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Should India Reach Out to the National Unity Government in Myanmar?

Indian Dy NSA in Myanmar in October 2023: Photo Courtesy Myanmar SAC Media

Recent indications of the ground fighting are that the Myanmar Army is on a losing wicket at least in the States – that is those comprising of mainly ethnic communities be it Chin on the border with India or Shan and Kachin bordering China. Ethnic armed organisations in these areas including the Brothers Alliance and Chin forces have achieved success in capturing a number of military posts with desertions of the Tatmadaw with some landing up in India as well as China.

Reuters reported that 29 Myanmar soldiers entered India on November 16th fleeing an attack by Chin insurgents on their military. This is the second batch which has entered India with, 43 Myanmar soldiers entering India's Mizoram state after their military bases were overrun by the rebels. Nearly 40 were sent back by Indian authorities through a different border crossing point a few hundred kms east as per the Reuters. 

A report in the Myanmar Now indicated that anti-regime armed groups have seized control of Khampat, a town in western Sagaing Region located near the border with India, quoting the Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government (NUG).

In a statement released on November 07 evening, the NUG said the town was captured after a four-day offensive by an alliance of anti-junta forces that included the NUG-led People’s Defence Force (PDF) and the Kachin Independence Army as per Myanmar Now.

This report could not be independently confirmed.

Khampat is a key town on the road connecting Moreh and could well lead to blocking of the Indian Myanmar axis.

After the success of Operation 1027, Karenni armed organisations launched assaults in the Mese Township, Karenni State naming their Operation as 1107. Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) along with Karenni National People’s Liberation Front (KNPLF), the Karenni Army (KA) and the PDF, which operates as the armed wing of the publicly mandated National Unity Government (NUG) launched a joint operation as per Myanmar Now.

The rate of success of the main opposition forces in Myanmar is spread not just in the North and North West but also in the South East on the borders with India, China as well as Thailand and Laos.

Will  the Tatmadaw over stretched be able to win back these posts spread across the country is a question mark as morale appears to be low and the human resources as well as supply lines over stretched.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing defacto head of the government and the military has ordered all military reserves to prepare for front-line battle amid a shortage of combat soldiers.

On the other hand, the opposing forces are well motivated and have armed themselves with elementary weapons as well as some commercial drones for dropping explosives -a native air force.

It is apparent the restoration of the military rule in Myanmar is no longer a possibility and is an outlier scenario for now.

At best the military can hold talks with the NUG and reach a compromise with a federal solution the minimum demand of the Ethnic Armed Organisation to which the NUG is amenable.

Time to Review India’s Policy

India’s policy on Myanmar has been mainly focused on continuing contacts with the State Administrative Council [SAC] the post coup civilian face of the government in Myanmar led by the military. “It's the government of Myanmar, you know, we have engagement on cooperation with them, the neighbouring country on various issues. And I think whatever actions we take are in the light of our interests and whatever else that guides our thing,’ Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said on 16 November during a media conference.

While accepting that there new challenges were emerging Bagchi appeared to indicate that, “our position on developments in that country is something that's a concern, of course, and we have been engaged to try to see how we can have a peaceful situation there”. The NUG has lost trust in India, China and even Thailand but India can impress upon the SAC to make peace when the situation is still under control and avoid what could be inevitable- a military defeat of the Tatmadaw though it may not come immediately but after much bloodshed including large number of civilians.

At the same time opening lines of communication at least covertly with the NUG and other channels may be considered if not already done so covertly.


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