The grievances of the indigenous tribes of the area are being highlighted for furthering the West’s geopolitical interests   

By P.K.Balachandran

Colombo, June 3: Some Western powers appear to be eyeing the tribal areas straddling North-East India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and China. 

The grievances and aspirations of the indigenous tribes of these areas are being taken note of and highlighted. There are indications that at least some influential elements in the West are wanting to exploit the secessionist sentiments in a section of the tribal population in this sensitive and geopolitically important region.

In April this year, a Netherlands-based video content creator, Fred Kolman, in association with some Naga rights and secessionist groups, put out on YouTube a longish video on the history, struggle and demands of the Nagas of North-East India, bordering Myanmar.

In 2023, an article in the US Homeland Security website advised the US government that it would be beneficial to the US to support the Naga struggle for autonomy/independence .( See: 

On May 24, The Daily Star of Dhaka reported that the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told her alliance partners that there was a plot to carve out “a Christian state like East Timor” taking parts from Bangladesh and Myanmar and also acquire an airbase in the Bay of Bengal. 

Hasina did not name any country but said that the offer of political support in return for an airbase came from a “White man”. She said she rejected the offer. 

“It may appear that it is aimed at only one country, but it is not. I know where else they intend to go,” Hasina added. 

Video on Nagas 

The video on the Nagas entitled “With Nagas” was publicly shown at the prestigious deBalie in Amsterdam on April 29 and put on YouTube also. It was made by the Dutch content creator Fred Kolman. The screening in Amsterdam was attended by “Dame” Grace Collins, the self-styled president of Naga American Council.

According to sources, the video was made in collaboration with the Naga International Support Centre (NISC) and the International Council of Naga Affairs (ICNA). Kolman’s team had interviewed Naga leaders and civil society persons in Nagaland itself over several months in 2023. Kolman had reportedly been in touch with the Naga leaders since the late 1990s. 

As to how the Indian authorities allowed Kolman to do the video in situ is a mystery as Nagaland is a restricted area for foreigners.   


When the British gave independence to India in 1947, they handing over the lands populated by the Nagas to the successor Indian government. Naga leaders say that this was done without consulting the Nagas. In protest, the then leaders of the Nagas declared independence on August 14, 1947, a day before India got its independence and started armed resistance. 

Successive Indian governments tried to cajole them to accept Indian suzerainty. Periods of negotiations and peace were followed by disagreements and charges of betrayal, revival of violence and counter violence. The Nagas accused the Indian State of gross human rights violations including, torture, rape and abuse of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). 

The unfulfilled demands of the Nagas have been the following: Unification of “Nagalim”, that is, all areas populated by the various Naga tribes which span several States in North East India and also Myanmar. Preservation of the Nagas’ village-based democracy. Autonomy for villages and for Nagalim; and a separate Nagalim flag.

Naga intellectuals who spoke in Kolman’s video, said that civil society and human rights groups have visited New Delhi several times to create awareness among Indian intellectuals, but have always been told that the Indian army has an impeccable reputation throughout the world and that it can do no wrong.

One Naga intellectual blamed the Indian government’s “capitalist and Look East” policies for the lack of sympathy for the Nagas’ plight. According to him, the powers-that-be in New Delhi want to exploit Nagaland’s natural resources and use Nagaland as a bridge to Myanmar and South East Asia to further India’s “Look East” policy.

If Nagaland is free and maintains its system of autonomous villages, India will find it hard to ride roughshod over the Nagas and pursue its exploitative economic and “Look East” policies, the intellectual said.

Others said that New Delhi uses funds meant for the development of Nagaland for its counter-insurgency programme. And Naga leaders get inveigled into cooperating with New Delhi in this scheme. 

At present, Nagaland has only one seat in the 543-member Indian parliament. This, the Nagas consider wholly inadequate to get their grievances heard. Full autonomy is the only just solution, they assert.    

West Preferred Over China  

A representative of the Naga Mothers’ Front said that in the early phases of the Naga movement, the insurgents got help from China, but the Nagas now view China with suspicion due to China’s dubious role in Myanmar where it seems to be running with the hares and hunting with the hounds.

Naga civil society leaders said that it is the West, particularly the US and UK, which should lend a helping hand to them. Responsibility rests with the UK particularly, because it was the UK which had left the Nagas in the lurch in 1947. 

US Homeland Security website 

Writing in the website of the US Homeland Security, under the title “PERSPECTIVE: Reasons for the United States to Be More Invested in Nagalim Self-Determination,”Grace Collins, Nora Manjaa and Tom Cellucci say that “ from the perspective of federal agencies including the State Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there are several reasons why supporting the Nagalim Freedom Movement could be beneficial.”

The article dated April 5, 2023, says that the US is taking a much closer look at the Nagalim freedom struggle. Nagalim is strategically important as it is situated in the middle and shares borders with China, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. 

The article makes the following points: 

“Economic development in this region promises many positive implications for U.S. relations with India, China, and Myanmar related to mutual security and economic interests.”

“The Nagalim conflict dates back to the British colonial period in India when the Nagas were denied their right to self-determination. After India gained independence in 1947, the Nagas refused to merge with India and declared themselves an independent state one day before India was admitted to the UN. The main preposition of the people of Nagalim (often referred to as Nagaland) is they “never joined the Indian union by conquest or concession.”

“This led to a series of armed conflicts with the Indian government, which continues to this day. For more than 75 years the Nagas have been fighting for their right to self-determination and autonomy, arguing that they are the original inhabitants of the land and should be able to govern themselves.” 

“This struggle for independence has been marked by violence and unrest, as the Indian government has repeatedly used antiquated oppressive laws that suppress the Nagas’ daily lives. The Indian government has been accused of many human rights violations.”

“From an economic point of view, the Nagalim region is also strategically located at the intersection of China and India called the Chindia Economy, two of the world’s fastest-growing economies. This location makes it a vital area for trade and commerce, as well as a potential flashpoint for conflict between the two nations. As the United States seeks to maintain its global economic and strategic interests, it is important to pay attention to the dynamics of this region and ensure that it remains stable and secured to a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of people being displaced and living in refugee camps.”  

“The Nagalim conflict has several implications for regional and global security, and therefore it is important for the United States to take a closer look at the issue. The Nagalim conflict has potential to impact international relations, particularly between India and its neighbours, China and Myanmar. Moreover, the conflict could affect India’s Look East policy, which aims to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian countries, including Myanmar.”

“Given the above implications of the Nagalim conflict, it is important for the US to take a more active role in resolving the issue. The US should encourage the Indian government and the NSCN (National Socialist Council of Nagaland) to engage in a dialogue to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. The U.S. could offer to facilitate talks between the two sides.” 

“It is important to uphold the principles of self-determination and human rights, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter and other international agreements. The Nagas have a legitimate claim to autonomy and should be able to pursue it peacefully and without fear of retribution.”

“Supporting the Nagas could help to prevent conflict and instability in the region. As China and India continue to compete for resources and influence, there is a risk that the Nagalim region could become a proxy battleground for their rivalry. By working with the Nagas to promote stability and security, the United States can help to prevent this outcome and ensure that the region remains peaceful and prosperous. Also, it’s important to take note that they have fought side-by-side as our U.S. allies in WWI and WWII.””

“Also, supporting the Nagas could help to promote democracy and human rights in India, which has faced criticism for its treatment of ethnic and religious minorities.”  

Cautionary Note  

Pointing out the obstacles to this project, the authors of the article say that the Indian government has long viewed the Nagas as a threat to national unity and has used force to suppress their movement and therefore the US must be careful not to be seen as interfering in India’s internal affairs. 

“However, if the Naga-American Council is recognized by the government of India, it could be very beneficial to breaking the deadlock of the region and foster win-win-win solutions for India, Nagalim and the United States.”

However, observers feel that any such change in US policy towards the Nagas could exacerbate Indo-US relations which are already under strain because of New Delhi’s independent policies on issues of vital interest to the US.



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