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Manipur Terrorism: 'Chinese hand can't be ruled out'

By ARCHANA MASIH
November 17, 2021 12:18 IST
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'The adversary will always exploit India's anti-national elements.'

IMAGE: People throng to pay tributes to the mortal remains of Colonel Viplav Tripathi, his wife and son, who were killed in a terrorist attack in Manipur on November 13, at the Ramlila Maidan, Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, November 15, 2021. Photograph: ANI Photo

"The existing policies and security apparatus needs urgent review."

"A structure for the security situation of North East India should be created."

"It needs a comprehensive and consolidated government approach," says Lieutenant General K Himalay Singh (Retd), the first three-star general from the North East who hails from Manipur.

General Himalay retired after 40 years of distinguished service in the Indian Army during which he led an infantry battalion during the Kargil War and commanded a battalion in the highest battlefield of the world, the Siachen Glacier.

Later, he commanded an infantry division and a corps at the Line of Control facing Pakistan and also oversaw counter terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir.

On his retirement, he returned to Manipur, thereby fulfilling a promise he had made to then President A P J Abdul Kalam.

General Himalay speaks to Rediff.com's Archana Masih about the Manipur terror attack and urgent measures needed to deal with insurgency in the North East.

 

Is there a Chinese hand in Saturday's terror attack?

The Chinese commanders on the other side would definitely cultivate assets in India to be exploited at an opportune time.

Just as Pakistan cultivates its assets in India, China would also do the same.

The Chinese hand can't be ruled out, it is for our intelligence agencies to find out if there is a Chinese involvement.

There is a possibility of China waging a different sort of war. Warfare is not just about shooting at each other across the border. The adversary can activate various techniques to defeat the minds of the commanders, politicians and people.

Given the situation on the Line of Actual Control, China can use information, perception and psychological warfare against India.

Infiltration across the India-Myanmar border/safe havens in Myanmar

The Free Movement Regime agreement with Myanmar allows people to travel 16 kilometres across the border on either side. This agreement in itself facilitates infiltration.

There is hardly any police presence in the thick jungle area with mountainous terrain. The geography makes it even more difficult and inaccessible to police or security personnel.

Countries in the neighbourhood that provide safe havens to insurgent leaders deny their presence on their soil. The adversary will always exploit India's anti-national elements. Diplomacy needs to establish good relations with neighbouring countries so that we can extradite such criminals.

Bangladesh used to be the epicentre of North East insurgencies under Begum Khaleda Zia. However, the Sheikh Hasina government carried out a strict crackdown on these groups which resulted in their shifting base to Myanmar.

Unfortunately, the Myanmar government is not in total control of the country -- in northern Myanmar, the army finds it difficult to operate.

The modus operandi of terror groups in the North East

Militant groups die if they don't display their relevance. They carry out terror attacks to prove their existence.

The standoff with China and the upcoming elections in Manipur could be some of the factors as far as the timing of the attack is concerned.

These insurgent groups follow similar tactics when they target security forces. They detonate improvised explosive devices on the road, followed by a hail of bullets on the convoy.

Militants in the North East normally avoid causing injury to family, especially women. Therefore, popular sentiment in the state is against the killing of Colonel Viplav Tripathi's wife and child.

On the evening of the attack, the militant groups released a statement saying they were unaware of the presence of the family in the military convoy.

IMAGE: Martyred Colonel Tripathi's mother pays tributes to her son, daughter-in-law and grandson. Photograph: ANI Photo

The two terror groups responsible for the attack

The People's Liberation Army and Manipur Naga People's Front have taken responsibility for the attack.

The PLA is a strong insurgent group that was predominant from 1978 up to the 1990s. It was lying low for a long time -- their strike capability and potential had reduced considerably in the past 10 years as far as the violence level is concerned.

There was an 'absence of violence' -- which does not necessarily mean that peace had been restored.

One odd incident here and there cannot define peace or violence. Insurgency cannot end as long as it is infested in the minds of the people.

Most insurgent groups in the North East have suspended terror activities and have opted for talks or ceasefire with the Government of India. But these two groups have not shown any indication of engaging with the government.

One cannot assume that insurgency can be solved by eliminating terrorists. While it can contribute towards a peaceful settlement, it ultimately needs a consolidated government approach.

Measures India needs to take in the North East

The following institutional changes need to be taken:

1. Review existing policies and security apparatus.

A structure for the security situation of North East India should be created. Agencies like the Northeast Council are mandated, but they have failed to do so.

There is a gap between the ground situation and the perceptions of political leaders in North East. Viewing every issue as a law and order problem in an insurgency-affected region has its limitations.

Dealing with North East insurgency needs people who have knowledge of the ground situation.

We need an overview of the entire structure to deal with the insurgency situation in the North East. That structure begins with governance which includes the State apparatus, the role of the central government, the different agencies responsible for dealing with the situation. It needs a comprehensive and consolidated government approach.

2. Improving intelligence and stepping up military to military contact with the Myanmar army.

3. The government's agenda should also include weaning people away from insurgent activities.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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