India-Pakistan: October 31, 2000

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India has long had problems with ethnic guerrillas and insurgents in the eastern part of the country near Bangladesh. The primary rebel groups are the United Liberation Front of Assam and the Bodo Liberation Tigers. In 1997, India convinced Bangladesh to sign an agreement that effectively ended the ability of these rebels to maintain bases in that country. The rebels, responding to the pressure, shut down most of their bases there and expanded the bases they already had in Bhutan. The Bhutanese government responded with alarm. The remote eastern region is barely under government control in the best of times, and the rebels have effectively taken over. The Bhutanese government maintained a small Army of 6,000 infantry, none of whom were trained for counter-guerrilla operations. The Bhutanese have, since then, expanded their Army by six "wings" (a wing is a weak infantry battalion of about 330 men) and has invited India to provide intense counter-guerrilla training. About 2,000 troops have completed this training and more are receiving it. Analysts expect that the Bhutanese government will take part in a campaign to eject the Assam and Bodo rebels, probably in cooperation with Indian troops, within the next year.--Stephen V Cole

 

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