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Rebels meet in Myanmar

Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 19: At least four Indian insurgent groups will meet at Taga in Myanmar tomorrow to pave the way for creation of an umbrella organisation.

The meeting comes within a fortnight of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the neighbouring country.

The Centre is not as cross with Myanmar about this development as it is with Beijing whose “active encouragement”, intelligence agencies have reported, has resulted in this meeting being finalised.

Representatives of NSCN (Khaplang), Ulfa, National Democratic Front of Boroland (Songbijit) and the Manipur-based People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will participate in the deliberations. Taga is a hotbed of insurgent group camps in Sagaing division in northwestern Myanmar.

“Plans have been afoot to hold such a meeting for about four months now at the behest of a Chinese intelligence agency about which we have evidence,” a source said.

Chinese interference “to fish in troubled waters” has been flagged at bilateral meetings between India and China in the past.

The Chinese have apparently been providing arms and ammunition to insurgent leaders like Paresh Barua through contacts in the arms bazar of Ruili on the Myanmar-China border. Indian insurgent groups procure weapons from these grey markets.

Singh’s visit to Nay Pyi Taw this month for the Third BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) summit had security as one of the issues in bilateral talks, sources said.

Myanmar’s response to Indian groups have been described as moderate at best although some real-time intelligence has been shared in the past few months resulting in some successes for Indian forces. India is not satisfied with Myanmar’s action against groups well entrenched in northwestern Myanmar where Indian groups thrive. North Block sees some hope in a meeting of Myanmar military leaders with Manipur’s valley-based insurgents to be held this month.

Similar reports about attempts to forge an alliance, including Naga groups, were heard in 2005 also but the umbrella organisation failed to come up. Another organisation of mainly Manipur’s valley-based insurgent groups, CorCom, came up a few years ago, again at the alleged provocation of the Chinese. But officials insist that this organisation has failed to make an impact in view of increasing surveillance and a reduced inflow of money into militants’ hands.

Tomorrow’s meeting is likely to be convened by NSCN (K) chief S.S. Khaplang, an influential leader in parts of northern Myanmar. Khaplang’s group has also signed a ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar government.

However, it is going to be Ulfa (I) leader Paresh Barua who will be the main operator in the group, sources said. Barua, in Myanmar ever since Bangladesh tightened its grips over Indian insurgent groups, is considered by security forces as one of the top gun runners in that part of the world.

The NDFB is said to have appointed two representatives to attend the meeting though senior leaders Songbijit and Bidai may not participate.

Government sources said NSCN (Isak-Muivah), an arch rival of the Khaplang faction, is attempting to secure a presence in Myanmar.