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News: Indian Foreign Secretary’s recent visit to Myanmar was intended to deepen cooperation between the two countries. His mission succeeded to a large extent, as substantive discussions were held with the top State Administrative Council (SAC) leadership and political parties.
But, despite this success, challenges still remain.
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What was the approach taken by the Indian delegation during this visit?
India took on a calibrated middle-path position, unlike the West’s policy of condemnation, threats and sanctions against the military regime. India’s approach is similar to ASEAN’s and based on following points:
– Release of political prisoners
– Resolution of issues through dialogue
– Cessation of all violence; and full cooperation with ASEAN
It has to be remembered that India has no intention to act as a mediator in the military-NLD (National League for Democracy) conflict. That role is to played by ASEAN.
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How has the world handled relations with Myanmar post-coup?
– Russia has looked to strengthen ties with the new rulers.
– China regretted the loss of Daw Suu Kyi as a valuable ally but took urgent steps to stabilise and expand cooperation with the military regime.
– The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) first gave its ‘Five-Point Consensus’ formula, but Myanmar’s top leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing refused to cooperate in the formula’s implementation.
What is the Myanmar military regime’s view regarding India?
Military leadership’s following actions show that it’s desirous of cooperation with India:
– Handing over five cadres of the Manipur People’s Liberation Army to Indian authorities before the foreign secretary’s visit
– It also renewed the previous pledge that its nation’s territory would not be allowed to be used for any activities detrimental to India’s interests.
– Special gesture made by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (who is Chairman of the SAC and Prime Minister) to receive India’s foreign secretary and hold detailed discussions in Yangon. This protocol departure of a highly protocol-conscious Myanmar leadership reflects the weight that India commands in Myanmar.
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What are some bilateral concerns b/w India and Myanmar?
– Border security and stability in its neighbourhood: There has been a noticeable escalation of activities of anti-India insurgent groups.
– Refugee issue: Several thousands of Myanmar people have sought shelter in Mizoram. This will only be reversed by a political settlement in Myanmar, through dialogue.
– Economic cooperation: The usual emphasis wrt economic sphere is on people-centric socio-economic developmental projects. Central to this is India’s long-delayed commitment to “expeditious implementation” of mega initiatives such as the Trilateral Highway and Kaladan projects. Unfortunately, no revised deadlines were announced. These projects continue to be the Achilles heel of the relationship.
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What is the way forward?
India should keep up the momentum by inviting Myanmar’s Foreign Minister & other important stakeholders such as leaders of political parties, civil society and think tanks to India for deliberations with their counterparts here.
The single goal should be to put Myanmar back on the path of becoming “a stable, democratic and federal union”.
Source: This post is based on the article “A chance to tap India’s high equity in Myanmar” published in The Hindu on 27th Dec 2021.