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Rebel menace on talks table

Dimapur, April 19: India and Myanmar will revisit the thorny topic of joint operations to flush out militants holed up in that country when top army officials meet a junta delegation tomorrow in the serenity of the 3 Corps headquarters at Rangapahar, on the fringes of Nagaland’s commercial hub.

Apart from counter-insurgency operations and sharing of intelligence on militant groups, the meeting is expected to address border management issues.

The talks were slated for today, but postponed because of a weather-induced delay in the arrival of the 20-member Myanmarese delegation. The helicopters that were to airlift the officials could not reach Dimapur because of inclement weather in Manipur, bordering Myanmar.

Army sources said the Myanmarese officers would travel to Dimapur by road if the weather remained unchanged till tomorrow morning.

The Myanmarese delegation is being led by Brig. Gen. Tin Maung Ohm. The Indian army team will be headed by an officer of the same rank from the 3 Corps. Lt Gen. Z.U. Shah, who is the seniormost army commander in the 3 Corps, will participate in the discussions.

A source said the Indian side would definitely raise issues pertaining to border security management, specifically the need to share information on the movements of militants and smugglers along the vast, inhospitable terrain of the Indo-Myanmar border.

Another issue on the agenda is “military-to-military co-operation and engagement”.

“Co-ordinated counter-insurgency operations against militant groups and other armed organisations involved in drug-running are definitely on the cards,” the source said.

Several militant groups of the Northeast have camps in Myanmar.

Military spokesmen were unwilling to be quoted on the agenda for the talks because of the sensitive nature of the issues that would be dealt with at the meeting.

Militant groups like the NSCN (Khaplang) have in the past accused security forces of conducting operations in co-ordination with Myanmar in violation of its truce with Delhi.

On being asked if military aid would be offered to the Myanmarese military for co-ordinated management of border security or joint counter-insurgency operations, a military source said such issues were not on the agenda but could be discussed if the visiting delegation raised them.

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