In big win for defence ministry, Army to retain control of Myanmar border

Assam Rifles Representational image | Assam Rifles' Facebook page

The defence ministry has appeared to have won a decisive battle against the home ministry over control of security on the India-Myanmar border (IMB).

For the last eight years, the home ministry has been lobbying to take control of the Myanmar border, with India claiming Myanmar had become a den for terrorists and the BSF would use its expertise of guarding the border with Bangladesh and a part of the Pakistan border to control infiltration across India-Myanmar border.

The Myanmar border is presently being guarded by the Assam Rifles, which is commanded by the Indian Army from the Eastern Command headquarters in Kolkata. The former chiefs of both Assam Rifles—which is in charge of internal security of the northeast as well—and BSF had declared in 2014 that all processes were being done and even a date was being finalised to hand over border management of the Indo-Myanmar border to BSF.

But in an exclusive interview in an upcoming issue of THE WEEK, a senior army officer and current director general of Assam Rifles, Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan said, “Bringing in another force to guard the Indo-Myanmar Border will undo all that has been achieved and will give a free run to insurgents. In fact, the need of the hour is to further empower the AR for it to become more effective in both roles.”

In the issue that will hit stands on March 11, THE WEEK has brought out the situation on the India-Myanmar border by visiting key outposts and talking to the senior officials of the Assam Rifles, deputed from the Indian Army.

When asked about the joint declaration of both the DGs of Assam Rifles and BSF about the transfer of power over IMB to BSF, Chauhan did not want to comment but told THE WEEK, “I have nothing to make any comment about it except the fact that you can see who are in charge of protecting IMB today.”

Sources have confirmed to THE WEEK that the Indian Army had fought tooth and nail against the home ministry’s decision of handing over the Myanmar border to BSF. The Army had also found that due to heavy investment and involvement of China in Myanmar, it would be unwise to withdraw Assam Rifles or the Army from the Myanmar border.

A senior Army officer of Eastern Command told THE WEEK, “Giving BSF the charge of Myanmar border means that there would be no coordination with Assam Rifles. While BSF is commanded by police cadres, Assam Rifles is commanded by the Indian Army. But Army is in charge of internal security in the northeast. So it would be easy for Myanmar-based terrorists to come infiltrate and coordinate with their henchmen staying inside India.”

When asked about possibilities that BSF would come and stop the infiltration permanently, the senior officer in Fort William said, “That would not be possible because India-Myanmar border could not be fenced. It’s just not humanly possible because of the tough mountain terrain. And also has the infiltration across Bangladesh stopped completely despite fencing there?”

So as of now, the defence ministry seems to have secured a big win in protecting its turf against the home ministry's grand plan of bringing BSF to guard the Myanmar border.