SOURCE: INDIA TODAY
While the world — and India — focused on Pulwama terror attack and the Balakot airstrike carried out in its aftermath, the Indian Army carried out a mega operation to eliminate threats posed by insurgents along the Indo-Myanmar border. Joint operations between the Indian and Myanmar armies were carried out from February 17 and March 2 to thwart a threat to a mega infrastructure project vital for the Northeast. The threat was from an insurgent group in Myanmar.
The operation was carried out when the world was focused on the Indian Air Force airstrike in Pakistan’s Balakot. The airstrike targeted Jaish-e-Mohammad’s largest terror camp and was seen as a response to the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force jawans were martyred.
While the focus in India and outside remained on the western border, the Indian Army silently carried out a major operation on the eastern front targeting the so-called Arakan Army, an insurgent group reportedly being raised by the Kachin Independence Army, which is designated as a terrorist group by Myanmar.
According to assessments, the mega Kaladan Project was under threat from the Arakan Army. The Kaladan Project is a transit project will connect Kolkata to Sitwe port in Myanmar.
The project will finally end up linking Mizoram and will be a new gateway to the landlocked Northeast. The project will reduce the distance from Kolkata to Mizoram by nearly a thousand kilomteres and bring down the travel time by at least four days. (Notably, China has also been carrying out development projects at Kyaukpyu port near Sitwe.)
With intelligence assessments point to threats to the Kaladan Project, the Indian Army planned a mission to flush out insurgent groups that had set up bases south of Mizoram in Myanmar.
Large scale joint operations were launched by the Indian and Myanmar armies. The first phase targeted newly constructed camps bordering Mizoram. Part two targeted the deadly Naga group, NSCN (K); its their camps were destroyed up north around 1000 kms away bordering Arunachal Pradesh.
The operations — first of their kind in terms of deployment and covering areas all along the India-Myanmar border — went on for two weeks and ended on March 2.
The deployment for the operation included Special Forces of the Indian Army, Assam Rifles and other infantry units. Helicopters, drones and other surveillance equipment were also used during the operations to make an accurate assessment of movement of the insurgent groups and their camps.
“In the last two years the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) that trains the Arakan Army in the Kachin State of Myanmar adjoining China had readied around 3000 cadres that moved to the South closing in on areas adjoining the Lawngtala district of Mizoram,” said a senior officer in the security establishment.
These were exactly the areas that cut through the proposed Kaladan Project that will link Sitwe in Myanmar to Mizoram, sources said.
The Arakan Army is also well trained in setting up Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) making the threat to the project and it workers even greater. “This was a serious concern both for India and Myanmar,” a source said.
The Arakan Army Headquarters are in Laiza also in the Kachin state bordering China falling close to the sensitive India-China-Myanmar trijunction.
The beginnings of the Arakan Army also go back to Kachin state bordering China and not the Arakan region that falls in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.
It’s predominantly a Buddhist insurgent group active in Myanmar.
“A deal was cut out that after the action adjoining Mizoram the Myanmar army will hit the insurgent camps of other groups that have been targeting India. This resulted in totally wiping out of Taga, the HQ of NSCN (K). Based on specific inputs provided by us the Myanmar Army hit these camps and is now occupying them,” said a security officer.
At least a dozen camps have been completely destroyed here, sources said.
The planning for the joint operations started around 2 months back, sources said.
The Arakan Army along with KIA is part of the coalition of insurgent groups called the Northern Alliance said be supported by China.