Cross Border Linkages in North East Insurgency
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Baljit Dhaka
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Cross Border Linkages in North East Insurgency

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Cross Border Linkages in North East Insurgency

Why in the news?

The armies of India and Myanmar carried out a coordinated operation named Operation Sunrise 2 in their respective border areas, targeting several militant groups operating in Manipur, Nagaland, and Assam in June 2019.

Note:: Operation Sunrise-2

The first phase of “Operation Sunrise” was conducted in February 2019 along the Indo-Myanmar border, during which several camps of north-east- based militant groups were busted.

In “Operation Sunrise 2”, the armies coordinated with each other to bust camps of militant outfits, including the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland(Khaplang), the United Liberation Front of Assam (I), and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.

Background:

India’s 5,800-km long land border with Myanmar and Bangladesh extends across Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Nagaland, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh. All these continue to face cross-border terrorist and separatist challenges.

90% of the North-East is contiguous with the international border, which allows terror outfits to get sanctuaries in Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and even China and Nepal.

Reasons for cross border insurgency

Safe Havens: The shelter and support that the Indian insurgent groups receive from across the border are one of the most important factors which have helped them to sustain their rebellion.

Availability of weapons: Easy availability of small arms in neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar has been another factor behind the sustenance of insurgency in the region.

Ethnic affinity: 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.

Border Issues in North East:

The terrain of Border: Difficult terrain along border with different countries in the northeast makes means of transportation and communication difficult and as a result, the border area remains sparsely populated with depressed economic development.

High mountains, deep river channels together with lush forest characterize the borderland with Myanmar.

Inaccessible forested areas along the Assam– Bhutan border continue to serve as temporary bases and safe havens for the insurgent groups.

River line borders in Bangladesh tend to change course periodically, leading to a host of disputes associated with the difficulties in establishing ownership of the newly created Territories.

Boundary issue: Even though the international boundary between countries like India and Myanmar had been formally delimited and demarcated following the boundary agreement in 1967, the boundary has not crystallized on the ground as lines separating two sovereign countries.

Free movement regime: India-Myanmar border has a unique arrangement in a place called the Free Movement Regime (FMR). The FMR permits the tribes residing along the border to travel 16-km across the boundary without visa restrictions.

Way Forward::

Strengthening of Regional Forums: Regional groupings like South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), BCIM(Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar economic corridor) can help in enhancing economic and security cooperation with these countries 

Joint Training and operations: Exercises like “Hand in hand” with China, “Operation Sampriti” between India and Bangladesh, etc. can help to combat terrorism.

Cooperation with neighboring countries: International borders are best managed when neighbors cooperate to secure their mutual borders. Political and diplomatic initiatives are required to be carefully crafted for this.

Effective Border Management through ‘smart borders: It’ll ensure quick and easy, the legal flow of people and goods while maintaining a steady momentum in the process of improvement of infrastructure and other facilities at checkpoints.

Sensitization of people: The border community should be sensitized to participate in the nation-building project through sustained community interaction programs.

Other Measures: Increase cultural exchanges, tourism, and people-to-people contact, including the provision of job permits and work visas, for the South Asian countries.