Myanmar’s military action against insurgent camps in Sagaing province last week may have been aimed at sending a message to New Delhi that India’s security concerns were being addressed, rather than wipe out camps of insurgent groups such as the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).
Last week, Myanmar sent two heavily-armed army battalions into the dense forests of Sagaing province 800 km north of the capital, Yangon, and attacked two insurgent camps, including the one where Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua was holed up.
The Ulfa faction led by Paresh Barua and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) are among the eight insurgent groups that have bases in Myanmar. Barua escaped unhurt, possibly helped by a tip-off about the impending attack, a government official said.
According to communication intercepted by intelligence agencies, Ulfa had about 200 cadres in and around the camp and sent another 200-250 cadres to cross the border into Myanmar.
A security official said the military operation had been on for the last few days but wondered why they were not picking any information about casualties of any side. Or why Myanmar did not inform them about the operation and “request for steps to move Indian forces closer to the border to block gaps,” he asked.
The military action was in response to rising concerns in New Delhi about the ease with which insurgent groups were able to operate out of Myanmar. This has particularly been a sore point with Delhi, particularly since other eastern neighbours – Bhutan in 2003 and later Bangladesh in 2010 – had shut their doors on insurgent outfits.
Most of the insurgent groups had moved into Myanmar, from where some of them not only access arms from China but also are believed to have come in contact with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI.
Myanmar shares 1,643 km land boundary with India’s four northeastern states.
India would like Myanmar to address its security concerns as China partakes in the economic development of that nation in a bigger way.
Officials concede one reason why the army in Myanmar doesn’t go all the way on India’s security concerns was that India has not invested in developing security ties.
New Delhi intends to address this gap by proposing interactions between the army and police forces at different levels during President Thein Sein’s State visit to India in October.