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Friday, June 21, 2024

India is not fighting militancy but transnational terrorism in Manipur

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In the intricate tapestry of India’s northeastern states, Manipur stands as a testament to resilience amidst adversity. Yet, beneath its tranquil facade lies a simmering cauldron of challenges, primarily stemming from terrorism rather than conventional militancy.

The term “militancy” often connotes localized armed resistance against a perceived oppressor, driven by political or ideological motives. However, the situation in Manipur transcends the traditional notion of militancy, evolving into a complex web of terrorism fueled by transnational networks and external actors. Manipur serves as a hotbed for terrorist activities, with insurgent groups and external sponsors exploiting the region’s porous borders and rugged terrain to further their nefarious agendas.

At the heart of Manipur’s struggle lies the scourge of transnational terrorism, facilitated by external actors and terror groups operating with impunity across porous borders. The infiltration of extremist elements from neighboring countries, particularly Myanmar, has fueled violence and instability in Manipur, perpetuating a cycle of fear and uncertainty among its inhabitants. Sadly most people from communities of Meitei, Kuki, and Nagas have been influenced by the terror groups from Myanmar funded by China.

China’s alleged strategy involves leveraging insurgent groups based in Myanmar and within Manipur itself. These groups, including the Kuki National Front (KNF), PLA Manipur, UKLF, and other proscribed entities, have long-standing grievances and secessionist aspirations. By providing support to these groups, China is exploiting existing ethnic and political tensions to create instability.

Myanmar’s porous borders and historical ties with northeastern insurgent groups make it a fertile ground for China’s strategic operations. Several insurgent groups, such as the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), have been reported to maintain connections with Chinese intelligence. These groups, in turn, have links with northeastern Indian insurgents, facilitating the flow of arms, training, and logistical support.

Terrorists based out of Myanmar and Bangladesh hatched a “transnational conspiracy” with militant leaders in the Northeast to stoke the current ethnic strife in Manipur and wage a war against India, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said in September last year.

At that time, the anti-terror agency, which has arrested two individuals allegedly involved in the conspiracy in the past week, revealed that insurgent leaders based in the two neighboring countries have been providing funds to procure arms, ammunition, and other “terrorist hardware”, which are being sourced both from across the border as well as from other terrorist outfits active in Northeast to stoke the current ethnic strife in Manipur.

“Investigation revealed that Myanmar and Bangladesh-based militant groups have entered into a conspiracy with a section of militant leaders in India to indulge in incidents of violence with an intention to drive a wedge between different ethnic groups and to wage war against the Government of India,” the NIA said in a statement.

NIA has made a significant breakthrough in its mission to thwart transnational conspiracies aimed at destabilizing the northeastern state of Manipur. On Thursday, the agency apprehended Thongminthang Haokip, also known as Thangboi Haokip or Roger, a key accused in a case relating to a nefarious plot orchestrated by insurgents and terrorist groups.

The case, which was registered suo moto by the NIA on July 19 last year, sheds light on a complex web of collaboration between Kuki and Zomi insurgents, supported by terrorist organizations based in northeastern states and neighboring Myanmar. The primary objective of this conspiracy was to exploit ethnic unrest in the region and wage war against the government of India through violent attacks.

According to the NIA, Thongminthang Haokip was deeply entrenched in this conspiracy, actively participating in attacks on security forces and instigating violence to exacerbate the volatile situation in Manipur. His ties with the insurgent group Kuki National Front (KNF)-B of Myanmar facilitated the procurement of arms, ammunition, and explosives, which were intended for use in the ongoing crisis in Manipur.

China’s interest in India’s northeastern states is driven by several strategic imperatives. Firstly, the region’s proximity to the Chinese border makes it a significant area of influence in the broader contest for regional dominance. Secondly, the northeastern states, including Manipur, are crucial to India’s Act East Policy, which aims to enhance connectivity and economic integration with Southeast Asia. By destabilizing this region, China can impede India’s strategic and economic ambitions.

In a troubling development, an advance security team accompanying Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh faced a brazen ambush by armed terrorists in Kangpokpi district. The attack occurred as the team was en route from Imphal to Jiribam district, adding to the escalating tensions following recent violent incidents.

Reports indicate that one security personnel sustained injuries during the ambush at T Laijang village near Kotlen along National Highway 37. This incident underscores the precarious security situation in the region, particularly along crucial transit routes.

The Chief Minister’s intended visit to Jiribam district, scheduled for the following day, was in response to the eruption of violence triggered by the discovery of a man’s body on June 6, allegedly at the hands of Kuki terrorists. Subsequent unrest destroyed nearly 70 homes, and several government offices, and the displacement of hundreds of residents.

The consequences of terrorism in Manipur are dire, with innocent civilians bearing the brunt of the violence and instability. Frequent incidents of violent attacks, extortion, and intimidation instill fear and uncertainty, disrupting normal life and impeding socio-economic development in the region. Moreover, the culture of fear perpetuated by terrorism stifles dissent and undermines democratic values, further eroding the fabric of Manipuri society.

The presence of transnational terrorist elements in Manipur not only poses a direct threat to the security and stability of the state but also has broader implications for the entire Northeast region. Cross-border activities, such as arms smuggling, human trafficking, and drug trafficking, further exacerbate security challenges and undermine efforts to maintain law and order.

The prevalence of transnational terrorism in Manipur has significant economic repercussions, affecting not only the state’s economy but also that of its neighboring states. Disruptions to trade, tourism, and investment undermine economic growth and development, perpetuating cycles of poverty and marginalization that can fuel further unrest and instability.

Moreover, the social displacement caused by violence and insecurity in Manipur has ripple effects that extend beyond state borders. Displaced populations often seek refuge in neighboring states, straining resources and exacerbating social tensions. The influx of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) also creates fertile ground for recruitment by extremist groups, further exacerbating security challenges in the region.

Transnational terrorism in Manipur poses a complex and evolving security challenge with far-reaching implications for the entire Northeast region.

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