Northeast India insurgents’ hidden link

N.B Chyoi / April 23, 2021

Naga Insurgent in Northeast India

The pro-democracy protesters in Burma are suspicious about China’s hidden support to the military coup that has caused a major bloodshed and people are now calling to attack Chinese installations in the country.

The public backlash can grow further if Burmese people get to know the links between China and Indian Insurgent Groups (IIGs), which are supporting Burma Army in the ongoing violent crackdowns. Burma Army has been recruiting militants from the IIGs such as United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-I), National Socialist Council of Nagaland Khaplang (NSCN-K), Meitei group to unleash violence on peaceful protesters.

Northeast India map

China has been charged by India of supporting insurgent elements to foment troubles in Northeast region. In October 2020, in the backdrop of military standoff between India and China in Himalayan region of Ladakh, the foremost wanted insurgent leaders were said to be in Chinese city of Kunming for training and sourcing weapons.

Independent think tank European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) raised serious concerns over China’s role in providing weapons to the insurgent groups in Northeast India. “The Indian suspicion, not without basis, is that impeding the progress of India’s Act East projects has assumed weight in China’s strategic thinking. The influx of Chinese weapons is, accordingly, in tune with such thinking, ”the EFSAS said. The Irrawaddy news portal had reported that a large cache of Chinese-made weapons seized by Thai police was assumed to be smuggled to Burma. However, an investigation officer revealed that the destination of weapons actually was India.

China is found to have extended support to the IIGs in different capacities. Indian intelligence agencies claimed that China has given Shelter to Paresh Baruah of ULFA-I, Hangshi Tangkhul and T R Calvin of NSCN-IM. Baruah living in Yunnan of China is an open secret as he himself spoke about it during interviews. ULFA-I released a video in 2020 in which it favoured China and criticized India on the border standoff. Moreover, in 2017, it took a dig at Tibetan spiritual guru Dalai Lama for visiting Arunachal Pradesh, in accordance with China’s stand. Now the same ULFA-I is playing important role in the cold-blooded suppression of the anti-coup protests in Burma.

NSCN-IM have too joined the Burma Army now. Its leader Phungting Shimrang has had close relations with Beijing and he travel led to China on many occasions. He even warned Indian government of getting Chinese help to resolve their issues. In 2000, NSCN-IM arms procurer Anthony Shimray travelled to Beijing via Bangkok to hold talks with ‘Chinese agency’ in Kunming. Now the NSCN too have become a major player in Burma to bulldoze pro-democracy campaigns.

China role in providing aid to IIGs dates back to 1960s as it began training Naga rebels soon before the Sino-India war of 1962. Chinese weapons smuggled to insurgent groups in Burma as well as India have to encourage secessionist movements. New Delhi has submitted many evidences to Beijing about smuggling of Chinese weapons in Northeast India. Defense think tank Jane’s Intelligence Review (JIR) found that China replaced Cambodia and Thailand as the main supplier of weapons to insurgent groups in Northeast India and Burma.

Insurgent groups in Burma such as United Wa State Army and the Arakan Army, which were declared terrorist organizations in 2020 are said to be used by China to smuggle weapons in Northeast India. Now, the Arakan Army has warned the Burma Army of fighting back if it did not stop killing the pro-democracy protesters in Burma. There is high possibility another powerful rebel group the United Wa State Army (UWSA) will join the resistance by anti-coup crowd. However, IIGs that are empowered by Chinese help have taken sides with the Burma Army, pushing the Buddhist-majority country into a civil war and making the South and Southeast Asia unstable.

With the role of the IIGs emerging in assisting the Burma Army to target the innocent pro-democracy protesters leading to growing incidents of killings and Human Rights violations, chorus is growing to declare ULFA-I Chairman Abhijit Asom, Commander-in-Chief Paresh Barua as well as NSCN-K Chairman Yung Aung along with other Meitei IIGs leaders like Kh Pambei, NC Koireng etc. as ‘Global Terrorists’ through UN Security Council Resolution.

Moreover, they sought to freeze the financial assets of these insurgents in Bangladesh, India, Burma and China besides seeking international help in tracking down and prosecution of these IIG leaders under the jurisdiction of International Criminal Court for committing heinous crimes against Burmese citizens.

N.B Chyoi is a Kachin lawyer and geopolitical analyst focusing especially on Burma, India and China.

The opinion expressed here is the author’s own, and does not represent the editorial policy of The Kachin Post.