The far northeastern frontier of India is infamous for insurgent activities which have been functioning for decades. The region is notorious for hoarding numerous insurgent outfits. With 13 active insurgent groups in Manipur alone, and with over 14 factions within the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) in Nagaland, violent faceoffs between the Indian Armed Forces (IAF) and insurgents are frequent. Hence, the region has been marred as a sensitive location for India’s national security.
The region serves as a strategic geopolitical location for India and its neighboring countries, such as China, and has continued to serve as a strategic gateway for insurgents to carry out their activities. Accordingly, the IAF had been tackling not only the insurgents, but the Chinese troops as well, the Doklam incident is one of such encounters. In addition, the insurgents have operated between countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, and others, by setting up camps, hideouts and training centers.
Coupled with cross-border insurgencies and China’s geopolitical interest in the region, India’s national security measures were intensified by maximizing military presence and enacting stringent laws throughout the region. However, insurgent activities continue to thrive despite the counteractive measures taken by the Indian government.
Northeast Insurgency and China’s Impact
On November 13th, 2021, Colonel Viplav Tripathi, his wife, their six-year-old son, and four other personnel were murdered by insurgents from the Northeast. Manipur’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Manipur Naga People’s Front (MNPF) took responsibility for the attack.
The attack was linked to smuggling cases in Mizoram where Colonel Tripathi had been in command and was curtailing the insurgents from carrying out their activities; this was likely the motivating factor leading the insurgents to assassinate Colonel Tripathi.
All the while, China had been accused of backing the insurgent groups since the responsible militants were suspected to have had connections with the Chinese PLA. This is supported by past instances where certain militants were apprehended and admitted to their connections with the Chinese.
China has frequently been accused of training and arming the insurgent groups in the Northeast. This goes as far back as the preformation of the NSCN, when the Naga homeland movement was sustained and led by the Naga National Council through the Naga Home Guards. The medelling of the Chinese in India’s internal affairs has been an age-old concern for India ever since the Sino-Indian war took place in 1962.
Recently, reports have indicated that China still has close ties with the NSCN and other regional groups by providing arms and ammunitions. This continues amid the ongoing peace talks between the insurgents, namely the NSCN-IM, which is one of the most prominent groups amongst the insurgents in the region.
Conclusion and Recommendations
India’s northeastern frontiers are often viewed as a ‘gateway’ to Southeast Asia; however, with the ongoing insurgency and the tense Sino-Indian relations developmental prospects are often curtailed. Hence, it demands India’s persistent effort in paving the path towards bridging not only India, but also the rest of the global south with Southeast Asia. This, however, needs to be done through India’s adherent commitment and consistent effort towards the Naga political dialogue.
This can occur by addressing the political will of the insurgents and by bringing all of the insurgent groups under one unified umbrella. Given, that the Northeast’s insurgency is political in nature, accordingly, it should be addressed in a political manner. By which, the approach should encompass less use of force and stringent laws such as AFSPA and more developmental approaches and peaceful mediation with the insurgents.
If the insurgency can be addressed and a political solution can be met, New Delhi can gain the confidence of the people from the region. This can further secure India of its border tensions with China by actually affirming its territorial integrity through the voice of the people.
Vetilo Venuh, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow
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