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India intensifies vigil along Bhutanese border

In order to bolster vigil along its border with Bhutan, India proposes to raise additional SSB battalions and open 132 border outposts.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2006 13:19 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

In order to intensify vigilance along its border with Bhutan, India proposes to raise seven additional Seema Sashastra Bal (SSB) battalions and open 132 new border outposts but has ruled out any joint operation against insurgents.

"Currently five SSB battalions guard the 700-km border touching Assam, West Bengal, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

It is proposed to add five new battalions by November this year and two more by next year," Secretary (Border Management), BS Lalli, in the Union Home Ministry told reporters here.

Lalli, who attended the Secretary-level talks between the two countries in Thimpu last week, said raising new battalions will help in better manning of border outposts to prevent poaching, timber smuggling and insurgent camps from coming up.

To a question, he said there was no proposal for any joint operation against insurgents and added there were no inputs to suggest that ULFA has bases in Bhutan.

A few years ago Bhutan had launched an operation against northeast insurgents operating from Bhutanese soil.

He said Bhutan has assured the Indian delegation that it will not allow activities by any insurgent group like ULFA on its soil and New Delhi on its part has told Thimpu that it will not permit infiltration into Bhutan via India.

Lalli said there were "hundreds of thousands" of refugees staying in nine camps in eastern Nepal and "there are reports to indicate an element of restiveness among some camp people".

The refugees are people of Nepalese origin and living in Bhutan. They are now living in camps in eastern Nepal for almost a decade.

Describing the two-day talks on September 22-23 as "extremely cordial and fruitful", Lalli said discussions were held on activities by groups hostile to the security of the two neighbouring countries, status of refugees in Nepal and training facilities to Bhutanese police officials by India.

New Delhi has offered a variety of courses for Bhutanese police and they have already started availing of the trainings, he said.

Deployment of forces and patrolling of the border and development of infrastructure along the border also came up for discussion, he said.

Lalli said visibility of more security personnel along the border will have a "positive effect". "Though the border is peaceful, we cannot be complacent," he added.

The Indian delegation called on the King of Bhutan, who spoke on the traditional friendship between the two countries and met the Bhutanese Home Minister, who thanked the Indian Government for all its assistance and hoped that the relations will be "extremely durable".

An India-Bhutan Group on Border Management and Security issues was set up as both the countries have a free movement regime for their nationals.

This openness has been exploited in the past by northeasern insurgent groups, particularly ULFA, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) for indulging in anti- national activities.

First Published: Sep 26, 2006 19:23 IST