R Dutta Choudhury
NEW DELHI, March 14 - A possible threat to the Kaladan transit and transport project involving India and Myanmar, which is vital for improving the connectivity to the North East region, has been averted due to a strong coordinated operation launched by the armed forces of both the countries. At the same time, it prevented members of an insurgent group of Myanmar from sneaking into India.
Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune here that the coordinated operation by the armed forces of India and Myanmar was launched on February 17 after days of preparations and the operation was completed by wiping out the camps of the insurgents on March 2 to avert a possible threat to the Kaladan project and the Indian workers working in Myanmar for the implementation of the project.
Giving details of the operation, sources said that members of the Arakan Army, a Myanmar based insurgent outfit, were trained by another strong outfit, Kachin Independent Army in Kachin area bordering Yunan province of China and there have been reports that some members of the Arakan Army started moving towards south Myanmar despite the fact that their bases are mostly towards the North of the country. As per reports, the movement of the Arakan Army members towards south of the country started increasing in 2017 and by last year, reports came that they managed to set up at least 10 camps across the international border with India in Rakhine state of Myanmar. Most of the camps were located across Border Pillars 1 to 9 along the Mizoram-Myanmar border. Intelligence inputs also indicated that some members of the Arakan Army were also planning to sneak into India.
Sources said that the setting up of camps of the insurgents caused serious concern both for Myanmar and India. After a series of meetings between the armed forces of both the countries to chalk out a plan for launching a coordinated operation, additional troops were moved to the international border areas. Apart from personnel of the Assam Rifles, which has been entrusted with the responsibility of guarding the international border with Myanmar, personnel from other Army units wer:e also moved into the area, while, other surveillance equipment including drones were also used in the operation.
Sources asserted that Indian Army personnel did not move into the territory of Myanmar, but properly securing the international border was necessary to ensure that the insurgents do not cross over to India when the offensive was launched by the Myanmar Army personnel. The Indian Army also provided other support like providing intelligence inputs to Myanmar Army for ensuring the success of the operation. The major offensive launched on February 17, came to an end on March 2 after all the camps of the Arakan Army were wiped out and the makeshift camps were also burnt down.
The reasons for Arakan Army members leaving their bases in Kachin area to move down south are still a mystery. There was no report of Arakan Army members targeting the Rohingya on the way and no one is sure why they tried to set up strong bases across the international border with India in the southern part of Myanmar. It is, however, a fact that the Indian construction workers engaged in the implementation of the Kaladan project were feeling threatened because of the activities of the Arakan Army insurgents and there was every possibility of the insurgents posing a serious threat to the project in the days to come. But timely and strong action by the armed forces averted the threat to the project.
It may be mentioned here that completion of the Kaladan project will open up the landlocked North East region through the sea route and the project is scheduled to be completed within this financial year. The total project involves opening up of sea route from Sittwe port in Myanmar to Kolkata, 150 kilometres of river route through Kaladan project, 62 kilometres of road up to the international border between India and Myanmar and around 100 kilometres of road from Mizoram capital Aizawl to the international border. The project will also open up the sea routes to other south Asian countries, which is vital for the overall development of the North East.