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Bhutan plans Operation Flushout

Bhutan plans Operation Flushout

By Manboj Anand
The Asian Age (New Delhi)
July 10, 2000

Guwahati, July 9: Bogged down by consistent charges of aiding the
militants of Assam, the royal government of Bhutan has finally started
deploying troops in border areas and is likely to launch a military
operation soon against militants sheltering in the hill tracts of the
Himalayan kingdom.

Sources said troop movements in adjoining border town has been quite
visible over the last few days, an indicator that Bhutan is planing an
offensive to throw the militants out of their territory.

This became clearer when Bhutan home minister Lyonpo Thinley Gyamtsho
informed the Bhutan National Assembly this week that the presence of
Ulfa and NDFB militants was infringing on Bhutan's sovereignty and
security, causing great concern to the public and could harm Bhutan's
close relations with India, and with Assam in particular. The home
minister also admitted on the floor of the House that he had held two
rounds of talks with Ulfa militants. The first round was held on
November 20, 1998, with the Ulfa finance secretary and a local military

During the second meeting, on May 7, 1999, the Ulfa had deputed two
senior leaders, including its commander-in-chief, Paresh Barua, Mr
Gyamtsho said, adding that Ulfa leaders were informed of the concerns
expressed by members of Bhutan's National Assembly. The militants were
reminded of the tremendous problems faced by Bhutan because of their
presence in Bhutan. He claimed the government had also advised the
militants against the might of the Indian Army and had told Ulfa leaders
that their objective of achieving independence was unrealistic.

The National Assembly of Bhutan was of the view that the Ulfa-Bodo
problem should be solved through a process of peaceful negotiation. If
this fails, military force must be used to evict the militants from
Bhutanese territory, Bhutan's National Assembly resolved this week, a
report in the news bulletin Kuensel said.

The resolution came after three days of prolonged and intensive
discussions. The National Assembly also resolved to strengthen the
striking power of Bhutan's troops.

The National Assembly expressed serious concern over the personal safety
of Bhutan King Jigme Sigme Wangchuk and advised him not to personally
check the security of the remote border areas as it was fraught with
danger. The National Assembly called on the Bhutanese forces to be more
alert and prepared to provide full security to the king who, in his
concern for the nation and his people, exposed himself to great risks.

The news bulletin, in its editorial this week, has also expressed
concern over the financial implications of the military action that also
drew the attention of the members of the National Assembly. The bulletin
said, "Be it the cost of arms or infrastructure, what seemed to be a
colossal reserve fund during peace times suddenly diminished in size
when seen as a budget for military activity."