Rebels in mind, Army plans AR posts closer to Myanmar

GUWAHATI: The Army’s Eastern Command headquarters have taken over the protection of the India-Myanmar border, covering four northeastern states, and plans to step up the presence of Assam Rifles troops, the only force on this side of the country, in border areas — taking them beyond areas with human settlements to remote areas much closer to the international border.
The India-Myanmar border — along Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram — is a treacherous and porous boundary offering easy passage to militants, arms and drug smugglers, and human traffickers. 

“As part of the process of strengthening the India-Myanmar border, Assam Rifles has taken a number of steps to increase its presence in the remote border areas of the northeast,” defence PRO Colonel C Konwer said. “Assam Rifles is now in the process of occupying number of additional locations all along the India-Myanmar Border,” he added.
For the plan to materialize, a source said, it would take some time. “It would need a lot of infrastructure to be built for the troops to man the border on site. The border is completely porous and the government should start fencing certain locations, which would make it a little easier for the troops deployed,” the source added. The defence PRO agreed. “The unfenced border along a very difficult terrain presents a huge challenge for the armed forces guarding it,” Konwer said.
While the Assam Rifles is administered by the Union home ministry, its operations are controlled by the Army. The force has been handling a dual role — of counter-insurgency operations in the northeastern states and keeping an eye on the international border with Myanmar

Guarding the open 1,643-km-long border has for long been a bone of contention between the defence and home ministries. While MHA wanted the border be handed over to either ITBP or the BSF, the Army’s stand has been in favour of Assam Rifles. For the Army, having a purely border guarding force like ITBP or BSF on the border, and the Assam Rifles, which operates in Army style, for handling counter-insurgency operations would cause severe operational coordination problems.

A parliamentary standing committee on ‘Border Security: Capacity Building and Institutions’ presented in Rajya Sabha in March noted that “the gaps in the deployment (along Indo-Myanmar border) are wide and are prone to be exploited by the insurgents to carry out sabotage activities against the country and its security forces. The Committee is also constrained to learn that the system of FMR (free movement regime) along with porous and unfenced border is being exploited by the anti-national elements for unhindered movement of insurgent groups across the border.”

The FMR allows people of both countries, who share traditional and cultural ties and for agriculture, to travel up to 16 km on either side of the border.

The Centre had initiated a work of fencing of about 10 km of the border at Moreh in Manipur in 2010, but the work was then stopped due to agitation by local population three years later.



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