GUWAHATI, Sept 17 - Long international borders with five countries make the North East vulnerable to security threats and the Centre is of the view that though different border guarding forces are entrusted with the responsibility of guarding the international borders, the state police forces should also act like a second line of defence to improve the overall security scenario.
The North East, including Sikkim, shares borders with Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, Bhutan and Nepal, and though different border guarding forces are deployed to guard these borders, the Government of India now feels that the state police forces should also a play a part in border management. The border with Bangladesh is guarded by the Border Security Force (BSF), the border with Myanmar is guarded by the Assam Rifles, the borders with Nepal and Bhutan are guarded by the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) while the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) backed by the Army is guarding the border with China.
Highly placed sources in the Government of India told The Assam Tribune that though the border guarding forces have been deployed on the international borders, the state police forces can also play a major role in improving the security scenario. If any anti-India element or criminal involved in cross-border crimes manages to sneak past the border guarding forces, it would be the responsibility of the concerned state police to deal with such persons.
That is why, the personnel of the state police forces can act like second line of defence and improve intelligence gathering among the people living near the international border areas, sources said. Sources also said that the issue was also discussed in the recently concluded meeting of the heads of the state police forces of the North East, which was convened by the Intelligence Bureau.
Giving an account of the vulnerability of the international borders, sources pointed out that the border with China is always vulnerable from the security point of view of the country and incursions by the Chinese Army are regular features. To deal with the rough terrain along the border, the Government of India has raised Arunachal Scouts, a force comprising local youths who know the terrain well and the personnel of the force are of immense help to the ITBP and Army in guarding the border. Though some insurgent elements of the North East are reportedly visiting China often, they are not entering China through the international border in Arunachal Pradesh and they are doing so via Myanmar.
The border with Myanmar is still vulnerable because of presence of militants of North East in the neighbouring country and the border is difficult to manage because of the rough terrain and lack of physical barriers. Free movement regime up to 16 kilometers is also another major problem for the security forces in managing the border. Though the Myanmar Army has been operating against the ultra groups, there have not been any mass exodus of militants from Myanmar to India and it is suspected that the militants are hiding in the Naga villages across the border. Moreover, Myanmar Army is yet to launch a major offensive in the areas across Manipur. The border is also vulnerable to smuggling.
The border with Bangladesh is always vulnerable because of infiltration of Bangladeshi nationals, cattle smuggling, etc., and now there is a threat of elements of fundamentalist forces sneaking into India by taking advantage of the porous border.
Though the Government of Bhutan evicted the camps of the militants of North East from the territory of that country in 2003, a few members of the NDFB(S) are still reportedly in that country. The free movement regime between both the countries also adds to the vulnerability of the border, sources said. The border with Nepal is vulnerable to smuggling and so far there is no indication of any security threat through that area, sources added.