Sinlung /
10 March 2015

India Begins To Play Official Role in Myanmar Peace Process: Zoramthanga

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The upcoming visit would be Narendra Modi's second visit to Myanmar in seven months.

By Adam Halliday

Aizawl, Mar 10 : As New Delhi begins to play an official role in peace talks between Naypyitaw and Myanmar’s ethnic rebel armies, the neighbouring country is gearing up to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May (which would be Modi’s second visit there in seven months), said peace envoy and former Mizoram CM Zoramthanga on Monday.
The former rebel leader and current supremo of the Mizo National Front, which waged a two decade insurgency for an independent country for ethnic Zos, also said New Delhi has agreed to facilitate visits by Myanmar’s rebel leaders to India to study the processes that led to the Mizo Accord of 1986, often hailed as one of the most successful peace deals between a government and an armed insurgency.

“I found that both sides really wanted to have peace but were unable to find a way towards it. In my view they are like an aged bachelor and spinster who really want to marry but just do not know how to set the ball rolling,” he had said earlier, stressing the two sides appeared not to know how to achieve lasting peace in spite of years of negotiations and often failed ceasefires.
Zoramthanga has travelled to Thailand and Myanmar twice this year to meet both Minister Aung Min (who is in charge of Myanmar’s efforts to establish peace with some 16 ethnic armies) and N’ban La (chairman of the United Nationalities Federation Council or UNFC, a grouping of ethnic armies who have fought for autonomy, and earlier independence, since the late 1940s) and other senior leaders from both camps.

The man often called “Vajpayee’s right hand man in the North-East” for his roles in trying to broker peace between NE rebels and New Delhi said he was first contacted by Kachin leaders about four years ago to act as an envoy between Myanmar’s ethnic armies and central government.
His involvement picked up pace when the BJP swept to power last year (the MNF is an NDA constituent) and Ajit Doval, who was instrumental in the Mizo Accord, was appointed National Security Adviser to PM Modi.

Although his first visit to Thailand and Myanmar in mid-January was with the knowledge of the PMO but not it’s official sanction, as he put it (New Delhi had been wary of taking part in Myanmar’s internal affairs), the second trip late last month was more official.

Aung Min, the Myanmar Minister, had written to NSA Ajit Doval on February 26 asking the Indian government to take an active role in helping Myanmar reach a peace deal with the ethnic armies.
The PMO soon afterward assigned a senior official (Zoramthanga has declined to name the official, who he said wishes to remain anonymous) to travel with Zoramthanga and two colleagues to Thailand to meet with rebel leaders holed up there, and later with Myanmar government leaders.

Zoramthanga said the team reached Bangkok on February 27 and in the following days met three UNFC leaders who arrived there from Chiang Mai, the council’s headquarters, and another who was stationed in Bangkok to discuss the way forward.

He said the Indian team then flew to Yangon on March 2, and soon afterwards met Aung Min and other senior leaders in Naypyitaw.

Zoramthanga told The Indian Express the two most important things the two sides agreed on was to host PM Modi in Myanmar as part of this peace process, and for India to facilitate the visits of ethnic army leaders to India to study the processes that led to the Mizo Accord.

“India knows that if there is finally peace in Myanmar, there will be an end to all the different insurgencies in the North-East because most of the rebel’s safe havens would be dismantled. So India needs this peace process to succeed almost as much as Myanmar does,” Zoramthanga said.

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