China helping rebel groups on Myanmar border: India

NEW DELHI, DEC 7 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 12/7/2020 12:20:22 PM IST

Indian officials say China is assisting rebel groups that have stepped up attacks on its border with Myanmar in recent months, opening another front in the conflict between two nations already engaged in a deadly standoff in the Himalayas.

Armed groups in Myanmar - including the United Wa State Army and the Arakan Army, which was designated a terrorist organization this year - are acting as Beijing’s proxies by supplying weapons and providing hideouts to insurgent groups in India’s North Eastern states, according to Indian officials with knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be identified due to rules for speaking with the media.

The officials said multiple security agencies warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government that at least four of India’s most wanted insurgent leaders were in the southern Chinese city of Kunming to train and source weapons as recently as mid-October. The group -- including three ethnic Naga rebels fighting for a separate homeland in an area straddling the India-Myanmar border - met with acting and retired Chinese military officials as well as other middlemen who make up an informal network, the Indian officials said.

The increased activity along the Myanmar border has sparked concern in New Delhi that India’s military is becoming stretched as tensions remain with China and Pakistan on other parts of its land border, which runs for roughly 14,000 kilometers (8,700 miles). The officials said India moved several battalions consisting of about 1,000 troops each into the Myanmar border area after a soldier was killed in an ambush on Oct. 21.

China’s Foreign Ministry denied claims the country was supporting armed groups against India, saying it doesn’t interfere in the affairs of other countries. “China has always taken a prudent and responsible attitude toward arms exports,” the ministry said in written responses to questions. “We only conduct military trade in cooperation with sovereign states and do not sell arms to non-state actors.”

The United Wa State Army also denied a role in providing any aid or support to Indian rebel groups on China’s behalf, citing, among other factors, the over 500 miles between their headquarters and the India-Myanmar border.

The group doesn’t “have any connection with India’s national security, and we do not harm that country at all. So, we think we don’t need to comment on such kind of allegations,” Nyi Rang, the spokesman of United Wa State Army said, adding that accusation his group acts as a proxy for China “are groundless.”

Indian officials said the recent upsurge in violence stems back to September, when Naga insurgents had walked away from decades-long peace negotiations. 

On September 28, Indian border guards intercepted a large cache of weapons meant for Indian insurgent groups along the India-Myanmar border and arrested three suspected gun runners, according to officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

The New Delhi officials said those arrested explained that Indian insurgents were being supplied weapons by the Arakan Army, which in turn received China’s support to protect investments such as roads and gas pipelines in an economic corridor stretching from Sittwe port to Kunming. China was also helping Indian rebels with weapons and logistics including hideouts along the India-Myanmar border, the officials noted.

Calls and Whatsapp messages to India’s Ministry of Home Affairs requesting comment went unanswered. Repeated efforts to contact senior members of the NSCN, whose leaders were believed to have been in Kunming, were unsuccessful.


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