China ‘exploited’ insecurity among tribal communities on India-Myanmar border: research paper

Efforts to fence the porous 1,643-km border with Myanmar have led to protests by tribal communities, which China has exploited to cause insurgency and instability in northeastern States, the paper says

Updated - January 26, 2023 10:40 pm IST

Published - January 26, 2023 08:38 pm IST - NEW DELHI

An paramilitary jawan stands guard near the bridge on Tiau river along the India-Myanmar border in Mizoram. File

An paramilitary jawan stands guard near the bridge on Tiau river along the India-Myanmar border in Mizoram. File | Photo Credit: AP

China has “exploited” the sense of alienation and insecurity among tribal communities along the India-Myanmar border -- who have been protesting against the fencing being undertaken along the border -- in order to “cause insurgency and instability” in northeastern India, according to a research paper written by a police officer and submitted at a conference last week. It added that insurgents sourced their arms from China and brought them into India via Myanmar.

Another paper, also presented at the annual All India Conference of Directors General and Inspectors General of Police, cited intelligence inputs to claim that there was a “historical link” between China and the northeastern insurgents.

India shares a 1,643-km long border with Myanmar that passes through four States: Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. Given the historical and cultural linkages between people on both sides, the border is relatively porous, and there is a free movement regime in place under which locals can move upto 16 km on either side of the border.

Protests against border fencing

The first paper stated that efforts taken by both India and Myanmar to fence the border have been protested by tribal communities on both sides, who fear that the demarcation would lead to them losing their land and forest access to the other side. Other papers also flagged the protests against fencing.

“This sense of alienation and insecurity has led to insurgency for integration and fight for unification of ethnic groups/identity on both sides of the border. This has been further exploited by China to cause insurgency and instability in the North-east [NE] India,” said the paper. “Over the years, it has been observed that most of the arms and ammunition used by NE insurgents are sourced from China which had been transported through Myanmar route.”

Myanmar has been a safe haven for Indian insurgent groups who take advantage of the porous border. In addition, the area is infested with cross border crime, including smuggling of goods, arms and counterfeit currency, drug trafficking, and insurgency, the paper noted. “As the North-East sits close to Golden Triangle, it is the transit route for large scale drug trafficking to the rest of the world.”

‘Chinese arms smuggled into North East’

The second paper cited above said, “It is suggested based on intelligence inputs, that there exists a historical link between the Northeast insurgents and China. The arms acquired from China are smuggled through Thailand, Bangladesh and Sino-Myanmar borders into the Northeastern States.”

Therefore, in addition to the fencing strategy, the first paper suggested that India -- with more than 15,000 km of borders coupled with a hostile neighbourhood -- has to follow a multi-modal approach to mitigate the challenges of unfenced borders. The various approaches suggested fall under several broad themes: technology-based specialised border forces equipped with advanced border management technologies; people-oriented initiatives; inter-agency coordination; creation of a database for real-time monitoring through use of data science; and cooperation with neighbouring countries.

Arguing that politics in northeastern States were so unpredictable that one never knew when a government would fall, a third paper said, “If we have to take on China more successfully, then we have to engage the people in North East and sort out the issues.”

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