NEW DELHI: Maoists have not only tied up with north-eastern insurgent groups to get smuggled Chinese arms through their network, but also acquired a toehold in the region that can help them access to weapons for their cadres in hinterland.
Union home minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday said, “In recent months, we have noticed minimal presence of Maoists in the north-east”.
Though the minister said that no case of Maoists indulging in smuggling of arms from across the border has come to notice so far, he pointed out that if the Red Ultras take root in the region, they would soon smuggle arms from Myanmar or Bangladesh.
Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Chidambaram said insurgent outfits operating in the north-east have been procuring arms through smugglers based in China’s Yunnan province, Myanmar and south-east Asian countries. “Most of the weapons (seized from insurgents) carry Chinese mark,” the home minister said, adding there are reportedly arms ‘bazaars’ on Myanmar-China border.
His remarks came in the backdrop of huge seizures of Chinese-made arms and communication gadgets by security forces in various states. Security agencies have found that Maoists had also got support of tribals working in tea gardens in Assam, thanks to their close fraternal ties with sympathizers living in Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.
The BSF, deployed for anti-Naxal operations, had last December seized a cache of ‘state-of-the-art’ Chinese communication gadgets in Koraput, Odisha, setting off alarm bells within the security establishment as officials got worried about sophisticated equipment and weapons finding their way into the Red Zone.
The subsequent probe had confirmed Maoists’ links with north-eastern insurgent groups, mainly the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur that is active in procuring arms and ammunitions from Chinese smugglers.
Responding to members’ related queries in Upper House, the home minister said that the government had raised its concerns with China, Myanmar and Bangladesh through diplomatic channels on the smuggling of arms from their soil. “Cooperation from Bangladesh is splendid”, he said, adding there has been significant improvement in response from Myanmar after a new government took over.
Effective domination of the Indo-Bangla and Indo-Myanmar borders by the security forces and regular patrolling along the border areas are being carried out. “The erection of fencing and installation of flood lights along Indo-Bangladesh border has helped in controlling the smuggling of arms including other cross-border illegal activities,” he added.
Noting that Indo-Myanmar border is more complex, he said regular patrolling and establishment of mobile vehicle check posts along India-Myanmar border have been put in place to check smuggling of arms.
“In order to prevent smuggling across the Indo-Myanmar border, a memorandum of understanding was signed between India and Myanmar in January, 1994, for maintenance of peace and tranquility in border areas,” he said.
Bilateral talks are held regularly at various fora between India and Myanmar and India and Bangladesh to discuss security related issues, including action to check smuggling of arms and effective guarding of international borders, he added.