China under the rule of Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party is increasingly becoming a rogue state which will put even Hitler’s Nazi Germany to shame. No country has “good relations” with China, either you are China’s subject meant to be colonised like Pakistan and Nepal or you are its adversary like India and Australia as China the bully couldn’t have its way with you. As India stands up against China’s blind expansionist policy, after engaging with Pakistan based terror outfit, Al Badr to wreak havoc in Jammu and Kashmir, a paranoid Xi Jinping is now engaging with Burmese terrorists to derail crucial Indian projects in Myanmar much to the chagrin of Myanmar.
It is widely believed that Myanmar is China’s closest ally in South East Asia which has drastically changed in the backdrop of the China-made pandemic. Over the years, Myanmar’s lawmakers and army personnel have publicly disdained how China is striving to keep the country unstable by engaging and funding the Burmese terrorist organisations.
China has a longstanding relationship with Rakhine based terrorist organisation, Arakan Army and according to reports, China has now intensified its funding and delivery of arms to the Arakan Army with the explicit intention to harm Indian projects in Myanmar and continue to gain leverage over the latter.
It is being reported that 95% of the terrorist outfit’s funding comes from China with the latter even providing 50 Chinese surface-to-air missiles. Myanmar recently also discovered a Chinese consignment allegedly for the Arakan Army which consisted of 500 assault rifles, 30 machine guns and 70,000 rounds of ammunition which doesn’t bode well for the stability of Myanmar
Licas News reported, “An object lesson in diplo-terrorism is the leverage over Myanmar and India that China gained by arming the Arakan Army, operating in the corridor from North-East India over Myanmar’s Chin and Rakhine states to the Indian Ocean.”
It is strategically beneficial for China to be in bed with the Arakan Army as it can exercise influence along the India-Myanmar border. China wants to create a monopoly in Myanmar which is not possible as long as India has crucial highway, pipeline, and port projects.
There have been various cases of the Arakan Army kidnapping Indian citizens and sabotaging Indian projects in Myanmar in the last couple of years.
Such is China’s influence in Myanmar that its lawmakers are freely kidnapped by the Arakan Army with a government minister upon hearing the concerns of locals over a China-backed copper mine project feared that if the project gets derailed, China would unleash ethnic violence in the country which would severely hamper Myanmar’s economy.
China’s decision to collaborate with the Arakan Army is concerning for India’s crucial $484 million Kaladan Multi-Modal transit project which seeks to connect India’s North East to Myanmar’s Sittwe seaport. It is believed that the project will enhance cross border trade between India and Myanmar and will also provide an alternate outlet to the landlocked North Eastern states which are heavily dependent on the narrow ‘Chicken’s Neck’ at Siliguri.
It is important to note that the Sittwe seaport is located in the Rakhine province where the Arakan Army has a stronghold.
China has strategically invested its dollars in the Rakhine state to keep the Arakan Army happy. China is building a deep seaport and a special economic zone in the province.
“The Chinese are quite capable of buying these rebel groups off, like they buy off state politicians, their investments in Rakhine are huge and they have to secure them,” said Amrita Dey of the Maulana Azad Institute of Asian Studies.
Arakan Army in the past has tried to gain a safe sanctuary on Indian territory albeit unsuccessfully. In 2019, the Indian Army conducted “Operation Sunrise” with the Burmese Army along Mizoram’s border to eliminate the Arakan rebels.
There are encouraging signs of close coordination between the Indian and Burmese Army to jointly take on the Arakan rebels after commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces senior general Min Aung Hlaing in an interview said, “A country may be able to suppress terrorist organizations on its soil. But in cases when there are strong forces behind that terrorist organization, the country alone may not be able to handle it.”
While he didn’t explicitly mention China but the reference to “strong forces” clearly points fingers at China. The Myanmar Army has often raised concerns over China’s continual supply of arms to the Arakan rebels with China refusing to mend its ways.
Just like the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, under the Belt and Road Initiative, China is also building the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor which will open into the Bay of Bengal. Myanmar was initially on board with the project but of late has developed cold feet as there are growing concerns in Myanmar that the country will fall into the infamous Chinese debt-trap.
China is coercing Myanmar to not derail the projects through the use of ethnic terrorist groups like the Arakan rebels who over the years have made it a habit to hamper Indian projects but instantly drop arms when it comes to Chinese projects.
India needs to meaningfully engage with Myanmar and jointly take on the threat posed by the China-Arakan nexus and protect the Indian projects.