Police chiefs of four northeastern states and heads of other security and intelligence agencies in the region converged in Guwahati on Monday to remove a sore spot in combating militancy—lack of intelligence sharing.
Though the meeting stopped short of forming a Unified Command-like structure across the region, it seemingly inched closer to a system that would ensure better coordination among the security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast.
Unified Command, the coordinated body involving the Army, police, paramilitary forces, intelligence agencies and the state administration, was launched in Assam in 1997 during Prafulla Kumar Mahanta's AGP-led coalition government. The model was later replicated in Jammu and Kashmir.
"It was a closed-door meeting and we discussed various security related issues," said Assam DGP RN Mathur. Though he did not elaborate, senior officials said the meeting revolved around Intelligence sharing, as Central and state security agencies often engage in a show of one-upmanship often at the cost of results.
"The key to tackling groups like the ULFA is better coordination between the security agencies and sharing of intelligence between the states," a senior Assam police officer said, adding cross-border terrorism has been the biggest hurdle in "neutralizing" militants and "uprooting" their hideouts.
More than the international border—the Northeast shares 98 per cent of its boundary with Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh—the inter-state borders have been thwarting all-out drives against militants. "Because of the jurisdiction issue, militants find it easy to strike out of neighbouring states," said an Assam Police officer, adding that a 20-member ULFA group had come down from hideouts in Arunachal Pradesh to kill over 60 Hindi-speaking labourers in eastern Assam in January this year.
The ULFA upsurge, incidentally, was the primary reason behind the meeting of the police chiefs of Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. The ULFA usually keeps moving in and out of these states to carry out subversive strikes in Assam. While Assam offers direct access to Bhutan, Meghalaya is the preferred route to Bangladesh and Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland to Myanmar.
Other than Mathur, Monday's meeting was attended by Meghalaya DGP BK Dey Sawian, his Nagaland counterpart J Changkija and Arunachal Pradesh IGP AK Sinha, who holds the charge of DG. GOC-in-C of 4th Corps RK Chhabra also attended the meeting along with regional heads of CRPF, SSB, State and Central intelligence agencies.