Maoists in north-east for arms, not to expand

GUWAHATI: Security agencies believe Maoists are making inroads into the north-east to gain access to the arms market in the neighbouring Yunan province of China and not with the aim of expanding their base.

A source said that the Centre has raised concern with China and Myanmar regarding smuggling of arms through their territories. “The Maoists are in the north-eastern region for long-term strategic reasons. Militant outfits in the north-east are already procuring arms from the Yunan province, Myanmar and Southeast Asian countries. The source of illegal arms in Yunan province is mainly a Beijing-based arms manufacturing company, Norinco, which has its unit in Yunan,” the source said.

An MHA document says Maoists are working in close association with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur, which also has a base in Myanmar. “The Maoists have been found carrying Chinese-made arms, but we do not know yet whether they procured the weapons directly from China or were supplied arms by north-eastern militant outfits,” the source said.

“The cooperation from Bangladesh is very good,” said the source, adding there has been significant improvement in Myanmar’s response on the issue since a new government took over in that country.

In the recently-held conference of chief ministers in New Delhi, Union home minister P Chidambaram stated, “Assam has emerged as the new theatre of Maoist activity. There are also inputs about links of CPI(Maoist) with insurgent groups in Manipur.”

At the same meeting, chief minister Tarun Gogoi submitted that though Maoists presence in the region is still at a nascent stage, it has the potential to spiral if not checked. He said that the rebels are present in three upper Assam districts and so far 21 of them have been arrested.

On the security agencies’ list of suspects for smuggling arms to Maoists are some members of the NSCN(IM) and Paresh Baruah, the leader of the anti-talks Ulfa faction who was declared accused by a Bangladesh court in an arms haul case in April 2004.

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