Chinese arms coming to India since 2001: Pillai
Arms for Northeast militants and Maoists are finding their way into India from southern China’s Yunnan province, a fact now admitted to by Union Home Secretary GK Pillai.
A report by Jane’s Intelligence Review (JIR) last year said China had replaced Cambodia and Thailand as the main supplier of weapons to insurgent groups in India’s Northeast and Myanmar.
Though the forces on the Indian side of the Myanmar border have “no proof yet” to pin down the gun-running racket in Beijing, the JIR said the seizure of “several hundred Chinese assault rifles” by the Myanmar authorities as early as in 2001 revealed Beijing’s patronage of the illicit arms trade.
Since 2001, the authorities across the Northeast have seized weapons ranging from the Chinese M-20 pistol to AK-56 (Russian) at least 15 times.
“Most of those involved in the latest seizures were Chins (inhabiting southern Myanmar), who have the advantage of looking like the Mizos and speaking a similar language,” said Lt Gen NK Singh, commander of the army’s 3rd Corps, based in Rangapahar near Dimapur, about 270 km east of Guwahati.
“The weapons were sourced from clandestine groups active in Yunnan and adjoining areas, but we have no information about China’s official involvement,” he said.
The consignment, recovered while being transported to the Indian border at Tamu, was meant for Manipuri militants.
Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s Long March in 1935 passed through Yunnan province.
Cambodia, Thailand and Laos comprise the Golden Triangle known for small arms and drug trafficking.
This region is contiguous to Yunnan and northern Myanmar. The United Wa State Army, a 20,000-strong tribal militia controlling northern Myanmar, acted as the “middleman” between Chinese arms traders and Northeast rebels, the JIR added.
Chinese copies of weapons such as the American M-16 rifles and Russian Kalashnikovs — AK-47s and AK-56s — are cheaper but almost as lethal. At least 12 rebel outfits such as the United Liberation Front of Asom and People’s Liberation Army (Manipur) spend Rs 65-80 crore of extorted money annually to procure guns, ammunition and Chinese grenades, used extensively in hit-and-run operations.
With these weapons, most of the 7,000-odd people have been killed in insurgency-related violence in the past 10 years.
Drug-lords and militias controlling the Golden Triangle dovetail their narcotics trade with gun-running. While the Was restrict their operations within northern Myanmar, the arms-drugs trade is done through the Chins, who push the stuff into India through Mizoram.
They also pump in fake Indian rupees, sourced from Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The payment, officials say, is usually in the Burmese kyat, which has no fixed exchange rate vis-à-vis the Indian rupee.
The currencies are exchanged through a localised form of “hawala” operating along the 1,643-km India-Myanmar border.