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The Rediff Special/Ramananda Sengupta

Crackdown on NE rebels soon

August 02, 2004

In a move reminiscent of the recent crackdown in Bhutan, the Indian army is expected to launch a massive operation against the insurgents in the northeast in coordination with a similar crackdown in Myanmar.

The border is likely to be sealed during the operation.

All that remains to be fixed is the date, but military insiders say it is likely to take place immediately after the monsoon and before December, when senior defence officials of the two sides are expected to meet in Myamnar.

In early June, in what was perhaps the first security-related decision taken by the Manmohan Singh government, the Indian army relocated an entire brigade from Nagaland to Manipur, near the border with Myanmar.

Days later, on June 20 a 14-member Myanmar army delegation led by its vice chief, Lieutenant General Ye Myint, held a series of meetings with senior Indian military officers, including officers of the 3 Corps headquarters, at the Indian army's Rangapahar base in Dimapur.

A senior home ministry official said the decision to relocate the crack 44 Mountain Brigade -- comprising some 3,000 soldiers -- to Chandel near the border was cleared at the "highest level."

The brigade is likely to assist the 57 Mountain Brigade, which conducts counter-insurgency operations out of its base near the capital Imphal.

Though officials said the two military delegations which met at Rangapahar discussed "the overall security scenario along the border," insiders believe the discussions centred around an imminent coordinated crackdown on insurgents on both sides of the border.

The modalities of a hotline between brigade commanders on both sides taking part in the operation were also discussed. This is expected to greatly help the two armies zero in on rebel camps on both sides of the border.

Several rebel groups, including the United National Liberation Front of Manipur and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang), are known to set up training camps in the remote jungles of Myanmar.

Army's credibility at a low ebb in Manipur

Last week, Myanmar's Foreign Minister U Win Aung reassured his Indian counterpart K Natwar Singh in New Delhi that Yangon would not allow Indian insurgents to operate out of Myamnar's soil.

'Global terrorism was discussed. The foreign minister of Myanmar gave an assurance that no terrorist group would be allowed to use Myanmar's territory for activities which are inimical to India,' an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said, adding that 'India too proposed cooperation with Myanmar to fight terrorism.'

Myanmar has been cooperating with India on tackling drug-running and insurgents ever since India reached out to the military junta in the early 1990s. Border trade was reopened in 1995.

India, Myanmar agree to boost ties 

New Delhi was further encouraged after its appeals to stem cross border infiltration of insurgents and narcotics was apparently acted upon by Yangon, leading to a visible decline in drug trafficking, though the insurgents still continued to run training camps and bases in the mountains and forests of northern Myanmar.

Part of the reason for this is that the region is extremely inhospitable, mostly ruled by local warlords, and the launching of a military operation to flush them out is bound to be an extremely expensive and time consuming process.

But senior officials said that the Indian urgency stemmed from the 'deteriorating situation' in the northeast, where insurgents have practically started running 'parallel administrations' in regions near the border.

The new Indian government has also revived the dialogue with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah), which is demanding a greater Nagaland comprising areas from other neigbouring states.

Naga peace process may see a revamp 

Delhi's special emissary K Padmanabhaiah, who has been coordinating these efforts for some time, reportedly met NSCN (I-M) leaders Isaac Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah recently in Amsterdam, just before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived there for the first Bimstec summit. Earlier, Padmanabhaiah is also reported to have met senior ministers and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, expressing his desire to continue the negotiations.

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