Retired Lieutenant General, emphasizes Manipur’s Strategic Significance in the North East. In 2019, discussions unfolded regarding the promotion of Burmese religious tourism to Gaya, Bihar, the advancement of medical tourism to Imphal, and the strategic vision for transforming Manipur into a central hub for trade, transportation, and storage. This perspective is shared by Lieutenant General Shokin Chauhan, who devoted almost 15 years to serving in the North East.
As the former director general of Assam Rifles, the nation’s oldest and largest paramilitary force, and a third-generation army officer, General Chauhan chaired the Ceasefire Monitoring Group to ensure peace in the region. “All our endeavors to shift the mindset and position the North East as a development hub have been significantly hindered by the violence in Manipur,” laments the distinguished officer in the second part of an insightful interview with Rediff.com’s Archana Masih.
Both the Meiteis and Kukis possess weaponry, with looted arms retained by specific Meitei factions and the armed groups they’ve formed. These weapons have also made their way to insurgent groups. The Kukis acquire weapons from Myanmar, belonging to the Chin-Zo tribe, hailing from the Chin state in western Myanmar, bordering Manipur and Mizoram. Mizoram, predominantly Chin, aligns with the Kukis, placing blame on the Meiteis.
In Myanmar, Chin insurgent groups, armed with weapons from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and China, combat the Myanmar army. Some Meitei groups from Manipur assist the Myanmar army against the Chins, escalating the issue into India. The Kukis are unlikely to face shortages in manpower or weapons due to their proximity to the Chin state, providing a steady influx from across the border. They procure weapons from the grey market in Ruili on the Indo-Myanmar border, with alleged support from China, contributing to unrest.
Manipur holds paramount significance in India’s Look East policy, serving as a strategic state. Reflecting on World War II, the Japanese accessed Manipur through Burma, emphasizing its historical importance.
There exists a vulnerability to China using the same route to approach India. As a former soldier, witnessing the challenges faced by our nation in Manipur is disheartening. The Kukis exert influence over the Chin state on the Indo-Myanmar border, and any discord with segments of Myanmar’s population could be detrimental to India’s interests in this crucial region.
China’s assistance to rebels and insurgents in Myanmar, encompassing weapons, information, intelligence, and training, raises concerns. There is a looming threat that China might instigate problems within our borders.
Leadership must recognize the imperative of maintaining peace in border areas, drawing parallels to the successful efforts in Kashmir. Having served in both Kashmir and the North East, it is disheartening to witness Manipur, once a model state in the region, capitulate to conflict again.