Saturday, December 9, 2023

India calls for peace in Myanmar


India on Thursday expressed deep concern at fighting between Myanmar’s anti-junta groups and government forces close to the country’s border, which resulted in Myanmar nationals seeking refuge in Mizoram, and pushed for a cessation of violence and a constructive dialogue.

An expanding offensive by anti-junta groups has seen resistance fighters capture key towns, military bases and trade routes near the border with the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram. Among the areas seized by them is Rihkhawdar, home to one of only two official land border crossing points between the two countries.

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“We reiterate our call for the return of peace, stability and democracy in Myanmar,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a regular media briefing while responding to questions on the recent fighting.

“As a result of the fighting [at] Rihkhawdar area in Chin State, opposite Zokhawthar in Mizoram on the India-Myanmar border, there has been movement of Myanmar nationals to the Indian side. We are deeply concerned with such incidents close to our border,” he said.

A group of resistance fighters took control of two military camps at Rihkhawdar on Monday after several hours of fighting. The fighting resulted in some 5,000 Myanmar nationals, including more than 40 soldiers, seeking shelter in Mizoram. The soldiers were flown by the Indian side to another border crossing and sent back.

29 Myanmar soldiers flee to India
On Thursday, there were fresh reports that at least 29 more Myanmar soldiers entered India to flee an attack on their base by resistance fighters. The UN has said the intensified fighting since last month has displaced about 90,000 people.

Bagchi said India’s position on the situation in Myanmar “is very clear – we want cessation of the violence and resolution of the situation through constructive dialogue”.
Bagchi didn’t provide details on the number of Myanmar nationals who have crossed over to India, though reports have said tens of thousands of them have sought refuge in India’s northeastern region, primarily in Mizoram, since the junta assumed power in the military coup of February 2021. The latest fighting along the border with India erupted as anti-junta groups expanded Operation 1027, an offensive named after the date when it started that had focused on areas in Shan State along Myanmar’s frontier with China. Since then, fighting has also spread to Kachin State and Sagaing Region, which border India.

Bagchi said he didn’t agree with suggestions that India is propping up or supporting the junta. “We have engagement on cooperation with them on various issues, it’s a neighbouring country. Whatever actions we take are in the light of our interests, we are certainly cognisant of our responsibilities and we keep in mind all factors in it,” he said.
Members of National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), an advisory body to Myanmar’s government-in-exile, have called on India to end its relationship with the State Administration Council (SAC), which has ruled the country since the 2021 coup, and to engage with the ethnic resistance organisations.

Millions displaced in Myanmar: UN
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed his deep concern over the escalating conflict in Myanmar.
According to the UN, the number of people displaced by the fighting has reached two million, and the secretary-general appealed to all sides to protect non-combatants and open access for humanitarian aid.

The striking success of an alliance of three ethnic armed groups in Shan State in driving the army and police out of large areas along the border with China has emboldened other opposition forces around Myanmar. In Kayah State, south of Shan State along the border with Thailand, ethnic Karenni insurgents, who already control much of the state, are attacking the main town of Loikaw and have already captured the university on its outskirts.

Volunteer People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) – the militias formed by local activists after the suppression of peaceful protest back in 2021 – have launched their own attacks to take advantage of the military’s setbacks in Shan State and keep up the pressure on the ruling junta.

PDFs are less experienced and more poorly armed than the established ethnic armies, but their capabilities are improving, and they often ally themselves with the more experienced ethnic soldiers, who have been fighting the central government for decades.

In Sagaing, where PDFs in the villages have been waging a desperate struggle against the military, they have recently taken the town of Kawlin, and are attacking the strategically important town of Tigyaing on the Irrawaddy River. PDFs are very active around Myanmar’s second-largest city of Mandalay.

No-one believes the military regime which seized power nearly three years ago is likely to collapse. There are still hardened combats units – the notorious Light Infantry Divisions, so often accused of atrocities – which could be deployed to much greater effect, though these are believed to be significantly depleted since the coup.

But if the opposition can keep up the pressure, and keep improving its co-ordination, elements within the junta may conclude that they need to start negotiating with their opponents. This is something the coup-leader Min Ang Hlaing has so far refused to consider.



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