Buddhist Bhutan has repeated an act it had last carried out 138 years ago—calling out the army. At the crack of dawn on December 15, King Jigme Singye Wangchuk's royal government jumpstarted its small military machine to expel an estimated 3,000 Indian separatist militants belonging to the ULFA, Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)—who had made the Himalayan kingdom the base for their struggles for free homelands in West Bengal and the Northeast.
The action of the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) and the Royal Bhutan Guards (RBG) was swift and sharp. Consequently, the ULFA appealed to King Wangchuk on December 17, urging him to halt the offensive as "the organisation was not a threat to Bhutan's sovereignty". ULFA's commander-in-chief Paresh Barua told journalists that his outfit was prepared to negotiate with Thimphu on the issue of the location of their camps if the military operations were suspended. This statement by the ULFA's elusive chief was interpreted by many as a ceasefire and surrender offer.