Indian Troops Seal Off India-Myanmar Border

By Moe Myint 18 February 2019

YANGON – At least two infantry companies from the Indian army have been deployed in Mizoram, a state located at the border with Myanmar’s Paletwa Township in southern Chin State as fighting intensifies in the area between the Myanmar Military and the Arakan Army (AA).

The Assam Tribune reported on Sunday that the troops are stationed in Mizoram’s southwestern Lawngtlai District. The troops are deployed with the intention of preventing AA fighters from entering Indian territory and to assist the villagers displaced from the conflict zones. It said AA rebels and government troops have been fighting along the Kaladan River in Myanmar’s Paletwa Township since earlier this month.

The report says troops began arriving at the border on Saturday.

AA spokesperson U Khine Thukha confirmed to The Irrawaddy on Monday that they have learned the Indian military recently stationed more than 500 soldiers along the border between the Mizoram villages of Parva and Lungpuk, covering a distance of at least 22 kilometers.

U Khine Thukha remarked that this is the first time in recent years that such heavy military presence has been seen at the border. There are widely-held suspicions that the Indian army may be trying to work in cooperation with the Myanmar military against AA rebels.

“My message to the Indian government is that collaborating with ICC-wanted war criminals (Myanmar’s military) is totally inappropriate. India should not cooperate with the ICC criminals,” said U Khine Thukha, referring to accusations against the Myanmar military of committing war crimes against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in late 2017.

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing with Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi during his trip to India in July. / Commander-in-Chief / Facebook

Over the weekend, unconfirmed claims that high-ranking Burmese military officers secretly met their Indian army counterparts were widely spread across social media. However, The Irrawaddy’s calls to Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun, spokesperson for the Military’s Office of the Commander-in-Chief, went unanswered on Monday.

Reports from Mizoram said that about 1,750 people from Chin State’s Paletwa Township sought refuge in 2017 as a result of Myanmar military-led operations against the AA. As of September 2018, some 200 refugees were still sheltering in Mizoram, refusing to go return to their villages in Myanmar out of fear of the return of unpredictable armed clashes in the region.

Recent clashes between the AA and government troops forced a number of residents to flee from Paletwa across the border to Mizoram on Saturday, though the number of displaced has not been confirmed.

India’s reinforcements along the Myanmar-India border come amid what many see as strengthening ties between the Myanmar and Indian militaries.  In late January, Myanmar’s military seized the headquarters of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) in the Naga Self-Administered Zone of Sagaing Region without resistance from the Naga rebels.

A military announcement last week accused the NSCN-K of violating the bilateral ceasefire agreement by sheltering members of Indian militant groups from Assam and Manipur which are fighting against Indian government troops. It claimed they arrested six NSCN-K members and two Kathae rebels. The NSCN-K signed a regional-level ceasefire agreement with the military in 2012 and since then, no major armed clashes with government troops have occurred in the region. The leaders of NSCN-K denied the military’s allegations.

On Monday afternoon, Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issued a letter of condolence to the family members of those in the Indian army who were killed in Thursday’s suicide bomb attack in Kashmir on Feb. 14.

The AA announced on its official website on Sunday that they had fought with military troops in Rathedaung Township’s Yae Soe Chaung Village on Feb. 14, killing 10 government troops. They also announced that they had carried out a mine attack on a highway express coach carrying government soldiers in Ponnagyun Township on Feb. 17, leaving a number of troops wounded and seeking medical treatment in Sittwe. The AA denounced the military’s attempt at disguising its troops as civilians by transporting them in private transport.

Locals relief groups have estimated that the armed violence in northern Rakhine State has displaced more than 6,000 residents while aid shipments from international relief agencies are being blocked by army officers on the ground, with the exception of those from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

As of this week, about 40 locals are in detention in the area on accusations of having ties with the AA, which have been declared an unlawful association.