The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), India's most prominent northeast secessionist movement, announced Sept. 17 that it is abandoning peace talks and The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), India's most prominent Northeast secessionist movement, announced Sept. 17 that it is abandoning peace talks and preparing for a full-scale battle. Though ULFA's militant activity is confined to India's restive Northeast, the group's financial enterprise and strong links with Islamist militant groups have made it a threat that New Delhi will not be able to ignore much longer. eparing for a full-scale battle. Though ULFA's militant activity is confined to the India's restive northeast, the group's financial enterprise and strong links with Islamist militant groups have made it a threat that New Delhi will not be able to ignore much longer.
Indian rebel group the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) announced Sept. 17 that it is giving up on the peace process and readying itself for a full-scale battle. Also Sept. 17, Indian police announced the arrest of a top ULFA leader — the same day that Indian army generals said ULFA is in the process of raising a new battalion in Karbi Anglong district near the Bangladeshi border to take advantage of the reduced security presence in the area. Based in India's northeastern state of Assam, ULFA is the largest and most powerful militant group in the Northeast, where an array of separatist insurgent groups wreaks havoc on a regular basis. ULFA's attacks over the past year have focused primarily on driving out Hindi-speaking migrants and causing damage to oil and natural gas pipelines in Assam. ULFA regularly dances around the idea of peace talks and knows full well that New Delhi is not serious about rewarding its militant campaign with political concessions. At the same time, ULFA prefers keeping up the militant front to maintain its financial network and its beneficial relationship with Pakistan's intelligence agency that helps keep India's hands tied. Thus, talk of negotiations does not really hold much weight. With the Indian government already facing loads of political pressure over its civilian nuclear agreement with the United States and the entry of corporate retail firms into the country, ULFA likely sees this as an opportune time to pressure New Delhi into coming to the negotiating table. The Indian government is reluctant to continue talks, especially as the chief mediator for ULFA, Mamoni Raisom Goswami, is in the hospital after suffering a cerebral stroke. But New Delhi has a growing incentive to pay more attention to ULFA and India's restive Northeast. STRATFOR has been closely monitoring the growing nexus between India's northeastern insurgent outfits and militant Islamist groups that regularly traverse India's extremely porous border with Bangladesh. This is an area where ideology, religion and ethnicity hold little or no regard, as each militant group works with another to promote its cause. ULFA, in particular, has shown a growing propensity to work with Islamist militant groups in the area, and has even begun to outsource operations, including suicide attacks. India received a wake-up call to this threat from the Northeast on Aug. 25, when twin bombings occurred in the city of Hyderabad in southern India. The two prime suspects in that bombing belonged to Bangladesh-based Islamist militant group Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami, which is known to have a working relationship with ULFA and other Northeastern insurgent groups, and with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Though India has largely turned a blind eye to the militant groups operating in its far-flung Northeast, the growing Islamization of the region, the deteriorating security situation in Bangladesh and these insurgents' recent reach into the heart of India's financial hub provide more than enough reason for New Delhi to start paying closer attention to its northeastern border.