India urges Burma to hunt for rebels

Jan 20, 2010 (DVB), India's ongoing problem with its Northeastern rebels will likely dominate talks between the Burmese junta and India's home secretary, who is currently in Naypyidaw.

The focus will be the recent revelations that the rebels, notably the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), are taking shelter in Burma, particularly in its northwestern Kachin state that straddles China. There are also claims that the ULFA has ties to the Burmese ceasefire group, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

The Indian press is awash with the supposed demands of the 10-man Indian delegation, who will ask for their Burmese counterparts to "flush out" the leader of the ULFA, Paresh Barua, although rumours are circulating that he is now in the Philippines.

Home secretary G K Pillai's visit follows the announcement that the Indian paramilitary group, the Assam Rifles, is deploying a further 26 battalions to its porous Burma border to combat the militants. It has also tabled the idea of constructing more than 100 helipads for faster deployment of troops.

There are also plans to "seal" the entire 1600km border, according to the Times of India newspaper. Attempts by both India and Burma to control and develop the inaccessible and mountainous terrain have proved fruitless. As a result, Pillai will be seeking clarification with his Burmese counterparts on the exact demarcation of the border.

The regional implications of talks and of India's major security concerns also impinge on the other regional giant, China. India has on several occasions alleged that Chinese arms are finding their way through Burma to the border rebels.

China has meanwhile refused to co-operate in the hunt for India's fugitive rebels, despite having long laid claim to the Indian state of Arunchal Pradesh that borders Tibet and southern China.

Also on Pillai's agenda will likely be the burgeoning economic ties between the two countries, following an announcement last year that bilateral trade could soon reach $US1 billion.

This prediction will be closely watched by India's Northeast states. The development of the region has long been an economic imperative for Dehli, and in part drives the strategic wrestling of regional control from the militants and impinges upon India's relationship with Burma.

India is reportedly busy implementing what is termed a 'Multi-modal Transport Project' that would link the Indian state of Mizoram to Burma's gas-rich Bay of Bengal, via the Kaladan river. Such infrastructure projects aim to develop the region in order to stabilise it and prevent secessionist movements, cross-border smuggling and Chinese assertion.

Furthermore, India's state-run gas giant GAIL, which reported a huge rise in profits last year, is eyeing a 4.35 percent stake in the trans-Burma pipeline being built by China that will connect the Bay of Bengal gas fields to southern China.

Reporting by Joseph Allchin

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