Myanmar to crack down on Indian rebel bases

27 Apr, 2007

GUWAHATI: Myanmar is set to begin a military offensive following New Delhi's request to crack down on rebel bases. New Delhi had asked Mayanmar to evict Indian separatists from its soil, said Indian officials said on Friday.

“The Myanmar army has promised to step up the fight against militants from our northeast states based in their country,” an Indian Army commander said on condition of anonymity.

Myanmar's decision to crack down on Indian rebel bases was made by Brigadier General Tin Maung Ohn who was leading an 18-member Myanmarese army delegation to India.

The Myanmar team, during the last five days, held extensive meetings with India's army and paramilitary commanders in the northeastern states of Nagaland and Assam.

“This is the first breakthrough, with Myanmar deciding to take proactive action against those (Indian militants) that already exist in their country,” Paramjit Singh, director general of the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force engaged in anti-insurgency operations in the northeast, told reporters.

New Delhi has mounted pressure on Yangon to launch a military offensive against Indian militant groups – mainly the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the United National Liberation Front (UNLF).

The ULFA, a rebel group fighting for an independent homeland in Assam, is on the run since the Indian Army launched a crackdown in January after the group killed 80 people.

“The ULFA militants have sneaked into bases in Myanmar. If the military junta there launches an operation, it would be easier for us to deal with militancy here,” the commander said.

At least five major militant groups from India's northeast, where numerous tribal and ethnic groups are fighting for greater autonomy or independence, have training camps in the dense jungles of Sagaing in northern Myanmar.

“There are at least 20,000 guerrilla fighters in Myanmar belonging to various groups of the northeast,” said Kughalo Mulatonu, a rebel leader of the S S Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K).

The NSCN-K, a rebel group fighting for an independent tribal homeland in Nagaland, operates out of Myanmar with the outfit's general headquarters located in Sagaing.

Myanmar had earlier pledged that the junta would not let Indian rebels operate from its soil. The country last year launched a military operation against the NSCN-K, killing at least a dozen rebels and overrunning several of their bases.

India and Myanmar share a 1,640-km long unfenced border, allowing militants from the northeast to use the adjoining country as a springboard to carry out hit-and-run guerrilla strikes on Indian soldiers.

The rebels say they are seeking to protect their ethnic identities and allege that the central government has exploited the resources in the region rich with mineral, tea, timber and oil.

Over 50,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in the northeast since India's independence in 1947.

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