Both China-Pakistan are arming and supporting multiple terrorist groups in India. China has been supporting and arming insurgents in India both in the northeast and in the Maoists belt. Pakistan has been trying to destabilise Punjab for past several years.
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
Two terrorist attacks in November 2021, one in Manipur and another in Pathankot spaced eight days apart, need to be examined closely; whether these are just stray actions or part of the China-Pakistan proxy war on India signaling more of such attacks likely in future.
The terrorist attack in Manipur was on November 13. In a well-planned action in Churachandpur District of Manipur, terrorists sprung an ambush on an Assam Rifles convoy killing five soldiers including Colonel Viplav Tripathi, CO 46 Assam Rifles, his wife and 6-year old son. This was a major terrorist attack after a gap of six years; last one in Manipur was in 2015 on an Army convoy, in response to which the Indian Army raided terrorist camps inside Manipur by launching Operation ‘Hot Pursuit’.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur and the Manipur Naga People’s Front (MNPF) claimed responsibility for the attack on November 13. After the ambush, the terrorist crossed over into Myanmar. The Indian Army has good relations with the Myanmar Army. But this time launching raid(s) inside the jungles of Myanmar appears unlikely because India has ignored Myanmar’s Military Junta forming the Caretaker Government in that country on grounds of being undemocratic.
In 2015, Chinese intelligence established the United Liberation Front of Southeast Asia (ULFWSEA) bringing together nine insurgent organisations of northeast India
China has been supporting and arming insurgents in India both in the northeast and in the Maoists belt. There have been specific reports of China providing weapons to the Manipur PLA for past several years and also having organised training for PLA cadres. Chinese media has periodically said that China can destabilise our northeast and even liberate Sikkim.
Both China-Pakistan are arming and supporting multiple terrorist groups in India. In Myanmar, China has created powerful proxies like the United Wa State Army (USWA) straddling the ‘Golden Triangle’ on the Myanmar-Thailand-China border. In 2015, Chinese intelligence established the United Liberation Front of Southeast Asia (ULFWSEA) bringing together nine insurgent organisations of northeast India.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in Myanmar headed by Ata Ullah (a Pakistani national) is linked to Chinese intelligence, Pakistan’s ISI and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). ARSA also receives financial aid from Saudi Arabia. About a year back, a Chinese delegation visited Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh and offered money to Rohingyas for returning to Myanmar.
Most importantly, the China-supported military takeover of Myanmar has brought a major change in the cross-border security environment in our northeast coupled with an all round aggressive stance by China including the standoff in Eastern Ladakh and along the 3,488-km long India-Tibet border. In addition is China’s new border law to legalise areas under its illegal occupation and transgressions into Arunachal Pradesh.
In line with other nations like Singapore and Japan, India has cut off aid and investments in Myanmar. On October 27, India’s Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited announced it would withdraw its investments in Myanmar’s military-owned Ahlone Port by June 2022. But other nations do not share a border with Myanmar and don’t have security implications like India.
The ASEAN wants Myanmar to implement its 5-point agenda. The US and western nations continue to maintain pressure on Myanmar. But all these measures will work in favour of China - with Myanmar getting drawn further into China’s strategic sphere. Beijing will like to exploit the estrangement between India and Myanmar’s Caretaker Government and destabilise our northeast. We should, therefore, be prepared for more terrorist attacks like the ambush in Manipur.
Beijing will like to exploit the estrangement between India and Myanmar’s Caretaker Government and destabilise our northeast. We should be prepared for more terrorist attacks like the ambush in Manipur.
The second terror attack was in Pathankot on November 21. Motorcycle-borne assailants threw a grenade near the gate of the Army cantonment around 9 pm after which search operations were launched. The grenade did explode but caused no casualties or damage. Checking of traffic carried on for long hours thereafter which was actually pointless since the terrorists would have abandoned the motorcycle whether it was stolen or not.
Post the attack, Surinder Lamba, Senior Superintendent of Police told media, “The hand grenade attack took place close to 9 pm on Sunday night near the Triveni Gate of the Army’s cantonment. The CCTV footage is being scrutinised to ascertain the facts.” Lamba added the police is leaving nothing to chance and security has been beefed up in Pathankot and neighbouring areas to trace the suspects.
Another police official said, "Part of the grenade has also been recovered after the blast and is being investigated. The security has been further heightened at all entry and exit points of the district. He said that all the vehicles, including private and commercial, are being thoroughly checked at all the entry points of Kathua district.
The police described the incident as a “terror attack” and registered a case under sections of the Explosives Act. According to Gulneet Singh Khurana, Punjab’s Inspector General of Police (counter intelligence), “Local police, counter intelligence and CID (Crime Investigation Department) are working together on the case.”
Pakistan has been trying to destabilise Punjab for past several years, details of which have been described elsewhere in these columns including how Pakistan may be exploiting the Kartarpur Corridor. The grenade attack in Punjab on November 21 obviously is not just a prank. It could be an act by Khalistanis who are supported by Pakistan – to infuse fear in the sensitive Punjab district due to its proximity to the border with Pakistan. But there could be another angle to it.
The grenade attack in Punjab on November 21 could be an act by Khalistanis who are supported by Pakistan – to infuse fear in the sensitive Punjab district due to its proximity to the border with Pakistan.
Pakistan is facing these types of grenade and improvised explosive devices (IED) attacks in Balochistan almost on daily basis– engineered by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). On November 22, a motorcycle IED had also exploded near a bank in Jalalabad. Pakistan alleges that India is supporting the BLA, especially after a mischievous insertion (hinting at India’s involvement in Balochistan) was added in the joint statement issued after the prime ministers of India and Pakistan met at Sharm el-Sheikh on July 16, 2009. Significantly, this was ‘not’ in the draft for the joint statement sent by India’s High Commissioner in Pakistan.
So the reference to Indian involvement in Balochistan was possibly added by our then NSA, Shiv Shankar Menon with possible concurrence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Strangely, no one has ever questioned Menon about this. If India had actually supported Baloch independence, the BLA would have achieved it by now. But given what Pakistan believes, the ISI may want to show that what India is doing in Balochistan, it can do in Punjab. If this be so, we may witness more of such terrorist incidents.
It may be recalled that in January 2016, six heavily armed Pakistani terrorists had attacked the Indian Air Force (IAF) Base in Pathankot after sneaking in from across the border from Punjab’s Kathua-Gurdaspur border. The gunfight between the terrorists and the security forces continued for three days. All the terrorists and seven soldiers were killed in the operation. Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen had claimed responsibility for the attacks.