India’s Myanmar envoy poses with declared terrorist on Naga new year day

New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) In an obvious diplomatic faux pas, the Indian envoy to Myanmar, Vikram Misri, has been pictured along with top members of the banned NSCN-Khaplang faction, including its “military commander” Niki Sumi, who has a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head.

In the picture, posted by a cadre of the banned Khaplang faction on his Facebook page, Misri is seen smiling alongwith Niki Sumi and senior Khaplang member Isak Sumi, and European Union envoy to Myanmar, Roland Kobia. The picture was put on his Facebook page by Isak Sumi.

The picture was said to have been taken earlier this month in Lahe, in the so-called Naga Self Administered Zone in Sagaing region of Myanmar.

The Indian government banned the NSCN-Khaplang faction in November, 2015. Its leaders, including chief S.S. Khaplang and “military commander” Niki Sumi, were proscribed with bounties of Rs 7 lakh and Rs 10 lakh on their heads, respectively.

The Ministry of External affairs, however, sought to downplay what it said were “some casual pictures” taken on the occasion of Naga New Year. “It would not be appropriate to attach any significance to them,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup told IANS.

Ambassador Misri did not respond to an email sent to him by IANS.

Swarup said in response to a query that “the Indian Ambassador to Myanmar was present at a state level festival organised on January 13-15, 2017 in Lahe, in the Naga Self Administered Zone in Sagaing region of Myanmar. This festival was organised with the assistance of the Government of Myanmar on the occasion of celebrations of the Naga new year festival, which traditionally falls on January 15, after the harvest.”

He said that “very high ranking dignitaries of the Myanmar government, including the President and many Union Ministers, Sagaing Region Government Ministers, and Ambassadors of several countries to Myanmar were present on the occasion.

“Various Naga leaders were naturally also present on the occasion and some casual pictures were taken with the visiting Ambassadors. It would not be appropriate to attach any significance to them,” Swarup said.

The “Naga leaders” mentioned by Swarup belong to a terrorist association. On November 17, 2015, the NSCN-Khaplang faction was declared a terrorist organisation by the Central government, several months after it was held responsible for the ambush of an Indian Army convoy in Chandel district of Manipur, killing 20 of the soldiers in June of that year.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is probing the killing of Indian soldiers by the banned organisation.

“S.S. Khaplang is head of the NSCN-K group and Niki Sumi is holding the charge of armed wing of the said group. They were closely associated with the decision to attack Assam Rifles personnel at Indira Gandhi Stadium, Kohima on March 26, 2015, and subsequent string of attacks on armed forces including the attack on 6 Dogra Regiment Convoy in Chandel district of Manipur on June 4 killing 20 Army personnel,” the NIA had earlier said in a statement.

(Rupesh Dutta can be reached at rupesh.d@ians.in)

–IANS

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