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India open to talks with NSCN (K)

NEW DELHI: Asks Myanmar govt. to convince NSCN (K) Gathers intel on Khaplang’s possible successor

India is gathering intelligence on the second rung leadership in NSCN (K), with the insurgent group facing a leadership crisis. This comes as the leader of the group, SS Khaplang, has turned 75 and is reportedly not in good health, a CNN-IBN report stated.

The report states that India has asked Myanmar government to convince NSCN (K) to resume talks. The move also comes after several Nagaland based civil society groups including the state government had appealed to the Government of India to consider resuming talks/cease-fire with the NSCN (K), after it abrogated its 14-year ceasefire with India in March this year.

With other NSCN groups already in a ceasefire with India, the government believes a widely acceptable solution can be arrived at if Myanmar can help bring NSCN (K) to the negotiating table.

There is uncertainty over who will succeed Khaplang as the leader of the insurgent group. The veteran leader of NSCN (K) was recently hospitalized due to health issues. Khaplang’s hospitalization came after Myanmar informed New Delhi in February of his request to be treated at Yangon.

According to sources, Myanmar is helping India with intelligence gathering on the issue. During his visit to Myanmar last week, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval asked the country’s leadership to bring the insurgent group to negotiating table. This comes over a week after the government declared NSCN (K) as an unlawful organization following a Cabinet meeting.

The Thein Sein government had also reassured New Delhi that it won’t allow anti-Indian activity on its soil. Myanmar resumed its counter-insurgency operations against the NSCN (K) group. 

According to earlier reports, India wanted to push Myanmar to press the NSCN (K) to retract its decision to abrogate ceasefire with India and return to the negotiating table. India had also planned to ask Nay Pyi Taw for coordinated operations with the Tatmadaw (Myanmar armed forces) against the NSCN (K), in case the militant group refuses to mend its ways.

According to sources in the Indian intelligence establishment, the immunity that NSCN (K) had enjoyed in Myanmar by virtue of its ceasefire arrangement with Yangon has ended as NCA, signed in Nay Pyi Taw, supersedes all previous ceasefire agreements. 

Following NSCN (K)’s refusal to be part of the pact that requires all signatories to amalgamate their independent armed militias into regular army, Myanmar troops launched punitive operations against the outfit’s facilities in upper Myanmar Naga Hills (MNH). 

Two major bases at Ponyu and Langhting were burnt down and a few weapons seized, driving out cadres of NSCN (K) to the forests and mountain hideouts. “The next target could be another major establishment at Yanching and NSCN (K) headquarters in Taga,” a senior intelligence official had stated. 

The official said NCA, for which India pushed hard from behind the scenes, was a win-win situation as it showcased India as a key player in establishing regional peace and helping its neighbours deal with ethnic conflicts.

“Also, NSCN (K)’s not signing NCA has created a legal framework for us to get Yangon to hit its bases in Myanmar. The modalities on whether this crackdown will be a joint one by Indian and Myanmar forces or involve just the Myanmar Army, only time will tell,” the official added.

Sources believe the group’s chief S S Khaplang could be subjected to pressure from the armed forces.
India is weighing Myanmar’s proposal of joint operations carefully as it remains skeptical of Myanmar honouring the May 2014 bilateral agreement to target Indian insurgent groups. This is because Khaplang has signed a memorandum of understanding — in effect, a ceasefire — with the Tatmadaw. Parliamentary elections in Myanmar are scheduled for November and the Tatmadaw would like to buy time till then by undertaking a charade of coordinated operations with India while forewarning the NSCN (K) about the planned operations, sources said.

India also realises that the Tatmadaw has a capacity constraint and its borders with India are a lower priority compared to the anti-Myanmar insurgents on its northern borders with China. Following the adverse publicity and Myanmar’s reaction to the Indian Army operation inside their territory, Indian officials remain wary of launching another unilateral cross-border operation, in case the Tatmadaw fails to act against the NSCN (K).

Another concern was the United National Liberation Front of West South East Asia (UNLFWSEA), a platform of NSCN(K) and other insurgent groups, formed by Khaplang in April this year with active help from Ulfa chief Paresh Barua. 

UNLFWSEA is not the first effort by Khaplang to insurgent groups on a united platform. He had founded the Indo-Burma Revolutionary Front (IBRF) in May 1990, comprising NSCN(K), Ulfa, Kuki National Front (KNF) and Chin National Front.

Another unification effort was made in January 2011, when Indo-Burma Revolutionary Front was renamed United North East Revolutionary Alliance (UNERA). This initiative too failed. Apart from NSCN (K), the prominent groups in Myanmar are Ulfa (Paresh Baruah faction), NDFB (Songbjit), UNLF, PLA, KYKL and KLO. 

Their camps are located from Upper MNHs in Sagaing region on Arunachal-Myanmar border till Rakhine state.

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