SILCHAR, Dec 17: The question now impinging the minds of security and intelligence agencies is: Will ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah mellow down for negotiations? The agencies concerned keeping trail on the movement of Baruah have got enough indications that he is cooling his heels in the wooded fastness of Kachin province of Myanmar. The province is known as a safe passage and sanctuary of Northeast extremist groups with active support from the Kachin Independent Army (KIA), Arakan, Karen, Shan, and Chin rebels fighting for liberating zones against the military junta of Yangon.
Mizo National Front (MNF) headquarters, it is to be recalled, was based at Newlogoon close to the border of Mizoram. Besides Bangladesh and Bhutan, ULFA had also set up camps in Kachin after the outfit signed the Indo-Burma Revolutionary Front (IBRF) with NSCN (K) and UNLF in 1995.
The entire troubled zone is best known as guerilla hinterland. Both the NSCN (K) and UNLF have strong presence in the Arakant region. It is the writ of the rebels and not the military junta that runs through the province and all the areas around. The strategic location of Kachin and Shan provinces with passage to China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand provides the Northeast militants easy access to arms shipped from international markets.
It is an open secret that besides Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar and sea ports of Bangladesh, arms used by militants come from Mynmar. Assam Rifles has identified 30 border villages across Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram where arms are apprehended from gunrunners. BSF, on the other hand, listed India’s 663-km border with Mynmar as “corridor of terror.”
Logistic and material support has made Myanmar an ideal destination for ULFA. The lone top fugitive Paresh Baruah in the present predicament can not have a better option but to seek refuge with IBRF allies and the Myanmarese guerillas. Intelligence agencies have more information on ULFA’s Kachin safari. Also China has been one of the potential suppliers of arms and according to intelligence sources, a strong syndicate code named “Black House” with its base in Yunan province of China controls shipments of Chinese arms and ammunition in South Asia.
Reports quoting Jane’s Intelligence Review say that China now scores over Combodia and Thailand as the main supplier of weapons to Northeast militants. The review further states that IBRF allies have close coordination with United Wa State Army with large force of soldiers, an obscure but dreaded Myanmar based insurgent group. The Army works as a link between Chinese arms suppliers and militant groups of India, the review stated.
Reports further added that Paresh Baruah had not escaped from Bangladesh in the wake of the crackdown on ULFA leaders. He has long before been in Kachin, for arms shopping, where he is holed up now.
Cannot India mount diplomatic pressure on Myanmar like Bangladesh for crackdown on extremist leaders? Observers say it is difficult to implement the reason being that the military junta of Yangon have no control over Kachin and Shan provinces where the rebels are active and secondly because Beijing has great influence over Myanmarese military rulers and the rebels too maintain better Chinese connections for their own interests.
But there is glimmer of hope for the hard-liner Paresh Baruah to mellow down. A psycho-analysis of his apology, expressing remorse for the tragic Dhemaji blast which claimed 14 innocent lives five years ago is an index perhaps of his changing thought-process. His entire team of policy makers being in detention and the fast changing ground reality in his native State for peace and development, Paresh Baruah can no more remain elusive, believe observers. THE SENTINEL