Premierآ’s security report on terrorism in Assam

Vol 7, PW 21 (14 Jan 04) Exploration & Production

Now that Bhutan has smashed the separatist United Liberation of Asom (See: 7--Assam safer as Bhutan cracks down on separatists) oil and gas companies should have no fear about working in Assam.

But if fear persists, they could do worse than follow the example of Britains Premier Oil, which operates two Assam exploration blocks. In November, Premier received a status paper prepared by insurgency expert Binalaxmi Nephram.

In the paper, Nephram identifies four trends emerging in the northeastern states. One, separatist insurgencies are weakening because of a dwindling support base.

This is because of the criminalisation of rank and file operatives and also because of feuds between various groups over conflicting homeland demands. Two, as the insurgent groups weaken they will tend to focus more on fund-raising through extortion.

Industry should expect more extortion demands at least in the near future because the grassroots network to collect subscriptions from a wider base is drying up. Three, these groups would also increasingly resort to urban terrorism rather thanMaoist guerrilla warfare.

This is not a cause for worry. Its more a sign of weakness than strength, and a prelude to their ultimate defeat.

Four, neighbouring countries will relent to Indian and global pressure to smash militants operating from their territories against India. These groups will not be able to depend for long on safe bases across the border.

In this respect, Nephram is prophetic Bhutans military offensive began within a few weeks of her papers submission to Premier. Nephram argues that now is the time to get a "foothold" in the northeast.

However, she warns that companies may have to invest money in infrastructure to gain local goodwill. This could take the form of building a bridge or laying a stretch of road to carry equipment.

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