AGARTALA, India: The isolated Indian territory of Tripura, jutting into East Pakistan like a hitchhiker’s thumb, is very much in the midst of war and both the military and civil developments that have sprung from it on one side of Tripura’s borders is a large Indian Army presence, sent in to reinforce the normal contingent of Army troops and the Border Security Force guard who police the frontier.

On the other side of its borders is the Pakistan Army. Somewhere in between is what Indian military sources describe as the biggest and most effective unit of the rebel Bangla Desh Army.

Well-informed residents here say there has always been an Indian Army presence, but add that additional troops were sent in after the start of the East Pakistan crisis, BSP soldiers are still manning border checkpoints. But these residents say that Indian Army has taken over much of the responsibility for securing the frontier.

Despite the easily evident presence of Army trucks and uniformed soldiers in Agartala’s streets, the Chief Minister of the territorial government Lal Singh, denied that the Indian Army was present in Tripura.

A spokesman for the Indian Army at the Eastern District Headquarters in Calcutta confirmed that the Army was in the territory in force. However, he said mostly infantry units were involved and that their strength was enough for any eventuality.

Well informed residents here say the Indian Army officers are conducting training for the guerillas, known as the Mukti Fouj, at a Police Academy about a mile and a half away from the border. The Army denies it and says the Mukti Fouj do not have permission to enter India.

The Army also denies that it supplies the rebels but just before dusk on a lonely route leading to the border at the village of Mohanpur, an hour’s drive from Agartala, Western reporters saw an ambulance with Indian markings pulled up by the side of the road. In the truck were ammunition boxes and alongside was a civilian truck of a make that is seen in Pakistan and not in India. Standing around it were men in Khaki Army uniforms with no insignia.

Near the border in Agartala at dusk you can hear the distinctive pop of 81 millimetre mortars being fired... . Almost immediately the heavier sound of artillery responds. The Indian military sources say it is Mukti Fouj firing at West Pakistan Army, from East Pakistan soil. The artillery is the West Pakistanis firing back.

Strong protest against shelling:

[Meanwhile, as reported by agencies in Islamabad,] The Government of Pakistan has strongly protested against the continuation of incidents of unprovoked firing by the Indian Border Security Forces and the Indian Armed Forces and trespasses into Pakistan territory.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2021

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