Manipur Ambush: As China Decides to up the Game in Northeast, India Will Not Stay Silent

Colonel Viplav Tripathi, his wife and son were gunned down by militants belonging to the People’s Liberation Army of Manipur (PLA) and the Manipur Naga People’s Front on Saturday. This PLA mainly consists of the Meitei and Pangal tribes of Manipur. Nagas and Kukis are not part of this outfit. 

How the Attack was Planned

The Colonel and his family were reported to be returning from a company outpost visit on Saturday. Visit to company outposts by the commanding officer (CO) and the first lady is a norm in any unit. So, the question of why the officer’s family was part of the visit is put to rest—the commanding officer’s wife is seen as part of the unit, a member of the family. 

There is no doubt that this was a premeditated attack. Churachandpur is a forested area, which offers easy entry and exit for these terrorists to carry out an attack and slip back into the forest. Post the attack there was a forest fire near the site; this incident, however, was not reported much. The militants had prior knowledge about the movement of the commanding officer. They waited for him to return through this forested area so that they could carry out the attack and escape into the forest and start a forest fire, thereby delaying any chase by the security forces and giving the militants time to return to their safe havens in Myanmar. 

If you see the pattern of the attack, the militants took out the QRT (quick response team) vehicle first and then carried out the attack on the CO’s vehicle. A pattern that you see only with trained terrorists, not with those who have just picked up arms and sprayed bullets. Also, if you notice the height of the bullet entry into the vehicle, you will clearly see that it was a premeditated strike to kill and not injure the occupants. Most bullet entries were aimed at above the hip level and some to the heads, clearly indicating the intent of the attackers. 

Normally, in an attack to overwhelm a QRT, you need at least a strength of 3-6:1. Therefore, the number of people who participated in this attack would certainly be more than 30. 

The PLA of Manipur

The People’s Liberation Army of Manipur was formed in 1978 with the help of China with Myanmar (then called Burma) serving as the conduit. Like some other border states along the Northeast, in Manipur too, China has tried to push the Maoist ideology. One of the earliest outfits in Manipur, which has been carrying out such dastardly attacks, the PLA has never included Kukis and Nagas into the outfit as its leadership thinks Meiteis are a cut above these two tribes. This is also a reason why Kukis and Nagas formed their separate militant outfits. 

Meiteis constitute over 53 per cent of Manipur’s population; some of the prominent politicians, generals and air force fighter pilots from Manipur are from this tribe. They have completely integrated with India and have immensely contributed to nation building. This fringe group (PLA) needs to be looked at as a set of people gone astray due to brainwashing tactics of China.

Why the Attack

Colonel Tripathi recently carried out a major operation and busted a drug racket; as a result, narco-terrorists lost a lot of money. The Indian Army knows well that it is narco money that is funding the terrorists not only in the Northeast but also in the North and Northwestern regions of India. 

These drugs come from Afghanistan via sea route to Myanmar from where they are transported by road and pushed into the northeastern states of India. The Northeast is badly affected by easy availability of drugs, which are being pushed from Myanmar. Colonel Tripathi’s counter-offensive and, to some extent, India’s involvement in South China Sea, Taiwan and in Chinese affairs in Tibet region are the reasons why China has decided to up the game, by a notch.

What Next

Killing Army personnel and their family—and that too of the commanding officer—will not be taken lightly by the Indian Army and by the Indian polity. Repercussions for the PLA as well as China and Myanmar will be fierce. The Manipur population is completely against this attack, and whatever little popular support the PLA may have had is now gone, especially after an officer’s wife and child were killed brutally. This could well mean the end of the PLA in Manipur.

The author is Group Captain (retd), Fighter Pilot, MiG-21, Mirage-2000, and a drone expert. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.




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