Army pulls out 2 battalions from Northeast

Army pulls out 2 battalions from NE; plans further reduction

This is for the first time in nearly four decades that the Army announced cutting down its troops from the conflict zones of the Northeast

Representative image (DH Photo)

Indian Army has withdrawn two battalion of troops from the Northeast and would further reduce its presence on the ground in the next two and half years, Army Chief Gen M M Naravane said here on Tuesday.

In an interaction with a select group of journalists including DH, Gen Naravane said that in future the Army would concentrate more on the “conventional warfare” in the NE rather than the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations, which is the norm at the moment.

This is for the first time in nearly four decades that the Army announced cutting down its troops from the conflict zones of the Northeast, which was heavily affected by the militancy since the rise of ULFA in the late 1970s. At one point of time, there were nearly 20 active militant groups operating in the seven states that form the NE region.

“Two battalions (nearly 1500 troops) have already been taken out and once the Bodoland (Territorial Council) elections are over, we would reduce more troops. In the next 2-2.5 years we would concentrate fully on conventional warfare in the North East rather than CI/CT operations,” he said.

Gen Naravane, who took over as the Army Chief earlier this month before serving as the Vice Chief and General Officer Commanding in Charge of the Eastern Command in Kolkata, said that the Northeast was going through a transition phase as the security situation was improving.

The Armed Forces Special Power Act was abolished from Tripura and Meghalaya in 2015 and 2018 respectively and there is barely any existence of militancy in Arunachal Pradesh. Assam too has cooled down considerably even though violence continues in Nagaland and Manipur.

The Centre and Assam government on Monday signed a new agreement with Bodo groups including all four factions of the insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland with a hope to establish permanent peace in the region and put an end to the 48-year-long demand for a separate Bodoland state.

Last week more than 640 militants belonging to eight groups laid down their arms, while another 600 came over ground for a dialogue with the Centre as well as with Assam government.

With insurgency going down, the troops under 3 Corps (Dimapur) and 4 Corps (Tezpur) would focus more on the China border as “India could not afford to be weak,” Gen Naravane said. “It is true that the Line of Actual Control was quiet as no bullet was fired but it doesn't mean no war in future,” he noted.

As a part of its plan to ramp up infrastructure along the 3,488 km long Line of Actual Control, the Centre is constructing, aviation base, ammunition dump near the disputed Sino Indian border as well as border roads, most of which are expected to be completed by 2023. Among other things it would improve frequency of patrolling in remote areas, which remains an area of concern for the Army.