16 February 2016

Northeast: The Threat Posed by External Actors

By Brig (Dr) SP Sinha
14 Feb , 2016

The extent of moral and material support by an external power(s) is one of the crucial factors for the success of any insurgency. The North-east insurgents have been particularly fortunate in having found sanctuaries or support in Bhutan and China in the North, Bangladesh in the South and Myanmar in the East. The insurgents have received moral and material support from China, Pakistan and Bangladesh at some time or the other.

The sanctuaries in Bhutan and Myanmar have, however not been the outcome of any adversarial or hostile relations between them and India, but because of the inability of their governments to adequately administer the border areas or deal effectively with the hostile activities of the Indian insurgents inside their respective borders.

The Idea of A Crown Colony

The British on the eve of their departure from India had recognised the strategic importance of the North-east as a springboard for wielding influence not only in India and Myanmar but also in parts of China and Tibet. They tried to convert the tribal areas as a new bastion of imperialism. To give shape to this plan, Professor Coupland suggested the creation of the ‘Crown Colony of Eastern Agency’ consisting of the hill areas of Assam and Myanmar, which would in due course, be an independent state. When Naga leaders were consulted, they rejected the idea outright. Almost coinciding with the demand for the secession of Naga Hills from India, a group of Mizo feudal chiefs, known as ‘sailos’ under UMFO raised the slogan of integrating Mizo Hills with Myanmar.

When the Nagas rebelled against India, Pakistan found an ideal opportunity to take advantage of the situation. Naga rebels were the first to receive moral and material support from Pakistan…

McCall, the District Commissioner of Lushai Hills (1932-43), initiated a plan for grouping of hill areas in Eastern India and Northern Myanmar under the trusteeship of the League of Nations. His successor Macdonald floated the idea of carving out an autonomous state comprising Mizo Hills and portions of Myanmar extending up to the Bay of Bengal, which was to be a protectorate of the British Government.1 The scheme of separating the hills of the North-east from India could not fructify partly because of Myanmar’s Prime Minister U Nu’s attitude on the issue, and partly due to firm declarations of Indian leaders perceiving such move as hostile actions vis’-a-vis’ the new government.2 Although the above proposals did not fructify, the idea formed the breeding ground for the problems that confront the region today.

The Western Perception of North-east India

Equally significant was the perception held by other Western powers about North-east India. As early as 1966, reports were circulated by Agencia International de Prensa (International Press Service) datelined Dacca that there were reports to create a ‘United Independent Bengal’ comprising East Pakistan, West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Sikkim and Bhutan. The report said:

“The separatists are counting on USA and other Western powers to give them necessary assistance. They are confident that these powers would be interested in establishing an independent state in South-East Asia, which could help to normalise conditions there and which could provide shield against the Chinese aggression…”

It is in this context that the circular from United States International Communication Agency issued in June 1979 entitled ‘Project Brahmaputra’ is significant. The circular was sent to all their branches in Delhi and Calcutta informing that the special research cell of George Washington University, with the approval of the State Department had detailed several teams of investigators to conduct research in the North-eastern states, Sikkim and Bhutan. The purpose of the research was to ‘throw light on the public opinion in the region to establish in what measure the present status of these states remain acceptable or whether there are indications that the formation of a new state is a current problem.’3 Although the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971 and the rapprochement of relations between USA and China changed the geo-political scenario in this region, the Western perception of the tribal areas of India’s North-east, which is predominantly Christian, as being inherently unstable persists. Such a perception has had a negative effect on the psyche of rebel outfits and indirectly encourages separatism.

Pakistan’s Support to Naga Rebels

The Naga insurgency was Godsend for Pakistan, which had adversarial relations with India. It was almost a strategic compulsion for Pakistan to tie down maximum Indian troops in the North-east. When the Nagas rebelled against India, Pakistan found an ideal opportunity to take advantage of the situation. Naga rebels were the first to receive moral and material support from Pakistan, which had opened an office of assistant high commissioner in Shillong soon after Independence. Naga rebels used the office to establish contact with Pakistani officials in Dacca. Eventually, the commission’s office in Shillong was closed.

The British on the eve of their departure from India had recognised the strategic importance of the North-east as a springboard for wielding influence not only in India and Myanmar but also in parts of China and Tibet.

Pakistan’s support to Naga insurgency started after Phizo’s escape to East Pakistan. Phizo first attempted to sneak into East Pakistan through Burma in December 1952, but was captured by the Burmese. He was sent back to India, where he was taken into custody but was later released on compassionate grounds, as his wife had met with an accident. Phizo eventually crossed into East Pakistan on December 6, 1956 from North Cachar Hills. Phizo’s visit paved the way for others like Zhekuto Sema, director intelligence in the underground set up, Thungti Chang, an important Konyak underground leader, and Mowu Angami, then a young leader who later became the chief of the underground army, to visit East Pakistan in 1957. Mowu Angami was intercepted and arrested on August 10, 1957 on his way back, but was released soon after on amnesty. Assam Police intercepted Zhekuto and Thungti on their way back in July 1958 but Zhekuto was killed in that encounter.

The groundwork for receiving moral and material support from East Pakistan was done during these visits. Pakistan had created a special liaison cell for contact and coordination with Naga and Mizo rebels. Between 1962 and 1968 at least ten groups of Nagas had crossed into East Pakistan. Kaito Sema, then commander of the underground Naga Home Guards, led the first big gang of Naga rebels to East Pakistan in early 1962. This gang returned to Nagaland in March 1963 through the Chin Hills in Myanmar with loads of arms and ammunition. To demonstrate their strength they blew up the railway track between Rangapahar and Dhansiri railway stations on April 9, 1963.4The next big gang of hostiles led by Dusoi Chakesang crossed into East Pakistan in October 1963, taking the longer Chin Hills route.

The gang returned in May 1964 with Rupees 30,000 in Indian currency and military hardware. Another gang of 300 under Yeveto Sema went to Pakistan for training in May 1964. Zuheto Sema led the biggest and most successful expedition to Pakistan in October 1964, after the suspension of hostilities brokered by the Peace Mission had come into effect. The gang consisted of 1,000 hostiles.5 They were given training on modern lines, after which they returned to Somra tract in Myanmar in March 1965, where they held on for a few months before trickling into Nagaland in August/September 1965.

India was then engaged in a war with Pakistan. Pakistanis were reported to have put pressure on hostile Nagas to open another front in their war with India, but the Nagas did not indulge in any violence; their decision was governed by political expediency as also the fact that the cessation of hostilities between security forces and underground Nagas was operative in Nagaland and they did not want to openly violate the provisions of the agreement. But to make amends, the FGN protested against the use of Naga troops in conflict with Pakistan.6

The subsequent efforts to send Naga rebels to East Pakistan were not successful. In November 1965, a gang of nearly 1,000 led by Mowu Angami, the chief of underground army, was intercepted by the Myanmar’s Army and was forced to re-enter India in Manipur. However, in another attempt in June 1966, a gang of 200 Naga rebels under Nedelie Angami exfiltrated through Mizo Hills and returned after training in November 1966 via Churachandpur and Tamenglong in Manipur.7

China’s Support to Naga Rebels

China’s motivation to support Naga insurgency converged with Pakistan. Both had antagonistic relations with India. China had border dispute with India and it claimed Arunachal as its territory and refused to accept McMahon Line as the boundary between them. It had fought a border war with India in 1962. The mid sixties was the period when ideological war between the communists and the Western democracies was at its peak. China viewed India as its rival in Asia and was giving full support to Naxalites in India. The tribes of the North-east were ideal targets for fanning insurgencies and keeping Indian troops tied down.

The Indian security forces had by 1966 greatly intensified surveillance of Indo-Pak border and it was becoming increasingly dangerous for the Naga rebels to cross the border into East Pakistan. The alternate route through Myanmar was also dangerous because the Myanmar’s Army had become very active and was alarmed by the nexus between Indian and Myanmar’s insurgent groups. But the increased surveillance of the Indo-Pak border was only one of the reasons for seeking Chinese support by the Nagas. Phizo had become disenchanted with the West and had begun to despair about their lack of support. He was desperately seeking to internationalise the Naga problem with the help of a powerful foreign ally. China was the obvious choice. The Chinese support to Naga rebels started towards the end of 1966.

China viewed India as its rival in Asia and was giving full support to Naxalites in India. The tribes of the North-east were ideal targets for fanning insurgencies and keeping Indian troops tied down.

The first gang to China, about 100 strong, was led by Thinuselie and Muivah. It crossed the border in Tuensang in November 1966 and trekked 1,000 km through Myanmar’s territory before reaching Yunan province in mainland China in January 1967 and returned in January 1968 with arms, ammunition and equipment. They set up a camp at Jotsoma, which was turned into a regular training camp for the underground army.8

The second batch of 500 led by Mowu Angami and Isak Swu crossed the international border in middle of December 1967. By this time the peace talk was deadlocked, but the suspension of hostilities continued. While the gang was undergoing training, China offered to support a Naga government in exile. The proposal neither found favour with the underground leadership in Nagaland, nor did Phizo approve of it.9 In Yunan the Nagas were trained at Tengchung and Fuking. In April 1968, another gang of 450 under Dusoi Chakesang crossed the border in Tuengsang area but Dusoi lost direction and was taken captive. The main body wandered in the jungles: tired, hungry and hunted by Myanmar’s forces, they returned to Nagaland in small batches. Dusoi and 76 other Naga hostiles were handed over by Myanmar forces to the Indian Army at the border town of Moreh on April 11, 1969.

According to official estimates, a total of 1650 Naga hostiles went to China during 1967 and 1968 out of which about 700 had returned till the end of 1969, and out of them 275 were captured.10 About 150 of the apprehended lot, were released on 31 December 31, 1969 and January 1, 1970. Only the hard-core guerillas were tried for anti-national activities, violation of Passport and Arms Acts.11 

Chinese support to Nagas began to taper from early 70s. There were many reasons for it. The security forces had tightened the cordon along the international border, making both ingress and egress hazardous. There was greater coordination between the Indian and Myanmar’s forces following the meeting between Indira Gandhi and General Ne Win in March 1968. The border was sealed more effectively, night patrolling was intensified and intelligence on rebel movement was exchanged more frequently. The Chinese had also begun to have second thoughts about the ability of Naga rebels to wage a prolonged guerilla war against India. The Chinese were also alarmed by the large-scale surrenders by the Naga rebels. Based on the Governor’s address to the 1970 Budget Session of Nagaland Assembly, 1,049 Nagas had surrendered in 1969 alone.

The cooperation between Pakistan and China to lend support to various insurgent groups operating in the North-east was even more serious

The capture of the entire gang led by Mowu Angami which was on its way back from Yunan (China) not only demoralised the underground but the dissension amongst the leadership based on tribal loyalties put a question mark on their ability to put up a united front. The Chinese were naturally alarmed at this turn of events, but continued their support through much of 70s. In April and July 1971, fresh groups of underground were reported to have gone to the Yunnan via Chin Hills of Myanmar. The defeat of Pakistan in 1971 war with India, however, altered the geo-strategic situation dramatically. The insurgent groups lost their bases in Bangladesh, but only temporarily.

The loss of safe sanctuaries in Bangladesh did not deter the Naga rebels from sending another gang to China. Sometime in August 1974, a decision was taken to send a gang under Muivah. The journey started on September 5, 1974 with 73 gang members including nine women. The security forces prevented the majority from crossing the border, but about 30 odd crossed over to Myanmar. This was the first time that an outgoing gang was hotly pursued and mauled.

The number that had crossed over to Myanmar was not large enough to proceed to China, and possibly the Chinese had laid down the minimum number that should report for training. So another attempt was made to send additional strength in December of that year. But this time the army was well prepared to foil their attempt. The bits of information that were trickling in suggested that the gang was likely to cross Chanki-Mokokchung Road between Chungtia and Khensa on night 4/5 January 1975. Between 18 and 23 January, 23 hostiles were apprehended at Mokokchung. 10 Assam Rifles apprehended another seven on 23 January. In the next few days another 72 were apprehended. Thus ended the rebel’s last attempt to send a gang to China. The troops under command of Maj Gen ‘Ganjoo’ Rawat had achieved a remarkable success. The units and formations and the staff of 56 Mountain Brigade, particularly the Brigade Major, Maj N Bahri, played a very important role.12

The cooperation between Pakistan and China to lend support to various insurgent groups operating in the North-east was even more serious. The trek to Yunan was proving to be long, arduous and dangerous. On return from China, underground Brigadier Thinusellie was sent to East Pakistan in late 1968 to coordinate arrangements for training of guerillas in bases in Pakistan. The Chinese, therefore, opened a guerrilla-training centre in East Pakistan to train North-east insurgents. A small airstrip was constructed at a place near Rangamati in CHT to train insurgents in air operations. On July 26, 1970 the Government of India sent a strong protest note to the Chinese against arms supply and guerrilla training to Naga and Mizo rebels. The note also referred to a meeting of hostile Nagas and Mizos held on February 15, 1969 in CHT, which was attended by representatives of the Governments of Pakistan & China and where discussions centered on developing East Pakistan as a centre of inter-tribal coordination.13 But the emergence of Bangladesh after Pakistan’s defeat in 1971 war changed the situation altogether.

Pakistan’s Support to Mizos

Pakistan’s support to Mizos was more crucial. Mizo guerillas had an ideal sanctuary in CHT across the border. The long border of Mizoram with East Pakistan provided many ingress and exit routes. Laldenga and his associates had crossed the border in the first week of December 1963 and established contact with Pakistani officials, who were only too willing to help. The secret plan to send Mizo guerillas to East Pakistan was delayed due to Laldenga’s arrest on his return journey by Assam police, but was revived immediately after his release.

…a meeting of hostile Nagas and Mizos held on February 15, 1969 in CHT, which was attended by representatives of the Governments of Pakistan & China and where discussions centered on developing East Pakistan as a centre of inter-tribal coordination.

Within weeks of Laldenga’s release from the prison in early 1964, a group of 20 Mizos crossed the border to finalise the arms supply deal with Pakistan. They took delivery of arms from Pakistan’s military intelligence at Dohazari, a railway station near the port city Chittagong, from where the supplies were taken up in boats to Rumabazar and thence to the border village of Hmunmuan. The entire cache was hidden in deep forests near a Mizo village on the Indian side of the border half way between Aizwal and Lungleih. The support given by Pakistan was crucial in the success of Mizo uprising on February 28, 1966.

Months after the Indian Army launched counter-insurgency operations, large number of Mizo youths, many studying in Shillong, headed for East Pakistan, where Pakistan’s covert intelligence agencies had set up facilities for their training. Soon after, in the first week of July 1966, Laldenga left for Dacca to seek international support for the Mizo cause.

In the aftermath of 1971 war with Pakistan, Mizos lost a secure sanctuary in East Pakistan. After the defeat of Pakistani forces on December 16, 1971 the MNA organised a brilliant escape from East Pakistan to Arakan. On 17 December Biakchhunga organised seven motor launches at Rangamati; each boat could carry over hundred people. Thus began the great escape to Arakan, which met resistance en route by Mukti Bahini units, but the ordeal ended successfully and was one of the high points of Mizo resistance movement.14

The emissary of Laldenga contacted the Pakistani Consulate in March 1972 in the coastal town of Akyab (Myanmar), which helped Laldenga and his retinue in obtaining fake passports. Finally, in April 1972 Laldenga flew to Pakistan on a KLM flight from Rangoon under the assumed name of “Mr Zolkeps”.15 He would remain in Karachi to an uncertain future, till he was allowed by the Pakistani intelligence to go to Geneva sometime in 1975, again on a fake passport, to internationalise the Mizo problem.

Situation after Emergence of Bangladesh 

After the liberation of Bangladesh, it was hoped that support to North-east insurgents would come to an end, but it was not to be. They lost their sanctuary but only temporarily. After the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, Mizos regained some of the lost ground in CHT, not as associates of Chakma militants but as collaborators of the local authorities, helping them in settling Bengali Muslims in CHT and ensuring their own refuge in return.16

China’s Support to Mizos

The first attempt to send Mizo rebels to China for training and procurement of arms was made in 1968. To pave the way for the smooth passage of the gang through Myanmar’s territory, KIA was contacted for support. Earlier Lalhmingthanga, the MNA chief, had met Chinese diplomats in Dacca in preparation for the dispatch of 1,000 guerillas to Yunan (China) for training. Bualhranga, ambassador designate to China, led the gang. The gang met opposition from Myanmar’s forces but despite that the gang reached Chindwin River in August 1968, only to find the river in spate. To add to their discomfiture Myanmar’s troops had been alerted.

The Chinese trained Meitei insurgents not in Yunan but in Lhasa. The Meiteis under the charismatic Bisheshwar took an unconventional route via Kathmandu to reach Lhasa.

The journey through Kachin territory to Yunan was, therefore, aborted.17 Another attempt to send a gang to China was made in 1972. Unlike the earlier attempt, the second gang of nearly 70 led by Damkoshiak made it to Yunan through the Kachin corridor. But while returning from China, they surrendered to the Indian authorities, which was facilitated by an undercover operation by the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau.18 Unlike the Nagas, the Mizos were destined to fail in their efforts to forge a successful Chinese connection.

Pakistan’s Support to Meitei Insurgents

As narrated earlier, by the end of sixties, UNLF had established a fairly wide network of supporters in the Imphal Valley. This was also the period when after Indo-Pak war of 1965 the relations between the two countries were strained. Pakistan was looking for an opportunity to start fresh ethnic trouble in the North-east. The Meteis were at the same time looking for sanctuary and material support from Pakistan to give a boost to insurgency in Manipur. In 1968, a group under Oinam Sudhir was sent to East Pakistan to seek help. The group established contact with the Meitei community at Sylhet.19

But before Sudhir could convince the Pakistani intelligence, a group of 200 Manipuri youths landed at Sylhet prematurely, which upset the Pakistanis. They were not yet fully ready to give direct support to India’s insurgent groups, so soon after the Tashkent Declaration. The group was apprehended and put in jail in Maulvi Bazaar for a month, and later handed over to the Indian Army at Tripura border. They were lodged in Dharampur Jail till their release in 1972, in a general amnesty by the Government of Manipur.20

A small group had escaped arrest and continued to stay in East Pakistan. Their leader, Sudhir, who by then had formed RGM, succeeded in getting Pakistani support and received guerilla training during the period 1970-71. They put their training to practice during the 1971 Indo-Pak war, engaging Indian security forces, particularly the police and paramilitary forces, in ambushes and raids on isolated police posts close to the border. But the outcome of the war forced them to return to Manipur. Some died in engagements while crossing the border, but three of them successfully slipped into Manipur, where they were finally apprehended at Nungba in Tamelgong District.21

China’s Support to Meitei Insurgents

The Chinese trained Meitei insurgents not in Yunan but in Lhasa. The Meiteis under the charismatic Bisheshwar took an unconventional route via Kathmandu to reach Lhasa. They were ideologically left oriented and differed from Nagas whose ideological moorings were not very strong. The Meiteis were the ones to introduce urban guerilla warfare techniques and engage Indian troops in built up areas in the Imphal Valley.

Pakistan’s and Bangladesh Support to Insurgents of Tripura

The seeds of insurgency were sown in Tripura soon after the Mizos had risen in revolt. But the defeat of the Pakistani Army in 1971 and the emergence of Bangladesh had changed the geo-political scene. There was a lull in insurgent activities for a while, but not for long. The Mizos began returning from their base in Arakan to Bangladesh in October 1976. MNF established its tactical headquarters in the Sajek ranges in CHT at a place called Langkor. Their headquarters was moved near the Tri Junction of Mizoram-Arakan-CHT to a place called Chhintalang in Bangladesh.

The Meiteis were the ones to introduce urban guerilla warfare techniques and engage Indian troops in built up areas in the Imphal Valley.

Sometime in 1977, Hrangkhwl sent two emissaries to Chittagong with a letter for Bangladesh President, Zia-ur-Rehman. The two emissaries were intercepted by Bangladesh Police, interrogated and sent back to Tripura, but it appears, Hrangkhwl’s letter reached the president. The Bangladesh intelligence agreed to help TNV, but only through the MNF. The first group of TNV volunteers led by Chuni Koloi trekked to Chhintalang in the beginning of 1979, stayed with the MNF and took part in attacks on security forces jointly with them. The subsequent groups were given basic training and returned to Tripura. By the end of 1979, TNV had set up a camp in the jungles of CHT. After the ethnic violence that had erupted in Tripura in mid 1980, many young tribals took refuge in the jungles of CHT. The riots gave a boost to insurgency in Tripura. According to one estimate the MNF trained nearly 130 tribals between September and November 1980.22

After the disbandment of TNV in December 1980, All Tripura People’s Liberation Organisation (ATPLO) was formed, but it was not supported either by Bangladesh or Pakistan. ATPLO received support mainly from the MNF, which trained nearly 100 of its volunteers. Chuni Koloi who was heading the ATPLO, made several attempts to contact Bangladesh officials between 1980 and 1982 but failed.

After the revival of TNV in November 1982, the links between TNV and MNF were revived. 60 TNV volunteers were trained by MNF in early 1983.23 Hrangkhwl again tried to seek support from Bangladesh. Ananta Debbarma, TNV home secretary, met a Bangladeshi official at Mariswa, which was an important listening past for Bangladesh on the border with Tripura. In May 1983, Hrangkhwl himself contacted a senior Bangladeshi army official at Chittagong, who promised to give some ammunition but no weapons. Hrangkhwl made a secret trip to Pakistan in April 1985 with two ISI officials, who promised to help through Bangladesh, but the news leaked out. Bangladesh developed cold feet apprehending India might intensify support to Shanti Bahini guerillas.24 The promised support to TNV did not materialise.

Insurgency in Tripura declined after the Mizos signed an accord with the Indian Government in 1985. This forced Hrangkhwl to negotiate with the government but even after signing the accord in 1988, the remnants of TNV have continued to operate from bases in Bangladesh. Ashok Tandon, Director General of Border Security Force (BSF), in his annual conference on November 27, 1997 admitted that both ATFF and NLFT continue to get support from Bangladesh. In spite of Indian protests, Bangladesh failed to close down rebel camps in its territory.25

Pakistani and Bangladeshi Support to ULFA

The credit for forging ULFA’s connection with Pakistan’s ISI goes to one Munim Nobis, who belonged to Guwahati. Before joining ULFA, Nobis was a member of Assam People Liberation Army (APLA), which was formed at Tezpur at the same time as ULFA. By 1983, APLA had formed a wide network of activists in Mangaldoi, Barpeta and Nagaon. Many APLA members were arrested and this forced it to merge with ULFA.

The first unsuccessful attempt by Nobis to contact ISI was made in 1988. He traveled to Karachi in the company of a Bangladeshi businessman who was well connected with both Bangladeshi and Pakistani intelligence operatives, but the businessman failed to put Nobis in contact with any important ISI functionary in Karachi. Nobis made the next attempt the following year but was told to come again with a more representative team. Senior ULFA leaders 26 flew to Karachi sometime in 1990 from where they were taken to Islamabad and then to Peshawar, which at that time was the headquarters of several Afghan mujahideen groups. The team was given intensive training in strategy, tactics, counter-intelligence, disinformation and use of weapons. The training lasted for one month after which they returned to Assam. No weapons were given at this stage.The next visit of ULFA leaders comprising of Paresh Barua, the commander of the military wing and Sunil Nath, the publicity secretary took place in September 1991. They were taken to Darrah in North West Frontier Province that is one of the world’s biggest open but illegal arms bazaar. The Pakistanis wanted ULFA to attack high priority strategic targets like oilfields and government buildings. ULFA rejected the suggestion fearing that it would turn the public against them.

The Pakistanis also cautioned ULFA leaders not to confront the Indian Army directly. But ULFA had other ideas; it was confident of taking on the Indian Army head-on but rejected the suggestion to destroy economic assets, which would only alienate them from the general public.27 ULFA, however, changed its tactics after Operations Bajrang and Rhino when they found the army too strong for them. Ironically, they subsequently began to target economic assets like oilfields and pipelines, which they had wisely spared fearing adverse public reaction.

In March 1994, the Assam Assembly was informed that ULFA militants had received training with the help of Pakistan’s ISI, most of them in Afghanistan. ULFA also established contact with Bangladesh Field Intelligence unit in Dhaka and was allowed to establish training camps in Bangladesh in Mymensingh district at Bhemugach, Nilfarman and Dhami, all in Maulvi Bazaar area.28 However, after the victory of the Awami League under Sheikh Hasina in the 1995 elections, the Government of Bangladesh decided to freeze all help to the North-east insurgents.

Sanctuaries in Myanmar and Bhutan

Following the crackdown by Bangladesh during the regime of Sheikh Hasina, many ULFA camps shifted from Bangladesh to Manas Reserved Forests in Assam and in the forests of South Bhutan close to the Indo-Bhutan border, from where they were physically removed in a military operation by the RBA in December 2003.


The support given by China and Pakistan to North-east insurgents was a consequence of antagonistic relations with China and Pakistan. Unlike East Pakistan and Bangladesh, the sanctuaries of North-east insurgents in Myanmar are not the result of adversarial bilateral relations between the two countries, but due to the inability of the Myanmar Government to effectively administer their hilly areas along India’s border.29 The abetment of insurgency in Tripura was partially quid-pro-quo for the support India was extending to Chakma insurgents the Shanti Bahini.

In the case of sanctuaries in Bhutan, the king tried to get the ULFA camps vacated from Bhutanese territory through talks, but when ULFA refused to vacate the camps even after an ultimatum, the RBA in a swift and well-planned operation in December 2003 destroyed the camps and forced them to flee. The action taken by Bhutan should be taken as an example of cooperative approach to effectively fight insurgencies in South Asia.

Notes and References
VIK Sareen, India’s North-east in Flames, (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1980), p. 145.
Urmila Phadnis, Ethnicity and Nation Building in South Asia, (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1990), p. 150.
Urmila Phadnis, n.2., p. 235. Also VIK Sareen, n. 1., pp. 24-27. Sareen gives a lucid account of CIA’s activities in the North-east in early 1970s.
Prakash Singh, Nagaland, (New Delhi: National Book Trust, 1972), p. 122. Prakash Singh was then posted in the Intelligence Bureau in Nagaland.
Ibid., p. 124.
Ibid., p. 123.
RD Palsokar, Forever in Operations: History of 8 Mountain Division, 1992, pp. 63-64. and Prakash Singh, n. 4.,, pp. 131-132. The army raided Jatsoma camp in June 1968. 25 hostiles with Chinese arms and ammunition were captured. The underground Nagas had clearly violated the agreement on cessation of hostilities. BK Nehru, who had become the Governor of Nagaland in April 1968, forced the Nagas to adhere to the agreement on suspension of hostilities.
The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, July 18, 1968. Quoted by Prakash Singh, n.4., p.136.
Statement made by the Defence Minister in the Lok Sabha on December 3, 1969.
Prakash Singh, n. 4., p. 138.
Col Palsokar has vividly described the conduct of the whole operation. See RD Palsokar, n. 8., Ch 10, pp.136-157.
Asoso Yonuo, The Rising Nagas, (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1974), p. 305.
Subir Bhaumik, Insurgent Crossfire: North-east India, (New Delhi: Lancers, 1996), p. 171.
Ibid., p. 172.
Times of India, New Delhi, October 1, 1984. Quoted by Urmila Phadnis, p. 235.
Subir Bhaumik, n. 14., p. 166.
Ibid., pp. 173,176,177.
Sylhet has a large Meitei community, which had migrated from Manipur to escape from the Burmese attack in the early twentieth century.
For a more comprehensive account see Phanjoubam Tarapot, Insurgency Movement in North-east India, (New Delhi: Vikas Publishers), pp. 42-46.
Ibid., p. 46.
Subir Bhaumik, n. 14., p. 214.
Ibid., p. 222.
“Pak-TNV links Established,” The Telegraph, Calcutta, October 1, 1985. Quoted by Subir Bhaumik, n. 14, p. 230.
The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, November 29, 1997.
Rajkhowa, ULFA president, Hirakjyoti Mahanta, the deputy commander of military wing, Predeep Gogoi, the vice president, Anup Chetia, the general secretary and Manoj Hazarika. For a fuller account of how ULFA made contact with ISI see Sanjoy Hazarika, Strangers of the Mist: Tales of War and Peace from North-east, (New Delhi: Penguin, 1995), pp. 170-175.
Ibid., p. 174.
Ibid., p. 235.
For a scholarly analysis of external factors in the spread of insurgency see Urmila Phadnis; Ethnicity and Nation Building in South Asia, (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1989).
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