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Chasing Bodo militants may prove difficult for govt

india Updated: Dec 31, 2014 00:58 IST
Digambar Patowary

The reason for the Indian authority’s much publicised military action against the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Sangbijit) producing little results is an elaborate set-piece game initiated by the northeast militants and their foreign backers.

So far, the Indian and Bhutanese armies have managed to destroy only five deserted militant camps across the border only after militant leader IK Sangbijit managed to shift his entire base to Myanmar.

Following the December 23 massacre of more than 70 people of the tea tribes by the NDFB(S) in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur districts in Assam, Union home minister Rajnath Singh announced a major offensive against the militant outfit.

Quickly, India sought Bhutan and Myanmar’s support to root out the Ndfb(S) as the outfit has camps in both the countries. “The Bhutan and Myanmar governments have been contacted by the ministry of foreign affairs and... the Premier of one of these two countries has responded positively,” Singh said.

But this time, the task can prove to be tougher than what has been projected. After the 2003 anti-militant operations by the Royal Bhutan Army and the 2009 crackdown in Bangladesh, northeast militants, especially the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa), have found a safe haven in the dense forests of Myanmar bordering the northeastern region.

And since the Myanmar government’s writ hardly runs in the region – comprising the Kachin state and the Saigang division in the northernmost and northwestern parts of the country – India’s ties with the Myanmarese army may not yield much result.

What’s more, these regions are controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) – which trained the initial batch of Ulfa guerrillas – and the NSCN (Khaplang) that has a long history of defying the Indian state.

The Ndfb(S) developed ties with the Paresh Baruah-led anti-talks faction of the Ulfa and has set up its operations in the no man’s land in Myanmar with Baruah’s protection.

Although India has slowly developed ties with the Myanmar government, launching military operations is difficult because of the dense jungle, difficult terrain and the absence of the government in the area.

Guwahati-based security observers said on condition of anonymity that the only option open for Indian security forces is launching air strikes on militant camps. And for that, India will have to have support from the Kachin state and the Sagaing regional authorities.

During the first week of December, a Myanmarese delegation, led by Tha Aye, chief minister of Sagaing and La John Ngan Sai, chief minister of Kachin, met top government officials of Manipur, Nagaland and Assam.

Although the meetings were billed by the state governments as business negotiations, observers said the main agenda was to garner their support for military action. And having business meetings is the perfect decoy in such cases.

Baruah, in an email on September 8, 2011, said India had been pressuring and “bribing” its neighbours to flush out militants. “In 2003, it was Bhutan which got a Rs 1,000-crore aid from India in reciprocation. Then came Bangladesh, to which India has pledged a loan of $1 billion. We have information that New Delhi has given an aid of Rs 2,000 crore to Myanmar.”