Beijing is resorting to ‘Salami Slicing’ stratagem in neghbourhood, using Myanmar’s armed groups as proxy
Shankar Kumar | December 15, 2020 | New Delhi
India is facing aggression from China – not in eastern Ladakh alone, rather it is seized with a Beijing-backed proxy war in the northeast region and also ‘Salami Slicing’ of different nature in Arunachal Pradesh and in areas near Sikkim.
However, what has alarmed Indian security personnel the most is China’s use of Myanmar’s armed groups – the Arakan Army and the United Wa State Army – as proxies to supply weapons and providing hideouts to insurgent groups in India’s northeast. China is also training leaders of insurgent groups like ULFA, National Democratic Front of Bodos (NDFB) and Naga rebels in the Chinese city of Kunming.
On September 28, Indian security personnel intercepted a large cache of weapons at the India-Myanmar border; these weapons were meant for insurgent groups in the northeastern states. However, this is not a new development as China has been supporting rebels from India’s Northeast region since the 1960s. What has created a flutter among security personnel is the intensification of weapons supply by China to the insurgents – at a time when Indian and Chinese soldiers have been engaged in a tense standoff since early May. Even Myanmar is worried about China’s insouciance towards its peace and stability.
Early this year, Myanmar army commander-in-chief general Min Aung Hlaing in an interview with a local news outlet had said without mincing words that terrorist organisations active in his country were backed by “strong forces”.
Although Hlaing didn’t name any country, he was, as per some reports, hinting at China for arming the banned terrorist outfit, Arakan Army in Rakhine state. Myanmar had reportedly raised the issue bilaterally with China, saying Chinese weapons were circulating among various insurgent groups in Myanmar.
But China, as usual, has denied its involvement in assisting rebel groups of another country.
“China has always taken a prudent and responsible attitude towards arm exports,” China’s foreign ministry said, adding, “We only conduct military trade in cooperation with sovereign states and don’t sell arms to non-state actors.”
Indian security personnel, while laying their hands on China supplied weapons at the India-Myanmar border in September, had also arrested three suspected gun-runners. During their interrogations, they had disclosed that Indian insurgents are being supplied with weapons by the Arakan Army, which in turn receives support from China to protect Chinese investments in Myanmar. This disclosure categorically suggested a quid pro quo arrangement between China and Myanmar’s rebel groups.
The issue was reportedly on the table when India’s army chief general Manoj Mukund Naravane and foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla made a two-day visit to Myanmar in early October this year.
While meeting Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the two also had a meeting with general Hlaing. The visiting indian army chief had separately met general Soe Win, deputy commander-in-chief.
“The two sides discussed maintenance of security and stability in the border areas and reiterated their mutual commitment now to allow their respective territories to be used for activities inimical to each other,” the press statement issued at the end of the visit had maintained.
As this hints towards India’s effort to tackle insurgency in the northeast region, China’s move to hurt India’s interests in the border areas has mounted an extra tension on the country’s security apparatus. China is building more than three villages close to the Bum La Pass which is a border point between Tibet Autonomous Region’s Cona County and India’s Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh.
Taking place close on the heels of China establishing a village within two kilometres of Bhutan’s territory and close to Doklam, which was the site of a tense standoff between Chinese and Indian soldiers in 2017, such developments have alarmed military and strategic experts in India.
“China’s strategy of settling Han Chinese along the India border is likely to escalate its border intrusions, which rose 56 percent in 2017. Like it did in the South China Sea, China uses civilian resources—Han herders and grazers—as the tip of the spear to intrude,” Brahma Chellaney said.
It is seen as a part of China’s ‘Salami Slicing’ strategy in which it takes over territory of other countries in a very gradual manner. It is the only country which has been expanding its territory at the expense of its neighbours and this expansion has taken place in both territorial and maritime regions.
In the 1950s, it acquired Tibet and annexed Xinjiang under its ‘Salami Slicing’ strategy, while it captured Aksai Chin in the same decade, claiming it was part of the ancient and medieval Chinese empire. Similarly in the 1970s, it forcibly occupied Parcel Islands, which are part of the South China Sea, from Vietnam.
Under its strategy of ‘Salami Slicing’ (a term coined by Hungarian communist politician Matyas Rakosi in the 1940s), China adopts a peculiar modus operandi: it first lays claim on a territory and keeps repeating its claim on all bilateral, multilateral platforms and all possible occasions.
Through its dailies, digital platforms, television channels and social media platforms, it launches a propaganda disputing the claim of the other country to such an extent that the territory in question is recognized as disputed. It does so to pressurise the other country. When this doesn’t work, China uses its military and diplomatic might to gain a part of it.
Experts see China enacting a similar kind of strategy on the Line of Actual Control in order to possess Indian or Bhutanese territories.
It has established these villages at the time when it is engaged in a bitter standoff with India in eastern Ladakh. To buttress its claim over Indian territory, first of all, it doesn’t recognize the McMahon line proposed by British administrator Henry McMahon at the July 3, 1914 Simla Convention which was signed between Tibet and India. Then Chinese maps, under ‘Salami Slicing’ strategy continue to show 65,000 square kilometres of territory south of the line as being a part of Beijing’s South Tibet Region.
But once bitten twice shy Indians are quite familiar with China and its intentions; at no point are they going to lower their guards in their dealing with Beijing.
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