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Burma ‘hosting India’s greatest security threat’

August 31, 2010

The following commentary is reprinted with permission from Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB).

Burma ‘hosting India’s greatest security threat’
©  DVB
By Joseph Allchin
August 31, 2010

Maoist rebels in India are being trained at bases inside Burma run by a Northeast Indian insurgent group, Indian press has reported.

The Maoist rebels, known as the Naxalites, are collaborating with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur, the Indian state which borders northwestern Burma, the Asian Age newspaper said yesterday.

It cited a Director General of Police conference given in New Delhi last week that focused on a growing “nexus” between the two groups and allegations that the Naxalite leader Kishenij has visited Manipur to meet with the PLA and “succeeded in sending a batch of Maoist cadres to Burma for arms training recently”.

The Naxalites have their heartland in the belt running from the Nepali frontier down through Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and into Andhra Pradesh; areas with a large proportion of tribal peoples, or Adivasis.

The conference was reportedly dominated by “serious concern” about the Maoist-Manipuri nexus, which regional analyst Bertil Lintner, who visited the area earlier this year, “absolutely” corroborated when contacted by DVB.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his first term in office called the Maoist insurgents India’s greatest security threat; the rebels are believed to be active in a third of the country’s districts, and were allegedly behind an attack on a high-speed Indian train in May this year which killed upwards of 100 people.

The northeastern states of India, many of which border Burma, form a fractious and trouble-prone region, with numerous ethnic separatist groups fighting for independence from India.

As in Burma, the combination of ethnic diversity and geographical remoteness has formed a formidable obstacle to attempts by the central government in Delhi to pacify the region.

The Naxalites nearer the central plains of the subcontinent have had a significant year in terms of military victories, with two major successes on the battlefield against beleaguered and ill-equipped Indian security services, including an ambush in which almost 80 Indian security personnel were killed.

The wellspring of the Naxalites has been their disenfranchised support base, the Adivasis and lower castes. These are groupings for whom the economic miracle, which Prime Minister Manmmohan Singh has embodied in India, has all but failed, with land taken for mining projects and few, if any, improvements in living standards.

There is also a continual fear from Delhi of Chinese influence over the region, much of which is still claimed by Beijing. In July the BBC reported alleged links between the United Wa State Army (UWSA), Burma’s largest ethnic army, and the Naxalites, with UWSA-made clones of Chinese weaponry making it into their hands.

Lintner confirmed to DVB that the PLA, which has no intrinsic relation to the Chinese army of the same acronym, is believed to have bases in the Kabaw Valley in Burma’s northwestern Sagaing division and was trained by the Chinese in Lhasa in the 1980s. Indeed so were the UWSA, who have strong ethnic and historical links to their northern neighbour, being former communist allies of Beijing before the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) disintegrated in 1989.

[End.]

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