GUWAHATI, Oct 2 - The India-Myanmar border is considered the most vulnerable from the security point of view of the North East region, not only because of movement of militants having bases in the neighbouring country but also because of smuggling of arms and drugs.
Highly placed security sources told The Assam Tribune that management of the 1,643-kilometre-long border is a tough job because of the rough terrain and successive Governments at the Centre have been expressing concern over the vulnerability of the border.
Improving security of the North East depends largely on the management of the border with Myanmar. Because of the porous international border, the militants having strong bases in Myanmar are having a free run, while arms smuggling through the border has become a matter of serious concern. At one point of time, the anti-India forces, including militant groups, used to bring in weapons through the Indo-Bangla border, but that practice has almost stopped because of improved vigil along the border and also because of the fact that the present Government in Bangladesh is taking a tough stand against militants. Now most of the weapons are brought in through the porous border with Myanmar.
Sources pointed out that apart from weapons, drugs and timber smuggling through the porous border has also become a cause of concern. There have been reports that the horns of the rhinos killed by poachers along with other animal body parts are sent to China via the border with Myanmar.
For years, the Government of India has been discussing the issue of improving management of the international border with Myanmar to ensure security of the North East. During the UPA Government regime, when P Chidambaram was the Union Home Minister, a proposal was mooted to replace the Assam Rifles with the Border Security Force (BSF) for improvement in border management. But that proposal did not materialize.
Immediately after the present Government assumed office, a task force headed by Joint Intelligence Committee Chief RV Ravi was constituted to examine the issues relating to guarding of the border and to suggest measures. The Task Force recommended replacement of the Assam Rifles with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. However, the Government is yet to take a decision on whether to implement the recommendation or not and the Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs, headed by the Prime Minister, will soon discuss the issue and take the final decision in this regard.
Security sources said that though the BSF is considered to be the best force in the country for border guarding job, it was felt that the ITBP would be better equipped to deal with the Myanmar border because of the terrain. The ITBP has been guarding the border with China in tougher terrain and it would be easier for the force to guard the border with Myanmar, sources added.
The task force was of the view that the border remained highly porous despite the deployment of Assam Rifles and as the force is also involved in counter-insurgency duties in the region, the relation of the personnel of the force with the local people was not cordial enough, which is necessary for a border guarding force.
Sources admitted that a section of Home Ministry officials are opposed to replacement of Assam Rifles with ITBP in the border as the cost involved is cited as the major reason. However, there is a feeling that the Government of India has hardly made any investment in improving management of the border with Myanmar over the years and some investment would have to be made in the interest of security of the North East. However, the final call will be taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs.