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Millennium Post

Siliguri Corridor needs country’s attention, tanks or no tanks

The army is not sure of the efficacy of deploying full armoured brigades on the Line of Actual Control [LAC] that stretches across the frontier of India and China.

'There are some tanks that we have on the Siliguri corridor. But in no way can it be called a brigade,' said a senior army source at the South Block headquarters of the force. The source refused categorically to discuss the numbers and strength of the tank units.

But, the source loquaciously related the threats faced by the country to its 'eastern chicken's neck', or the Siliguri corridor, a narrow strip of land – about 200 kilometres in length and 20 to 60 kilometres in width – that connects the country’s mainland to its Northeastern outposts. Geographically, the corridor extends from Islampur sub-division of Darjeeling district, Jalpaiguri Sadar and Alipurduar sub-divisions of Jalpaiguri district; and Toofanganj, Mathabhanga, Coochbehar Sadar, Dinhata and Mekhliganj sub-divisions of Coochbehar district.

According to the senior army source, there has been an increase in the incursion of the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the area; the increase in Buddhist monasteries in the area; the jutting in of the Chumbi Valley, a Tibetan valley, which is at the intersection of the Sikkim in India, Bhutan and Tibet. All these together and separately create a threat to the security of the country that requires constant vigilance.

The source also points at unlikely possibility of Bangladesh and China working in tandem on threatening India in the eastern sector. 'It cannot be denied that the Bangladesh army is configured on Chinese materiel,' the source said.

So, the army has to guard against any land in the area getting into private hands. And it has to guard against local insurgent groups being used to subvert the country. A few years ago, the United Liberation Front of Asom [ULFA], the National Socialist Council of Nagaland [Isaac-Muivah] and odd groups, like the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation, posed a clear and present danger to the corridor.

These insurgent groups were also being harboured by Bangladesh under the Khaleda Zia regime. Now, that there has been policy transformation and pro-active policing of these groups by Dhaka, and their threat has significantly diminished.
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