Concerns were raised in the Indian parliament last week after national media and activist groups reacted strongly to reports that Burmese troops had set up bases on Indian territory.
The Assam Rifles have since stepped up border patrols in Manipur along the state’s 398-km border with Burma after reports surfaced that the Burmese army had made intrusions into Indian territory and set up camps near the border town of Moreh, according to a report in Asia News International on Saturday.
Burmese forces had reportedly taken steps to push Manipuri farmers back to the Indian side of the border, and had set up camp in an area disputed by the two counties and considered a “no-construction zone”.
The issue was raised in Delhi’s upper house last week with representatives of several parties raising concerns. According to a report in the Economic Times of India on Friday, D. Raja of the Communist Party of India told parliament that Burmese troops had attempted to construct base camps on the Indian side and built fencing along the non-demarcated border in Manipur. Calling the matter a “serious national security” issue, he warned that India could lose a sizable territory if strong steps are not taken to check such attempts.
Meanwhile, The Hindu newspaper reported on Saturday that local activist groups and NGOs in Manipur had complained that some 20 villages would be affected by the construction of fencing along or near the Moreh border post, which has recently been promoted as a common marketplace for both Burmese and Indian goods.
A joint border working mechanism could ensure that such incursions or miscommunications are dealt with ahead of time, said an editorial in the New Indian Express published on Friday. It also noted that it was not unusual for either side to construct fences along the border to prevent the flow of people and cattle.
Both sides had previously vowed cooperation in the area over issues of drug trafficking and smuggling. New Delhi has frequently urged its Burmese counterparts to take greater steps to prevent insurgent groups from India using Burmese soil as bases for their activities.
Burma plays a major role in India’s “Look East” foreign policy and a recent series of meetings between the two governments plus a high-profile tour of India last year by Burmese pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi have helped cement a warming in bilateral relations.
Meanwhile, one of India’s most-wanted militants, Yasin Bhatkal, appeared in a New Delhi court on Friday. He is suspected of a string of bombings that have killed hundreds, and has been linked to the bomb attacks on 7 July at Bodh Gaya, one of Buddhism’s holiest places and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The blasts were alleged to have been staged in retaliation for violence against Muslims in Burma.