Myanmar should be on board to resolve north-east insurgency
by Ashok B Sharma on 14 Jun 2015 0 Comment

The Indian Army operation in Myanmar was enough a message to the insurgents that New Delhi will no longer tolerate nefarious activities engineered from the soil of a neighbouring country. This is not about counting casualties on either side. This issue is retaliation at the right time to save civilian casualties deliberately planned by insurgents.


It is not as if New Delhi was reluctant to talk to the insurgents. Enough exercises have been undertaken over the years, including signing of peace accords and extending the truce over periods of time. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), one of the groups that claimed responsibility for the June 4 deadly attack on the Indian Army, unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire agreement in March 2015 and joined the umbrella organization, United National Liberation Front of West South East Asia (UNLFW) along with the United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I), Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup (KYKL), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PRPK), People’s Liberation Army (PLA), United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijit (NDFB-S).


On June 4, insurgents ambushed and killed 18 members of 6 Dogra Regiment when they were patrolling Tengnoupal-New Samtal Road in Chandel district in Manipur, about 15 km from the Myanmar border. Apart from NSCN-K, KCP and KYKL have so far claimed responsibility for the attack from across the border.


This deadly attack provoked unexpected retaliation by the Indian Army on June 9 through surgical attacks against the known bases of the insurgents located across the border at two points. The National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who was scheduled to accompany Prime Minister Modi on his two-day visit to Bangladesh on June 6, preferred to stay back. Similarly, Army Chief Dalbir Singh Suhag dropped his UK tour.


The hot pursuit was well calibrated and based on intelligence reports. “In the course of the last few days, credible and specific intelligence was received about further attacks that were being planned within our territory,” said a statement issued by the Indian Army after the strikes.


Based on intelligence reports, the Indian Army tactically engaged the militants at two points along the Nagaland and Manipur borders. The statement did not give the number of casualties, but said “significant casualties have been inflicted on them.” It also claimed “threats to our civilian population and security forces were averted.”


The possibility of further attacks by insurgents from across the border is not yet over as their base camps remain intact. Several reports are being circulated about the death toll of insurgents (ranging from 20 to 50, with several injured), but this is not pertinent. All base camps have to be eliminated and insurgent activities against India from Myanmar soil brought to an end.


The matter needs to be taken up with the Myanmar government at diplomatic level to find a permanent solution. It must, however, be admitted that some politicians of the ruling party including Minister of State Rajyavardhan Rathore went overboard in praise of the operation, provoking a backlash from Myanmar and Pakistan.


Myanmar’s compulsions in denying knowledge of any operation by the Indian Army on its soil are understandable. It is a sovereign country and hot pursuit on its soil by a foreign country is not desirable and can cause problems, particularly when the country faces polls this year.


Myanmar has its own problems. There are areas along its borders with India where the government is unable to exercise its control. Myanmar signed a peace accord with NSCN-K in April 2012. There are reports about Indian intelligence intercepting talks between Chinese PLA officers and Khaplang and the Chinese pressuring Myanmar for entering into a peace accord with NSCN-K. Having signed a peace accord with the NSCN-K, Myanmar may not be willing to act against terror camps in North Sagaing region and Chin state, particularly when it is fighting with the Kokangg, Kachins and other rebel groups within its own territory.


The United Wa State Army has declared its own Wa State Government Special Administrative Region within Myanmar from January 1, 2009 and is completely under Chinese influence. Insurgents operating against India procure arms and ammunitions from the Wa State. An arms factory has been set up in this area.  However, the Myanmar government has not yet recognised this Wa State.


There is also a significant change in the strategy adopted by the insurgents operating against India. Earlier each ethnic insurgent group had their traditional points of operation close to the ethnic population it claims to represent.  NSCN-K did not operate along the Manipur border; it operated along the Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland borders. But the Coordination Committee of the umbrella organisation of six insurgent groups in Manipur, namely KCP, KYKL, People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and United People’s Party of Kangleipak (UPPK) gave NSCN-K the venue for its recent operation along the Manipur border. Thus, the coming together of different splinter insurgent groups in joint operation against India is a new threat that New Delhi needs to tackle with care.


NSCN split in January 1980 into two factions – NSCN-K and NSCN-Isak-Muivah. After this split NSCN-K drew its support from Konyak, Aao, Angami and other Naga tribes in Nagaland and Manipur apart from Nagas in Myanmar from where Khaplang hails. NSCN-K suffered further split in 2010 when some Konyaks and Semas walked out and formed NSCN-Kole-Kitovi. Again in March 2015 Khaplang’s faction split and the NSCS (Reformation) was formed. Thus the insurgent organisation became weaker and weaker and in these circumstances NSCN-K signed a peace accord with the Myanmar government and joined the umbrella organization UNLFW and chose to operate from its new venue along Manipur border with the help of the Coordination Committee of six insurgent organizations.


To put an end to cross-border insurgent attacks, India has to take up the issue with Myanmar, understand Myanmar’s problems and constraints and work jointly to address the same. Myanmar too wants peace on its soil. It should be recalled that in April-May 1995 India’s Operation Golden Bird against terrorists moving from Bandar Ban in Chittagong and tracks along Myanmar border did not succeed due to lack of cooperation from the Myanmar Army. For India’s Look East Policy to succeed there should be peace and tranquility at the border.  

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