AROUND THE REGION
NSCN-Khaplang not among groups signing Myanmar ceasefire accord
India’s national security advisor Ajit Doval‘s attending the signing of the ‘nationwide ceasefire agreement” between the Myanmar government and eight ethnic rebel armies in Nay Pyi Taw is significant.
Doval is obviously satisfied that the NSCN-K is not among the eight who signed the agreement.
Doval had former Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga in tow seeking to emphasize a ‘silent role’ India has played in the Myanmar ceasefire process.
Zoramthanga, once considered Atal Behari Vajpayee’s ‘Man Friday’ in Northeast for his role in mediation between government and rebel groups, has been playing a similar role in neighbouring Myanmar .
He has been a mediator between the coalition of ethnic rebel armies, the UNFC, and the Myanmar government and has therefore a regular visitor to Myanmar in recent months.
The Myanmarese ethnic rebels have closely studied , with Delhi’s support, the Indian peace-making process – specially the 1986 Mizoram accord which has helped bring complete peace in the once-disturbed northeast Indian state.
That the NSCN-K is not among the seven signatories of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) is extremely significant.
Myanmar, though upset by the Indian chest-thumping triumpgalism after the para-commando raids, did not want the ‘Khaplang factor’ to adversely impact on the India-Myanmar relations.
They perhaps sought to pressurize Khaplang by not including his group in the NCA , though they have made it clear that the 2012 ceasefire with the Burmese Naga rebel leader will hold and there was no question of reneging on it.
Doval has been able to impress on the Myanmar functionaries during his previous visit to Yangon that India has a major stake in the Burmese peace process .
If the insurgencies in Myanmar come to an end, it will help India tackle those in the Northeast, he had rightly reasoned.
Myanmar’s main peace negotiator Aung Ming has gone on record to appreciate the Indian support for the nationwide peace process, even as media reports pointed to Burmese anger at what they see as ‘Chinese mischief’ in persuading some of the northern rebel groups from staying away from the ceasefire.
In fact, while eight ethnic rebel armies sign the ceasefire, ten are not. Those who have not signed including powerful ethnic armies on the Myanmar-China border, including the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).
The groups that signed the ceasefire are from Myanmar’s eastern and western borders -- the Karen National Union (KNU), the Chin National Front, the Arakan Liberation Party, the Pa-Oh National Liberation Organisation, the KNU/KNLA Peace Council, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army and the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front.
None of those up north have signed up.
Aung Ming is seeking to use Zoramthanga to break the deadlock with the Kachins, one of three most powerful rebel groups who have fought the Burmese military offensive to a standstill since fighting erupted again in 2012.
Zoramthanga have known the Kachins for years, since his days as a top leader of the Mizo National Front which fought India for twenty years ( 1966-86).
Batches of MNF rebels reached China for training through the Kachin corridor in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The Kachins have put several pre-conditions for joining the ceasefire process – one being inclusion of all rebel groups up north including the Kokang dominated MNDAA.
Myanmar’s government is unwilling to include the MNDAA because they see the group as a ‘Chinese lackey’ and the Kokangs as ‘ethnic Chinese’ disturbing the peace along the country’s northern borders.
China has stridently denied disrupting the Myanmar peace process – but suspicion in Yangon remain strong that the big neighbor is playing an adverse role.
So, getting the Kachins on board and persuading them to sign a ceasefire is top priority for Myanmar’s peacemakers.
Since Zoramthanga and the Indian government have agreed to help, the Thein Sein government was in no mood to upset Delhi by including Khaplang in the NCA at this stage.
(Subir Bhaumik is a former BBC Correspondent and now works as Senior Editor of Dhaka-based bdnews24.com. His books on Northeast "Insurgent Crossfire" and "Troubled Periphery" are well acclaimed. His forthcoming book "Agartala Doctrine" is being published by Oxford University Press. )