India rules out using army against Maoist rebels

(AFP)


RAIPUR, India — India rejected Tuesday the idea of using the military in direct operations against Maoist rebels, despite increasing pressure on the government to beef up its counter-insurgency strategy.

“There is no need to use the army in the anti-Maoist operations,” Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told reporters during a visit to the central state of Chhattisgarh — a stronghold of the left-wing guerrillas.

Pillai acknowledged that the Chhattisgarh state government had called for the involvement of the armed forces, but said the idea had been rejected at a recent meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security in New Delhi.

A series of recent rebel strikes have highlighted the government’s struggle to find an effective strategy against the insurgency, leading to calls for the army and air force to be drafted in.

Pillai reiterated that paramilitary and state police forces were capable of leading the fight, although he added that the air force might be used to provide logistical support.

Chhattisgarh has witnessed three major rebel attacks on security personnel in as many months, including an ambush last week that killed 26 police officers.

The Maoists massacred 76 paramilitary personnel in a similar assault in April, and last month a Maoist landmine attack on a bus killed 24 civilians and 11 police.

The government launched a major offensive last year to tackle the left-wing rebels, but Pillai warned that it could take “between five and seven years” to properly quell the insurgency.

Maoist rebels have fought for decades throughout east and central India against state and government rule, drawing support from landless tribal groups and farmers left behind by the country’s economic development.

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