Beijing, Aug 01, 2020: There is a People’s Liberation Army in India. The name is uncannily identical to the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) military that recently tried to change the status quo on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China, leading to a two-month long standoff in Ladakh.
Active in Manipur, this PLA was formed by insurgent leader N Bisheswar "to liberate the Eastern Region of India and to use this as a base for liberating’ the rest of India", according to the Indian Army’s website. The insurgent group calls for a "War of Independence" with Chinese support, the website says, on the basis of the principles of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong’s thoughts -- the same political ideology as that of Chinese PLA.
The PLA-Manipur is suspected to have ambushed soldiers of Assam Rifles on Wednesday evening leaving three jawans dead and six others critically injured. This is the second major attack on security forces by the PLA-Manipur after 2015, when 20 jawans had lost their lives.
According to terrorism watchers such as the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC), PLA-Manipur insurgents have received training from the Chinese PLA.
China has officially maintained silence but after the 2015 terror attack, the Chinese communist party mouthpiece, Global Times denied links between the Chinese PLA and the PLA-Manipur. This denial came despite confession by a PLA insurgent about the Chinese military providing training to the group.
In 2009, a PLA militant identified as Sergeant Ronny had told his interrogators: "China’s People’s Liberation Army remains in contact with Manipur’s PLA. Sixteen platoons of militants have come back to India after getting trained in China."
Ronny had been arrested in August 2009 in a joint operation by the Manipur police and Indian Army. Born in Manipur, Ronny had completed his education in Uttar Pradesh and earned a degree from College of Agriculture in Pantnagar (now in Uttarakhand).
He returned to Manipur in 1980s and came under the influence of the PLA. He had a long stint with insurgency giving his confession more credibility about links between the Chinese PLA and the PLA-Manipur.
Back then Ronny revealed the Chinese army was training young recruits of PLA. Militants were trained to use big weapons and sent back to India after training.
"The training of PLA militants also goes on continuously in Burma [now called Myanmar]. There are many temporary camps in Manipur as well, such as Soibolkuki and Singhat. We train with big guns," said Ronny in his confession.
Now, in a July 24 report, think-tank European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) underlined the security threats to India from illegal supply of weapons by China to insurgent groups in Myanmar.
It says, "The Indian suspicion, not without basis, is that impeding the progress of India’s Act East projects has assumed weight in China’s strategic thinking. The influx of Chinese weapons is, accordingly, in tune with such thinking."
Further, according to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), PLA -Manipur insurgents have been provided training by the Naga rebel group NSCN in Myanmar. The closer links between the NSCN insurgents and the Chinese PLA have been under the lens of the security agencies for long.
There are two NSCNs - Khaplang group and Issac-Muvah faction. NSCN-IM is in peace talks with the Centre while NSCN-K remains a hardliner.
The government agencies had got phone call recordings in 2015 - just around Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China. In the purported telephonic conversation, a Chinese PLA official inquired about the health of the NSCN-K leader telling him to learn Mandarin. The Chinese had then refuted any such link.
The PLA-Manipur has a political front called the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), which runs a "government-in-exile" in Bangladesh, where it has five training camps besides two in Myanmar, according to the SATP.
The Indian Army or the government is yet to officially say a word on the PLA-Manipur’s link with the Chinese PLA after the Manipur ambush two days ago. Other sources and independent terrorism watchers, however, say there are ample indications that the Chinese PLA maintains close links with PLA and the NSCN-K, which operates in close association with the PLA-Manipur.