India is likely to push Myanmar to press the NSCN(Khaplang) to retract its decision to abrogate ceasefire with India and return to the negotiating table when National Security Advisor Ajit Doval visits the neighbouring country for a two-day trip later this week, sources have told The Indian Express. Doval is also likely 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.
Sources believe the group’s chief S S Khaplang is under medical treatment in a Tatmadaw facility inside Myanmar and could be subjected to pressure from the armed forces.
NSCN(K) abrogated its 14-year ceasefire with India in March this year. It then went on to form a new umbrella group called the United National Liberation Front of West South East Asia (UNLFW) with nine other Northeastern insurgent outfits. Indian officials believe Chinese intelligence agencies are behind this initiative. According to government sources, China has been sheltering Paresh Baruah of the anti-talks ULFA group, who has also played a key role in forming the UNLFW.
India also has reports that a senior Myanmar military official recently travelled to Pakistan and entered into an agreement with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. According to sources, this intelligence cooperation between Myanmar and Pakistan has come under pressure from China. Beijing has been trying to improve its relations across the political spectrum in Myanmar and recently hosted Nobel Peace Prize winner opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Doval’s visit to Nay Pyi Taw follows suggestions made by the Myanmar government to Indian officials that the two countries conduct coordinated operations. These suggestions came immediately after Indian Special Forces launched a cross-border operation inside Myanmar to destroy two terrorist camps of the NSCN(K) and associated insurgent groups. The operation was in response to the ambush in Manipur’s Chandel district earlier this month, which led to the death of 18 soldiers.
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. Pressing Myanmar to do this will remain at the top of Doval’s agenda during his talks with government and military officials in Nay Pyi Taw.
India is weighing Myanmar’s proposal of joint operations carefully as it remains sceptical 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).
Government sources believe that Bangladesh has been proactive in shutting all safe havens for anti-India insurgent groups and if Myanmar were to follow suit, it would break the back of insurgency in the Northeast.