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Situation near Indo-Myanmar border concerning: Army chief

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
Last updated on: January 12, 2024 00:43 IST
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Around 416 Myanmarese soldiers crossed over to India following the situation arising out of the fighting between Myanmar's armed ethnic groups and government forces, and the Indian military is 'closely watching' the unfolding developments, Army chief General Manoj Pande said on Thursday.

IMAGE: Assam Rifles at the Indo-Myanmar border intercepted three vehicles loaded with Areca nuts worth Rs 83.16 lakh at milestone 20 near Ch Tengnoupal Village in Chandel District on December 28, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

The hostilities between the two sides saw a rapid spike since November last year in several key towns and regions near the border with India, fuelling concerns in New Delhi over the possible ramifications for the security of Manipur and Mizoram.

At a press conference ahead of the Army Day, General Pande described the situation near the Indo-Myanmar border as 'concerning' and said some of the insurgent groups are feeling the pressure in the frontier region of that country and attempting to enter Manipur.



"The situation across the Indo-Myanmar border is something that we are closely watching," he said.

Officials said all 416 Myanmarese military personnel have been repatriated.

The anti-junta groups have reportedly taken control of several key towns and military bases near Myanmar's border with India and the volatile situation has forced scores of Myanmarese citizens to take refuge in Mizoram.

"That (the situation along the Indo-Myanmar border) has been of concern to us. You are aware of the activities of the Myanmar Army and the ethnic armed organisations and PDF (People's Defence Forces) in the past couple of months," General Pande said.

The Army chief said the situation in Myanmar's border areas has forced 416 Myanmarese Army personnel to cross over to India, besides some civilians from that country taking shelter in the northeastern states of Mizoram and Manipur.

"The situation across the Indo-Myanmar border is of concern as we also have some of the insurgent groups who are feeling the pressure and are now attempting to come to our side of the border in the state of Manipur," General Pande said.

"That, combined with the situation in Manipur, is something we are keeping a close watch on," he added.

On the situation in ethnic violence-hit Manipur, General Pande said the deployment of Army troops is aimed at helping the civil administration.

"I would say they (the troops) have exhibited a lot of restraint," he said.

The Army chief also said 30 per cent of the weapons looted from security forces in the state have been recovered.

Efforts are underway to recover the remaining weapons, he added.

The Chief of Army Staff said India is also considering strengthening the fencing along the border with Myanmar.

"We have strengthened our posture, deployment on the Indo-Myanmar border. We have close to 20 Assam Rifles battalions which are deployed there," he said.

Myanmar has been witnessing widespread protests demanding restoration of democracy since the military seized power in a coup in February 2021.

The Myanmarese military has been using airstrikes targeting its opponents and those carrying out an armed struggle against the ruling regime.

Myanmar is one of India's strategic neighbours and it shares a 1,640-kilometre border with a number of northeastern states, including militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.

Last month, India called for cessation of fighting between Myanmar's military and the anti-junta groups near the Indo-Myanmar border.


General Pande also said that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri-Poonch region is a matter of 'concern' and enhancing deployment of troops, boosting intelligence apparatus and reaching out to local people are part of measures being initiated to contain terrorist activities in the area.

He said he has conveyed an unambiguous message to the soldiers and commanders that there will be 'zero tolerance' to human rights violations and they must operate in a professional manner.

Three civilians were killed in Poonch last month allegedly during questioning by the Army in connection with an ambush of Army personnel by militants. Four Army soldiers were killed in the ambush.

Without naming Pakistan, Gen Pande said the support for 'terror infrastructure' continues.

"The situation in Poonch-Rajouri has been an issue of concern to us," Gen Pande said.

It is learnt that the terrorists operating in the Rajouri-Poonch area are very well-trained in carrying out terror attacks and ambushes.

"Our counter-terror operation in those areas will continue in a relentless fashion so that normalcy returns to the area at the earliest," the Army Chief said.

Asked about very well-trained terrorists carrying out the attacks, he said the Army is drawing 'tactical lessons' from the adversary's modus operandi.

The Army Chief said his force is focusing on strengthening the human intelligence which includes synergising the Army's efforts with other agencies, adding having support of the locals is also "extremely crucial" in anti-terror operations.

"We have already taken follow up action," he said.

The Chief of Army Staff said the Army is also looking at strengthening the ability to use technology to gather intelligence.

"We have enhanced our deployment and also reoriented some of the units," he said.

At the same time he said the troops have been told to operate professionally.

"My guidance to soldiers and commanders is unambiguous -- in terms of respect for human rights, there will be zero tolerance for any actions on that account," he said.

"We have clearly laid out guidelines spelling out what you (Army personnel) must do and what you must not do in those areas and for the soldiers to be able to (operate)in a professional manner," Gen Pande said.

The Army Chief said there has been an increase in terrorist activities in Rajouri-Poonch region in the last five-six months.

"In the last five to six months, in Rajouri and Poonch, there has been an increase in terrorism. Terrorism in that area was eradicated in 2003 and peace was there till 2017-18," he said.

"Because of the situation in the valley getting normal, this is one area, our adversaries have been active in, in terms of abetting terrorism, encouraging proxy tanzeems in operating in this area," he said.

The Army Chief said 45 terrorists were killed in Jammu and Kashmir in the last three years.

In an oblique reference to the death of three civilians in Poonch, Gen Pande said the 'affected village' has already been adopted by the Army.

"I visited the area following the incident. We engaged with the local community," he said.

The Chief of Army Staff said the ceasefire understanding with the Pakistan military along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir is holding though there have been continuous infiltration attempts, 'which we have been able to successfully thwart through a robust counter-infiltration grid'.

"In the IB (international border) sector, attempts to smuggle in narcotics, war-like stores through the means of drones continues. But we have an effective anti-drone system in place," he added.

In the hinterland of Jammu and Kashmir, Gen Pande said there was an overall drop in violence levels in 2023.

"However the area of Rajouri and Poonch did witness increased terrorist activities. The proxy tanzims operating in these areas continue to get support from across (the border). The support infrastructure for terrorist continues," he said.


The Army Chief said the situation along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh is 'stable' but 'sensitive' and asserted that the Indian troops are maintaining a 'very high state' of operational preparedness to effectively deal with any eventualities.

Gen Pande also said that both India and China continue to hold talks at military and diplomatic levels with an aim to return to the 'status quo ante' that existed in the middle of 2020.

"The situation on the Northern border is stable yet sensitive. We continue to talk both at military and diplomatic level as per established protocols and procedures to find resolution to the balance issues," he said.

"Our operational preparedness in these areas continues to be of a very high level. The deployment is both robust and balanced," he said.

The Chief of Army Staff said his force continued to maintain adequate reserves in all the areas so that it can effectively deal with any contingencies that may arise.

Asked whether an attempt will be made to bring down the level of deployment of troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, he said the primary focus is to go back to the status quo ante that existed before the standoff began in 2020.

"Currently our attempt is to continue to talk to go back to the status quo ante which existed in the middle of 2020. And once that happens we can look at the larger issue of troop reduction. Till the time, whatever forces are required to be deployed along the LAC, we will continue to do that," he said.

"Once THE first objective is achieved, we can focus on other issues," he said.

The Indian and Chinese troops are locked in an over three-year confrontation in certain friction points in eastern Ladakh even as the two sides completed disengagement from several areas following extensive diplomatic and military talks.

India has been maintaining that its ties with China cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas.

The eastern Ladakh border standoff erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area.

Each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the LAC in the region.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
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