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Manipur ambush: China’s role suspected behind brutal murder of 7, including Commanding Officer’s wife and son

People’s Liberation Army Manipur and Manipur Naga People's Front (MNPF) have claimed responsibility for the attack. PLA(M) has strong relations with China and has received aid and encouragement from Beijing in the past.

On November 13, a convoy of an Assam Rifles unit was ambushed by terrorists in the Churachandpur district in Manipur, bordering Myanmar. The casualties included a Commanding Officer, his wife, their 6-year-old son, and 4 other soldiers of 46 Assam Rifles. Many top Army officers are of the opinion that the attack had been carried out at the behest of China, reports Swarajya.

People’s Liberation Army Manipur and Manipur Naga People’s Front (MNPF) have claimed responsibility for the attack. PLA(M) has strong relations with China and has received aid and encouragement from Beijing in the past.

Former Director-General of Assam Rifles, Lt. Gen. (retired) Shokin Chauhan was quoted by Swarjya as saying: “China has provided ideological training and training in arms, guerilla tactics and safe havens to insurgent groups of the Northeast for a long time. Many of the leaders of these outfits have travelled to China and have interacted closely with China’s military and political leadership”.

Lt Gen (retired) Konsam Himalay Singh, the first three-star general in the Indian army from Manipur, told the website that Saturday’s ambush was an attempt by terrorists in Manipur to re-establish their importance at a time when the insurgency has been mostly subdued.

“This reeks of China’s hand in stoking the dying embers of insurgency in Manipur,” said Lt Gen (retired) Konsam Himalay Singh, explaining how Manipur is the only state in the northeast where insurgency is still active, though mostly confined. Ambushes and high-profile attacks like the one that occurred on Saturday bring these insurgent groups much-needed attention and publicity.

The PLA and other valley-based insurgency groups in Manipur maintain close ties with China, according to a Brigadier attached to the Army’s 3 Corps Headquarters at Rangapahar near Dimapur in Nagaland, who told Swarajya that the leaders of these outfits are in regular communication with China’s military.

The Brigadier added that apart from their strong suspicions that China was involved in the ambush, it has also emerged that the operations carried out by the 46 Assam Rifles battalion (commanded by the murdered Colonel Viplav Tripathi) caused a lot of difficulties for the various insurgent groups in Manipur.

The 46 Assam Rifles have taken a firm stance against drug smuggling across the porous Indo-Myanmar border, busting multiple drug trafficking rings. The insurgents run these cartels, and drugs are their main source of income. The insurgent outfits were suffering because Col Tripathi had cut off this source of income. That is also why he was most likely targeted, added the Brigadier.

It is noteworthy that Manipur shares a 398-kilometre border with Myanmar that is unfenced and highly porous. The single-lane road that connects the Assam Rifles outpost at Behiang (near the border) to the 46 Assam Rifles battalion headquarters at Khuga, where the ambush took place, is also a drug trafficking route.

Reportedly, the convoy was first attacked by an IED blast, after there was a gunfire attack by the terrorists. Colonel Viplav Tripathi, who was serving as the commanding officer of 46 Assam Rifles unit on deputation, was returning from one of his command posts on the Myanmar border when the attack took place. The four soldiers who died in the ambush were from the Quick Response Team.

A Deputy Inspector-General (Brigadier) of the Assam Rifles, who visited the ambush location, opined that the insurgents must have maintained a careful eye on Col Tripathi’s activities. “The militants couldn’t have been unaware that the Commanding Officer was travelling with his wife and son,” said the officer.

He asserted that the terrorists had crossed a red line by targeting the family of a soldier. “They will have to pay a very heavy price for this. We are conducting operations and are zeroing in on the insurgents. Retribution will be swift,” the Assam Rifles officer added.

Manipur ambush brings China’s role in Northeast region back into focus

The ambush on an Assam Rifles convoy recalls the 2015 ambush on the Dogra Regiment in neighbouring Chandel district in which 18 army personnel were killed and has brought China’s possible support to insurgencies in India’s Northeast back in focus.

By most accounts, China has always provided safe havens to insurgent groups operating in the northeast for many decades. It has been, in fact, encouraging its proxies to carry out strikes in Manipur, necessitating an increase in CI operations in the northeastern state. In such a situation, extra troops will have to be transferred from the LAC to Manipur, deflecting the attention of the Indian Army away from the Chinese buildup thus weakening India’s position along the LAC.

Top army officials reportedly told Swarajya that China has been supporting ethnic insurgencies in Myanmar’s Shan, Rakhine, and Kachin regions by supplying rebel groups with AK-series rifles, grenades, and other ammunition made in Chinese ordnance factories.

Some of these weapons, as well as explosives, are making their way into the hands of militants in Northeast India, particularly those based in Manipur, such as the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), and the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP).

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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