Northeastern states have seen a drop in violent activities recently, and accords with various insurgent groups have brought normalcy, but proxy support of Chinese intelligence agencies and ISI to reorganise and reignite the insurgency movement in the region causes a serious internal threat.
Northeast after 1947 has lost its proximity to the entire nation, and 99% of the region got surrounded by international boundaries. This proximity has exposed the region to be the practice ground for anti-India forces and compromise the nation's internal security. Keeping the Northeast disturbed to keep India disturbed has been a strategy adopted by anti-India forces even before Independence.
The Northeast is a land bridge to ASEAN and South East Asia. The strength of the geographical location of the Northeast, when not leveraged, has turned into a vulnerability exposing it to be practice ground for Anti-India forces. The Northeast should be exploited as a platform to expand India's political and strategic boundaries up to Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam through the land, cultural connectivity, and Mekong cooperation. Sluggish and status quo mindset of political hierarchy in Delhi, within Northeast and bureaucracy, has allowed the region to remain frozen in time and space can certainly be termed as internal factors for the multiple problems faced by the region. Whereas the external factors responsible for instability in the region cause threat to national security, hindering growth, development and peace.
Northeastern states have seen a drop in violent activities recently, and accords with various insurgent groups have brought normalcy, but there is still work to be done. The Naga Peace Accord not concluding, ULFA faction under Paresh Barua, RPF of Manipur, and few other groups not coming to talk causes grave concern. Proxy support of Chinese intelligence agencies and ISI of Pakistan to reorganise and reignite the insurgency movement in the Northeast causes a serious internal threat.
Chinese support to insurgents in the Northeast came early in the 1960s. China's proximity to the area and its relationship with India have encouraged China to do so. China wants to keep India out of Myanmar. India out of Myanmar will be out of the lucrative markets of Southeast Asia and can not contain Chinese access to the Bay of Bengal. Ever since India has decided to talk peace with various NE groups to bring them to the mainstream, the Chinese have been on overdrive mode to help insurgent groups in this part of the country. Northeast India in turmoil benefits China. Therefore, China would do everything possible to contain India along the Indo-Myanmar border to prevent India from encroaching on China's strategic, economic and political space in Myanmar.
Pakistan always had the Northeast as a part of the scheme in its overall strategy, as history would reveal itself. From the very outset, Pakistan has shown its disagreement over the territorial division. One time PM of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in his book, "The Myth of Independence", laid claims to Assam and suggested that he wanted some areas of India's Northeast to be included in Pakistan. He openly confessed to Pakistani designs to convert Assam into a Muslim majority state by pushing in hordes of infiltrators and finally annexing it. The intervention of ISI of Pakistan through Jihadists in the Northeast to establish its network through Jammat, political parties and indigenous insurgent groups to create instability and maintain instability in the region. The aim of such involvement is clear–to weaken India's internal security system and to engage India internally so that Indian attention is diverted from Kashmir and Pakistan.
Bangladesh soil has been a base for the ISI to channel money and materials through Bangladesh to insurgent groups in the Northeast. The anti-India operations have been possible because of an overwhelming illegal immigrant Bangladeshi population in the Northeast. Northeast has been the victim of large-scale immigration from bordering countries. Its growing economy, liberal democratic society and ethnocultural commonality with the bordering states encouraged people from the neighbourhood to migrate to India's Northeast. This population has been the prime target of Pakistani intelligence in every likelihood. Many influential groups in Bangladesh, who have had a dream of unifying Bangladesh with West Bengal and a part of Assam, are purposefully working towards realising this dream. Some of the influential groups described the northeastern insurgents as freedom fighters.
The golden triangle's proximity to the Northeast is also an important factor that keeps the Northeast destabilised. The golden triangle is where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. Most of the world's heroin comes from the Golden Triangle. Myanmar is the second-largest producer of opium in the world. The Golden Triangle is now one of the world's leading areas for synthetic drugs, which is exported to Australia, New Zealand, and across East and Southeast Asia. This drug corridor is an easy source of income for insurgents who collaborate with criminal gangs to smuggle drugs across the border. For their nefarious activities, criminals are misusing India's proximity to the Golden Triangle. The growing nexus between drug smugglers and terrorist groups is a growing concern. A disturbed Northeast benefits this nexus.
The external powers and their activities have impacted the security of India's Northeast. Historical and geographical factors have compounded the security concerns of the government. Several factors are responsible for creating unrest and turmoil in the Northeast. The role of the external powers in fomenting unrest in the region has not been understood clearly by the policymakers earlier. It is only in recent years that the destabilising role of the external powers and the security threat that they represent is being probed and countered. The paradigm policy shift of the present government from "Look East to Act East" has created a trust in the populace of the Northeast, and development in a true sense has touched the region. Treaties and accords with the insurgent groups have boosted their confidence and made them feel important and equal. The new Northeast has set its foot forward to be the new growth engine of New India. External factors are still trying to derail the growth and development of the region, but the Northeast will overcome and step into its days of golden glory.
(The writer is the Vice-President of BJYM Assam Pradesh)