“The Northeast region has had a history of ethnic clashes along with the divide between locals and non-locals, and the refugees from Myanmar are contributing to the volatile social fabric of the region,” Niranjan Marjani, a political analyst said.
The military coup in Myanmar has been a matter of concern for New Delhi but India’s Northeast region, according to reports, has been having repercussions.
According to Marjani, in his article titled, ‘India Faces a Two-Front Challenge From Post-Coup Myanmar’, the arrival of Chin and Kuki refugees from Myanmar has caused resentment among the Meiteis and the Nagas and added that the refugees from Myanmar are contributing to the volatile social fabric of the region.
“There have also been instances of rebels from Myanmar setting up bases in Mizoram to transport arms and equipment to aid their fight against the military junta,” he recalled.
Meanwhile, Dr Udai Bhanu Singh, Senior Research Associate at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi back in 2021 viewed that the situation is concerning because it was the Myanmar army that was assisting the Indian Army in dealing with the Arakan Army and the National-Socialist Council of Nagaland Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) in the period before the coup.
“The political instability in the post-coup period is expected to divert the attention of the Myanmar Army from its periphery and its borders,” he observed.
Reports and experts have also pointed out that India’s Northeast is used by Myanmar as a feeder-line for drug trafficking. In fact, drugs being supplied across India through states like Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland have been an established fact by the national security agencies for a long time.
“Strong ethnic ties across the border also facilitate this drug trafficking, which is a threat to India’s national security,” Marjani wrote in an article published in The Diplomat.
India’s Northeast region acts as one of the vital links in connecting India to Southeast Asia which has made PM Modi prioritize the development of the northeastern states. Myanmar has been an integral part of India’s Act East Policy, with India developing connectivity projects like the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project linking India’s Northeast region to Southeast Asia.
However, since the coup, Myanmar has grown closer to China, allowing China to expand its footprint in India’s neighborhood. China’s growing presence in Myanmar poses a strategic challenge to India’s engagement with Myanmar and its push to Southeast Asia.
With India’s and China’s strategic interests colliding in the Indian Ocean, Myanmar is becoming a launch pad for China in the region, posing a challenge to India’s security as well as freedom of navigation in Southeast Asia.