“You can change friends, not neigbours.”- Former PM Late AB Vajpayee.
Assam as the elder sister:
The above-mentioned quote was said by former PM Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ji. During the 2003 India-Pakistan bilateral summit held in Agra. This particular quote can be apt with the ongoing border dispute between the NE states of Assam & Mizoram. Assam is the gateway to the entire NE region land route-railway & road transport. It is laden with a lot of responsibilities as the elder sister among the seven sister states. The recent dispute between the Assam and Mizoram, if escalates again, can have a greater geopolitical and security implications.
The flow of Burmese refugees in Mizoram following the recent military coup in Myanmar highlights the question about the global migrant crisis. The fate of the uprooted refugees from a conflict zone in a foreign land. Mizoram however shares an approximately 500 km long porous border with the Chin state of Myanmar. It is the home of the majority Kuki-Chin speaking communities of Myanmar.
Thus, also acts as the sign for the sense of linguistic and ethnic belongingness, as the Mizo language is a part of the Kuki-Chin language family. These refugees from Myanmar welcomed by the Mizo hospitality, considering the ethnic overlapping. Further exemplified by news report (June this year) said the allocation of funds by Mizoram for the refugee on humanitarian grounds. However, rehabilitating several refugees automatically doubles the state’s resources which also includes land. Also, speculated that the recent border dispute between the two states over land might be having an angle, determined from this perspective from Mizoram’s side.
Assam border concerns:
Assam already has boundary dispute with the neighbouring states of Meghalaya, Nagaland and even Arunachal Pradesh. It is now facing problems with Mizoram. This led to a violent incident, witnessed the death of Assam Police jawans along with many jawans being injured.
Assam and Mizoram:
Let‘s examine the geopolitical and security dimensions of the crisis between the two states. The People’s Republic of China (China/PRC), an emerging hegemon of the 21st century has got a significant number of stakes in India’s NE region. From claiming Arunachal Pradesh as their territory of South Tibet to supporting the last remnants of the NE insurgents against the Indian state. Thereby acting as an invisible foreign hand in destabilizing the region. China’s role and influence can’t be ignored, as its footprints are already expanding the South East Asian region. It is India’s destination in the “Act East initiative” and its route is obviously via the NE region of India. Enhancing the Act East initiative means synchronising the overall development of the NE region from infrastructure to connectivity, seen a pace since 2014. This includes the Kaladan Multi-modal project too where Mizoram is a major stakeholder.
A deteriorated state of the relationship will lead to Assam not being able to extract benefits from Mizoram and vice versa. Disturbance along the Assam-Mizoram border can further ignite the other states to demand their territorial claims over the boundary issue. In 2017 Hindustan Times reported the statement by the Chinese state media saying ‘rising Hindu Nationalism’ hijacked India’s China Policy.
Considering the ideological leanings of the current ruling party in Assam, it will be not wrong if we consider the China factor here. It may be having a diabolical agenda of creating instability in India’s NE region. With motive to disrupt the ongoing developmental works in the region, by covertly provoking certain mischievous elements. If the crisis escalates again in future, it will be detrimental to both sides, considering the dissatisfaction by the people of Assam.
Above all, in January 2019, massive demonstrations against the ‘Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016’ (Now CAA) took place in Mizoram which even witnessed signs that said “Hello China..Bye Bye India”.
Slogans like these only mean providing an upper hand and leverage to the adversarial nation of China. They can take enormous advantage of it for their nefarious agenda about which I mentioned above. If similar outbreak of a similar or crisis resurfaces then external actors will indirectly or covertly fulfil their expansionist objective. Therefore, a peaceful settlement framework under the aegis of New Delhi is a must. So, that it prevents the domestic crisis/issue from being used by India’s adversaries.