Indian paramilitaries to reinforce Burma border

Jan 14, 2010 (DVB), India's central government has ordered the deployment of Assam Rifles’ battalions to its border with Burma to curb the movement of Northeast insurgent groups, some of whom shelter in Burma.

An Assam Rifles spokesperson, AK Choudhury, told DVB that a further 26 battalions would be sent to support existing Assam Rifles operations in the Nagaland and Manipur regions of Northeast India, where militants from various insurgent groups, including the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), are active.

He said however that "the situation along the border is normal. I cannot tell you about the why's and the how's [of the deployment]; these are organizational methods and they are confidential."

Two captured ULFA militants allegedly admitted in December last year that the banned group holds strategic bases in the rugged and mountainous terrain of northwestern Burma, which Burmese troops have had difficulty penetrating.

According to former ULFA spokesperson, Sunil Nath, the group in 1989 developed links with the Burmese ceasefire group, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which controls much of the territory east of the India-Burma border region where the ULFA is active.

The Assam Rifles' additional director-general, Major General J P Nehra, told reporters in India on Tuesday that the numbers of Northeast militants in the region had increased, prompting the Assam Rifles to boost its inadequate presence there.

To date, the Delhi-backed paramilitary group has relied on only 46 battalions, around 65,000 personnel, to man the 1,650 kilometer border and combat the region's various insurgent groups.

As well as the ULFA, groups such as the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and the Manipur-based People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak, have proved adept at operating in the inaccessible border environment.

The Kolkata-based Telegraph newspaper reported yesterday that Nehra had also called for closer collaboration between the Assam Rifles and the Burmese army, to which Naypyidaw had responded positively.

The issue of cross-border insurgent activity is also likely to feature highly on the agenda during talks between the Indian home secretary, G K Pillai, and senior Burmese army officials when he visits the remote Burmese capital this week.

The Times of India also reported yesterday that the Assam Rifles had requested 100 new helipads in the Northeast to support the 26 new battalions.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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