India’s hands-off attitude regarding Myanmar has paid dividends, so far as insurgency in the northeastern states is concerned.
The military junta that is now in charge of affairs in Myanmar has ensured that Indian insurgent groups, primarily from Nagaland, Manipur and Assam, do not receive shelter in their territory.
There is a reason behind this. India is providing tacit support to the Myanmar Army in tackling its own threats from outfits like the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).
Both the KIA and KNLA are known to have links with Indian insurgent groups operating in the northeastern states. The KIA has even provided training to members of such insurgent groups.
The Myanmar Army has now realised that weapons and other supplies from Thailand and China were shared by both Indian and Myanmarese insurgents. The funding was through drugs trade.
Myanmar still continues to remain the main source of the chemical drug methamphetamine (Meth) that enters India. Some of them then move to Bangladesh as Yaba tablets. Methamphetamine factories are run by insurgents, both Indian and Myanmarese.
No wonder then that India remained tight-lipped after the Myanmar Army launched air strikes on KIA camps recently. In 2021, India had refused to vote against Myanmar when the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) brought about a resolution against human rights excesses in that country.
It is also claimed that India finished off the Arakan Army – a conglomerate of ethnic insurgent groups in Myanmar – in 2015 by eliminating its leaders on an island in the Andamans.
“Every nation reserves the right to protect itself, not only against external aggression but also internal strife — aided by external forces. India is doing just that. Myanmar was a safe haven for Indian insurgent groups. They would commit crimes in India and then step across the border into Myanmar through heavily forested territory.
“Indian Special Forces did carry out strikes on insurgent camps deep inside Myanmar but that can’t be a permanent solution. The Myanmar Army has to take up the issue and it has. There used to be several insurgent camps in Bangladesh as well. But after India took up the matter repeatedly with the Sheikh Hasina government, things are better now,” a senior Army officer said.
On Tuesday, during the Raising Day celebrations of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army, Lt Gen R.P. Kalita, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Command, had highlighted how insurgency-related violence has dipped in the northeastern states.
He also said that more and more areas are now being moved out from the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). This is an Act that comes into effect whenever the Army is called in to contain and control terrorism, militancy and insurgency. AFSPA takes a toll on the daily lives of common citizens who are subjected to restrictions and searches.
Kalita made it clear that the Army will move back to the barracks as soon as the state police is in a position to control the situation. After all, the Army doesn’t take control of an area by itself. It is assigned the job only after the state and central police forces fail to tackle the situation.
“While the Army has sacrificed a lot in its efforts to curb militancy in the northeastern states, development has also played a key role. A lot of infrastructural development is now going on in those states, particularly along the bordering areas,” Kalita said.
Development certainly helps in curbing insurgency, particularly when the common man has access to a better lifestyle. Over the last few years, youth from the northeastern states have been travelling to the rest of the country for higher education or jobs.
They have not only been well-accepted, but have also witnessed for themselves how the country has progressed over the years. Now they wish to replicate the same in their home states.
These youngsters have now shunned militancy, which has largely turned into a source of extortion by arousing sentiments or using force. With their recruitment base dipping, most insurgent groups in the northeastern states are now on the backfoot.