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Chandel warning

Militant attack is a reminder of the urgent need to find political solutions to the Northeast’s long-running problems.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: June 6, 2015 12:26:28 am
Manipur ambush, manipur militant ambush, manipur militant attack, militant ambush manipur, manipur chandel attack, northeast militant attack, manipur attack, manipur army attack, indian express editorial A scene after a military convoy was attacked by an unidentified insurgent outfit first with a powerful Improvised Explosive Device (IED) killing at least 20 army personnel and injuring 11 others in Manipur’s Chandel district on Thursday. (Source: PTI Photo)

The death of 18 soldiers in an ambush in Manipur’s Chandel district on Thursday must draw attention to the worsening of the security situation in the Northeast in recent months. In May, a similar attack took place in Nagaland, where eight Assam Rifles jawans were killed, while earlier this month, militants ambushed a patrolling party of the Assam Rifles in Manipur’s Ukhrul district, injuring two jawans.

Sporadic attacks on security forces — the placing of roadside bombs near army posts or on patrolling routes — have also been on the rise. Thursday’s ambush occurred between Paralong and Charong villages in Chandel district, which has been the hub of activity for various insurgent groups due to its proximity to Myanmar. The Naga militant group, National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), has claimed responsibility for the latest attack, which saw the use of sophisticated weapons. The ambush party is suspected to have made its way back to Myanmar, where the NSCN-K runs camps and hideouts in the Sagaing and Kachin provinces.

The NSCN-K, led by S.S. Khaplang, a Burmese Naga, had abrogated its 14-year-old ceasefire with the Centre this March. Since this abrogation, the NSCN-K has been under pressure from the security forces, with many in its cadre shifting to other NSCN factions. In response, the NSCN-K had announced the formation of a joint group with several other Northeast-based militant outfits, called the United National Liberation Front of Western Southeast Asia (UNLFW). The UNLFW’s formation highlights the government’s political failure to move forward on the Naga peace process. Most major Naga groups have had a ceasefire with Delhi for two decades now, but even after numerous rounds of talks, there has been little progress on finding a political solution. While the UNLFW poses a formidable challenge for the security forces, it also provides the government with an opportunity to negotiate with one group in what has historically been a highly fragmented militancy.

India’s security response to this dastardly incident will be constrained by the memorandum of understanding between the NSCN-K and Myanmar. While Myanmar’s top leadership has pledged full support to India in operations against militant groups, it has no control at the local level, where corruption is rampant among the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military. Moreover, the Tatmadaw is too pressured and stretched in quelling Myanmar’s own insurgencies and honouring its own ceasefire agreements with anti-India groups to effectively respond to Indian requests. Instead of a kneejerk security response, the Centre should respond with a considered joint action plan by the home, defence and external affairs ministries to ensure lasting peace in the region. Thursday’s attack is a reminder to the NDA government that it needs to devote greater energy towards finding political solutions to the Northeast’s longstanding problems.

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