Contd from previous issue
This above statement was given by the CNF leader in response to India’s 51 million USD armed supplied to the SAC (Junta) from February 2021 to December 2022 and the CNF is affiliated with the NUG. This could be the geo-political “embryonic link” which consequently influenced the local agendas for brewing up the components of the May 2023 conflict in Manipur.
On the other hand, India told the UN rapporteur that the arms supplied to Myanmar (SAC) were part of commitments made to the civilian regime prior to 2021 coup and were exported in the light of domestic security concerns (Scroll 18 May 2023).
Aside from India, countries like Russia 406 million USD; China 267 million USD; Singapore 254 million USD and Thailand 28 million; also supplied arms to the SAC from February 2021 to December 2022 as per the UN Special Rapporteur (UNHRC 2023).
Further, in response to the 51 million USD arms supplied to the SAC by New Delhi, Moe Zaw Oo a Deputy Foreign Minister of the NUG told DW that “The people of Myanmar will remember that and it will have impact on the long-term relations of the two countries. India’s Government should seriously take into consideration of our people’s desire and will rather than short- sighted business interests” (DW 2023).
The ‘dual track’ strategies employed by New Delhi to save ‘the hearts and minds investments’ of Act East Policy (AEP) in Myanmar has not gone down well especially with the NUG and EROs after the 51 million USD armed supplied to the SAC.
India has invested nearly 1.75 billion USD in infrastructure projects in Myanmar with incomplete projects in hand. Further, a Line of Credit for 500 million USD is provided to Myanmar for undertaking various projects. (India Myanmar Bilateral Brief 2022).
While the AEP funded Sittwe port in Rakhine State of Myanmar has begun operations, the 68-mile stretch of highway passing through Chin State in Myanmar remains unfinished. Much of this stretch is in conflict and controlled by the EROs and completion of the project require negotiations with them (Hmung & Indergaad 2023)
The Kuki EAOs and the meso-structure see the above situation as opportunity and strength for pursuing their local agendas. Further, they have received “advantage” from the current geo-politics around the region and support from Chin EROs of Myanmar; which are to be supported directly by various member States as per the UN Special Rapporteur (UNHRC 2023).
New Delhi has options, leave it to Nay Phi Taw for security of the projects under the AEP and execute under their cover or negotiate with the concerned EAOs (Myanmar) and EAOs which will not be easy under the current situation. Alternatively, engage with China and Myanmar jointly and avoid the “free rider problem”.
Nay Phi Taw (SAC) has managed a truce with Arakan Army (AA) and three other related groups with the Chinese intervention and to protect international investments in their regions including Rakhine areas (Datta 2020) (Padmanabhan 2023) where Chinese projects like Kyaukphyu deep-sea port and Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (KPSEZ), Shwe gas field, and China-owned oil refinery in Maday Island are located. The SAC has also managed truce with Wa National Army (WNA) in Shan State.
Furthermore, China’s investments in Chin State are Mwetang Nickel Mines, Tiddim Township with 20% share with Myanmar Government and remaining with China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) (Dunn, Ji and Peng 2016) where the Chin EROs are active. Since 2021 coup, China has invested nearly 7.1 billion USD in Myanmar (Banerjee and Rajaura 2021).
On close study of the chain of events and geo-politics around the region citied above; and other archival records on India’s 51 million armed supplied to the SAC and subsequent response by the concerned stakeholders; the organic links between the present armed conflict in Manipur, India and the CNF which is one of the components of the C3C cannot be ignored.
Further to illustrate the typology of the Manipur armed conflict 2023, these links can be compared with the above outlined instance of conflict between Isarel and Lebanon and how UNHRC established the organic links between Hezbollah and Lebanon government, even though, the Lebanese armed forces have not involved in the 2006 attack.
In this armed conflict in Manipur, more than 100 people died and scores others have been injured; and more than 50,000 are internally displaced since 3rd May 2023 (Amnesty International 2023). Many Indian civilians injured and died from Advanced Sniper Rifles (ASR) gun shots from the Kuki militants which is believed to have organic links with the CNA (Mazumdar 2023) which is the armed wing of the CNF; and the CNF is a component of the C3C (UN Special Rapporteur 2023). Without this organic link, the armed conflict in Manipur could not have sustained for so long.
New Delhi in spite of casualties on its citizens has not responded like the Israel retaliated on 12th July 2006 by launching a ground, air and sea offensive on Lebanon. However, the presence of organic links between present armed conflict in Manipur and the C3C cannot be fully ruled out.
The ‘dual track’ strategies adopted by New Delhi in Myanmar, whether it will hold water or not only future will reveal.
The writer is an alumnus of Erasmus University, the Netherlands and a NFP scholar.