In a military coup in Myanmar, a state of emergency has been imposed for one year. The coup resulted in establishing military rule again in Myanmar. The military has detained democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians of the country. This action is condemned by the majority of countries around the world.
Myanmar’s elected democratic government was about to swear in and convened the Parliamentary session on February 1. The coup occurred to stop the convening of Parliamentary session. Also, the Military owned TV (Myawaddy TV) has announced that the Military will remain in power for one year. This event has raised questions on the survival of democracy in Myanmar.
Reason behind the Coup
Myanmar conducted elections democratically in November 2020. Aung San Suu Kyi led Party won 396 out of 476 seats (combined lower and upper houses of Parliament) and won the elections. The military reserves 25% of seats as per their 2008 Constitution.
The military (“Tatmadaw” in Mayanmar) alleged, there was large scale “irregularities” in the general elections. But the United Elections Commission (UEC) of Myanmar said that no such irregularities have occurred during the elections.
The new parliament fixed February 1 for convening the session and swearing ceremony. To prevent the parliamentary session, the military staged the coup in the early morning of February 1 and detained the political leaders.
Apart from that, the military also declared a one-year state of Emergency. The military also threatened to revoke the 2008 Constitution, “If one does not follow the law”.
The military had revoked two previous constitutions in Myanmar. Now, there is a possibility of revoking the present constitution. In fact, the 2008 Constitution was also the military-drafted one.
What is the stand of various countries on the coup?
Ministry of External Affairs of India mentioned that India will “always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition” in Myanmar.
UN Secretary-General has condemned the coup in strong words.
The US warned Myanmar’s military officials against a coup attempt. It has threatened to “take action” if the military proceeded with the coup.
The Australian government calls for the release of detained leaders.
China, on the other hand, asks all the sides in Myanmar to resolve the dispute on its own.
Why Myanmar is important for India?
First, Myanmar’s role in tackling insurgency in Northeast: Myanmar shares a 1643 Km long boundary with India’s North Eastern State. Insurgent groups such as ISCN-K, ISCN-IM have operational bases inside Myanmar. The democratically elected government cooperated with India in controlling the insurgent activities especially, the Naga insurgency.
Second, Myanmar’s role in India’s “Neighborhood First” policy and “Act East” Policy: Myanmar is strategically located between India and Southeast Asian countries. Due to that, Myanmar is important for India’s connectivity with other South-East Asian countries.
Third, Reduction of illegal migrants coming to India: During the recent Rohingya issue, 14000 registered and 40000 unregistered refugees came to India. A stable Myanmar can prevent this fleeing of refugees.
Fourth, Myanmar is the gateway to the development of North-Eastern India: The success of infrastructure, developmental projects in the North-Eastern part of India directly depend on the co-operation with Myanmar. For Example, the Development of India-Myanmar-Thailand(IMT) trilateral highway, Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport (KMMTT) corridor, etc rely on Myanmar.
Present areas of Co-operation between India and Myanmar:
First, Co-operation in the field of Economy: The bilateral trade among both the countries remained in and around $2 bn. The trade will improve once there is a stable government in place.
Second, Co-operation in the field of Infrastructure and Development projects: In 2013 India provided a 500 million $ LOC (Line of Credit) for the developmental projects in Myanmar. Apart from that IMT trilateral highway and Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport (KMMTT) are also under implementation.
- India-Myanmar-Thailand(IMT) trilateral highway: The Highway connects Moreh in the Indian state of Manipur to the Mae Sot in Thailand. This route is interconnected via Mandalay in Myanmar.
- Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport (KMMTT) :
- The Project is aimed at connecting the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with the Sittwe seaport in Myanmar.
- In Myanmar, it will then link Sittwe seaport to Paletwa in Chin State via the Kaladan riverboat route. Then from Paletwa by road to Mizoram state in Northeast India.
- India constructed Sittwe Port as a deepwater port in 2016 at Sittwe.
- Significance: The project will reduce the distance from Kolkata to Sittwe by approximately 1328 km. In other words, the project will reduce the need to transport goods through the narrow Siliguri corridor also known as Chicken’s Neck.
Third, Defence cooperation: Both the countries conduct a joint military exercise named India – Myanmar Bilateral Military Exercise (IMBEX). Above all, both the armies jointly carried out Operation Sunrise twice. Under Operation Sunrise, the India-Myanmar armies jointly target the militant groups that operates in the border states.
Fifth, Other areas of co-operation. This includes India’s renovation of the 11th Century Ananda Temple in Myanmar (it was damaged due to earthquake). Apart from that India also provides Humanitarian and Disaster Relief to Myanmar during emergencies.
First, India can aid the democratically elected government if there was a request from Myanmar. Myanmar is India’s strategic partner like Nepal, Bangladesh. India can help Myanmar like that of erstwhile Bangladesh in 1971.
Second, India has to strengthen the existing cooperation. India currently has an active co-operation with Myanmar in areas of security, counter-terrorism, trade and investment, energy co-operation. India has to encourage more active co-operation in these fields.
Third, India can formalise border trade with Myanmar. Currently, India’s Border trade with Myanmar is at a very low level. By formalising border trade like that of Border Haats in India-Bangladesh and providing enough support, we can improve people to people tie. It will also provide peace in long run.
Fourth, India can assist Myanmar in the implementation of the Kofi Annan Advisory Commission report on Rohingya Refugee issues. The commission has recommended investing in infrastructure projects. The recent Indian government move in developing the Sittwe port in Myanmar’s Rakhine state is one such move.
Myanmar is not only strategically located but also in a strategic position to fulfill India’s ambition on developing North-East, connection with South-East Asia, etc. So, it is high time for India to help the Myanmar government to be a stable and democratic one.