Homeland Security

Maoists : China's Proxy Soldiers
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Issue Vol 25.3 Jul-Sep 2010 | Date : 06 Oct , 2010

General SK Sinha, former governor wrote in the newspaper ‘Pioneer’ (6 June 2010): “One Maoist gets killed against four deaths against civilians and security personnel in the rebel affected areas. Incidentally, the causality rate in J&K even at the peak of militancy was equal on both sides.”

While we Indians are sensitized about the ongoing proxy war by Pakistan, there is very little or no consciousness that Maoism or Naxalism is actually a proxy war by China being waged against India for last five decades. The Maoist movement in India, as it is made out to be, is not a recent phenomenon, but has been impacting the Indian state in varying intensity, depending on the international environment and the type of dispensation of the Union of India.

When more than 70 CRPF personnel were martyred in Chattisgarh, some students of a university in Delhi, created for pioneering research but now considered a leftist bastion, celebrated the tragedy. Some students of the same university had celebrated the Tianamen Square massacre of students in China in 1989 for what they thought was necessary to prevent China going down the Soviet Union way. This university does not lie in the ‘impoverished, underdeveloped and exploited tribal mineral heartland of India’. Its students thrive in excellent facilities made possible by the tax-payers money.

“¦ there are attempts to create many such pro-China leftists and ultra-leftists segments in other universities in places like Kurukshetra and Dehradun, some in the name of highly revered Indian figures like Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

As per intelligence inputs, there are attempts to create many such pro-China leftists and ultra-leftists segments in other universities in places like Kurukshetra and Dehradun, some in the name of highly revered Indian figures like Shaheed Bhagat Singh. The stranglehold of China’s over the most of the leftist parties/organizations in India including the Maoists is hard to explain. The symbiosis and linkages between China and these organizations has not been researched or investigated either by design or by conscious omission.

It would be naïve not to read the writing on the wall. There are many apologists of China in every strata and segment of the Indian society, who insist on direct evidence of the China-Maoists nexus. The same constituency earlier argued that there was no evidence of China providing WMD technology to Pakistan Countries, like China that aid and abet insurgencies in other countries, are conscious enough of maintaining the deniability factor especially when it comes to physical evidence. However, if one were to delve into the mindset and posturing of the Maoist leadership and the Chinese leaders, the nexus between the two is more than evident.

“China’s Chairman is our Chairman”

Charu Mazumdar, the pioneer of the naxalite movement had said: “China’s Chairman is our Chairman and China’s path is our path”. The naxalites maintained a studied silence even as the Pakistan Army committed genocide in the Bangladesh because China was an ally of Pakistan. They never condemned the murderous Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. They have, like the Maoists in Nepal, never criticized the Chinese occupation of Tibet. However, the Maoist leader Kishanji in an interview unequivocally said that he supported the cause of independence of Kashmir, Nagaland, Assam and others. He has no qualms about India being splintered in the process.

The cardinal mistake that India made after independence was to give legitimacy to the Communists and respectability to criminals like Mao.

India’s Cardinal Mistake

Maoism is indeed fallout of the communist movement in India. The communist movement during the initial years after India’s independence had violent overtones. Realizing its futility, the communist leadership then decided to opt for the electoral route. It did pay dividends, as for the first time, anywhere in the world; a democratically elected communist government came to power in Kerala in 1957. It is touted as a great victory for the Indian historical trait of assimilation, but it has not been without a price in the form of left-wing extremism, which has constantly spurned the assimilative process at the behest of external powers particularly China. The cardinal mistake that India made after independence was to give legitimacy to the Communists and respectability to criminals like Mao.

The expansion of the international communist movement suffered a great setback after the Sino-Soviet split in early 60s, as also due to the Vietnam war. This spawned ultra leftist groups and movements in many parts of the world. They were aided and abetted by China in a manner that the deniability factor could be maintained. It was during this period that the naxalite phenomenon in India began to take shape and had become a great threat to the integrity of India by 1969. The Naxalite leader Charu Mazumdar had exhorted his cadres ‘to expand anywhere and everywhere’. When the Naxals launched ‘Spring Thunder’ in Naxalbari, the Chinese Community Party mouthpiece wrote in its editorial comment in 1967, “A peal of a Spring Thunder has crashed over the land of India.” The editorial offered moral support from the highest level of China.

The Sino-India war had reverberations on the Indian communist movement, wherein a very strong section of the movement took a pro-Chinese position on the plea that the conflict was between a socialist and a capitalist state. There emerged three groups in the communist party i.e. the nationalists, the centrists, and the internationalists. A sizeable segment of the movement rejected Deng’s ‘capitalism in China’. This explains the reason for the current animosity between the two. Nevertheless, there is one thing common between them, i.e. total subservience to China.

It is for this reason that there has never been the slightest condemnation for any omissions and commissions by China. To them China is infallible. But be it India’s nuclear tests or Indo-US nuclear deal or Indo-US military exercises or India’s assistance to Nepal, they never miss an opportunity to spit venom against India.

“¦ a democratically elected communist government came to power in Kerala in 1957. It is touted as a great victory for the Indian historical trait of assimilation, but it has not been without a price in the form of left-wing extremism “¦

Over the period, the ultra-leftist movement has engendered many splinter groups, some more extremist than the other. In the past, some of these groups were involved in a vicious internecine conflict. It was only in 2004 that CPI (Maoists), was formed after the merger of CPI (ML) People’s War Group, and Maoist Communist Center (MCC). With the merger, it was announced that Marxism-Leninism-Maoism would be the new ideological basis of the CPI (Maoists) and its avowed aim was to seize power from the state through ‘protracted armed struggle’. Given the propensities of the ultra-leftist parties to split on flimsiest reasons, who does the government talk to, because some or the other group will never accept any peace process and therefore violence will continue.

Maoists-China Nexus

Moreover, any ism does engender violent ultra streams like ULFA from the Assam Gano Parishad (AGP) or NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) from Naga National Council (NNC). The rise of the Maoists should be seen in that overall perspective. The common thread running through these organizations is China. A senior ex-official of the Intelligence Bureau, Maloy Krishna Dhar, wrote in the Nepal Monitor on November 2009, “I have highlighted the facts of existence of Maoists groups in the Northeast and Bangladesh as well as Nepal to emphasize the fact that sophisticated weapons are inducted by Indian Maoists from Chinese arms paddling mafia through Maoists in Manipur, Nagaland and Assam.

The Bangladesh based Maoist parties, mostly active in the western part of the country are in cahoots with Indian Maoists.” He further added that the arms of Chinese origin are inducted by sea route from Haldia, Kasaba Naraingarh (Midnapur) area to areas like Khantpara, Baripada etc.

The present Home Secretary maintains, “Chinese are large suppliers of small arms and I am sure the Maoists get it from them.” In 2004, 10 truck loads of light and medium machineguns as also huge quantity of ammunition was seized at Chittagong port in Bangladesh. One of the senior officers of the National Security Intelligence of Bangladesh on interrogation has revealed that the entire consignments of arms were procured from China. He also said that ULFA and NSCN (IM) leaders visit Kunming in China to procure arms, which is also supplied to the Maoists in Nepal and India.

Given the propensities of the ultra-leftist parties to split on flimsiest reasons, who does the government talk to “¦

The anti-India and pro-China leanings of the Indian Maoists is evidenced by the press release (5 May 2009) of CPI (Maoist) Central Committee on developments in Nepal: “US imperialism and Indian expansionism are particularly perturbed over the growing influence of China over the region, consolidation of China’s grip over Sri Lanka, and fear that the government in Nepal is moving closer to China. And it is this fear which is common to both India and the US that has pushed these powers to oust the government led by Maoists in a bid to install a regime loyal to them. …it, (Indian Maoists), pledges all support to the Maoists in Nepal in their fight against Indian expansionism.”

On 02 October 2009, a senior Maoist leader Srinivasan clearly spoke of the linkage of the Maoists in India with China. In the same month, the Foreign Minister of Nepal Ms Sujata Koirala stated that the Maoists in India were receiving arms and aid from China through the Maoists in Nepal. Another Maoist leader has spoken about the Indian Maoists receiving training in the Yunan province of China through the aegis of ULFA. There are 10 China Study Centres in Nepal, five of which are in Terai along the India-Nepal border. These centres serve as conduits, facilitation nodes and indoctrination centres for the Indian Maoists.

Other External Linkages

The internationalist character of the Maoists is evidenced by its membership of Coordination Committee Of Maoist parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA), which was created in July 2001 after a meeting of nine South Asian Maoist parties in West Bengal. The organization resolved to follow the teachings of Marx, Lenin and Mao, and not the least, to build on the examples and experience of Protracted People’s Wars in Peru, Nepal, Philippines, India, Turkey and elsewhere. The Maoist leader Kishanji: “The Islamic upsurge should not be opposed as it is basically anti-US and anti-imperilistic in nature. We therefore want it to grow.”

The Maoist movement in India, therefore, is not homegrown. It is a ideological movement to capture Indian territory and overthrow the present parliamentary system of democracy. It is for this reason that they label their movement as ‘war’, their hostages as ‘Prisoners of War’, and the areas where they hold complete sway as ‘liberated zones’. A Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative Mohammad Omar Madni, now in custody, has revealed that the LeT was acting in coordination with the CPI (M) in Jharkhand. This was reported by the Times of India on 9 June 2009.

Tribal Cause: A Smoke Screen

This is not the first time that the Maoist movement has threatened the integrity of the country. The Naxalbari movement grew rapidly between 1969 and 1971. In 1971 the war clouds were hovering over India and India’s eastern theatre had become strategically sensitive. Given the China-Pakistan strategic partnership and China-Naxalite links, Mrs Gandhi realized the need to tackle the naxals immediately and with a firm hand. She announced in parliament that naxalites will be fought to the finish. Accordingly, Operation Steeplechase was launched from July to August 1971 by the army, police in West Bengal and bordering districts of Bihar and Orissa. There were 1400 arrests in Andhra, 2000 in Bihar, 4000 in West Bengal and 1000 in Kerala. Several leaders were killed. This clearly indicates that even then the Maoist movement was pan-Indian in nature and had little to do with demands of development and local grievances.

Hardly any Indian business concern or Indian project has escaped the intimidation and violence of the Maoists in Nepal, but no Chinese industries, business interests and projects have been targeted.

In the 80s, most of the Maoist violence was in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Maoists had made no inroads into the tribal areas. It is only when certain areas of Andhra Pradesh became virtually Maoist territories and served as the epicenter that the movement began to make inroads in Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. The newly formed ‘Peoples War Group’ was more violent and vicious than its previous version. Therefore, to paint the Maoist menace as a upsurge by the tribal population, is a travesty of truth. Of the 40 districts in Bihar, 32 are impacted by the Maoist insurgency. Of these, there are hardly any districts with any significant tribal population. Less than one-third of the blocks in Jharkhand have majority tribal population.

Furthering China’s Interests

The focus of the Maoist leadership on the tribal regions, as has emerged from the interrogation of arrested Maoist leaders, is because they constitute the mineral heartland of India. By destroying mineral activity in that area, they intend to target India’s economic growth. Moreover, illegal mining activity by the Maoists in collusion with some politicians and bureaucrats is a huge industry. A large chunk of the illegally mined iron ore is given legitimacy through intimidated and sympathetic officials, and is being shipped to China. It may be mentioned that India’s production of steel is around ten percent of that of China (approx 600 million tons). Most of China’s steel is produced from iron ore of Indian and Australian origin.

The spread of the Maoist terror in the mineral heartland of India therefore has directly benefits China. It also gives the Maoists easy access to huge quantities of explosives, used for mining purposes. Some of these explosives are being supplied to the Maoists in Nepal. At least, three such consignments have been impounded in Bihar. In terms of availability of explosives and expertise in IEDs, the jihadi organizations pale into insignificance. Much of the training in IEDs has been provided by the LTTE in the past.

China operates at various levels and exploits those organizations which are best suited for a particular environment. Some parties which are overt faces of the Maoists and are in electoral politics, like the CPI (ML), become active during this period. During the monarchy, when the Maoist insurgency in Nepal was at its peak, China kept denouncing the Maoists, and maintained that the Maoists were misusing the name of Mao, but once the Maoists formed the government, the links were exposed. Against the established practice, when Prachanda became PM, the first country he visited was China. He flew to Beijing in response to invitation by premier Wen Jiabao ostensibly to attend closing ceremony of Olympic Games. This five days visit had all the trappings of an official visit. Had the Maoist government in Nepal continued, a Nepal-China Friendship Treaty on the lines of Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty of 1950 would have been a reality. Also, hardly any Indian business concern or Indian project has escaped the intimidation and violence of the Maoists in Nepal, but no Chinese industries, business interests and projects have been targeted.

The second phase, but very close to the third phase. The second phase of strategic stalemate is also characterized by leveraging of planted media and so-called intellectuals, who are on their payroll or sympathizers.

The “terror dictionary” of the Maoists is more vicious and exhaustive than that of Islamic terrorists. The entire state and its citizenry are their target. They are particularly against development for fear of losing their coercive appeal and consequently their huge earnings. The extortion industry of the Maoists is estimated to be worth Rs. 15,000 crores. Even the armed forces personnel are not spared, the latest victim being one Group Captain RK Prasad, who had to cough-up Rs.10 Lacs for the release of his brother, kidnapped by the Maoists in Jharkhand. Incidentally, the Group Captain was one of the officers coordinating air effort at Air Headquarters during 26/11. Two decades back, the retired Air Chief Denis Anthony La Fontaine, who had chosen to settle in a rural area of Andhra Pradesh, was robbed of his pistol and belongings by the Maoists. Apart from abductions, extortions and lootings, the funding of the Maoists is also through poppy cultivation from Ghagra area in Gumla in Jharkhand, parts of Kishanganj and Purnea in Bihar, and also parts of Chattisgarh.

It is therefore clear that the Maoist movement has been a continuous reality in India for last at least five decades. For an enduring solution, the imperative is to root out the problem in a manner that it does not raise its head again, and China does not succeed in fragmenting India into 20 or 24 parts, as one Chinese scholar recently threatened. It is time that the fact that Maoists are the proxy soldiers of China is realized and in an event of a India-China military standoff, they would act as fifth columnists.

Conclusion

The Maoist leaders in India are known to be inspired by the guerilla movement (Shining Path) in Peru. They have divided their insurgency in three phases: strategic defence—which is the period of preparation and establishment of a strongholds in the rural areas; strategic stalemate—when the insurgents and security forces are at par and the phase is characterized by negotiations between the government and the insurgent leaders; and strategic offensive—when the insurgents make final assault on the citadel of government. In the reckoning of the Maoists, they are in the second phase, but very close to the third phase. The second phase of strategic stalemate is also characterized by leveraging of planted media and so-called intellectuals, who are on their payroll or sympathizers.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

RSN Singh

is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW and author of books Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and The Military Factor in Pakistan. His latest book is The Unmaking of Nepal.

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