Equations change in Northeast’s rebel underground

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SUBIR BHAUMIK

The burning down of 9 crude oil tankers in Upper Assam points to a change in equations between rebel groups in India’s Northeast.

Indian intelligence agencies now confirm that this violent action was carried by joint squads of ULFA (Independent) and NSCN (Issak-Muivah) guerrillas.

But ULFA(I) is in the rebel coalition UNLFSWEA that was formed last year by NSCN’s Burmese leader late S S Khaplang.

So why the ULFA would change course and work together with Khaplang’s rival Muivah who is negotiating with India and why would Muivah ask his guerrilla to get into assaults on Indian assets !

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with NSCN(IM) General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah in Delhi,NSA Ajit Doval is on the right. © PTI

Muivah is very frustrated with the Modi government because of his failure to sign a final settlement with Delhi, though more than two years have passed since he signed a ‘framework agreement’ with the Indian government.

 

why the ULFA would change course and work together with Khaplang’s rival Muivah who is negotiating with India and why would Muivah ask his guerrilla to get into assaults on Indian assets

 

Muivah has claimed that he will get a settlement which will give the Nagas a separate flag, a separate currency and many other trappings of sovereignity. He has said the final settlement will be based on ‘shared sovereignity’. But now with another Christmas gone, Muivah seems to be looking stuck in a nightmarish deadlock.

Delhi is not in a hurry to sign a deal with Muivah. For a comprehensive settlement, Indian intelligence has established contact with all NSCN and NNC rebel factions, small and big.

Recently, a senior former Indian intelligence official met leaders of the Khaplang group in Myanmar and gave them a copy of the draft agreement reached with Muivah, asking them to revert back with their opinions within one month. The Khaplang group leaders promised to do that.

Intelligence officials based in Indian embassy in Yangon have been tasked to reach these leaders and get their opinions and forward it to Delhi.

The view in Delhi is that all Naga rebel factions must be involved in endorsing the final agreement to ensure a repeat of 1975 does not happen when Muivah opposed the Shillong Accord and formed the NSCN to fight Indian forces.

That is something Muivah hates because, after his political and military training in China, he has come to believe that there can be only sun under one sky, as goes a Chinese proverb.

 

a senior former Indian intelligence official met leaders of the Khaplang group in Myanmar and gave them a copy of the draft agreement reached with Muivah, asking them to revert back with their opinions within one month. The Khaplang group leaders promised to do that

 

So far, the Muivah group has ‘managed’ all interlocutors including the current one R N Ravi.

But with the advent of former R&AW Chief Rajinder Khanna as Deputy NSA, the push for a comprehensive settlement has gained ground.

Khanna has been a former R&AW resident in Yangon and has solid understanding of the Burmese Naga scene, much as he knows the Indian Naga rebel groups as he headed the Northeast desk in R&AW for a long time.

The ULFA(I), which has drawn close to the Chinese intelligence in recent months, is understandably upset with the Khaplang group leaders reviving secret negotiations with India, though not yet owning it up.

The K group leaders are now mostly Indian Nagas, including Chairman Khonga Konyak and Commander-in-Chief Niki Sumi. So Delhi has no reservations talking to them as they would have when Khaplang was alive because he was a Burmese citizen.

The ULFA(I) has very few fighters left and Paresh Barua was trying to become the leader of the K group by default by dictating to them the future course of action.

Since they have failed to do, Paresh Barua seems to be opening a new relationship with Muivah and Muivah is trying to send home the message to Delhi that he cannot be taken for granted. ■

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