Myanmar is grappling with a debilitating civil war as the rebel forces conduct massive offensives against the military junta. The crisis in the country is likely to have greater repercussions for the regional stability and the internal security of India as well.
As the international community paves its attention to the devastating Israel-Hamas war, there is another conflict raging on- much closer to home, in Myanmar. The political unrest and the resulting civil war in the country have made the conflict in Myanmar perhaps one of the most debilitating conflicts in the world at the moment. Ever since the overthrow of Aung San Su Kyi’s government in Myanmar by the military junta in 2021, the country has been embroiled in severe chaos. However, the situation of political unrest has been prevailing in the country since its independence, manifesting in tussles between the military and the elected governments. Military coups are not new for Myanmar, but this time, the people of Myanmar have been adamant in their opposition to the military junta sitting at the helm of the country. The military has been fighting a multipronged war against the rebels and insurgents spread across the country, in their unwavering attempts to overthrow the military.
In late October, the rebels in the north of the country, along the Myanmar-China border made headways against the military in their surprise offensives, disrupting strategic routes along the border and alerting China in the process. This move landed a severe blow to the military junta, escalating the tensions further. This was a coordinated offensive of the Three Brotherhood Alliance of the major rebel forces across the country. The insurgents and rebels captured about a hundred major military outposts and controlled highways and border crossings across the border of China, with the aim of damaging the establishment financially. The offensive of northern Myanmar has been largely termed a success by the rebel forces as the Myanmar military ceded control of the border town of Chinshwehaw which shares its border with China.
The Three Brotherhood Alliance is composed of the rebel forces - The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’Ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army. The armed group has been named the October 1027 alliance, highlighting the date of the first successful offensive operation against the Myanmar military junta - October 27th, 2023. The setback faced by the junta in northern Myanmar led to the border town of Chinshwehaw being rid of all the officials from the regime. Operation 1027 has perhaps become one of the most significant opposition to Myanmar’s military junta ever since the coup of 2021. The coordinated efforts of the three major rebel groups in Myanmar have also set themselves apart from the rest of the ethnic minority rebel groups spread across the country.
Even though the military junta has declared a martial law across the eight towns situated along the border of China, eyebrows have been raised over the junta’s ability of standing its ground against the rebels and insurgents of the country. The junta has been surrounded by ethnic rebel forces in different parts of the country- the Arakan Army led severa attacks in the Rakhine, breaching the curfew imposed by the junta, the anti-juna rebel groups of the Chin state have also grabbed control of the border areas. The Chin state shares its border with India’s northeastern states and the rebel forces, the Chin National Front (CNF) seeks control of Myanmar’s border with India, leading to the situation of a spillover of Myanmar’s civil war to the neighbourhood.
This is primarily one of the most signficant causes of concern for India at the moment. As the civil war in Myanmar continues to take precarious turns, the junta will be forced to tackle not the just rebel forces disrupting strategic points along the border with India and China, it will also have to deal with the continuous pro-democracy uprisings orchestrated by the People’s Defence Forces.
Myanmar’s military junta finds itself in an unsettling situation, it may be on the verge of losing more territories to the rebel forces but this is not the only reason why Myanmar’s crisis should matter in the neighbourhood. Apart from strategic implications, the civil war in the country also has a regional impact, especially for India. In one of the most latest developments in the matter, around 2000 refugees crossed over to India’s Mizoram fleeing the extreme fighting happening between the Chin rebels and the army along the India-Myanmar border. In the aftermath of the fighting, the Mizoram police also arrested 42 Myanmar military personnel for illegally crossing the border into India. The conflict in Myanmar hence runs the risk of not only creating a refugee crisis in India but also impacting the national security along the border areas as the Chin refugees of Myanmar would also have closer ethnic relations with the Chin and the Kukis of Manipur. Over the years, the conflict in Myanmar has led to an influx of refugees in large numbers across the border in India, leading to a precarious situation of a refugee crisis along India’s northeast. The current situation of ongoing fighting between the the October 1027 alliance and the military junta will further escalate the tensions in the country, creating a grave humanitarian situation in the region yet again. Many injured nationals of Myanmar have also been seeking humanitarian aid and medical attention in Mizoram, some crossing the border solely with the aim of getting the much needed medical help.
India and Myanmar have shared a long history of cultural, economic and diplomatic involvement but the internal tribulations caused by political disturbances in Myanmar have led to a spillover of crisis into India’s northeast as well. On top of the refugee crisis, there are questions of illicit drug and arms trade as well as human trafficking across the border to India have proved to be a cause of contention. The rise in rebel offensives against Myanmar’s military junta has also created a precarious humanitarian situation in the country and while the people of Myanmar continue to protest against the oppressive military regime, it is bound to deepen the destruction caused by the civil war, impacting not only the socio-cultural fabic of the country but also its financial institutions, and its diplomatic relations with the major powers in the region.