GUWAHATI, Feb 13 - The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has forwarded a proposal to replace the Assam Rifles with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) along the international border with Myanmar to the Cabinet Committee on Security, while, efforts are also on to streamline the free movement regime of people from both sides of the international border.
Highly placed sources in the Government of India told The Assam Tribune that free movement of militants from their bases in Myanmar was a matter of serious concern for India and a committee headed by the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), RN Ravi was set up to examine the problems in guarding the border and to suggest measures in this regard. The Committee also recommended replacement of the Assam Rifles with the ITBP as the force has the experience of guarding the international border with China.
Sources said that as implementation of the proposal would mean taking a major policy decision with involvement of substantial amount of funds, the MHA has forwarded it to the Cabinet Committee on Security to take the final decision in this regard. The Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by the Prime Minister, is the highest policy making body of the country on security affairs.
The MHA proposal also include streamlining of the free movement regime under which people of both India and Myanmar can move into each other's country up to 16 kilometres. Sources said that as per the new proposal, the free movement regime would be streamlined with marked points to cross over. The cross over points will be properly manned by security personnel and computerized records of all the persons who cross over would be kept so that it can be ensured that anyone crossing the international border returned back within the stipulated time frame. The photographs of all the persons crossing over will also be kept properly for identification.
Sources said that the MHA proposal further stressed the need for streamlining the functioning of the Assam Rifles. At present, the force is under the administrative control of the MHA and operational control of the Defence Ministry. This is creating serious problems in functioning of the force and the MHA is of the view that the force should be brought under a single Ministry for its smooth functioning.
India has 1643 kilometres of international border with Myanmar, of which, 520 kilometres is in Arunachal Pradesh, 215 kilometres in Nagaland, 398 kilometres in Manipur and 510 kilometres is in Mizoram. The terrain of the international border makes it easy for the militants to cross over from their bases in the neighbouring country as almost all the active militant outfits of the region have strong bases in Myanmar. Though the Assam Rifles was deployed to guard the international border, the movement of the ultras and smugglers has not been stopped. Of the 46 battalions of the Assam Rifles, 15 are deployed to guard the border, which is not adequate and most of the posts of the force are not located right on the international border, but deep inside Indian territory.