Operation Upshot-Knothole-Badger, 18 April 1953 - Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office

 

Now, anyone who has read MilitaryGazette for any length of time knows that its Chief Military Affairs Correspondent usually gives very short shrift to rebels and guerrillas - at best, I generally regard them as well-armed bandits; at worst, I think they are terrorists. Generally, I'm more right, then not.

However, as it has begun to emerge, many of the various insurgent groups in the "Seven Sisters" region of India may be mostly on the right side of the moral issue against Center...For the moment, at least.

Unfortunately, the "Law of Unintended Consequences" applies in full force, here.

 

 

BACKGROUND

When India gained its independence in 1947, its northeastern states ended up with the proverbial short end of the stick. They were classified into the lowest category of state, and ended up last on the development list. Naturally, this led to hard feelings, resulting in the to-be-expected crackdown, and insurgencies across the region, issues that persist into the modern day.

PM Narendra Modi, 2015 - By Narendra Modi, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, aside from from the use of such "trigger words" as "colonialism", the government at the Center is still trying to impose its will in the Seven Sisters, most nakedly in Nagaland and Manipur...and now, it seems that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be attempting to manipulate the crisis in Manipur in an attempt to strengthen the position of his own BJP, against the locally-ruling Indian National Congress. Darkly, there is an ugly implication that Modi may be implying BJP control over a blockade that is crippling a state capital.

In Nagaland, rioting in Kohima over a highly unpopular political office quota measure - one that the government insisted on driving through, regardless of its manifest unfairness at all reasonable levels - has killed several people, injured dozens, and caused billions of rupees in property damage. While many tribal customs in Nagaland typically severely restrict the participation of women in any kind of political process, the tribes had already agreed to not limit female access to voting and offices, and had agreed to follow female politicians who might be elected, but this wasn't good enough for authorities, who imposed a requirement that 33% of all municipal seats had to be occupied by women, regardless of election results.

It's rather difficult to blame people for being upset.

In Manipur, things were somewhat more subtle...but still ham-handed.

PREPAK (People's Revolutionary Party, Kangleipak) insurgent cadres, 2008 - By Manipur Police, via Wikimedia Commons

There, the state government attempted that tried and true election scam: gerrymandering  districts to limit the political power of one tribe to favor another, in this case, driving a wedge between the Naga and the Kuki. Divide and conquer, writ electoral. To paraphrase the words of author and reporter Thomas Ricks, from his book 'Fiasco', it really seems like the Indian government is trying to create an active insurgency...

 

 

THE PROBLEM

What appears to be happening, is that Modi intends to allow the Indian National Congress controlling the Manipur Legislative Assembly to hoist itself on its own petard - which they are doing handily, with their inability to even negotiate with their aggrieved citizens - in an attempt to drive votes to his own BJP. This is a disastrously short-sighted policy, but not a surprising one, given Modi's previous scheme to revalue the Rupee. This, however, is a manipulation scheme that can easily lead to disaster.

The problem is that Modi is relying on a political and insurgent grouping that he does not control, to act as his foil in undermining the Indian National Congress. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) is masterminding the ongoing "economic blockade" - a siege in all but name - that began on November 1st, 2016. It is clear that Modi either does not view the NSCN as a serious threat, or assumes that the Indian military is capable of dealing with them, should they start going too far off-message.

But, as MilitaryGazette reported in January, the NSCN and the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) released a warning, via several "daughter" groups that both control, warning of what can only be described as a "sectarian cleansing" of portions of Assam, Tripura and West Bengal. This is because the insurgent groups in the area - Christianized by missionaries from the United States in the 19th Century - have singled out for removal, groups that are primarily Hindu...and Muslim.

 
Militarily speaking, there is no question that India can swiftly respond to these insurgent groups actually attempting to carry out their threats. This, however, is not the real danger. The danger lays in the fact that a Muslim world that sees itself surrounded and castigated for the actions of far less than 1% of its population, would view any anti-Muslim sectarian cleansing operation by a radical Christian group as an immediate call to arms.

 

The Kaaba at al-Haram Mosque during the start of Hajj, 2008 - By Al Jazeera English, via Wikimedia Commons

 

The government of Pakistan would come under intense pressure to attack India - something that has happened frequently - in order to come to the defense of fellow Muslims. For Islamabad, it would be a question of its legitimacy within the Muslim world, since they are the most militarily capable Muslim country nearby -- and the only nuclear-armed Muslim country. A failure to act could lead to a catastrophic series of events, which could result in Pakistan going the way of Iran in 1979, while acting would almost certainly result in another bloody defeat...this time, with a very high potential for radioactive fallout.

In such an explosive (literally) environment, the danger of a significant nuclear exchange - something never before seen - increases exponentially. It is painfully apparent that these are not calculations that have factored into Narendra Modi's thinking...

Hopefully, nothing will happen in April. Hopefully, the pronouncements of the NSCN and ULFA will turn out to be so much hot air. Normal, rational people hope that nothing happens after the March 31 deadline.

But then...if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.




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