India in diplomatic spot as Myanmar urges return of cops who fled

The officials said no decision has been taken as yet and they're waiting for instructions from the Centre

Myanmar
Students protest on the streets of Yangon, Myanmar | File Photo: PTI

The India-Myanmar border at Mizoram has been sealed after about 48 people, including eight policemen, from the country crossed over to the north-eastern state, putting New Delhi into a diplomatic tight spot.

Another over 100 Burmese nationals are said to be waiting at the border to cross over amidst a spurt in violence and turmoil in the neighbouring country, according to a senior official of the Assam Rifles that guards the border.

Senior bureaucrats in Aizawl told The Federal over phone that the development has now turned into a sensitive diplomatic issue after Myanmar officially requested India for handing over eight policemen who have taken refuge in Mizoram.

The Deputy Commissioner of Mynamar’s Falam District, in a letter to his Indian counterpart in Champhai, requested deportation of the policemen.

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The policemen apparently fled the country refusing orders from the new regime that took over power following a military coup on February 1.

The officials in Mizoram said no decision has been taken as yet over Myanmar’s request. “The state government is waiting for an instruction from the Centre,” said a senior bureaucrat.

DC Falam, Saw Htun Win, requested DC Champhai Maria C.T. Zuali on March 4 to detain the eight policemen and hand them over to Myanmar to “uphold friendly relations between the two neighbouring countries,” said officials privy to the letter.

Zuali told The Federal they’re waiting for instructions from the Union home ministry.

In May last year, Myanmar army handed over to India 22 militants belonging to different armed rebel groups of Assam and Manipur, acting on New Delhi’s request for deportation of the insurgent leaders hiding in that country.

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The cooperation of the Myanmar military is crucial for India to keep the insurgency in the northeast under control. Apart from building bases in jungles of Myanmar, the rebel groups of Northeast also use the neighbouring country as a transit route to smuggle arms procured from arms dealers in China and other countries.

Apart from the eight police personnel, around 40 civilians too have sneaked into the bordering districts of Mizoram such as Champai, Lawngtlai and Serchhip, according to an official estimate.

About 100 people, mostly family members of functionaries of the Chin National Army (CAN), an insurgent group in Myanmar, are camping near the border waiting for an opportunity to cross over, said official sources.

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The Assam Rifles intensified the vigil to prevent the influx though on principle the Mizoram government is in favour of giving shelter to the fleeing refugees on humanitarian ground.

“Our brothers and sisters in Myanmar are facing hardship after the military coup. We will, therefore, provide them moral and physical support if they approach us,” Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga said recently at the assembly during the budget session.

The officials in Aizawl however admitted that giving refuge to those wanted in Myanmar would be little tricky, given the good relation that India enjoys with Myanmar’s military leadership.

(with inputs from Ezrela Dalidia Fanai in Aizawl) 

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