Guwahati: A strategic pact signed between India and Myanmar has been hailed in the country`s northeast as a major step forward in combating terror and boosting trade and commerce between the two neighbouring nations.
"The agreement between the two countries to offer mutual legal assistance in criminal matters would surely help in tackling insurgency in the northeast with a number of militant groups active in the region having bases inside Myanmar," Biren Singh, senior Manipur minister and state government spokesperson, told a news agency.
The pact was signed in New Delhi on Tuesday during Myanmar military ruler Than Shwe`s visit.
"Normally what happens is that after carrying out violent attacks in our region, militants sneak back to their bases in Myanmar and that complicates the matter. Now with both the countries agreeing to cooperate on combating terrorism, northeast rebels would find it tough to take refuge in Myanmar."
India and Myanmar share a 1,640-km long unfenced border, allowing militants from the northeast to use the adjoining country as a springboard for hit-and-run guerrilla strikes on Indian soldiers.
At least half-a-dozen militant groups from India`s northeast, where numerous tribal and ethnic groups are fighting for greater autonomy or independence, have training camps in northern Myanmar`s thick jungles - all of them sheltered there under the patronage of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K).
Among the Indian separatist armies operating out of Myanmar`s northern Sagaing Division, apart from the NSCN-K, are the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the People`s Liberation Army (PLA), and the People`s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK).
India and Myanmar on Tuesday signed five pacts - primary among them being a treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters that that could enable India get access to insurgents from India`s northeast states operating out of Myanmar.
The treaty also aims at deepening bilateral cooperation in combating transnational organised crime, terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering and smuggling of arms and explosives.
The pacts were signed between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Myanmar`s military ruler General Than Shwe in New Delhi.
"Bangladesh and Bhutan had already cooperated in rooting out northeast rebel bases from their country and now with the treaty with Myanmar, we could see some results very soon in terms of military crackdown on militant bases in that country," Assam government spokesperson and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
Combating terrorism apart, India has offered credits worth millions of dollars to Myanmar – USD 60 million line of credit for development of railways, another USD 60 million for revamping of the Rhi-Tiddim road to enhance connectivity to northeastern states, USD 10 million for procurement of agricultural machinery and USD 6 million to upgrade the microwave link between Moreh and Mandalay in Myanmar.
The 225 km Rhi-Tiddim road connecting Myanmar to Mizoram is considered a vital lifeline in terms of boosting trade and commerce - a trade centre at Mizoram`s Champai district would be the direct beneficiary after the road opens.
"If the Rhi-Tiddim road opens, it would surely boost bilateral trade between the two countries. Now with poor road communications on the Myanmar side, there is literally zero business at the trade centre in Champhai," a Mizoram government official said.