National Strategy Against Dubious Kuki-Chin Armed Movement

The Bangladesh government has garnered significant experience in countering insurgency activities in the Chattagram Hill Tracts (CHT). Through operations like “Operation Dabanal,” the Bangladesh Armed Forces have effectively neutralized separatist armed groups. After the peace treaty, to date, “Operation Uttaron” has aimed to uphold law and order and improve the living standards of the Jumma people. With over two decades of such operations, the resurgence of another insurgency movement in that particular region would be a daydream if not wild dream. As a defense analyst, I would suggest opting for other perspectives on what has been happening in the CHT by the Kuki-Chin National Army.

The Kuki Chin community, rooted in the Sino-Tibetan Bawm origin, comprises members of the same tribes who are known by different names and live in close proximity to the borders of Bangladesh, Myanmar, and India. Their pursuit of autonomy and cultural recognition is historically grounded. Initiatives such as the Chin Hills Regulation of 1896 in Burma and agreements like the Panglong Conference Agreement of 1947 and the Mizoram Peace Accord of 1986 aimed to recognize the unique identity and autonomy of the Kuki-Chin community but remain unfulfilled. The ZO Reunification Organization’s advocacy for reunifying Kuki-Chin and Mizo tribes underscores the challenges faced by displaced individuals across these regions.

The emergence of Kuki-Chin armed groups has introduced further complexity to the geopolitical landscape in this region. Global powers exploit internal grievances and regional conflict dynamics with Kuki-Chin groups to achieve their geostrategic interests. Western powers have a keen interest in the mineral-rich “Golden Triangle” famed for this hilly range. The United States has expressed solidarity with Muslims in Arakan for an independent state. Furthermore, Christian missionaries contribute to demographic shifts in CHT and Mizoram by converting local indigenous populations to Christianity, potentially leading to demands for a Christian majority state, like the way it happened in Sudan.

Meanwhile, China employs a ‘Positive Diplomacy’ approach to counter the USA’s ‘China Containment Policy’ in the Indo-Pacific region. China is exploiting the US allies and exposing USA not as a trustworthy partner to undermine US influence. China’s success in the Middle East challenges US allies in Asia, compelling India, a close ally of the USA, to navigate strained situations as it finds itself almost surrounded by China’s allies. India is compelled to remain a neutral nation, not tilted too much towards the US.

In the end, the Kuki-Chin are fighting against the Indian government, demanding autonomy in Myanmar, and exerting soft pressure on the government of Bangladesh. Therefore, it is quite understandable which external actors are behind the Kuki-Chin National Front.

The Bangladesh Armed Forces have gained global recognition for their peace-building and peace-enforcing efforts under the UN umbrella. Additionally, they possess extensive experience and notable success in countering insurgency in the CHT, with an Infantry Division specifically designated for this region. In my opinion, the Bangladesh Armed Forces should initiate a new military operation under the mandate of aiding civil administration.

It is crucial to recognize the Kuki-Chin movement as an political threat. Relying solely on military action is unlikely to yield fruitful results and may instead entrap security forces in the intentions of insurgents. This challenge requires a multifaceted approach, encompassing diplomatic efforts, political initiatives, and military strategies, to effectively mitigate the escalation of such extremist activities.

Compared to the neighboring states in the region, Bangladesh faces relatively lesser threats from this community. Therefore, the government’s diplomatic endeavors need to be intensified to ensure the safety and security of the Kuki-Chin community within the country. It is imperative for our diplomatic efforts to ensure that no other nation provides patronage, harbors, or funds Kuki-Chin terrorist groups.

The executive and legislative administrations in Chattogram need to forge close collaborations with the less developed indigenous tribes in their respective areas. They can propose special development projects to the government, where Bangladesh Army can extend its capabilities to play a pivotal role in implementing those initiatives. Reports indicate that the Bangladesh Army’s Engineering Corps is actively enhancing communication systems in the region. To further bolster development efforts, the government should seek increased funding from foreign investment partners, focusing on areas such as education, communication, and tourism. This approach will create more job opportunities for locals, contributing to socio-economic uplift.

Local administration and security forces must instill confidence within the less developed indigenous tribes. Continuation of military operations to apprehend wrongdoers is essential. However, given the complexity of military operations in CHT due to limited intelligence, a comprehensive and intelligence-driven approach, in tandem with political maneuver, can yield positive outcomes. Collaboration between Bangladesh’s intelligence agencies and their counterparts in neighboring countries is imperative to counter this political threat.

Military operations should be intelligence-based to avoid resentment from local tribes, who may otherwise become sympathetic to terrorist groups. The Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) has conveyed their demand to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, clearly stating that they don’t seek independence but autonomy. Thus, it’s a purely political movement, not a separatist one. Therefore, the government and state machinery must handle the situation with utmost care to prevent it from escalating into a separatist movement.

Efforts should be led by political leaders to integrate Kuki-Chin people into mainstream national politics, thereby abandoning armed conflict. It is also necessary to ensure that no local politician has the opportunity to exploit Kuki-Chin terrorist groups for mere political gain. Only criminals and terrorists should be dealt with using extreme force. Drawing upon its expertise in peacekeeping and counterinsurgency operations, the Bangladesh Army should adopt a multifaceted approach, combining military action with diplomatic engagement and fostering political dialogue with aggrieved ethnic groups. Regional leaders must act decisively to prevent destabilization of regional stability before it escalates further.

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