Kabo Valley Question

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If and when the blinding dust settles in the numerous and complex entangles in the state, it would be fruitful for the powers that be to sit back and apply their thoughts on some of the issues which can indeed have a pragmatic solution. One of these would be the issue of Kabo Valley. This is not to suggest the territory be reclaimed, as many hotheads would want. Instead the proposal is from a different outlook. In 1833 and 1834 Manipur`™s then king Gambhir Singh who the British helped liberate his country from Burmese occupation in 1926, concluded two more treaties with the British in quick succession. The first in 1833 determined Manipur`™s boundary with British Assam. More importantly, it obligated Manipur to send troops in assistance of British expeditions in the region. How this treaty involved Manipur in British expeditions in the Naga Hills, culminating in 1879 when the British took full control of these hills, and then in the Lushai Hills, which too the British took complete control of in 1871 are well known. It may also be recalled Manipur troops were again engaged in 1885 in the 3rd Anglo-Burmese war and how Manipur troops were called upon to rescue European employees of the Bombay Burma Corporation from Kendat, a Burmese township in Chindwin basin. The British political agent, James Johnstone and Ayapoorel Balaram Major led this expedition and completed the mission successfully after a brief engagement with Burmese troops. In the second treaty of 1834, the Kabo Valley which was awarded to Manipur by the 1826, Treaty of Yandaboo, was reverted back to Burma. Together with this, the boundary between Manipur and Burma was redrawn along the foot of the `Murring Hill` (Alexander Mackenzie) on the western edge of the Kabo Valley by Pemberton, and this boundary came to be known as the Pemberton Line. The boundary was rectified by the British in 1881 to include the whole of the restive Chassad Kukis into Manipur and thereafter it came to be known as the Johnstone Line, and then again in 1896 under Col. Maxwell, who put up 38 boundary pillars along this further rectified boundary, and thereafter this boundary came to be known as Maxwell Line. All these boundary making exercises were unilateral and Burma never participated in them therefore by international law the boundary had to be ratified by India and Burma after they both became independent. The preliminary friendly negotiations for this began in 1953 when the premiers of the two countries, Jawaharlal Nehru and U Nu visited Manipur and Nagaland, and finally was ratified by the Boundary Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Union of Burma, signed at Rangoon on March 10, 1967.

This little background we are hopeful would moderate the passions usually evoked by the Kabo Valley question. This is also meant to put into perspective all the misconceptions and misinformation about the transfer of the valley to Burma. It is a fact that Kabo Valley exchanged possession between Manipur and Burma several times in history, and therefore Manipur`™s claim to the valley or compensation for it is not altogether unfounded. In the wake of the current boundary meetings between the two countries, diplomacy based on friendly understanding and good neighbourliness can be invoked to resolve the matter once and for all. There are many little patches along the international border between India and Myanmar where communities with the same ethnic affiliations had been separated by the border. To the extent possible, adjustments can be made to have them reunite on either side of the border, in a give and take spirit with both the countries`™ best interest in mind. But since Manipur had lost Kabo Valley in the course of recent history, the balance can be made to tilt on its side a little in all fairness. The Somra Tract in Myanmar for instance, is supposed to have about 70 Tangkhul villages and the readjustment process perhaps can begin here. Such a boundary realignment would be in the spirit of the redrawing of this boundary in 1881 to unite the Chassad Kukis in Manipur, thereby ending the Chassad unrest.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

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