The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No poll sops, rebel ouster gets priority

Shillong, Feb. 21: The Centre today made it clear that it would not announce any pre-election sops for the Northeast, but would stress on exerting diplomatic influence on Myanmar and Bangladesh to close down all camps set up by Northeast militant outfits in these countries.

Union telecommunications and disinvestment minister Arun Shourie told newspersons today at the BJP office here that the diplomatic channels that have been opened with Myanmar will help end cross-border terrorism as has been done in Bhutan.

Shourie was here to attend BJP election meetings.

“The Bhutan step is a watershed and it will change things not just in Myanmar, but in Bangladesh as well,” he said.

Shourie, however, was critical about Bangladesh’s response to the issue. “If it (Bangladesh) does not respond, it will get isolated.”

Only last evening, seven governors and five chief ministers of the Northeast had passed a resolution to move New Delhi to exert pressure on Bangladesh and Myanmar to dismantle militant camps and plug all escape corridors used by Northeast insurgents to go to these countries.

Shourie said the Centre had, under its peace mission for the Northeast, taken steps to establish “very good diplomatic relations” with Myanmar. “There have been visits by foreign ministers of both these countries and we have set in motion co-operation at various levels,” he said, giving the impression that Myanmar would be ready to do a Bhutan experiment.

“The government of Myanmar is cooperating with the government of India to wipe out cross-border terrorism. It definitely does not want its territory to be used for this purpose,” Shourie said.

Dubbing queries regarding free movement of Northeast militant leaders in Myanmar as a “negative attitude”, the minister turned the focus of attention “to positive developments taking place between the two countries”.

He said plans have been worked out to connect the Northeast to Thailand via Myanmar and also develop a sea port in northern Myanmar to link Northeast to the rest of India.

Besides, the Myanmar government has requested the Union telecommunication ministry to give “village telephony” to 12,000 of its villages and establish international communication link via Calcutta.

“We are exploring the possibility of providing optical fibre cable network from Moreh in Manipur to Mandalay in Myanmar,” Shourie said. He added that Myanmar was willing to reciprocate by allowing India to have access to its gas.

Shourie said helping Myanmar would be an advantage for the Northeast and would also mean “better economic relations”.

Regarding the North Eastern Council (NEC) budget cut, he said: “It is time to turn the tap off for a while”.

He said, “Allocation should not be made and not utilised. Funds will come if the absorptive capacity is exhausted. The Press, NGOs and the public must monitor the funds that comes from the Centre and nail the corrupt”.

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