India’s neighbours have been pumping arms into India through various insurgent-terrorist groups. Instances of arms and ammunition having been brought from China to Cox’s Bazaar, a major landing station on the Bangladesh coast, in a North Korean ship go as far back as 1996. Landed in small boats on the high seas and transferred in trucks to NSCN(IM) camps in Bangladesh , they traveled to the Northeast. By late 2009, it was known that consignments of weapons from China amounting to 850 AK-47 rifles including 4,000 other small arms and several hundred grenades, were supplied to the Naxals through Myanmar and Bangladesh by an elaborate network operated in the Northeast by the NSCN(I-M). With Bangladesh-based ULFA leaders having extended their connections to China, supply of arms from Yunan province of southern China through insurgents in Myanmar became another new route.
On 02 October 2010, Indian intelligence agencies apprehended Anthony Shimray, a key operative of NSCN-IM outside Patna railway station, the capital of Bihar State. Shimray, the nephew of its general secretary, T. Muivah, allegedly, is its chief arms procurer and its major China link. He also turned out to be a mine of information about China’a support to NSCN-IM and other insurgent-terrorist groups in India .
In September, 2010, Shimray is reported to have held talks with his Bangkok middleman, Willy Narue, for procuring arms. He even requested his suppliers to deliver a consignment meant for Arunachal Pradesh directly “from the Chinese side”. His covert trip to India last October, when he got caught was quite obviously in connection with trafficking arms. 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 revealed. With Narue’s help, he contacted one Yuthuna, a Chinese representative of Bangkok based ‘TCL’, the authorised subsidiary of the Chinese arms company China Xinshidai, Beijing, described on its website as dealing in the import and export of specialised products by China ’s 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 Bangkokbased Intermarine Shipping. It was to be “loaded from Beihei, a south Chinese port. The destination was Cox’s Bazaar”. “All the correspondence with Willy Narue, our leadership in New Delhi , Nagaland and others in Thailand and China ,” Shimray says, “was made on email to maintain the secrecy of the entire project.” The information was saved as a draft and accessed by Chinese intelligence using Shimray’s 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 (illicit money transfer) operators.
The author is a retired Lt Col from the Armoured Corps and the Associate Editor of Salute