The ISI, which trained a batch of Assam’s ULFA militants in 1991-92, considered the rebel group’s chief Paresh Baruah a prize catch and did not want to offend him even after he was unwilling to take the agency’s commands on conducting operations in the northeastern state, claims a new book.

‘ULFA: The Mirage of Dawn’ by seasoned journalist Rajeev Bhattacharyya traces the journey of the outlawed group from its inception in the late 1970s to the present, when peace is being negotiated between a faction led by Arabinda Rajkhowa and the Centre.

Baruah now heads the anti-talks ULFA (Independent) faction and is believed to be hiding somewhere in China’s Yunnan province.

The first batch of ULFA militants was trained in Pakistan in 1991-92 in three groups comprising a total of 40 cadres. One group was trained near Peshawar and other functionaries were taken for short visits to Kandahar in Afghanistan and the arms bazaar at Darra Adam Khel near the Safed Koh mountains in Pakistan.

The book says the ISI ‘expected ULFA to be totally submissive, which irked Baruah no end’.

‘He was not willing to bow down before the agency and accept all its diktats, such as taking regular commands for operations to be conducted in Assam. At some point, he was convinced that their association with the ISI had reached a dead end. He abruptly stood up in the last meeting and left the venue with a ‘goodbye’,’ the author writes.

But the ISI ‘knew that Baruah was a prize catch who could not be allowed to get offended’.

The agency knew that many benefits could be reaped from the ULFA, including access to other separatist groups from the northeast who could be trained in Pakistan, the book, which was launched here on Saturday, claims.

‘So, the agency not only allowed the second batch to complete its training but also soon instructed its officials at the embassy in Dhaka to request Baruah to dispatch the next batch. This he did, and also landed at the ISI headquarters in Rawalpandi… The spat was not only over but it had sealed a deal that was to endure for many years,’ the book, published by HarperCollins India, says.

The modules offered to the cadres were of different durations ranging from 17 days to three months.

It also says that Lt Gen Asfaq Pervez Kayani, who was later appointed chief of ISI, interacted and shook hands with a batch of ULFA functionaries when they were undergoing training in that country. Kayani succeeded Gen Pervez Musharraf as the chief of Pakistan army in 2007.

The book also describes how Baruah was imprisoned for over two months in Bangladesh by the country’s intelligence agency Directorate General of Forces Intelligence.

The episode unfolded in mid-1993 after a consignment of sophisticated weapons sourced from Romania in a ship was confiscated by police at Chittagong. Baruah along with another senior functionary was taken into DGFI custody and kept at the Mirpur military cantonment after they approached the intelligence agency to release the weapons.