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Request to Bhutan to help fight NE rebels

New Delhi, June 17: India has sought Bhutan’s co-operation in fighting Northeast insurgent groups that have camps along the border with the Himalayan country.

New Delhi has cited the success against the Ulfa over a decade ago and underlined the request for help with the “terrorism divides, tourism unites” message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to Bhutan’s parliament yesterday.

Modi’s reference was seen as his way of emphasising Bhutan’s close links with the Northeast.

“India has sought Bhutan’s co-operation in dealing with this problem. We recall how in 2003, Bhutan had pushed back the Ulfa,” an official said.

The National Democratic Front of Bodoland’s (Songbijit) faction is one of the militant groups that has such camps, sources said.

The splinter NDFB faction — which is opposed to talks unlike the main group — is blamed for a large number of killings and extortion in the Bodo areas.

The officials stressed the need to nip the threat from the NDFB camps in the bud before it assumed menacing proportions like that of the Ulfa over a decade ago.

The Bodo outfit is largely headless in the area as the top leadership, including I.K. Songbijit and others, are believed to be hiding in Myanmar, close to the border with Manipur.

Officials said the NDFB camps were largely restricted to the border areas in Bhutan and could be tackled with better co-ordination between the forces of the two nations.

The sources said the security request to Thimphu was dovetailed with Modi’s proposal yesterday for a tourism circuit “combining India’s north-eastern states and Bhutan”.