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270223 Outlook Cover Story on Chinas Secret War with India

CHINA HAND IN INDIA The Great Claw of China The confessions of NSCN(IM) leader Anthony Shimray show exactly how China is fuelling Indias northeastern insurgencies SAIKAT DATTA Wooing NSCN (IM) China agrees to host a permanent representative of the NSCN (IM) from 2008 The outfit is asked to spy on Indian troops in Arunachal Pradesh and the Dalai Lama Pakistans ISI also contacts NSCN (IM) and asks it to break the ceasefire with India NSCN (IM)s firepower grows significantly during the ceasefire with India that began in 1995

For decades, India and China have played a cat-and-mouse game, full of intrigue and suspense. Even while New Delhi is trying to find ways around vexatious border issues or making occasional noises about stapled visas, Beijing has been secretly supporting, advising and arming major insurgent outfits in Indias troubled Northeast and the Maoist belt. Unlike the noise and heat the Indo-Pak relationship generates, Indian diplomats maintain a studied silence when it comes to the Chinese hand in the Northeast or arms from across the border reaching Maoists in central India. In the last three months, however, the Chinese hand in the Northeast has been revealed in great detail. In the early hours of October 2 last year, Indian intelligence officials, along with their counterparts in the National Investigation Agency, accosted a tall, hefty man waiting outside the Patna railway station. The quarry was Anthony Shimray, a key official of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) faction or NSCN(IM), the biggest insurgent outfit in the Northeast. Not only is Shimray a powerful member of the NSCN(IM)s top leadership, he is also the nephew of its general secretary, T. Muivah, currently in New Delhi for peace talks with the Centre. As the chief arms procurer for the outfit, Shimray also has firsthand information on Chinese efforts to support insurgencies.

Shimray: Tailed and Nabbed Shimrays early morning arrest was the culmination of a meticulous operation conducted by Indias external intelligence agency RAW in the preceding weeks. They had managed to track down Shimray in the middle of September. He was operating out of Bangkok, a haven for arms dealers, insurgents and intelligence agencies. It was to be a tricky call: Shimray could not be nabbed in a foreign land, and there was considerable debate within the government on picking him up since this was in the midst of a dialogue with NSCN(IM). Finally, with clearance, intelligence officials had a stroke of luck. By the end of September, the sleuths had gathered from their sources that Shimray would need to travel from Thailand to get his visa renewed and visit his cadres in Manipur and Nagaland. Quietly, they managed to procure his travel details to Nepal and began to monitor his exit from Bangkok. Shimray took a Royal Nepal Airlines flight to Kathmandu in the early hours of September 27 and proceeded by road to quietly slip across the Indian border into Bihar. From here, he was to proceed by rail to the Northeast but he was arrested before that. His subsequent interrogation has been detailed in a 100-page report, accessed exclusively by Outlook. It throws up several startling truths about the Chinese hand in Indian insurgencies. While Shimray speaks at length about NSCN(IM), he also reveals Chinas links with ULFA and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in Assam and the United National Liberation Front in Manipur. Here are Shimrays key revelations:

Paresh Barua at an ULFA training camp near China-Myanmar border. (Photograph by U B Photos, From Outlook, February 07, 2011) Chinese Arms for the Northeast Even as recently as September 25, 2010, Shimray was procuring arms and had held further talks with his middleman in Bangkok, Willy Narue. One consignment being negotiated was for Arunachal Pradesh. He even asked the suppliers if they could deliver in the upper part of Arunachal from the Chinese side. Investigators feel Shimrays covert October trip to India may have been tied to the arms deals. Shimray also told his interrogators how he procured arms from the Chinese in late 2007. It was decided by our leadership stationed in New Delhi to strengthen the weaponry of the organisation, he reveals. With Narues help, he contacted Yuthuna, a Chinese representative of TCL in Bangkok, TCL being the authorised subsidiary of the Chinese arms company China Xinshidai, Beijing. On its website, Xinshidai is described as dealing in the import and export of specialised products by Chinas defence industries. The final shopping list included 600 AK series rifles, nearly 6 lakh ammunition rounds, 200 sub-machine guns, pistols, rocket launchers, light machine guns and 200 kg of RDX. The deal was worth $1.2 million, with an additional $1 million for shipment from China. The consignment was sent through a shipping agent in Kittichai of Bangkok-based Intermarine Shipping. It was to be loaded from Beihei, a south Chinese port. The destination was Coxs Bazaar, a major landing station on the Bangladesh coast. All the correspondence with Willy Narue, our leadership in New Delhi, Nagaland and others in Thailand and China, Shimray says, was made on e-mail to maintain the secrecy of the entire project. The information was saved as a draft and accessed by Chinese intelligence using Shimrays password. Shimray also recalled his visit to China in 1994 for a joint arms deal for NDFB. The procurement of the arms and ammunition was made from the Chinese company NORINCO. This consignment included 1,800 pieces of arms and one lakh rounds, which included AK series rifles, M16 automatic assault rifles, machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers and pistols. The money came from a Naga businessman using Calcutta-based hawala operators.

Again, in 1996, arms and ammunition were brought from Beijing to Coxs Bazaar in a North Korean ship. After the consignment was unloaded in small boats on the high seas and transferred in trucks to NSCN(IM) camps in Bangladesh, it travelled to the Northeast. China Hosts Permanent Representative of NSCN(IM) In another significant revelation, Shimray details how Chinas relationship with the NSCN(IM) was strengthened in 2008 when it agreed to host their permanent representative. The year also seems to have been a watershed moment in the NSCN(IM)s relationship with China and its renewed efforts to arm itself. And ironically, in the midst of a 15-year-dialogue it has been having with New Delhi. According to Shimray, in a letter from Prime Minister Muivah addressed to senior Chinese intelligence officials, Kholose Swu Sumi, a 60-year-old member of the Sema tribe in the Zunheboto district of Nagaland, was appointed as the permanent representative of the NSCN(IM) in China. Kholoses acceptance by the Chinese was an official acknowledgement of a formal relationship with the NSCN(IM). Kholose was promoted to the rank of a colonel and asked to interface with the Chinese. His main job was to update the Chinese authorities about the development of peace talks and the activities of the Indian army and to pass on the response of the Chinese authorities to the collective leadership of NSCN(IM), says the interrogation report recording Shimrays confessions. Kholose, who ran a business in precious stones, received Shimray and his wife at Kunming airport (Yunnan province, southeastern China) on a visit and introduced him to several Chinese intelligence officials. He introduced me to Mr Chang, head of intelligence of the region in Dehong Mangshi, Shimray told his interrogators. Mr Lee Wuen, head of intelligence of Yunnan province, was also introduced to me. I gave them the message of our leadership, that NSCN(IM) wanted their assistance and cooperation.

Suspicious lensmen Chinese nationals arrested by the UP police in January Forging Military Cooperation and Spying on India

Shimray also talks of a visit to China in the summer of 2009. This time, he accompanied his President, Isak Chisi Swu. The visa for the visit, says Shimray, was arranged by the Chinese intelligence authorities at the Chinese embassy in the Philippines. The trip helped the NSCN(IM) leadership forge military cooperation with the Chinese. But, in lieu of extending military cooperation, says Shimray, the NSCN(IM) was to give information on the movement and activities of the Dalai Lama in India and the movement and facilities of (the) Indian army in Arunachal Pradesh. NSCN(IM) cadres in the border district of Tirap in Arunachal Pradesh began to immediately monitor Indian troop movements. Shimray contacted a Naga journalist in Delhi, paid her Rs 80,000, and persuaded her to travel to Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Dalai Lama, to gather intelligence. For getting information on the movements and activities of the army in Arunachal Pradesh, we collected the information through our cadres in Tirap district and our New Delhi office, Shimray told the investigators. I passed on this information to an official of the Chinese intelligence agency.

An ISI agent codenamed Mr Rex offered NSCN leadership financial aid as well as military training.

In his reports to Chinese intelligence, Shimray would use code words such as Awo to designate China and Mayang for India. He also conveyed the information using the e-mail id angel3phi@, which would be accessed by a Chinese intelligence officer using the same password. While Shimray was in constant touch with the Chinese, other senior NSCN leaders such as deputy minister Kehoi too were making contacts with Chinese authorities. In addition, NSCN(IM) commander-in-chief V.S. Atem also had some Chinese contacts. Interestingly, the Uttar Pradesh police arrested three Chinese citizens in January who had illegally crossed into India and were found photographing border check-posts. In the same month, a 39-year-old Chinese woman, Wang Qing, was arrested and deported after she illegally travelled to Nagaland and also met Muivah. She was reported to be from the Peoples Security Bureau, the Chinese intelligence agency. ISI Links In a subsequent interrogation, Shimray also gives interesting insights into his relationship with Pakistans ISI which tried to engage with the northeastern insurgents on several occasions. The NSCN(IM) leadership was received by the Pakistani intelligence officials in Karachi way back in 2001 even as the NSCN(IM) was negotiating peace with New Delhi. In 2008, an ISI agent working under the pseudonym of Mr Rex and stationed in Bangladesh visited the NSCN(IM) leadership in Bangkok and offered financial help as well as military training if the Nagas broke the ceasefire with India. It is, however, the China factor that continues to be a major irritant for New Delhi even as peace talks continue with the Nagas. It has already expressed its displeasure at Chinas stapled visas to Kashmiris and Arunachalis, its denial of a visa to an Indian army general and its efforts to arm and support the insurgency in the Northeast. The balance of power between the elephant and the dragon, it seems, will continue to oscillate before it can stabilise.

Old links Isak Chisi Swu (extreme left), T. Muivah (fourth from left) and other Naga leaders in China in 1968 DIPLOMACY A Mandarin Riddle Foreign policy experts are more guarded on China's 'mischief' PRANAY SHARMA The confession of Anthony Shimray, billed as No. 3 in the pecking order of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), has deepened suspicions that policy wonks have always harboured about Chinathat it wouldnt miss an opportunity to stem Indias growth for maintaining its headstart in the Sino-India rivalry. In his disclosure to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), scooped byOutlook, Shimray has talked of sections in China supplying arms to the insurgents and ferreting out information on the Dalai Lama and the armys activities in Arunachal Pradesh. These dont appear to be freelancers; on several visits to China, Shimray met many Chinese intelligence officials. The NIA report, sources say, was shared with the ministry of external affairs (MEA), which on several occasions raised with Beijing the issue of China supplying arms to Indian insurgents. Indian diplomats pointed out to their Chinese counterparts that Shimrays revelations could stoke doubts about Chinas avowed commitment to strengthen relations with India, unless urgent action is taken to curb activities perilous to New Delhis security interests. Such activities are inimical to Indias interests, says a senior MEA official. Whenever we get the chance, we raise it with the Chinese government to ensure it takes action.

In response, the Chinese claimed they werent aware that arms were being pumped into India from their country; they denied outright the possibility that their government might have endorsed such a move. These disclaimers ought not to surprise anyone, but they raise an important question: In what way should India read Shimrays confessions? I dont think relations with China have worsened so much that it would change its policy on arming rebels.Kanwal Sibal, Former Foreign Secretary South Block officials say there are three possibilities. One, the Chinese government really doesnt know about the gun-running, which could be the work of players in the arms black market. Two, Beijing is aware of such arms supply to Indian insurgents but is neither keen to encourage nor stop it. Three, Beijing is actively involved in supplying arms through outfits with which it maintains a discreet distance, so that it can make outright denials if questions are raised.

Of the three, Indian diplomats feel the second is the most probable, for it allows the Chinese to needle India without officially engaging in the murky business. Since Chinas principal concerns now are to develop its economy and maintain internal peace, Indian diplomats feel that dealing with the gun-running from its soil is low on Beijings list of prioritiestill it begins to pose serious internal threats. But theres also a fourth possibilityof hardliners or ultra-nationalists in the Chinese establishment pursuing low-cost activities inimical to India, pushing New Delhi on the backfoot in the Northeast, where secessionist movements have lingered for decades. In a gesture of compromise, this theory suggests, the moderates in the establishment have chosen to look the other way, being convinced that such acts will not strain relations between China and India. Another senior MEA official says the confessions made by Shimrays should be perceived in the larger context and shouldnt be blown out of proportion. Let us be frank, this is something every big power does, he says, implicitly suggesting that even Indian intelligence, given a chance, wouldnt be averse to pursuing such activities. Srinath Raghavan, a strategic affairs commentator, says, Its common for intelligence agencies to keep a tab on dissident and rebel groups in neighbouring countries. I am sure our agencies do the same and if they do not, then they are not doing their job properly. He argues that such operations dont necessarily mean the Chinese government follows that policy officially. And anyway, says Raghavan, in the present context of Sino-Indian relations, the cons far outweigh the pros of pursuing such a policy against India. Indeed, encountering a plethora of problems in the western market, China is concentrating on the Indian market and trying to boost Sino-India trade, Its common for already touching $60 billion. China would stand to lose should it seek to intelligence sleuths destabilise India. to track insurgencies in Yet, there are many in India who cite Chinas past policies to seriously neighbouring doubt its current intentions. During the Mao era, for instance, China lands. Im sure our exported its brand of revolution to many developing countries; in particular, guys do the it actively trained and supplied arms to Indian insurgents, from Naxalites to same.Srinath Naga groups. But this policy was discarded under the leadership of Deng Raghavan, Strategic Xiaoping, who stressed that a stable and peaceful environment, internal Affairs Commentator and external, was vital to the economic liberalisation programmes he had launched. Its this changed context of Sino-India relations former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal refers to when he says, A lot of arms is flowing from China into Myanmar and other countries in the region, but its difficult to judge whether the Chinese authorities are behind such activities. There are differences in some key

areas in Sino-India relations. But I dont think the relationship has deteriorated enough to compel China to change its policy on arming Indian rebel groups. But this will not lull India into complacency. New Delhi plans to persistently raise the issue of arms supply with Beijing and also strengthen our intelligence network. Impressive gains have been already been made in nabbing most northeastern insurgent leaders through improved cooperation with the Bangladesh and Myanmar governments. Interestingly, months ago, India had passed on actionable intelligence to the Chinese about ULFA leader Paresh Baruahs presence in the Yunnan province. No tangible results followed, but MEA officials say China should have read the message about the extent of Indias intelligence reach.

Establishment hardliners in China could be pursuing low-cost ops against India. Thats one possibility.

Shimrays confessions have also inspired some in the Indian establishment to think of countermoves to rattle the Chinese. One of these could see India demanding that it be allowed to open a consulate in Lhasa, the capital of Chinas troubled Tibetan Autonomous Region. Earlier, India had had consulates in Xinjiang and Lhasa, but both were closed down in the 1960s. Obviously, China is expected to say no to such demands, but our raising the demand could in itself send out the signal that if Beijing intends to fish in Indias troubled waters, New Delhi could do likewise.

In custody UNLF leader R.K. Meghen CHINA HAND IN INDIA Common Cause With Deadly Purpose Two unrelated events point to possible links between Maoists and northeastern outfits OUTLOOK IS there an emerging link between the Maoists and insurgent outfits in the Northeast? It would seem so from two unrelated events that occurred last year. The Calcutta police nabbed a key Maoist leader known as Kanchan who has shared information on procuring arms through several northeastern outfits. In fact, Indias external intelligence agency RAW had another success last year when it helped the National Investigation Agency nab R.K. Meghen, the chairman of the Manipur-based United National Liberation Front (UNLF). During his interrogation, Meghen revealed that one of his cadres, Major Yoiheba, had contacted Indian Maoist leaders through front organisations in Nepal. For an insurgency that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described as the gravest security threat to India, this is a significant revelation. Reports suggest that Maoists also established a link with the NSCN(IM) but couldnt arrive at a deal. It seems they were also in touch with Anthony Shimray through ULFAs top honcho, Paresh Baruah. Meghen, meanwhile, has also told his interrogators that he met up with Baruah in China in September 2009. The latter told him that the ULFA would not hold peace talks with the government of India. He also confessed that the UNLF had earlier procured arms from China, Thailand and Bangladesh. Meghen has also told his interrogators that the UNLF has links with Maoists but he has not met any Maoist leaders personally. However, UNLF general secretary N. Thabal did stay in Nepal for over a year to study the strategy and ideology of the (Nepali) Maoists and their rise to power in 2008. OPINION Remote Control Rebels Why Chinas meddling in the Northeast should worry Delhi AJIT DOVAL Nations accustomed to making episodic responses to high-profile security events run the risk of missing out subterranean trends and realities. Wang Qing, a Chinese woman spy masquerading as a television reporter, was recently arrested and deported after she visited the headquarters of the NSCN(IM), a Naga rebel group, in Hebron, some 30 km from Dimapur. But the news attracted little attention. The authorities say she admitted to being a spy for the Peoples Security Bureau, a Chinese intelligence agency. She had had a four-hour-long closed-door session with T. Muivah, a rebel leader who is holding talks with the Indian government. The rebel group, however, would have the Indian government go by what its spokesperson Phunthing Shimrang saysthat the general secretary (Muivah) has made it clear we are holding talks here and have no relations with China. Of late, the security discourse pertaining to the Northeast has been marked by good news: peace engagement with the rebels, improved cooperation from Bangladesh, dissent within insurgent groups and

so on. But, in a region that has a 5,215-km international border as opposed to just one per cent of that with the Indian mainland, the external factor, though pivotal, is often glossed over. China, with which India has an uneasy security relationship, shares a border of nearly 1,561 km with the northeastern states. It has a dubious record of meddling with insurgent groups there. There was a lull since the mid-80s, but there is increasing evidence of China reviving its covert offensive in the region. Chinese support to rebel groups has waxed and waned in accordance with the content and direction of our bilateral relations, their evaluation of the strength and grit of New Delhi, the viability of insurgent groups. Naga rebels were the first to establish transborder contacts, in the early 60s. The 1962 Indo-China war only catalysed the process. Facilitated by Pakistani intelligence in Dacca, Kughato Sukhai, the self-styled Naga prime minister, wrote to Chinese leaders on May 29, 1963, alleging persecution and oppression by India. He exhorted China to honour and follow their principle of safeguarding and upholding the cause of any suppressed nation of Mongolian stock. In November 1966, China welcomed a 300-strong contingent of Naga rebels led by Thinusilie and Muivah. Trained, and laden with huge quantities of arms and equipment, the contingent returned in January 1968 and established a huge camp in the Jotsoma jungles. When Indian forces attacked it in June that year, they recovered Chinese weapons and incriminating documents. These initial interactions of northeastern insurgent groups with China gradually expanded. Soon, it came to patronise, train and arm Mizo, Meitei, Kuki and Assamese insurgents. Procurement of weapons from Chinas Yunnan province, their transportation into India across Myanmar or via the sea route, arrangements for money transactions, liaison with Thai insurgentsall this got institutionalised over the years. Recent developments, though coming after a long lull, indicate a major policy shift on part of China, one that should give India cause for worry. In October 2007, on the invitation of the Chinese authorities, Anthony Shimray, in charge of the NSCN(IM)s foreign affairs, visited China and met Lee Wuen, head of the intelligence unit of Yunnan province (of which the deported spy was an operative) and other officials in Dehong Mangshi, near Kunming. He handed over to the Chinese a letter from Muivah, self-styled prime minister of NSCN(IM), naming Kholose Swu Sumi, a Sema Naga from Zunheboto, their permanent representative in China. The Chinese welcomed this and wanted Kholose to keep them updated on the movements of the Indian army, particularly in Arunachal, the activities of the Dalai Lama and Tibetans and on the NSCN(IM)s peace talks with the Indian government. In April 2009, it was the turn of Isak Chisi Swu, the NSCN(IM) president involved in talks with New Delhi, to visit China. Paresh Baruah of ULFA, too, visited China in 2010. Reports say he led a group of 80 cadres which received training and weapons in Yunnan province. This is significant, for the Maoists are known to be sourcing weapons from ULFA. Chinas renewed interest in insurgencies in the northeastern states cannot be wished away, coming as it does in the backdrop of its increasing aggressiveness, military activities in border areas, claims on Arunachal Pradesh and the links of the Maoists with insurgents in the Northeast. Engaging the rebels in talks will alone not suffice. New Delhi must display greater clarity of vision. Mistaking talks with insurgent groups as an end rather than a means to an end will push us into a self-made strategic trap. (The writer, ex-director of the Intelligence Bureau, now heads the Vivekandanda International Foundation, Delhi.)