THE positioning of Myanmar troops near the Indian border clearly suggests India and Myanmar are working together to wipe out the militant groups of the North East, such as the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit faction) camping inside Myanmar close to Indian border. These groups are mostly entrenched in Taga where the Indian army recently carried out three surgical strikes. The aim of India and Myanmar obviously is to squeeze the militant groups out of Taga, which requires seven days of travel through dense forest from Indo-Myanmar border. This is also clear from the recent visit of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval to Myanmar to take its government on board in India’s new proactive strategy to tackle insurgent activities planned and executed from across the border. The presence of the Myanmar forces on their side of the border and the Indian forces on theirs will facilitate smooth joint operations against the insurgents.
This is the second movement of Myanmar army nearer the Indian border, the first being in January this year. The coming together of the two armies has naturally caused panic among militant groups: their leaders and cadres have moved or are planning to move to safer hideouts. The strategy of the present Indian government, which is led by ‘nationalist’ BJP, reflects the hard line that the party and its parent organization the RSS had always taken against insurgency. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has authorized Doval to devise strategy to take the insurgent groups head on to stop them creating unrest in the North-East region and disrupting its development. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has been paying very close attention to the security forces’ operations on the India-Myanmar border. Indian security forces are most likely to continue their surgical strikes against the insurgent groups entrenched in the forests inside Myanmar. The Myanmar government has agreed to drive out insurgent groups that attack targets in northeastern states from its territory. Although Myanmar had always maintained that it would not allow its territory to be used against India, it is the first time that their army is working in very close cooperation with the Indian army.
Of course, India might have to pay costs for its current strategy. The first cost will be unqualified support to the military-run Myanmar government that has acquired ill fame for suppression of democratic rights and gross connivance with Buddhist extremist groups who have been attacking and persecuting the Muslim minority in Myanmar. Thousands of Muslims have fled the country to save their lives. The present government has to keep its eyes closed and mouth shut to go on pampering the Myanmar military regime in order to secure its support for keeping its eastern borders tranquil. We do not know yet of another cost that might have to be paid by innocent people who might get hit by strikes by the militant groups in retaliation to Indian army attacks in the coming months. If militants can’t hit army men they will hit common men.