India and its Neighbours

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Although the matter remains uncertain, the pattern in the arrest of the UNLF chairman, RK Meghen, also known as Sanayaima, in Bangladesh and possibly the emergence of a new approach to the settlement of the vexed problem of insurgency in Manipur and the Northeast, seem uncannily familiar to the road another prominent underground organisation NSCN(IM) ended up taking, or perhaps was forced into by circumstance. It may be recalled, before an agreement to hold peace negotiation between the NSCN(IM) and the Government of India was won, the  organisation’s chairman, Th. Muivah too was arrested in Thailand and jailed in that country for travelling on false documents. On the face of it, Muivah’s release had seemed at the time to be on account of a generous intervention of the Government of India. Whatever it was, the final outcome, as all of us who followed this particular news track would remember, was that Muivah before his release from the Thai jail agreed to attest his signature to an Indian passport, and as an Indian (at least on paper, if not in spirit) secured his freedom. It is difficult to believe it was a co-incidence that the ceasefire agreement followed by peace negotiation, now proving unending, dove-tailed this entire torturous Thai jail drama. It will also be remembered that there were many reasoned speculations at the time why the pivotal incident of Muivah’s arrest in Thailand was also part of a well-planned strategy at the behest of Indian intelligence. All fair in love and war they say. A little more distant hindsight should tell if in the end the entire drama turns out to be for the common good or bad.

In the case of Sanayaima too, the drama seems to be unfolding similarly at least at the start. Whether the rest of the script will remain alike is only a matter of speculation at this moment. There can be no dispute the UNLF leader was kidnapped by unknown men, seemingly security personnel in civvies and uniforms, for the UNLF has itself clarified this to support the report in the BBC website by its correspondent Subhir Bhaumik. As to who these mysterious kidnappers were hopefully will come to be known soon, and hopefully too the UNLF chairman will turn up safe and unharmed, if not for anything else, at least for consequences of extreme gravity this would have on the future wellbeing of the state. Let there be no doubt about this, the issue of insurgency can only be settled with an unambiguous finality to it. It cannot be wished away, or, we would add, exterminated. The suspicion, as also alleged by the UNLF, is that this time too, the Indian intelligence was involved. This allegation is difficult to doubt. Otherwise, what independent motive can anyone imagine the Bangladesh Government would have in obstructing the UNLF?

One other inference is obvious, and this is one all its opponents should hark attentively. India’s influence is growing amongst its neighbours. A few months ago, one remembers a lecture in the Manipur University by a former ambassador to South Africa, who while answering a question on the proposed trans-Asia highway, mentioned how India has pledged to invest 50 billion dollars to develop nearly 30 bridges along the Bangladesh stretch of the highway. India’s interest is, this highway would connect Northeast India much more easily and inexpensively to the rest of the country. India, like China is also drawing up plans for huge development assistances to Myanmar. Its strong presence in Bhutan and Nepal too is well known. This growing financial and political clout is set to change the political landscape of the region south and east of the Himalayas yet again. The manner India’s neighbours, with perhaps theexception of Pakistan and China, are now much more willing to cosy up with it, are already unmistakable. Why would not this be too? Why would a country which has been a major recipient of financial and political generosity of another country, like to displease its benefactor, unless it is for reasons of extreme gravity. The UNLF leader’s arrest in Dhaka recently should be read as yet another prominent writing on the wall by those fighting the Indian establishment to rewrite their strategies. There is no saying why other countries, such as Myanmar and indeed other South East Asian countries, also would not decide do what Bangladesh has seemingly begun to, in the near future. While these thoughts are only informed speculations, we hope the eventual denouement to the present episode does not deepen the crisis beleaguered Manipur has been immersed in for half a century now. On the other hand, we earnest hope the light at the end of the tunnel begins to show.

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