Here’s why Myanmar’s deportation of insurgents is crucial for India

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Myanmar on Friday (15 May) deported to India 22 militants belonging to various armed groups active in Northeast India, including senior figures like the National Democratic Front of Boroland-Saoraigwra’s self-styled home secretary Rajen Daimary.

The highlight, however, is not the high-profile deportations, but the cementing of the India-Myanmar security cooperation, as this is not a one-off windfall, but only the latest in the series of developments marking the growing synergy between New Delhi and Nay Pyi Taw.

In 2015, following the killing of 18 Indian Army personnel, the army carried out surgical strikes on two camps in Myanmar being run by the Northeast groups. Since then, the two countries have operated in tandem along the border.

Last year when the insurgents harassed Indians engaged at the $484 million Kaladan project in Myanmar, the two countries launched a multi-phased, coordinated operation along the border in which the Myanmarese Army targeted insurgents and the Indian Army checked their escape into India. During phase-two of the operation, the two armies coordinated to target camps of the Northeast groups.

Then in July, the Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar Defence Services, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, visited New Delhi, and one of his meetings was with the Indian National Security Advisor Mr Ajit Doval, who is believed to have broached the topic of deportations to Senior General Hlaing. Since then, it is believed that NSA Doval has personally monitored the process that has now come to fruition with the deportation.

The series of developments mark a paradigm-shift from some time back when Myanmar would only take token action to address Indian concerns rather than carry out substantial action against the groups operating from its soil.

Dr Udai Bhanu Singh, a Senior Research Associate at the Manohar Parrikar Institute For Defence Studies and Analysis, believes this suggests that Indian policymaking has matured. He recalls the 1995 Operation Golden Bird that was being carried out jointly by the Indian and Myanmarese militaries but was called off as India then conferred the Jawaharlal Nehru Award to the State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi who was then in the Opposition and an enemy of the army.

Dr Singh says, “It was the starting point of lessons for India. India has since learnt that if you want the cooperation of the Myanmarese Army, you will have to support whoever is in power there. At the moment, the relations with the Myanmarese military are very good and these good relations have yielded good results.”

The true importance of the deportation for India is therefore in the India-Myanmar security cooperation that it symbolises. This is further relevant in times of the pandemic, says Dr Singh.

He says, “In the pandemic, the number of infected people may rise in Myanmar and in case an influx into India through the border states begins, good relations with the Myanmarese Army will be important to check such an influx.”

Security cooperation is also important for India as peace and stability in the region is central to Indian interests as India is heavily invested in the Kaladan project that has the potential to connect India’s Northeast to the Bay of Bengal and break its landlockedness. The project is, however, vulnerable to the Arakan Army and other insurgent groups.

Dr Singh says, “The deportation followed by last year’s joint operations after the Kaladan project was threatened to mark a convergence of Indian and Myanmarese interests. Security cooperation is the key to see this project through as the project will never see the light of the day if insurgent groups keep making trouble,” says Dr Singh.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Madhur Sharma

Madhur Sharma is a Former Journalism Intern at The Kootneeti.

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