Ground report from Northeast: New strategy by India and Myanmar to flush out separatists

Jaideep Mazumdar
Contd from previous issue
After the NSCN(K) abrogated the ceasefire with India in 2015, interactions between the armies and intelligence establishments of the two countries was stepped up. “It was a lot of work and the Tatmadaw required some hard convincing to act against the NSCN(K),” said the army officer at Leimakhong. The attack on an army convoy in Chandel in Manipur that left 18 soldiers dead triggered a surgical strike by Indian Army’s special forces at two NSCN(K) camps inside Myanmar that left many rebels dead. But the publicity given to that successful strike angered Myanmar, and India had to work hard to smoothen ruffled feathers in that country.
“We learnt our lessons from that and have, since then, acting in close coordination with the Tatmadaw. And since early this year, the Tatmadaw has carried out a series of operations against the NSCN(K) and other rebel outfits of North East India sheltered in Sagaing largely on its own, but on the basis of vital inputs like satellite images provided by us,” said an Indian Army Brigadier, currently on deputation to the Assam Rifles. He has been closely involved in coordinated operations with the Tatmadaw. It is largely the Assam Rifles that guards the 1,600 km long Indo-Myanmar border.
This border is unfenced and, hence, very porous. But the thick and inhospitable forests inhabited by wild animals on both sides of the border deter easy cross-border movement by humans. “The rebels cross the border through some well-worn tracks. We now know all these tracks and since last year end, have mounted constant vigil over these tracks. As a result, we have been able to apprehend some rebels and prevented easy infiltration into India for the rest,” said the Brigadier.

Most of the movement of the rebels used to take place through Moreh, on old trading town along the international border. It takes about a day to reach Taga (in Sagaing), where the NSCN(K) had a large base, from Moreh on foot through the forest tracks.
In January this year, the Tatmadaw took control of the NSCN(K) council headquarters at Taga. About 400 Myanmarese soldiers led by Hkamti District tactical commander under the Tatmadaw’s North Western Command took control of the outfit’s council headquarters (HQ) that is located near Nanyun township in northern Sagaing east of Arunachal Pradesh (see map).
In June this year, the two armies carried out coordinated operations against rebels of both countries who had taken shelter in each others’ territories. The NSCN(K) general HQs and the HQ of the outfit’s 2nd Battalion was attacked and destroyed by the Tatmadaw in May this year.
The Tatmadaw also destroyed camps belonging to the ULFA(I), NDFB(S), KLO and the Manipuri outfits. Nearly three dozen cadres of the NSCN(K), and an unspecified number (Indian Army sources say more than 50) of militants of other outfits, have been detained and jailed in Myanmar.
The Tatmadaw has accused the NSCN(K) of violating the terms of the 2012 ceasefire the outfit signed with the Sagaing authorities by providing shelter to other militant outfits from North East India. The 2012 ceasefire agreement specifically prohibits the NSCN(K) from sheltering or aiding militants of any other insurgent outfit.
At The Border
The border town of Moreh, which serves as the headquarters of an Assam Rifles battalion, is a hub of activity. Apart from traders from both countries buying and selling their wares, there is a significant presence of men in uniform armed with sophisticated assault rifles and small arms keeping a hawk-eyed vigil on all civilians. Within the headquarters, the oppressive July humidity is laden with the crackle of walkie-talkies and high-frequency wireless transmitters.
To be contd