The gloves are off between India and China as India is standing up to the bully and not allowing the Chinese Communist Party to have its way. As Xi Jinping comes under serious international pressure, a paranoid Jinping is hobnobbing with terrorist organisations in Pakistan and Myanmar to corner India. Rakhine based Arakan Army which has been declared a terrorist organisation by Myanmar is receiving heavy funding from China in order to derail India’s plans of connecting the North-East with the Sea.
Ever since the Modi government took over, the historically ignored North-East came into the limelight as the Modi government undertook various developmental projects at a breakneck speed in the region much to the chagrin of China. It is in the best interests of China that India’s Northeastern states continue to remain ignored and underdeveloped. China also falsely claims Arunachal Pradesh as its territory.
India’s North-East presents a complex problem as the landlocked region is difficult to connect from the Indian mainland. Such is the gravity of connectivity, that the only way to the region from the mainland is through a narrow strip called the ‘Chicken’s Neck’ in West Bengal.
For India to transport goods to its northeastern states, it needs to seek transit access through Bangladesh to the landlocked region. Hence, India’s $484 million Kaladan Multi-Modal transit project with Myanmar is crucial as it 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.
Once operational, it will offer an alternative and much shorter route connecting the rest of India to the north-east. China realises the importance of the project and has spared no efforts to derail the project over which was commissioned way back in 2008.
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 especially the Kaladan transit project.
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 and the Indian projects.
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.”
There have been various cases of the Arakan Army kidnapping Indian citizens and sabotaging Indian projects in Myanmar in the last couple of years.
The Kaladan Multi-Modal transit project seeks to connect India’s North-East to Myanmar’s Sittwe seaport. However, the Sittwe seaport is located in the Rakhine province where the Arakan Army has a stronghold.
China has strategically invested truck loads of dollars in the Rakhine state to keep the Arakan Army happy. China is building a deep sea port 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.
While most of the parts of the project have been completed some parts like the 109-km stretch connecting Mizoram and Paletwa are yet to be completed. The Sittwe Port that will help India neutralise China’s string of pearls threat in this region has become operational last year.
India needs to meaningfully engage with Myanmar and jointly take on the threat posed by the China-Arakan nexus and protect the Indian projects.