The recent seizure of a large quantity of illegal Chinese weapons in Mae Tao region, which is on the Thai side of the Myanmar-Thailand border, has given rise to India’s fear of another attempt to reignite insurgency in its North-East region, a European-based think tank said.
Citing a June 23 report published in The Irrawaddy, the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) said, “While preliminary investigations have suggested that the weapons may have been destined for insurgent groups in Myanmar, the development has nonetheless raised antennae within security circles in New Delhi. It has also reignited the serious questions that had existed for long about the scope and depth of China’s support to terrorist groups in the region in pursuit of its policy of what a Thailand-based organisation termed — diplo-terrorism.”
While confirming the report that the weapons seized from the Myanmar-Thailand border belonged to China, The Irrawaddy quoted a source from an ethnic armed organisation based on the border, as saying, “They are not the weapons currently used by the AA (Arakan Army). The weapons manufactured by the Wa (United Wa State Army) and the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) are not up to much. They cannot fire on automatic. The seized weapons are original and Chinese-made.”
“Indian insurgents from the country’s North-Eastern states who have been sheltering for years in Myanmar, as well as the AA that has its roots in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, both present security challenges for India. In addition to being threats to national security, they are also irritants that impact India’s Act East Policy. The Indian suspicion, not without basis, is that impeding the progress of India’s Act East projects has assumed weight in China’s strategic thinking. The influx of Chinese weapons is, accordingly, in tune with such thinking,” the EFSAS said.
With regard to this matter, on July 20, India’s Ambassador to Thailand, Suchitra Durai, held a meeting with Unsit Sampuntharat, Governor of Tak province of Thailand in which Mae Sot is located. Meanwhile, the Indian security agencies have also been in touch with their counterparts in Myanmar and Thailand to get further details about the seized consignment.
Citing a study titled ‘China’s diplo-terrorism in Myanmar’ by Anders Corr, a former civilian worker for the United States’ military intelligence, that appeared in the Bangkok-based LiCAS.news, EFSAS said, “China was supplying funds and sophisticated weaponry to the AA, a terrorist organisation, in a bid to expand its diplomatic influence in Myanmar.”
“An object lesson in diplo-terrorism is the leverage over Myanmar and India that China gained by arming the Arakan Army, operating in the corridor from North-East India over Myanmar’s Chin and Rakhine states to the Indian Ocean. The evidence of China using violence by ethnic militias in Myanmar against its competitors demonstrates the violent side of its Belt and Road development project, which not only ensnares recipients in debt traps, but seeks to bar competitors through violent means deployed by criminal sub-state actors…, Corr was quoted as saying.
“Sadly, China’s conception of its role in the world seems to be guided by exactly the zero-sum conflict over territory and influence that it accuses others of fomenting. It does not limit itself to soft power. Rather, Beijing associates with the lowest-level forms of terrorist and gangland violence in order to attain its diplomatic objectives,” Corr said.
The Amsterdam-based think tank recalled US Senator Larry Pressler as saying, during his visit to Kolkata in 2002, that China was the world’s major source of small arms proliferation that was “fuelling conflicts from Morocco to Malaysia”.
Similarly in 2015, strategic analyst Wasbir Hussain said, “China, in fact, holds the key to the availability of weapons and ammunition among the terror groups in North-East India that is actually keeping insurgency alive in this far-eastern frontier.”
The EFSAS opined that while China’s acts of violation of the international order are increasing since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, “it is high time that state sponsorship of terrorism by China is acknowledged, exposed and accorded the serious corrective attention that it eminently deserves.”