Chinese arms, porous border worry Army
Mon, Oct 19 06:35 AM
Proliferation of small arms from China and other neighbouring countries, a porous international border, and presence of camps of different rebel groups inside Myanmar have been a major headache for the Army in the Northeast for the past few years.
The Army does not have direct evidence about the involvement of any Chinese agency in the trans-border arms transactions, but the recovery of a number of Chinese weapons from different rebel groups in the region in the past few years has indicated that China has an indirect role in the small arms bazaar in the region. "Though we do not have any evidence of the involvement of official agencies of China in the arms deals, there definitely exists a clandestine Chinese arms market which sells arms to different rebel groups of the Northeast," said Lt Gen N K Singh, GOC of the Army's 3 Corps, headquartered at Rangapahar near here.
Lt Gen Singh said the clandestine arms market was very active near the notorious Golden Triangle, with Northern Myanmar remaining the hotspot for both buyers and sellers. "Till sometime back, hundreds of such arms were recovered in the region. But with increased checks, we have considerably reduced the pool of arms available to different militant groups," he added.
In 2006 and 2007, security agencies had seized nearly 4,000 small arms and light weapons in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, nearly half of which were made in China. A March 2008 report of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons (UNPoA) had said that about 46,000 illegal weapons were seized in the Northeast and JandK in between 1990 and 2008.
It was only last year that the Jane's Intelligence Review (JIR) had said that China had replaced Cambodia and Thailand as the main supplier of weapons to insurgent groups in India's Northeast and Myanmar. It had also said that a Chinese automatic rifle that was available for $500 in eastern Myanmar could command a price of $2,500 by the time it reached the Northeast.
Lt Gen Singh said while a 10-km border patch in Moreh was being fenced by the Indian authorities to prevent arms smuggling, there were several such patches along the Indo-Myanmar border that remain to be secured. "Another problem is the bilateral agreement for free movement into 40 kms of the Indo-Myanmar boundary in Mizoram. Arms coming in through Champhai, Saiha, Zawkathawr and other places in Mizoram reach different rebel groups," Lt Gen Singh said.