Security of India’s Northeast: External Linkages

Sreeradha Datta, Associate Fellow, IDSA

 

A cursory look at the demographic mosaic of northeastern India would show that this region is home to a curious amalgam of cross-cutting societies. What compounds the problem of this plurality is the fact that the tendency for ethno-political assertion is high among almost all the groups. This is primarily because the political boundaries in most cases do not coincide with the existing social boundaries. The northeastern units of the Indian federation, in spite of several political permutations and combinations have not been able to cater to the demands of all the ethnic categories clamouring for recognition of their distinctive identity.

Many ethnic groups in the region especially in the areas bordering the international boundaries have more in common with the population living across the boundary than with their own nationals. The affinity of groups with their kin groups across the border and the sense of support (both material and non material) they derive from them, have had serious implications. The social continuities that stretch across the territorial frontiers have led to demands by the politically fragmented groups to redraw international boundaries and also to reorganise states within the Indian Union.1 In many cases due to external manipulations and support, these fragmented ethno-political groupings have taken to arms and have adopted a line of confrontation with the state and central administration. The scope for resolution of conflicts at the internal level has been affected by such external involvement. This has had tremendous impact on the overall security situation in India. This paper seeks to throw light on the external coordinates of the conflicts in the northeast.

Countries surrounding India have been active in exploiting the volatile situation presented by the turmoil in the northeast. Not only countries such as China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, but also smaller powers such as Bhutan and Nepal have been involved in the region. Through political backing, economic assistance, logistic support, military training or arms supplies these countries have varyingly contributed to the ongoing violence in this region.

The External Connections

China

Northeastern India is inhabited by Mongoloid tribes who have close ethnic and cultural ties with the tribes in China, Tibet and Burma. Barring Khasis and Jaintias of Meghalaya, almost all hill tribes belong to the Tibeto-Chinese fold and to the Tibeto-Burmese family.2 It was this feeling of affinity towards the border people of erstwhile East Pakistan and Burma that led some of these tribal groups to turn towards their own stock rather than towards the country they resided in. The strategic location of the northeast and the access of the disaffected groups to China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal, together with material and moral support of foreign intelligence agencies to these groups, have facilitated insurgency in the northeast region.

Among these, the Chinese support to insurgents in the northeast came early in the 1960s and continued through the 1970s. In May 1966, the Nagas approached Peoples’ Republic of China for ‘any possible assistance’. Subsequently, after the arduous journey of three months through Arunachal Pradesh and the difficult terrain of Burma, Issac Muivah, leader of Naga National Council, with a band of 300 men reached Yunan province in January 1967. It was in Yunan that the Naga fighters were imparted with the knowledge of arms and guerrilla tactics and they were also taught Maoism.3 With the Chinese support the Naga insurgency became stronger and more intense with better tactics and modern weapons. Apart from the Nagas, the Chinese also extended moral and material support to the Mizo and Meiti insurgents by arranging for their training in guerilla warfare and subversion in training centres in Yunan province of mainland China.and Lhasa in Tibet.4 In the late 1970s Peoples Liberation Army leader Biseshswar and his group of 16 visited Lhasa in Tibet to secure Chinese support for their cause.5

Over the years, the Chinese have sought to build bridges with India’s neighbours in order to contain her. They have helped build Pakistan as a counterweight to India. They have also tried to use Myanmar as a strategic observatory and have attempted to gain a foothold in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. China’s three largest arms clients are India’s neighbours—Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Chinese have also signalled the willingness to settle the border issue with Bhutan.

During the 1960s late and early 1970s, the Chinese covert support to the Naga insurgents brought about a better understanding between the Burmese and the Indian armies. And after the visit of General Ne Win in 1968 to meet Indian Prime Minister. Mrs. Indira Gandhi, China-bound rebels found it difficult to find a smooth passage without encountering the Burmese military. However, from late 1980s, especially after the Junta’s coming into power, Myanmar-China relations have improved and this has been a source of worry for India. The growing Chinese influence in Myanmar and in the Indian Ocean has had an effect on India’s defence-preparedness. A General of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences has spoken of the Chinese Navy extending its naval operations into the Indian Ocean in order to prevent it from becoming an "Indian" Ocean.6 China has expanded its naval influence to the Indian Ocean region through Myanmar. It is seeking a strategic outpost on Myanmarese islands close to India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Beijing is also engaged in building strategic road links from its border towns to railheads and sea-ports of Myanmar. Moreover , it is helping Myanmar in developing these ports."7

In recent years, specially since 1993 in spite of the fact that New Delhi has tried to propitiate China,8 the Chinese side has not reciprocated by relaxing its posture on the northeast, even though they have come out with a promise to scale down their support to the Nagas and the Mizos.9 Interestingly enough, the 90,000 square kilometres claimed by China as its territory are in the far eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, where the Indian defence minister had recently alleged "border incursions" by the Chinese army.10 India and China have held ten rounds of border talks since setting up a joint working group in 1988. But there was no significant progress. Over the years, both sides agreed to cut troops and armaments on their common frontier. However, critical differences still remain.

More recently, a note from the Arunachal government to the army headquarters on April 17, pointed out that 2000 Chinese personnel have been spotted laying the road track opposite Asaphila area in the Tawang district. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was busy building an unmetalled road track heading towards the Line of Actual Control (LAC) across Arunachal Pradesh even as the joint working group was trying to thrash out solutions to the lingering border dispute. Government sources said army units stationed in the area began collecting intelligence and were "quite astounded" to find that the unmetalled track was barely six to seven km from the LAC where Indian troops are holding positions. The road runs along the Yune Chu river across the LAC and, according to army intelligence reports, is between eight to 10 feet wide. Intelligence reports indicate that construction work has approached a place called the Yune Chu-Tadang Siko junction, and to make the track road operational, the Chinese army now has to only build a bridge over the river at Tadang Siko which, sources said, "will not be very difficult for the PLA to construct", especially since they are operating within their own territory." However, the situation could become alarming once the Chinese get close to the LAC," the sources added.11

The Chinese in their endeavour to normalise relations with India have been assuring New Delhi that they have stopped all aid to the insurgents in the northeast. It has been discouraging insurgent groups from trekking to China for receiving instruction in guerilla tactics.12 Pakistani analysts have taken this policy change as a shift in China’s position in South Asia. They have written that ‘from a policy of granting open support to Pakistan vis-a-vis India during the 1960s and 1970s, China’s strategic priorities changed in South Asia during 1980s and 1990s. From an active hostile relationship with India, China changed its India’s policy to passive hostility and finally neutrality".13 Nevertheless, India is yet to be convinced about Chinese intentions.

Pakistan

A slight step back into history would reveal that the northeast was always a part of the scheme in the overall Pakistani strategy. From the very outset Pakistan has shown its disagreement over the territorial division. One time PM of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in his book, 'The Myth of Independence', laid claims to Assam and suggested that he wanted some areas of India’s northeast to be included in Pakistan: He wrote: "One (of the problems) at least is nearly as important as the Kashmir dispute: that of Assam and some districts of India adjacent to East Pakistan. To these East Pakistan has very good claims, which should not have been allowed to remain quiescent (...The eviction of Indian Muslims into East Pakistan and the disputed borders of Assam and Tripura should not be forgotten." Bhutto advocated a policy of ‘special relationship with non-Hindu population of Assam until this wrong (of Assam being an integral part of India) can be finally righted’. His statement was an open confession of Pakistani designs to convert Assam into a Muslim majority state by pushing in hordes of infiltrators and finally annexing it.14 Many in India were aware of this Pakistani strategy even earlier.15

Many analysts would say that such a strategy was reinvigorated after the creation of Bangladesh, which freed Pakistan from the problem of having to defend both East and West Pakistan. The Pakistanis were left with two choices for any future war with India; keep the war as much as possible on the Indian soil or raise the cost of an Indian attack.16 However, facts would suggest such a Pakistani strategy was well in operation in the 1950s and 1960s as well.

It will be useful to dwell upon the history of the involvement of Pakistan in the nascent ethnic movements in the northeast. Since the establishment of the Naga National Council in 1956, Pakistan(East Pakistan) was the first to step in with moral and material support.17 Pakistan not only gave material support with weapons and training in guerrilla warfare but also attempted to internationalise the issue.18 In 1956, Naga National Council leader A.Z. Phizo spearheading the Naga insurgency fled to Dhaka. From there he was flown to London on a false passport provided by Pakistan.19 The Naga insurgents had been receiving weapons and training in East Pakistan till the formation of Bangladesh.

Another important insurgent group active in the region were the Mizos. The Mizos, united under the banner of Mizo National Front (MNF), started claiming their independence in the early 1960s. The MNF emerged as the political party of the Mizos of the Lushai hills which was then a part of Assam. With the failure of MNF to capture the District Council in 1963, its leader Laldenga with a group of volunteers reached out to Pakistan (at that time East Pakistan was acting as the hub of the insurgent activities in India) for acquisition of arms and training.20 By one account about 200 trained volunteers had returned to Mizo hills from the erstwhile East Pakistan in 1966.21 When the MNF was declared unlawful by the Indian government following its declaration of independence in February 1968, Mizo National Army was forced to go underground and cross the borders into the Chittagong Hill Tracts and Pakistan began training Laldenga and his volunteers there.

With the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971, the Mizo and Naga groups were deprived of their bases. The Mizos travelled to West Pakistan and developed further ties with Pakistan via Rangoon.22 The Mizo rebels developed and strengthened their linkages with the Burmese Communist Party and thus managed to reach the Yuanan province through the Kachin passage. Subir Bhaumik opines that only after China’s overt support of the Naga rebels and the concurrent Mizo National Front, the Pakistanis devised a strategy of linking up the tribal guerrilla outfits under one ‘joint command’. This was designed to make up for their failure of the Kashmiri operations by an identical effort in the northeast.23 In fact, Pakistan’s attempt to make its presence felt in a big way in the area in the last decade has only been a continuation of that effort.

From the 1980s, there has been a quantum jump in the covert operations by the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), better known in its acronymic form, which has consistently kept up its cross-border activities for instigating, supporting and directing insurgent activities in northeast India. The aim of such involvement is clear—to weaken India’s internal security system and to engage India internally so that Indian attention is diverted from Kashmir and Pakistan. This strategy was put into action against the backdrop of the latent nuclear deterrence in the mid-1980s. ISI has operated from Nepal and Bangladesh. It has effectively exploited the prevailing communal hiatus in the northeastern region.24 In fact in recent years there has been a ‘mushrooming’ of Islamist groups. According to Major General B K Bopanna, GOC, 21 Mountain Division, some madrasas [Islamic religious institutions] in Assam are helping the growth of separatist forces with active ISI help. According to the General, there are numerous such schools in lower Assam’s Nalbari and Barpeta districts as well as in southern Assam’s Barak valley. "The army has taken serious note of it in view of the large-scale Bangladeshi infiltration into the North- East," General Bopanna said: "The possibility of many militants taking shelter in these schools cannot be ruled out."25

At least 18 separate Islamist militant groups have so far been identified by security agencies, with names like the Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (Mulfa), Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (Multa), People’s United Liberation Front (Pulf),26 Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Adam Sena, ‘Jehad’ Council, etc. The Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam is an umbrella organisation recently floated by a number of separate outfits to carry out their activities in a concerted manner. Most of these groups are based in Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta and Nalbari districts in lower Assam, Nagaon and Marigaon districts of central Assam and Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts of southern Assam’s Barak valley, besides the Char (alluvial islands) areas in the Brahmaputra river.27 Islamic fundamentalists have targeted India in recent years and they have managed to find their sympathisers from these organisations.28 They have queered the pitch for their movements by saying that they have designs well beyond Kashmir and seek to enlarge the jehad and they maintain that the mujahideen "had penetrated into Himachal Pradesh and the flag of Islam will fly soon on Delhi, Washington and Tel Aviv."29 ISI plans in the northeast are also as sinister. Inspector General of Police M. Ramchandran told reporters that from interrogation of two Harkat ul Mujhahideen activists30 it emerged that ISI has plans to train a large number of people in Assam for jehad to "liberate Assam and establish an Islamic country comprising territory of the State and certain other parts of NE."31

Reports suggest that ISI is playing an active role in channeling a large quantity of arms discarded by the dreaded Khmer Rouge of Cambodia after its fall, to the insurgent groups in the northeast, including the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) (Issac Muivah), United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) and the Bodo groups. The arms are bought by the groups from clandestine markets in Thailand and are shipped to Cox’s Bazar port largely through intelligence operations by the ISI, not very far from the intractable hills of the Tripura-Mizoram frontier and then they are carried as headloads into India.32

The arms route and the drugs follow the same route in the region. India’s northeastern neighbourhood, better known as the golden triangle, was known for the largest production of opium in the world, until Afghanistan took over from 1999. The infamous drug-baron Khun Sa had penetrated the Bangladesh-India frontiers quite early and one of the major drug routes passed through Cox Bazar. With the surrender of Khun Sa in 1996, and agreement with 17 rebel groups of Myanmar, with the exception of the Kachins, the Myanmarese Junta was able to break the drug cartel that was being run by Khun Sa. But with the breakdown of this drug empire small groups present in the region came in to the drug trade directly and in the absence of any definite modus operandi available to them they required outsiders to work out the logistics of trading and selling this item, as the production of narcotics continued to flourish in this region.

The northeast insurgents who were always a beneficiary of this trade have jumped into this trade as conduits. They take over the shipment and even direct sales of the drugs, thus accruing for themselves a larger share of the monetary gains out of the deals made by them. Smaller groups have cut out a share of Khun Sa’s collapsed monopoly and are exporting heroin through new routes across the Mekong region and India, making interception extremely difficult.33 The role of ISI in this arms-drugs transfer into India has been emphasised by Indian agencies in recent years. Many Pakistani sources also indicate the involvement of ISI in drug deals.34 This has also been confirmed by American intelligence findings.35 Recent reports suggest that the ISI base camp in Dhubri sector was being used as a center for smuggling of ganja and brown sugar.36

The unprecedented haul of high power explosives from the Sealdah station and two other places of West Bengal, though not the deadly RDX, was preceded by one of the worst train mishaps at Gaisal and the powerful blast at the New Jalpaiguri railway station in June 1999. This clearly indicated the dent of the insurgents into West Bengal, a state which was considered as relatively quiet in terms of insurgent activities. The ISI-backed agents used just one kg of ANFO to trigger the massive blast in the New Jalpaiguri railway station on June 22 last, killing nine persons including five army jawans [soldiers].37 That the shipment originated in Bangladesh, or was at least transited through it, confirms the suspicion that anti-India insurgent groups, backed and funded by ISI, have struck deep roots in neighbouring countries. Bangladesh and Nepal are infested with ISI operatives who are opening up new fronts on Indian borders to infiltrate into this country and target vulnerable areas.38

Siliguri in North Bengal, the gateway to northeastern states, is fast becoming a haven for ISI agents. While Siliguri is the main gateway to Guwahati in Assam, Gangtok in Sikkim and Kisanganj in Bihar, it shares borders with three countries—Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. Its cosmopolitan culture has enabled people from various parts including ULFA and ISI agents to get mingled with the locals almost effortlessly. The recent arrest of 13 persons suspected to be on the ISI payroll for quite sometime, reveals how the subversive organisation has hatched a plan to spread its network in the northeast states and carry out anti-national activities.39 The Government of West Bengal has admitted in the Assembly that the ISI was indeed active in the area and was using Siliguri as a "corridor."40

Bangladesh

East Pakistan, Bangladesh since 1971, was host to many insurgent activities unleashed against India in the northeastern region. As mentioned earlier, Pakistan had decided quite early to keep India engaged internally. Indo-Bangladesh relations were cordial till Mujibur Rehaman was in power. After all, Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation largely due to Indian military intervention. But soon after the Sheikh’s assassination, the forces used to the Pakistani style of thinking took over and the policy of hosting anti-India insurgents on Bangladeshi soil was revived. In many cases, some of these political groupings in Bangladesh have reaped good electoral harvest by whipping up anti-India sentiments.

Thus, with the emergence of Bangladesh, the tribal insurgents operating under Pakistani intelligence cover within East Pakistan suffered a setback. The status quo was maintained till Sheikh Mujib’s regime was pulled down. Immediately after the assassination of Mujibur Rehaman, the new regime allowed the Mizo insurgents to establish their bases in Chittagong Hill Tracts. BSF sources say that Naga insurgents have their base camps at Salopi, near the Mizoram-Bangladesh-Myanmar border in the Cox’s Bazar area, as well as in Bandarban in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Manipuri rebels who were intercepted recently by the BSF and the Mobile Task Force (MTF), admitted that Meitei militants were now running their camps at Nagar and Chitalhiya, both within Bangladesh border, in villages under Sylhet, Commilla, and Moulobi Bazar districts.41 Moreover, various Bangladeshi governments till the present one headed by Ms. Sheikh Hasina had allowed Pakistan Intelligence operatives to launch their anti-India activities from Bangladeshi soil. In most of the cases the government turned a blind eye to the ISI operations inside Bangladesh. This has facilitated the ISI channelisation of money and materials through Bangladesh to insurgent groups in the northeast.

The anti-India operations have been largely possible because of the presence of an overwhelming illegal immigrant Bangladeshi population in the northeast. The porosity of the Indo-Bangladesh border has led to many unanticipated problems for India.42 The porous border between Indian states of Assam, West Bengal and Bangladesh has led to the smuggling of jute, rice and other commodities. Smuggling in itself is not a problem but it is symptomatic of the difficulties in the relations of the two states.43 As the entire Indo-Bangladesh border is porous and prone to large-scale illegal immigration, infiltration and smuggling from Bangladesh, the Centre had sanctioned work on the Indo-Bangla border roads and fencing project in 1986. This has not been completed as yet.

Due to the porosity of the borders, the northeast has also become a hotspot for large-scale migration across the borders. The ethnic affinities that cut across the boundaries have traditionally facilitated the movement of people from poor states to richer neighbours.44 India has been the victim of large-scale in-migration from bordering countries. Its booming economy, liberal democratic society and ethno-cultural commonality with the bordering states has encouraged people from the neighbourhood to migrate to India. This population has been the prime target of the Pakistani intelligence in every likelihood. Moreover, the local population within India has treated these migrants as unacceptable aliens. This has added to the complexity of the problem in the northeastern region.

The first wave of refugee influx in the region occurred after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. There has been a large flow of refugees and undocumented migrants from East Pakistan ever since. The massive in-migration was responsible for the Assam crisis in the late seventies. Apart from these, refugee and other migrant inflow from Nepal, Myanmar (after the coming of the military regime), and also from Bhutan has been the nemesis of this region. Several of the northeastern states have witnessed violent movements rooted in the foreigners’ issue. The Chakmas are the "foreigners" in Arunachal Pradesh, Bengalis from East Pakistan are foreigners in Tripura, Chin refugees (from Myanmar) in Mizoram and Manipur and Bengalis and other non-Assamese in Assam. A strong ‘anti-foreigner movement’ against the Chakma residents rocked Arunachal Pradesh in recent years. Chakma refugees were settled in the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) region (now Arunachal Pradesh) in the 1960s and since 1994, Chakmas and Hajongs have been facing deportation threats and discrimination.45 All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) has issued an ultimatum aimed at evicting Chakmas, Hajongs and Tibetans from the state. The issue of granting citizenship to the Chakmas is still hanging in balance inspite of the recommendation of the same by a Parliamentary Committee.

The resentment over the increase in the number of Chakmas in Mizoram is another cause for worry. Mizos allege that a large number of Chakmas from Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region of Bangladesh have settled in the Chakma Autonomous District Council in the state. Again, the tribal-outsider dichotomy has generated violence in Meghalaya, Tripura and Assam, thus leading to a silent out-migration of the non-tribal population from these states. However, the most widely known anti-foreign agitation took place in Assam when it became an election issue in 1978. The success of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in coming to power on the anti-foreigners’ platform induced some of the other political parties to pursue similar postures. Recently, the Bodos are seen to be adopting a communal line over the issue of Bangladeshis and they are reportedly targeting the Muslim population in the region.46

In a meeting of the Chief Ministers in New Delhi on July 7 1999 Mr Manik Sarkar of Tripura pointed out that the porous border between India and Bangladesh is used by the insurgent groups as their corridor for movement to and from their camps in the neighbouring country. There was no fencing in any part of the border, making it possible for the underground insurgents to cross the border without any hindrance. The Government of India’s attempt to fence off the border has not been received favourably in Bangladesh. An official quoting a report from Bangladesh said the government there has expressed its unhappiness over the project. "In view of the cordial relations between the two countries, such measures might prove to be an unfair one," the Bangladesh foreign minister said in Dhaka recently... .47

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre and the government of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura to file affidavits on a Public Interest Litigation seeking repatriation of over 10 million Bangladeshi migrants illegally staying in India. The PIL filed by All India Lawyers Forum for Civil Liberties through its President O.P. Saxena had alleged that over one crore (10 million) Bangladeshi migrants have illegally crossed over to India and were causing severe strain on the resources of the poor northeastern States as well as West Bengal. It has sought a direction from the Court to the Centre to identify these Bangladeshi nationals and repatriate them with the help of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other agencies.48

The Centre, in its earlier affidavit, had admitted that there was large-scale illegal migration from Bangladesh and had put the number between 1.2 to 1.8 crore. It said that due to ethnic, linguistic, cultural, physical and social similarities, the Bangladeshi nationals tend to merge easily with the local population making it impracticable to identify them. However, all steps to identify these illegal migrants were being taken under Foreigners Act, 1946 and under Illegal Migrants Determination by Tribunal Act 1983 of Assam.

The West Bengal Government in its affidavit said that Bangladeshi authorities had so far not shown any willingness to formally accept those who were sought to be deported from India. ‘Bangladesh Government has not even shown willingness to accept those who are sought to be deported on the basis of court orders,’ the State Government said. ‘Consequently all action for pushing back infiltrators are turning out to be infructuous’, West Bengal Government said and added that ‘many of those who were pushed back, re-entered into Indian territory through clandestine routes.’

Numerically speaking, the Bangladeshis have swamped not only the northeastern region but also other parts of India.49 In Delhi itself there is an estimated population of 300,000 illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Their presence in Mumbai has led to demands by the Shiv Sena to push them back to Bangladesh.

In continuation of this it is possible to argue that many influential groups in Bangladesh, who have had a dream of unification of Bangladesh with West Bengal and a part of Assam,50 are in a purposeful way working towards the realisation of this dream. Various opposition parties in Bangladesh led by the Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP) have argued in favour of treating the anti-India insurgent groups in a soft and relaxed manner.

As long as the BNP was in power, the insurgents were given every help by the Bangladesh Government and the ISI ran training camps for them with impunity. There was a crackdown on these camps and ISI activities were considerably restricted when the Awami League Government came to power in 1996. That, however, has not prevented the ISI as well as the insurgent groups from continuing to operate from Bangladesh. They are supported by a section of the administration, which is pathologically anti-Indian as well as the BNP—whose leader, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, has described the northeastern insurgents as "freedom fighters"—and the fundamentalist elements.51

Apart from assisting insurgent groups in northeast India, Bangladesh is being increasingly used for smuggling ISI agents into India through its porous borders with West Bengal, as Nepal is used for sending them into North India, particularly Uttar Pradesh. Meanwhile, the ISI’s operations have spread to other parts of India like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.

Media reports suggest that the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has started several lucrative income-generating projects in Bangladesh to sustain its anti-India activities in this country. These include three hotels, a private clinic and two motor driving schools in Dhaka, a number of grocery and drug stores in Sylhet, poultry farms in Mymensingh, and two schools in Narsingdi.52

Myanmar

India shares a 1670 km long land border and a maritime border of 200 km with Myanmar. The present day population along the India-Myanmar border has a strong socio-cultural affinity, which is the outcome of a long historical process of intermingling among the people of the area. They belong to the Tibeto Burmese stock and trace their origin to the east i.e. through Burma or from Burma. The Indo-Myanmar border remains comparatively peaceful and there is no remarkable border conflict between the two countries. However, the separatist feeling and legacy of discontent among the various tribes straddling the borders still survives.

If one goes back in history, many northeastern insurgent groups, like the Nagas, the Mizos and the Meitis, had bases in Burma as well. During mid-1966 NNC established contact with the Kachin Independence Army in the Kachin Hill tracts of Burma. The Mizos and Tripuris were also able to establish links with the Burmese insurgents and found safe sanctuaries in the lightly administered border areas of Burma.

Some Burmese tribals belonging to the Kuki Chin Group are fighting for merger of lands inhabitated by them with India.53 The underground Zomi Liberation Front in Myanmar used to recruit cadres for guerilla warfare against Myanmar. After the crackdown on pro-democracy supporters, many of these have sought shelter in Manipur and Mizoram.54

These groups have found the Indo-Myanmar border eminently suitable for their free movement across international frontiers. They have found no problem in crossing the border because of free passage between the border towns of Moreh in Manipur and Tamu in Myanmar. This has facilitated drug-routing from the golden triangle through the northeastern region. The NSCN, (both Khaplang and Issac-Muivah faction), and also the ULFA are reportedly involved in drug trafficking and they are using the sale proceeds for purchase of arms and ammunition. The Kachin Independent Army KIA) and Burmese Communist Party (BCP), the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) and other such attempts have all developed a nexus with NSCN and ULFA for drug trafficking across the border. The Myanmarese rebels ensure that drugs are brought under their protection up to the Tamu on the Indo-Myamnar border and also upto Bangladesh-Myanmar border. The Indian insurgent groups and the Bangladesh syndicates take over from these locations and thereafter push the drugs inland.

The refugees from Myanmar have also affected the security situation in the region. The Chin refugees from Myanmar are no longer welcome in Mizoram. Chin National Front, is quite active inside Myanmar and allegedly there are political elements among the refugees who maintain active links with CNF on the other side. They were supposed to be involved in the Kuki-Paite clashes in Manipur.55 Thang Lian Pau, a member of Myanmar’s Parliament and belonging to Zomi National Council crossed over to India in 1997 and took charge of Zomi Revolutionary Organization (ZRO), a Manipur based Paite underground organisation. The CNF has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Kuki-Paite clashes but the link and association of the Chins with some insurgent outfits in India is not doubted by the Indian authorities.56 Political and security considerations have, therefore played an important role in shaping the response and the policy of the Indian government toward the Myanmarese refugees.

The sixth national level meeting between the officials of (Ministry of Home Affairs) India and Myanmar devoted much of its time discussing cross-border terrorism in the northeast. Apart from the question of promotion of border trade, the two sides also agreed to check movement of militants across the border. They also agreed to strengthen communication networks along the international border. Moreover, the two sides also agreed to step up measures to check narcotics smuggling across the Indo-Myanmar border. The two sides also discussed the possibility of launching joint operations against the militants operating out of Myanmar. It may be recalled here that the last joint operation code named ‘Operation Golden Bird’ was very successful and it dealt a heavy blow to ULFA.57

Thailand Factor

The Indian Home Ministry is worried about Thailand turning into a base of operations for the various militant groups operating in the northeast. According to a report of the ministry on insurgents in the northeast, Thailand has a flourishing clandestine arms bazaar located in the Three Pagoda Pass area opposite Karen state in Myanmar, and along the Ranong coast adjoining Tenasserim division along the country’s coastline. The two areas along the Myanmar border are controlled by rebel ethnic groups. Arms of every description, including assault rifles of the Automatic Kalashnikov (AK) series, rocket launchers, communication equipment, night vision aids are freely available. According to senior administration and police officials, the real worry for India starts when these arms are transshipped from southern Thailand and Myanmar to Bangladesh in fishing vessels operated by Burmese insurgents. The officials added that Operation Leech mounted by the Indian armed forces off the Andaman coast recently is by far the biggest proof of such shipments. Once these arms land at Bangladeshi ports, they are provided to militant groups operating in Tripura, Assam and Manipur through west and north Mizoram where vigil is comparatively less than other northeastern States. At times, Meghalaya has also been used to store arms meant for United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA).

While unfolding the genesis of northeast insurgents relations with Thailand’s arms dealers, the report says that the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was the first group from the region to establish its presence in that country in 1987. Several ULFA activists are also known to have visited Thailand for negotiating the purchase of arms and communication equipment. According to an official here, it was ironic that due to lack of good weapons and sophisticated communication aids with government agencies, the militants were being able to smuggle their deadly arsenal into India.58

Bhutan

Given India’s porous borders with Bhutan, the militant groups from Assam have very often sought refuge in Bhutanese territory. It has proved really difficult on the part of the security forces to handle these forces operating from Bhutan. At least 4,000 cadres of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and more than a thousand tribal Bodo militants from Assam are estimated to have crossed the borders and are based in camps in southern Bhutan. Assam Chief Minister P.K. Mahanta recently said that the Bhutanese authorities should come up with firm policy decisions to drive out all Assamese militant groups holed up in well-entrenched bases inside the Himalayan kingdom. "Bhutanese authorities should take steps to dismantle all militant camps and drive the rebels from their territory," Mahanta said. Media reports quoting official sources suggest that the Assamese rebels are treated with good sense of hospitality from the Bhutanese authorities, who have turned a blind eye to their operations from Bhutanese soil.59

Nepal

Nepal is acting as the safest entry point for intelligence operations unleashed by Pakistani intelligence against India. The fact that Nepal was being used as a corridor to smuggle in ISI agents has been established after the tracking down of Yakoob Memon, one of the accused in the Bombay Blast case in 1996 from Kathmandu. The recent hijacking of an Indian aircraft from Kathmandu revealed the dangerous face of cross-border intelligence activities targeted at Indian national security. Many of the ISI agents have found the Nepal route safe to enter into northern India and then spread out to the northeast and other regions.

In the first week of January 2000, a junior staffer at the Pakistani embassy in Kathmandu Asim Saboor was caught red-handed by the Nepali intelligence for the printing of counterfeit Indian currency.

The issue of ISI agents operating from Nepal to abet terrorist activities in India topped the agenda of the crucial talks between External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and his Nepalese counterpart Ram Sharan Mahat in June 2000. ISI agents operating from Nepal has been a point of serious concern for New Delhi as the militants have been taking advantage of the 1,800 km porous Indo-Nepal border in fomenting trouble in various parts of India. "The open borders with Nepal should not be misused by extremists elements sponsored by Pakistan’s ISI," Indian officials said.60

Recent Trends

While it is true that most of the countries bordering the northeastern region have tried to fish in the troubled waters, the role played by the ISI has been dominant. The main aim of ISI has been to coordinate various external interventions into a single strategic policy in the area. Perhaps, the ISI enjoys tacit support from the Chinese and Myanmarese authorities as well as many official and non-official sources in Bangladesh in carrying out its activities in the whole region.

In recent times, the Pakistan intelligence agencies have expanded their network in the whole of the northeastern region. They have sought to unite various insurgent groups in the northeast and make Indian counter-insurgency operations ineffective. In this game, ISI has managed to penetrate into training camps of various insurgent groups in Myanmar and even Bhutan.

Indian intelligence reports cited in the media said that the ULFA has established training camps and sanctuaries in the Manas Reserve and other densely forested areas of South Bhutan. The ISI remains the principal backer of ULFA. Media reports suggested that ULFA camps at Deothang and Koipani areas of Bhutan and at Chittangong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh have been reactivated through ISI support.61 Pradeep Gogoi, vice-chairman of ULFA who was arrested by Calcutta police in April 1998 stated under interrogation that ‘ULFA had close links with some foreign intelligence agencies’ and that he himself was a ‘state guest in Islamabad between March and December 1991.62 Even though the Assamese people have rejected the ULFA ideology, the banned organisation remains a force to reckon with.

Recently GOC Lt Gen. D.B. Shekatakar, said that ULFA has sought shelter from the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) in its camp in northern Burma adjoining the border with Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. And telephone calls from different parts of Assam are often made to Karachi, Lahore, Sialkot, Narowar and other places in Pakistan. In fact after Kargil its frequency has increased to even 3-4 times a day.63

The US has taken note of the ISI role in fomenting trouble in northeast India. A state department official confirmed ISI operations in the northeast. When he quoted the Bangladesh ambassador to Washington, K.M Shehabuddin to the effect that Pakistani intelligence had been operating terrorist cells in Bangladesh, but they have been stymied by the Awami League government.64 Reports say that there are at least 50 Pakistani Afghan nationals who have come under the observation of the intelligence agencies in the capital alone. About 10,000 ISI elements are operating in the northeast as the ‘resident agents’ of the Inter-Services Intelligence (IS I) of Pakistan with their biggest concentration in the Tinsukia area of Assam. These elements are crucial clogs in the ISI networks. They provide the logistic and reconnaissance support to the main operatives. The terrorist strikes are carried out after large scale planning and involvement of agents at different levels. The role of the resident agents are important in preliminary investigations.65

The Indian Home Minister L.K. Advani has maintained that the insurgency in Assam and other parts of northeast has been encouraged and strengthened by the ISI.66 The large-scale diversion of the security forces from the northeast in the wake of the Kargil conflict was utilised by the hostile elements to set up bases and training camps. The Kargil misadventure has now prompted Pakistan to reorient its low intensity conflict against India by setting up ISI operations in the northeast. New ULFA and Bodo camps have sprung up in Assam and existing camps in Bhutan and Bangladesh have been reactivated.67 The ISI has been actively pursuing for a coordinated and unified approach between the militant outfits of the region. An alarming development has been the growth of Islamic fundamentalist organisations in the entire region. The growing involvement of the ISI and the emergence of the radical groups would have the effect of prolonging the uncertainty, chaos and bloodshed by India’s hostile neighbours and now Pakistan has made the northeast the second front of its proxy war against India.

Countries that are unfriendly towards India find an opportunity in the ongoing turmoil in the northeast and their involvement has made the problems that much more difficult to resolve. Because of geographical proximity, even smaller countries such as Nepal and Bhutan are unable to remain immune to the developments in this region. The transborder nature of the ethnic and religious affinities provides a fertile ground for external involvement. As a result, various militant groups operating in northeast received political as well as financial support from across the border. The porous nature of the borders makes it easier for militants to operate and maintain military and logistical bases in the neighbouring countries. Among the various external forces active in the region, Pakistan has been the prominent player. Even though it has been meddling with the regional politics since the late 1950s, in recent years the involvement has increased. Its support, channelled through the ISI comes in the form of financial assistance, ideological indoctrination and logistical support in the form of false passports and documents. Because of geographical considerations, Bangladesh and Nepal have emerged as the prime conduits for Pakistani activities in the northeast.

The external powers and their activities have impacted upon the security of India’s northeast. Historical and geographical factors have compounded the security concerns of the government. A number of factors are responsible for the creation of unrest and turmoil in the northeast. The role of the external powers in fomenting unrest in the region has not been understood clearly by the policy makers. It is only in recent years that the destabilising role of the external powers and the security threat that they represent is being probed. There is hardly much understanding how small but hostile neighbours have taken advantage of a country’s vulnerability in its strategic soft underbelly. The security threat posed by hostile external forces do not engage the country in the traditional military sense. At the same time support and encouragement of the militant activities through moral and material help has created disaffection amongst the local populace and necessitated the deployment of security forces in counter-insurgency operations. Important in the context of the northeast is the threat posed by massive in-migration in the region, drug trafficking, the grant of base and training facilities to the insurgents by our neighbours and the attempt to create a chasm between communities. The Chinese have scaled down their involvement with the northeastern insurgent groups for about two decades now. The Pakistani role in encouraging insurgency in the region had come to an end with the emergence of Bangladesh. This was, however, only temporary. Hostile elements in Bangladesh revived the linkages between unrest in the northeast and the use of East Pakistani territory by the insurgents. In recent years, Pakistan and the role of ISI has become central to India’s security concerns.

 

NOTES

1. The NSCN (I-M) demand for greater Nagaland and Kuki National Army (KNA) demand for Kukiland, for instance, cuts across the political boundaries of India, Bangladesh, and China.

2. V.I.K. Sarin, India’s North-East in Flames (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House 1980), p. 10.

3. Ibid., p. 105.

4. Ibid., p. 11.

5. Ibid., 122

6. C. Uday Bhaskar, "Myanmar" India Abroad, January 1995.

7. M. Satish , "Bid to woo Myanmar away from China", The Economic Times, April 10, 1995.

8. The 1993 border peace agreement was based on principles that Beijing had long advocated to lend legitimacy to its annexation of Indian territories: Keep the frontier dispute aside and normalise relations. The two nations have pledged to "maintain peace and tranquility" along the line of actual control (LAC)- but without fully delineating the LAC, which remains laced with ambiguities. A string of border-related measures have followed the 1993 accord to anoint and underpin the status quo. (The Pioneer, October 10, 1996, Brahma Chellany)

9. The Pioneer, January 14, 1999. In high level exchanges during the Vajpayee government China promised not to assist Naga and Mizo insurgencies.p 10

10. The News, reported on May 1, 1998.

11. This was reported by The Telegraph, May 17, 2000. Over the past two years, there has been an increase in construction activity in Chinese-held territory close to the LAC in other sectors as well. A network of metalled roads and mule tracks has been laid by the PLA for bringing in military and communication hardware and rations. Indian army officials read ominous signs in the hectic activity and regular supplies to the Chinese posts all along the LAC. Even in the western sector, in Ladakh’s disputed Aksai Chin area, the PLA has intruded into Indian territory and built a network of metalled roads and bunkers within a 25 sq km area just behind a strategic point called ‘K’ Hill northeast of Trijunction near the Chip Chap river. The Telegraph (Calcutta) had reported on February 1 that these roads from the LAC lead up to grid references 5459 and 5495 within which the piece of land had been "occupied". The roads were built between June and August 1999, at the height of the Kargil war.

12. Sarin, n 2, p 12.

13. The News, December 11, 1996 Moonis Ahmar.

14. Z.A. Bhutto, The Myth Of Independence, (London: Oxford University Press, 1969) p. 163.

15. Speaking on a debate in Parliament on the introduction of the Immigrant Expulsion Bill, in 1950 Sardar B.S. Mann had said: "I have not considered opinion of the Assam Govt that during Muslim League regime there was a conspiracy to convert Assam, which was a Hindu province into a Muslim Majority province. It was deep-seated deep-rooted and well-planned conspiracy of the Muslim League when Mr Saadullah was the Premier of Assam and as a result of this the large-scale migration was started...........Assam was the only province which did not have a Muslim majority, which was demanded to be included in Pakistan........". Saroj Chakrabarty, The Upheaval Years in North East India, (Calcutta: Sree Saraswaty Press Ltd, 1984), pp.132, 133.

16. Sumit Ganguly advances such an argument in his book, The Origins of War in South Asia: Indo-Pakistani Conflict Since 1947. (Boulder: Westview Press 1986, p. 138.

17. The help from China and Burma came in later. During mid-1966 NNC established contact with the Kachin Independence Army in the Kachin Hill tracts of Burma. (Sanjoy Hazarika Strangers in the Mist: Tales of War and Peace from India’s Northeast, New Delhi, Penguin Books India, 1994 p. 103). In May 1966, the Nagas approached Peoples’ Republic of China for ‘any possible assistance’.

18. Subir Bhaumik, Insurgent Crossfire, (New Delhi: Lancer Publishers: 1996) p. 42.

19. Nirmal Nibedon Night of the Guerrillas (New Delhi: Lancer Book, 1985) p. 90.

20. BG Verghese, India’s Northeast: Resurgent Ethnicity, Insurgency, Governance, Development, (New Delhi: Konark, 1997), p. 40

21. Sarin, n 2, p. 154.

22. Verghese, n 20, p. 143.

23. Bhaunik, n 18, p. 44.

24. Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mohanta said recently in Assam Assembly that the Assam police had gathered sufficient evidence to prove that the Pak-espionage outfit, the ISI, has been actively involved in fomenting violence and terrorism in the state. ISI support includes active support to the local militant outfits, spawning new militant outfits, supplying explosives and arms to various groups, causing sabotage of oil pipelines and other installations such as roads rails, promoting fundamentalism and misleading youth in the name of Jehad, communal tension between the Hindus and the Muslims. A spate of arrests in July-August 1999 directly proved the links of these groups with the ISI, Indian intelligence revealed to the media. There is a growing nexus between Islamic fundamentalists and the criminal fringe elements in various countries. They include the underworld dons of Mumbai, the smugglers of Nepal and the drug mafia in Pakistan. (The Sentinel, April 17, 2000.)

25. Deccan Herald, August 8, 1999. (Internet version)

26. The activities of a newly formed Islamic insurgent group, Peoples’ United Liberation Front (Pulf), also came to light with the arrest of four members in Barpeta on July 22. According to police, this group, originally formed in Manipur with the help of the Isak-Muivah faction of the NSCN [National Socialist Council of Nagaland] also has links with the ISI. Some of the PULF militants received training in handling different weapons like AK-series rifles, rocket launchers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), at Lydenpullen near Imphal from March to June 1998. During interrogation by security agencies, he disclosed that there were 22 trainees in the camp at the time, two from Barpeta, three from Nagaon and the rest from Manipur. The Pulf is said to have a state committee headed by one Abdul Aziz and three district committees- Nagaon, Barpeta and Lakhimpur. Pulf militants were involved in several cases of kidnapping for ransom, police sources said recently.

27. August 8, 1999, Deccan Herald.

28. In recent times Islamic fundamentalism has emerged to wage its jehad against all non-Islamic states. And more specifically, Osama bin Laden, in September 1999, issued his threat of September 16, which appeared in Jang, the mass circulated Urdu daily published from Pakistan. Calling for an all out jehad against India for the first time, bin Laden declared: "India and America are now our biggest enemies ... all mujahideen groups in Pakistan should come together now to target India ... we are always ready to help the Kashmiri mujahideen."( Reported in India Today, October 4, 1999. Report by Jason Burke and Harwinder Bawija)

29. S.K. Dutta, "Fundamental Backing", The Pioneer, June 17, 1999.

30. Harkat ul Mujahideen is operating in the eastern sector of India in Yatrabari near Dhaka and Bangladesh’s Rajshai district. Their operational base is the Noorani Madrasa. They use two routes to take new recruits to Bangladesh. In Assam they cross the border from Karimganj and reach Sylhet through Jakiganj, while in West Bengal they cross from Dinhat in Cooch Behar districts. (Asian Age, May 23, 1999)

31. Deccan Herald, August 16, 1999.

32. Deccan Herald, July 2, 1997.

33. Bangkok Post, January 13, 1997.

34. In an interview Nawaz Sharif claimed that three months after his election as prime minister in November 1990, Gen Aslam Beg, then army chief of staff, and Gen Asad Durrani, the head of the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Bureau (ISI), told him the armed forces needed more money for covert foreign operations and wanted to raise it through large-scale drug deals. "General Durrani told me, "We have a blueprint ready for your approval," [quotation marks as received] said Sharif, who lost to Benazir Bhutto subsequently in elections in October 1998. "I was totally flabbergasted," Sharif said, adding that he called Beg a few days later to order the army officially not to launch the drug trafficking plan. But US and other officials have often complained about the country’s weak efforts to curtail the spread of guns, money laundering, official corruption and other elements of the deep rooted drug culture in Pakistan, which along with Afghanistan and Iran lies along the so-called Golden Crescent, one of the world’s biggest drug-producing regions. (As reported in The News, September 13, 1994).

35. According to a Western analyst "There were constant rumors that ISI was involved in rogue drug operation with the Afghans -- not so much for ISI funding, but to help the Afghans raise money for their operations," In a scathing report in 1992-93, a consultant hired by the CIA warned that drug corruption had permeated virtually all segments of Pakistani society and that drug kingpins were closely connected to the country’s key institutions of power including the president and military intelligence agencies. About 70 tons of heroin is produced annually in Pakistan, a third of which is smuggled abroad, mostly to the West, according to the State Department’s 1994 report on international drug trafficking. About 20 per cent of all heroin consumed in the United States comes from Pakistan and its northern neighbour, Afghanistan. The United Nations says that as much as 80 per cent of the heroin in Europe comes from the region. It has been rumoured for years that Pakistan’s military has been involved in the drug trade. Pakistan’s army, and particularly its intelligence agency, ISI, is immensely powerful and is known for pursuing its own agenda.(As reported in The News, September 13, 1994).

36. The Sentinel, March 10, 2000.

37. Along with this consignment were found detonation attachments like batteries, fuse wires and the like, all packed in boxes bearing the labels of a Bangladeshi biscuit company curiously called "Vitamin Plus" and further wrapped in a Dhaka newspaper dated July 8 1999. The police speculated that the consignment was headed towards the North-East or even North Bengal, which has become a new hunting ground for terrorists. (Deccan Herald, August 18, 1999)

38. The Pioneer, August 18, 1999.

39. According to state intelligence sources, sleuths were earlier tipped off by Sayeed Abul Nasiri, a well-trained Pakistani spy, who had been arrested here last month, about the presence of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agents in Siliguri. The State Police took into custody 13 suspected ISI agents from the Chappalpati area of the border town, who revealed the ISI connection. (Reported Deccan Herald, January 3, 1999).

40. The Pioneer, June 23, 1999.

41. Deccan Herald, August 17, 1999.

42. India and Bangladesh share a 4,095 km long border which is extremely porous. The share of West Bengal is 2,216 kms, Tripura 856 kms, Meghalaya 443 kms, Mizoram 318 kms, and Assam, 262 kms.

43. Ganguly, n. 16, p. 139.

44. There is substantial literature by various analysts on the ways in which economic differentials within and between countries have influenced migration on a large scale and this has implicit and explicit implications for the security of a region. For example see Myron Weiner, Security, Stability, and International Migration in The Global Migration Crisis Challenges to States and To Human Rights, ( London, England: Harper Collins, MIT Press, 1995).

45. Omprakash Mishra, "Forced Displacement in India’s Northeast," in Bhattacharya and Das, ed Perspective on India’s Northeast, (Calcutta: Bhibasa, 1998) p. 117-32.

46. Tribal guerrillas-militants from the Bodo tribal community opened fire with automatic weapons at a group of about 30 Moslem wood-cutters in Kokrajhar district, killing 23 of them instantly. National Democratic Front of Bodoland have been campaigning for a homeland in oil-rich Assam, massacred about 200 Moslems over three months in 1994-95, forcing thousands to flee their homes. Nearly 50,000 Moslems who fled the 1994-95 killings are still in refugee camps. Most of them had come to Assam from what is now Bangladesh decades ago but their presence is resented by the tribals. Naga and Mizo separatism in the northeast despite their volatility and strategic significance did not have communal implications. December 12, 1998 FBIS-NES 98-346.

47. Deccan Herald (Internet Version), July 12, 1999.

48. Assam Tribune, July 13, 1999.

49. A very novel way that the Bangladeshis have augmented their numbers specially prevalent in the Char region and also amongst the minority groups is the prevalence of giving the names of relatives in Bangladesh at the time of enumeration. When their names appear in the voters list they inform their relatives in Bangladesh to enter Assam. (The Sentinel, March 10, 2000). In recent years, there has been a ‘mushrooming’ of Islamist groups. According to Major General B K Bopanna, GOC, 21 Mountain Division, some madrasa [Islamic religious institutions] schools in Assam are helping the growth of separatist forces with active ISI help, According to the General, there are numerous such schools in lower Assam’s Nalbari and Barpeta districts as well as in southern Assam’s Barak valley. "The army has taken serious note of it in view of the large-scale Bangladeshi infiltration into the North- East," General Bopanna said. "The possibility of many militants taking shelter in these schools cannot be ruled out." (Deccan Herald, August 8, 1999. (Internet version)

50. The Sentinel, August 10, 1999. (internet edition)

51. The Pioneer, April 10, 1999.

52. Deccan Herald, October 25, 1998.

53. Phanjoubam Tarapot Insurgency Movement In North-Eastern India, (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House 1993) p. 143.

54. This had reportedly angered the Myanmarese authorities. All this led to Myanmar agreeing to lend support to the PLA members as revealed from their documents seized after the arrest of some of these PLA members.(See, Ibid p. 145).

55. Santanu Sharma ‘The Chin Connection’ The Week, November 15-30, 1997, p. 7.

56. Ibid.

57. Cited in Assam Tribune, July 31 1999.

58. Assam Tribune, July 4, 1999.

59. The Times Of India, April 23, 2000. A government official said that during interrogation, the surrendered ULFA militants mentioned that the Bhutan King had in recent times visited the headquarters in Southern Bhutan at least on three occasions.

60. The Pioneer, September 9, 1999.

61. The Times of India, October 12, 1999.

62. Karan R.Sawhny, "Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency: Ending Two Decades of Deadly Conflict in a Fracturing Polity", Peace Initiative, vol. 4, nos. 1&2, Jan-April 1998, p. 89.

63. Asian Age, June 26, 1999.

64. The Times of India, March 11, 2000.

65. The Pioneer, March 23, 1998.

66. Assam Tribune, Guwahati, September 29, 1999.

67. Observer of Business and Politics, New Delhi, October 4, 1999.