OPERATION ALL CLEAR
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- Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk met Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a historic three-day visit to Assam.
- Despite the 265.8 km border shared by Assam and Bhutan, this marked the first visit of a Bhutanese monarch to the state.
- The hill kingdom was pushed to undertake its first military operation in 140 years to flush out the militants from its territory.
- ‘Operation All Clear’ was launched by the Royal Bhutan Army on December 15, 2003, and dealt a crippling blow to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland and the Kamatapur Liberation Organization (KLO), which had set up camps in Bhutanese territory
- Challenges along Bhutan-India Border: In the 1990s, Assam-based insurgent groups established camps in southeastern Bhutan, leading to strains in the peaceful relationship between Bhutan and India, as these groups posed a threat to Bhutan's sovereignty and security.
- Bhutan's Initial Approach: Initially, Bhutan refrained from engaging with the Indian insurgents on its territory, attempting diplomatic dialogues but avoiding coercive action due to its limited military capacity and lack of experience in handling such threats.
Factors Prompting the Military Operation
- Threat to Bilateral Relations: The presence of insurgent groups in Bhutan was deemed a direct threat to Bhutan's bilateral relationship with India, its primary trade partner and key ally.
- Impact on National Security and Development: The insurgents' activities disrupted economic development, stalled crucial projects like the Dungsam Cement Project, and jeopardized the safety of Bhutanese citizens, leading to tragic loss of innocent lives.
- Fear of Ethnic Insurgency: Concerns arose that the insurgent groups might arm ethnic Nepalese Lhotshampas, potentially fueling an ethnic insurgency in southern Bhutan, thereby destabilizing the country.
Implementation and Outcome of Operation All Clear
- Military Offensive: On December 15, 2003, the Royal Bhutan Army launched 'Operation All Clear' with assistance from the Indian Army, conducting coordinated attacks on the camps of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), and Kamatapur Liberation Organization (KLO).
- Successes of the Operation: The operation resulted in the neutralization of several key leaders of the insurgent groups, including ULFA's Bhimkanta Buragohain, NDFB's B. Erakdao, and KLO's Tom Adhikary, dealing a significant blow to the activities and influence of these groups.
Collaboration with India and International Implications
- Indo-Bhutan Collaboration: The coordinated effort between the Royal Bhutan Army and the Indian Army during the operation highlighted the strong collaboration between the two countries in addressing cross-border security threats.
- Regional Stability and Diplomacy: The success of Operation All Clear contributed to enhancing regional stability, fostering a sense of security, and reaffirming the commitment of Bhutan and India to combating terrorism and maintaining peace in the region.
Post-Operation Developments and Reconciliation Efforts
- Reconstruction and Reconciliation: Following the operation, efforts were made to promote post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation, emphasizing the need for sustainable development and peace-building in the affected areas.
- Long-term Diplomatic Engagement: The operation underscored the importance of continuous diplomatic engagement and cooperation between Bhutan and India to address cross-border security challenges and maintain a stable and peaceful regional environment.
Operation All Clear remains a significant milestone in Bhutan's history, demonstrating the country's commitment to safeguarding its sovereignty and national security. The successful operation, conducted in collaboration with India, highlighted the importance of regional cooperation in addressing transnational security threats and maintaining peace and stability in the region.
Q. Discuss the significance of 'Operation All Clear' conducted by the Royal Bhutan Army against Assam-based insurgent groups in 2003. Assess the role of international cooperation in addressing cross-border security threats and maintaining regional stability. (250 Words)