The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bhutan firm on flushout

Siliguri, April 19: Bhutan will not hesitate to use the military option to flush out Indian insurgents holed up in its territory if it is “compelled”.

Bhutan ambassador to India Lynpo Dago Tshering, however, clarified that the first option would be to throw them out by peaceful means. If such attempts failed, the government would not back down from taking armed action, he said.

“Military action is not our first option, but if that becomes necessary or we are compelled to use it, we will have to with the limited means available with the Royal Bhutan Government,” he said.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Tshering said the presence of insurgents in the jungles along the southern border was of grave concern to his government. The national highway that connected east and west Bhutan ran parallel to the border and the threat of insurgency in the area was a tough problem, he said.

In fact, King Jigme Singye Wangchuk himself was taking interest in ensuring they were peacefully pushed back into Bengal and Assam, he said.

“Today, we are spending crores on beefing up security along the border. We have increased vigil and set up several new checkposts. Crores are being spend on training, equipping and preparing our security forces so that they can take military action if that becomes necessary,” Tshering said.

Asked if Bhutan would set the insurgents any fresh deadline to quit, he said it was “a human problem that cannot be solved overnight”.

The ambassador said Bhutan had verified the presence of about 20 United Liberation Front of Asom, National Democratic Front of Bodoland and KLO camps on its soil.

“All these militant camps are in dense jungles close to the border in south Bhutan. With the national highway running parallel to the border and acting as a lifeline between western and eastern Bhutan, militant presence make things worse for us. All our development supplies, provisions, oil, petroleum and construction material are transported through NH 31. So you can imagine how important the NH 31 is to Bhutan,” he said.

Tshering said people living along the border were suffering untold hardships because of the insurgents. Sunday markets had had to be shut down and people relocated in far-off places so that the militants did not use them as couriers, he said.

“We hope they (the militants) are ready to leave Bhutan as they are saying they will,” he said.

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