‘Myanmar key to curbing northeast border insurgency’

New Delhi, June 7 (IANS) As the Indian Army launched a massive combing operation in Manipur’s border areas post the ambush that killed 18 soldiers, strategic experts said India needs to coordinate with Myanmar if the terrorist bases in that country have to be destroyed.

The attack, the biggest in more than three decades, has been seen as a major intelligence failure and the advanced nature of weapons used have raised suspicion of international involvement in the act.

“Major combing operations are on in the area up to the Myanmar border. That is the routine drill after any incident,” Indian Army sources aware of developments told IANS. The ambush site, in fact, is just 10 km from the Myanmar border.

The army has been tight-lipped over the situation and its plans in the area, which the army chief, Gen. Dalbir Singh, visited on Friday, but sources say a massive exercise is on to cull out more information on the insurgents.

“Information is being culled out… The advanced nature of weapons used in the attack shows some international terror organisation is backing the insurgents,” a highly placed source told IANS.

Experts said that unless there are combing operations on both sides of the border, the terrorists can’t be stopped.

Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain (retd) cited the example of Operation Golden Bird that was launched in 1995.

“As a result of this incident, the overall security environment received renewed energy; it is inevitable after a negative incident and especially of such intensity. The group that launched the attack is probably back in Myanmar,” Hasnain told IANS.

“Trans-IB (International Border) operations are not launched by the Indian Army but it is heartening to hear that the Indian government is planning to approach its counterpart in Myanmar to conduct joint operations on both sides of the border and proactively target the militant camps known to exist in Myanmar’s jungles. This approach should be immediate,” he said.

“Under pressure from either side, the militants take to the security of the jungles across the border; hence the necessity to launch coordinated operations. In 1995, India and Myanmar launched Operation Golden Bird, in which they coordinated operations while remaining on their sides. When both armies are alert and step up operations, the militants remain in a dilemma,” he added.

Operation Golden Bird was aimed at flushing out ULFA, NSCN and Manipuri fighters in camps along the border. The ULFA lost several top leaders and cadres like Monpa Rongpi and Madhurya Gohain, but the operation ended abruptly.

India and Myanmar share an unfenced 1,643-km border and permit a “free movement” regime of up to 16 km on either side.

Brig. S.K. Chatterji (retd) meanwhile pointed out that the leaders of several insurgent groups had travelled to China some time back, indicating Beijing’s possible involvement.

“Around a month-and-a-half back, leaders of all these insurgent groups travelled to China… We may possibly see a surge in attacks in the near future,” Chatterji told IANS.

In Thursday’s incident, a group of insurgents that came into India from Myanmar launched an attack on a four-vehicle convoy that was leaving after being de-inducted and was on its way to Imphal.

The militants attacked the lead vehicle of the convoy with a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) and the maximum casualties were from this vehicle.

The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-K led by S.S. Khaplang has claimed responsibility for the killings along with the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) and the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP).

The newly-formed umbrella group is known as United Liberation Front of West South East Asia (UNLFW).

The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) Songabijit faction, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation are among those in the grouping.

Hasnain, however, questioned why despite the army’s operations since decades, the government had failed to bring lasting peace in the northeast.

“The real point is that the army and Assam Rifles have ensured peace in the northeast for the last 20 years. Why has the nation not been able to take this forward,” he asked.

“The army can take the process up to a level. Beyond that, the political process has to take over. There has been a ceasefire in Nagaland for almost 17 years and a halt of operations with specific groups in Manipur for many years. What do we intend to do with the ceasefire? It cannot be endless,” Hasnain added.

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