Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Analysis: Indo-Myanmar ties

[By pressurising the junta regime of Myanmar to launch an all-out operation against the NE ultras carrying on subversive activities from that country, the Union Government is trying to kill two birds with one stone. However, it would be prudent on its part not to carry things a bit too far, for reasons more than one. It must weigh the pros and cons as the policies concern the sentiments of a large section of its citizens.]

Indo-Myanmar ties


By pressurising the junta regime of Myanmar to launch an all-out operation against the NE ultras carrying on subversive activities from that country, the Union Government is trying to kill two birds with one stone. However, it would be prudent on its part not to carry things a bit too far, for reasons more than one. It must weigh the pros and cons as the policies concern the sentiments of a large section of its citizens. On one hand, it is leaving no stone unturned to turn the heat on the militants and on the other it is acceding to the request of the Manipur Government to pressurise Myanmar for launching the Bhutan-type offensive. The latter recourse is, of course, a frantic bid for containing the volatile situation in that border State. Political analysts feel that the present public outcry– first in Manipur following the Manorama Devi incident and now in the entire NE against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) – is being sought to be utilised by vested groups for furthering the interests of militants. Hence, despite the massive protests, the Centre is trying out to the optimum the irate public’s patience, hoping against hope that the movement would, in the long run, fizzle out. Thus, there is little likelihood of it withdrawing this legislation – at least not in the immediate future.

The resurgence of violent activities in NE – targeting innocent helpless people – especially during the pre-Puja festive season has created a fear psychosis. The timing of these violent activities is made to coincide with the visit of Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil who was in the region to take stock of the deteriorating law-and-order situation in the region. The moot point is, no organisation has as yet taken the responsibility for these irresponsible violent activities, except for an instance or two. This has given the official agencies an edge, and they are pinning the blame on the ultras saying these are psychological war games of “frustrated” underground elements to make their presence felt in the changed socio-politico-economic environment that has been weighing against them of late. Whatsoever it may be, the four-day tenth secretary-level meeting between India and Myanmar under way in New Delhi from Monday could not have been held at a more opportune time. It carries special significance for North East. India has successfully moved the diplomatic ball. The proscribed organisations appear to be on the verge of losing yet another of its sanctuary after Bhutan for the fact remains that a foolproof attack will be carried out very soon at the camps of these ultras from NE in Myanmar, albeit with Indian logistics and weaponry.

The ground has been laid for a coordinated anti-insurgent operation on both sides of the border. India is pressing Myanmar to launch its operations against the camps of ULFA and NDFB in the areas adjoining Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh as well as those of the PLA, UNLF, PREPAK and KYKL in the areas adjoining Manipur. All these underground organisations have been getting sustenance from Myanmar besides, of course, Bangladesh. Nonetheless, it is ‘Advantage India’ in these bilateral confabulations with Myanmar. India’s request to the Myanmarese junta regime to launch the flush-out operations against these blacklisted rebel groups has been received well by the Myanmar’s delegation led by its Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Brigadier General Phon Swe. The Indian group under the stewardship of Union Home Secretary Dhirendra Singh has also assured all help, in its own interest. India has already submitted a detailed list including the geographical coordinates of Indian militant camps in Myanmar. It is an adjunct to this major issue that the dialogues covered several other key areas like drugs trafficking as well as border trade and management. The difference between similar high-level dialogues India has been holding with Bangladesh has been that the latter has always been denying charges of the former over the presence of NE ultras within that country. But Myanmar has sought logistical and weapons assistance from India. The Myanmar authorities are wary of the heavily armed Indian insurgents. The uneven terrain, poor communication network and the backing that the NE ultras are getting from the rebels of Myanmar have also compounded matters. Besides, their camps are located at scattered places deep within dense forests. It has also expressed its “inability to mount a massive crackdown owing to shortages of troops and other necessary resources”. Indo-Myanmar ties are sure to blossom with Indian experts slated to proceed to Myanmar on its request, for training their bureaucrats and administrators in English language, computer skills and administrative reforms. Spinoffs from several joint infrastructure projects would be used for economic development of the border areas and promote tourism besides encouraging greater movement and interaction among the peoples of both the countries. All in all, the largest democracy in the world – India – will have to tread cautiously prior to setting the stamp of approval on various bilateral pacts, security and others, especially with a junta regime at loggerheads with supporters of democracy within its own boundary.

Assam Tribune 06/10/2004