PLA, PREPAK, UNLF, KYKL, KCP etc, who remained active in Northeast.   

The Defence Minister, Mr Antony, during his recent visit to Asom declared that New Delhi would seek helps from Myanmar and Bangladesh to deal with the ULFA cadres operating from those countries. Earlier the Home Ministers' level meeting between the neighbouring countries also witnessed detailed discussions on cross border terrorism. Indian Home minister Shivraj Patil explained the areas of interest for India to his Burmese counterpart Major General Maung Oo during the meeting during November in New Delhi.

To pursue with the Burmese military rulers, the Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee visited Yangon (new capital is Naypyitaw) on January 19. The visit caps an escalating series of discussions between India and Myanmar and seems set to lead to a substantial increase in arms sales and other forms of military cooperation with the State Peace and Development Council leaders, who rule today's Myanmar. "I asked them to help us tackling problem of insurgent groups operating from their side of the border. They have assured their cooperation," Mr Mukherjee informed the reporters.

Even the last meeting of Home ministers from both the countries also witnessed detailed discussion on cross border terrorism. India and Myanmar   share a 1,640 km long porous border, through which the armed outfits sneak to that country and continued using their soil to carry our offensives in Indian side. Indian Home minister Shivraj Patil explained the areas of interest for India to his Myanmarese counterpart Major General Maung Oo during the December 21 meeting in New Delhi.

In fact, the year 2006 was significant for the military relationship between India and Myanmar. During the year, three Indian Chiefs of Defence visited the country. More to add, the President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who is the supreme commander of Indian Defence, also paid visit to the country. Earlier the SPDC chief and the Head of State, Senior General Than Shwe visited India in 2005. The visit of General  Shwe Mann, the army chief of Myanmar in December last was another example of enhancing military relationship with India .

During the visit of India’s Air Marshal S P Tyagi to Ynagon in November last, selling of military hardware to SPDC was highlighted. The package reportedly included helicopters with naval surveillance aircraft and also radar manufactured by Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited. The air force chief of India also offered them the India made advanced light helicopters that would be useful for combating insurgent groups in their country. Prior to Tyagi's   visit, the army chief of India, General   J J Sing was in Myanmar capital to offer special package of training for the Burmese forces engaged in counterinsurgency campaigns. Earlier the Indian Navy chief, Admiral Arun Prakash also visited Myanmar to discuss about military enrichment of SPDC.  

Meanwhile, Asom chief minister Tarun Gogoi claimed that ULFA carried out the killing under the direction of Pakistan's agency Inter Service Intelligence. "There is no doubt about it that ULFA is working on the instructions of the ISI," asserted Mr Gogoi. Earlier Prime Minister Dr Singh unveiled officially for the first time the link between ULFA and ISI. Later the Bharatiya Janata Party chief Rajnath Singh picked up the version to criticize the ULFA leaders as being used by ISI to kill Hindu (Bihari) people to make space for migrants from Bangladesh in Asom. Even All Assam Students' Union activists echoed the views that the carnage on migrants from Bihar and other Indian states would only help economic migrants from Bangladesh to get works in the labour intensive local brick kiln industries.

Earlier, an opinion poll carried out by Assam Public Works, a voluntary organization comprising family member and relatives of ULFA cadres negated the demand of an Independent Asom by the outfit. The opinion poll was as a signature campaign to know whether the people of the state supported the primary demand of ULFA. All total 25, 64,128 people (from various districts of Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Darang, Kamrup, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Goalpara and Dhubri) participated in the survey, out of them 24, 49,740 rejected the sovereignty demand by the outfit. It was disclosed in a meeting in Guwahati in the first week of January, which also heard many speakers castigating ULFA for their impractical design of arm struggle that only misguiding 26 million people of Asom.  

The author is a Guwahati based journalist and the editor of Natun  Somoy. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.