Army opposes move to shift Assam Rifles’ op control to Home ministry
New Delhi, Sep. 29 (PTI): The Army has red flagged a proposal by the Home Ministry to bring the Assam Rifles under its operational control, saying such a move will seriously jeopardise surveillance over the country’s sensitive border with China when it has been ramping up military infrastructure along the frontiers with India.
Top military sources said concerned over the proposal, the Army has strongly taken up the issue with the Defence Ministry last week urging it to immediately intervene in the matter considering possible national security implications if operational control of the nearly 185 years old Assam Rifles was handed over to the Home Ministry.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is likely to examine the Home Ministry’s move to merge the Assam Rifles with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and bring overall operational control under it.
“Shifting the operational control of the Assam Rifles from the Army to the Home Ministry will severely jeopardise the surveillance along the Line of Actual Control with China,” a top military official told PTI on the condition of anonymity.
Sources said the Army’s views on the matter have already been conveyed to the top defence and security brass of the government.
The nearly 55,000 strong Assam Rifles has been guarding India’s 1,640-km long border with Myanmar besides providing operational and logistics support to the Army in keeping a strict vigil in several key sectors along the Sino-India boundary in Arunachal Pradesh. The Assam Rifles has also been carrying out counter-insurgency operations in militancy-infested states in the North Eastern region.
At present, the Home Ministry has the administrative authority over the Assam Rifles while the Army has its operational control.
The sources said the Home Ministry has already prepared a draft note to be presented at the CCS seeking total control of the Assam Rifles.
The biggest concern for the Army is that shifting of operational control of the Assam Rifles to the Home Ministry may adversely impact the Army’s capability to effectively guard the sensitive border with China when the neighbouring country has been enhancing its military infrastructure along the frontier with India, sources said.
They said the Assam Rifles provides significant assistance to the Army in keeping strict surveillance over the border with China as it frees up Army units from “static defensive” role. Moreover, 70-80 per cent personnel of the Assam Rifles are deployed in conventional military roles.
“The Assam Rifles fills the void when Army units carry forward the battle to the enemy territory. This is the only genuine paramilitary force which actively participated in all the wars since Independence including the 1962 and 1971 wars,” said a senior Army official.
The Assam Rifles, at present, has a total of 46 battalions, and most of its units are headed by Army officers since 1884. The Assam Rifles was put under complete operational control of the Army in 1965.
The Army has also questioned the timing of the proposal to bring the paramilitary force under the Home Ministry when the security scenario in the North Eastern region has been fragile due to the issue of National Register of Citizens (NRC).
“The ongoing peace talks with Naga insurgent groups are at an advanced stage. There is a growing apprehension among people of Manipur and Assam regarding the possible impact of any agreement between the Centre and the NSCN (IM). The NRC updating process is also likely to cause some turbulence,” said the official.