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India nudges Myanmar action on Naga militants

This 2016 photo shows Army camps set up for an exercise in Assam’s Baksa district after an assault by Naga militants.

This 2016 photo shows Army camps set up for an exercise in Assam’s Baksa district after an assault by Naga militants.  

Boost in ties fuelled the crackdown

India’s improved ties with Myanmar led to that country’s crackdown in late January on the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), considered the mother lode of most extremist groups in the northeastern region.

Another factor that prompted the Tatmadaw — Myanmar’s military — take-over of NSCN-K headquarters, in an operation from January 29 to February 5, was the outfit’s violation of an agreement not to allow Myanmar territory to be used by “any rebel group to attack a neighbouring country [India].” According to The Irrawaddy , a Myanmar publication, the Tatmadaw took over the NSCN-K’s headquarters, three outposts and two military training schools at Taga in Sagaing, near the Indian border. The schools were run by rebel groups “fighting the Indian government in Assam and Manipur” under the NSCN-K’s supervision.

A top official said the takeover was significant as Taga was the collective headquarters of extremist groups active in the northeastern region, except the NSCN- Isak-Muivah that has been on a ceasefire since 1997.

Extremist groups such as the United Liberation Front of Asom and the United National Liberation Front of Manipur are known to use jungle routes for hit-and-run operations in India from the NSCN-K’s base.

New Delhi has been constantly conveying to Myanmar the problems created by these outfits. The interaction with the Myanmar government intensified after the NSCN-K split last year and many of its Indian members returned. “We told the Myanmar government that they needed to act,” the official said.

The official said NSCN-K’s military chief Niki Sumi, among the last Indian Nagas in the outfit, moved north towards the China border after the crackdown. “The Myanmar Army is putting pressure on them; they don’t want bloodshed,” he said. Sumi carries an award of Rs. 10 lakh on his head.

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