How China’s ‘aid’ to rebel groups sustained Northeast insurgency
China’s aid to separatist outfits in Northeast has been covert & has gone through many phases over 50 years.
Contd from prev issue
Therefore, it needs to be clarified that these weapons were available to everybody with the right contacts and funds, and not meant only for the rebel groups in India’s Northeast.
NSCN(IM) clinched the first deal with the Chinese, which was offloaded on the sea in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar in early 1994. This episode was mentioned fleetingly by former BSF Director General EN Rammohan, in his book Insurgent Frontiers. This deal prompted ULFA Chief of Staff Paresh Baruah to follow suit and firm up a deal for a bigger consignment, which was also delivered at Cox’s Bazar a year later.
More consignments arrived in the ensuing period for the groups in Bangladesh, but only one of them deserves special elaboration, since it underscored the role played by some serving personnel of the Chinese PLA. In 1997, it was decided that weapons would be dropped at Bhutan’s Haa Valley along the border with China for ULFA, and then ferried to the camps in the southern districts of the kingdom.
The operation was cancelled following the receipt of information about the consignment by personnel of Border Roads Organisation (BRO), who were engaged with a project in the region.
New Delhi alerted the Royal Government of Bhutan, and a senior Bhutanese government official advised Paresh Baruah, who was in Thimphu, to drop the plan.
A few months later, another consignment was successfully delivered at Cox’z Bazar.
However, the latest trend would point to a diminishing supply of weapons to the Northeast rebel groups from China, owing to the low demand in the region.
Insurgent outfits are on the back foot, and a majority of the groups have evinced a desire for talks with the government for a negotiated settlement.
In addition, some weapons manufacturing units have sprung up in Myanmar – in Kachin and Shan States – which seem to be giving a stiff competition to Chinese weapons, and especially to the Kalashnikov assault rifles. They are sold at cheaper rates and their quality is as good if not better than the Chinese weapons.
These rifles, which can be identified from the unique design of the butt, were seen dangling from the shoulders of many functionaries of the ULFA and the NSCN(K), when this correspondent visited the Myanmar rebel bases in 2011-12.
(Rajeev Bhattacharyya is a senior journalist in Guwahati. He tweets @rajkbhat. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)