Packed in Myanmar’s decision to deport 22 insurgents, a sharp message to others

NSA Ajit Doval and Home Minister Amit Shah oversaw the efforts to get the 22 insurgents deported after the India visit of Myanmar’s commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in July 2019.

Myanmar and India Security cooperation

The 22 northeastern insurgents from six outfits flown out of Myanmar in a special flight on Friday have landed in India and have been handed over to the police in Manipur and Assam.

Myanmar’s decision marks a huge step forward for security cooperation between the two neighbours that New Delhi believes sets the template for other anti-India insurgents caught by Naypyidaw.

But it has taken months of hard work and perseverance. Nine months, to be precise, people familiar with the developments told Hindustan Times.

The first step was taken during the India visit of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar Defence Services. One of the many meetings that Senior General Hlaing had in Delhi with the Indian leadership was with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. It was at this July-end meeting that Ajit Doval broached the topic.

The 22 insurgents had been captured by Myanmar military during joint operations carried out a few months earlier along the borders of Myanmar’s Sagaing Region. The operations, codenamed “Operation Sunshine”, had started in February and continued through March.

They started out with Indian forces holding strong on its side of the border while Myanmar’s forces acted against its insurgent groups. The tactic, called “hammer and anvil”, involves one force pinning down the enemy while the other corners and slams them.

The insurgents had been extorting money from Indian personnel working on the $ 484 million Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project in Myanmar funded by India.

The second phase focused largely on anti-India insurgents; the Myanmar army action forced the insurgents to cross over and surrender to Indian border guards. It is during the second phase of the operation that the 22 insurgents deported on Friday were caught by Myanmar military.

Senior security officials who have been closely associated with the exercise to get back the insurgents said NSA Ajit Doval and Home Minister Amit Shah oversaw the efforts that continued ever since the July meeting.

The decision to deport these 22 insurgents, an official said, is a sharp contrast to the time when Myanmar would rarely act against the anti-India insurgents for one reason or the other. As a result of cooperation between security agencies of the two countries, Myanmar initially took some action and later conducted joint operations with Indian security forces.

This moved up a notch when Myanmar okayed joint operations Indian soldiers would move into its territory to back it up as happened during the 2019 operations. Indian soldiers had also provided military provisions and tactical support in the form of UAV and satellite imagery to the Myanmar units on the ground.

Handing over insurgents is a huge leap, the official said, adding that this places security cooperation between India and Myanmar at a similar plane as the UAE which, due to synergy between security agencies of the two countries, isn’t a haven for criminals wanted in India.