Despite the “cordial relations”, New Delhi is seriously working on initiating a number of “strict security regulations” along India’s 699-km long “open border” with Bhutan.
Sources in the Ministry of Home Ministry told Northeast Now that a detailed draft for the new security regulations along the Bhutan border is being drafted. The Dragon Kingdom shares border with four Indian states – Assam (267 km), Arunachal Pradesh (217 km), West Bengal (183 km), and Sikkim (32 km).
The Ministry has proposed an all-weather border road all along the 699-km long frontier with Bhutan for “effective border guarding”. An effective border guarding is a need of the hour because insurgent groups are still active along the area.
Taking advantage of the open border, insurgents are using Bhutan’s territory for safe sanctuary, after carrying out subversive activities in Assam. A large number of Bhutanese nationals are reportedly extending shelter and logistic support to the insurgents.
The proposal for the all-weather border road is now awaiting clearance from the Ministry of Environment & Forest, the sources said. As the proposed border road will run through the northern fringe of the Manas National Park and Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary, the Ministry of Environment is still sitting on the proposal. Located in the Himalayan foothills, Manas National Park is listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage site. It is contiguous with the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.
The decision to construct the all-weather border road along Bhutan was taken following a series of inputs from intelligence units. The Indian intelligence agencies also have detailed information about the involvement of the Bhutanese nationals with the insurgents.
Based on the intelligence input, BD Sharma, Director General of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) on December 22, 2015 had announced that the Centre had decided to erect fencing between India and Bhutan to keep control on activities of insurgent groups.
In the first phase, the SSB had proposed border fencing along a 35-km long patch in the insurgency-ravaged Kokrajhar and Chirang districts of Assam. Sharma had also claimed that the Ministry of Home Affairs accepted the proposal.
The SSB, during the last one year, has augmented deployment along the Bhutan border. At present, it has 20 full battalions at 158 operational border posts. The enhanced manpower has been deployed for round the clock patrolling and surveillance along the Bhutan border.
The SSB has also started to set up the network of its new intelligence wing and it has totally changed the scenario of border guarding along the Bhutan frontier. The scenario of border guarding along Bhutan is sure to change further with the construction of the border road and barbed fencings, the sources said.
The SSB personnel are now going to further restrict the free movement of Bhutanese nationals along the open border. There are reports that a lot of Bhutanese nationals help the insurgents to criss-cross the border, and is now posing a serious threat to India’s internal security
While Bhutanese nationals are heavily dependent on Indian border towns and markets on a daily basis, SSB personnel have pulled up socks to check trans-border smuggling.
Indian enforcement agencies have reported that Bhutan has become a main corridor for smuggling of gold to India. A lot of Indian smugglers, in connivance with Bhutanese nationals are engaged in smuggling of gold to India.
West Bengal forest department has also been complaining that a strong network of animal-parts smugglers from Bhutan have been engaged in illegal trade of wildlife, taking advantage of the open border.
The West Bengal forest department had also asked the Bhutan government to form a special task force to address the issue of wildlife smuggling from the Dragon Kingdom. Rhino horn, tiger parts and small animals like Gecko, rare birds, pangolin were smuggled into India from Bhutan through the open border.
Ten Bhutanese nationals have been arrested in West Bengal in the past one year related to different wildlife crimes. Bhutan’s involvement in animal parts smuggling first came to light in October, 1993 after police in Taiwan had arrested Bhutanese princess Dekiy Wangchuck at Chiang Kai-shek airport for allegedly trying to smuggle 22 Asian rhino horns into the country.
It was reported in the international media that the Bhutan princess had admitted that she expected to sell the horn, which weighed 14 kilograms, for a whooping $740 000. Later she had admitted that she had acquired the horns in Bhutan.