India’s Myanmar quandary, its paradoxical policy

Source: The post is based on the article “India’s Myanmar quandary, its paradoxical policy” published in The Hindu on 11th August 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – International Relations

Relevance: India and Myanmar Relations

News: Myanmar’s President extended the emergency by six months, and the military has decided to release political prisoners. Still, these actions don’t suggest a democratic and peaceful Myanmar.

What are the concerns with these developments in Myanmar?

The emergency extension delays the military’s planned elections, but it’s justified by citing the lack of ‘normalcy’ in various parts of the country.

The push for ‘normality’ has caused great suffering, with Myanmar civilians facing 2.5 times more violence than Afghans.

The Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military) controls just 30%-40% of the land, making a national election lose credibility if held in only one-third of the nation.

Further, bringing more military by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) raises concerns about the junta’s commitment to democracy.

Even the National League for Democracy not participating in new elections and smaller parties being excluded leaves no strong opposition to the USDP in a parliament where the military holds a veto.

Hence, in such a situation, junta’s (military) decision to reduce Ms. Suu Kyi’s sentence and move her to house arrest doesn’t indicate a move toward democracy.

Because, despite being a significant rival to the Tatmadaw, she has demonstrated a willingness to work with the military. However, she remains a key figure for political transformation in Myanmar.

Hence, junta’s action regarding Ms. Suu Kyi’s sentence could lessen protests, help in ending sanctions and improving the economy. It also enables countries like India to engage with the junta more positively.

How has been the bilateral relation between India and Myanmar?

India aided Myanmar during the pandemic and coup, yet Myanmar residents were accused of sparking violence in Manipur. Trafficking and drug concerns led India to stop the Free Movement Regime in 2022.

India’s Foreign Minister discussed projects and border stability with Myanmar during the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) meeting. India also backs the ASEAN’s ‘Five-Point Consensus’.

However, India’s stated dedication to democracy in Myanmar contrasts with its policy as India’s policy is affected by northeast security and China relations.

For example, India’s announcement of the Sairang-Hmawngbuchhuah railway project near the Myanmar border, under India’s Act East Policy, aims to counter China’s railway access in Myanmar and the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.

Moreover, several reports suggest that India has escalated its arms provision to the military post-coup. This not only contradicts India’s position on restoring democracy but also intensifies tensions along the border.

Must Read: India – Myanmar relations | Timeline and Coup in Myanmar and India-Myanmar bilateral relations

What lies ahead?

The relaxation of Ms. Suu Kyi’s prison sentence may provide an opportunity for India to engage with her and pro-democracy actors.

The government and media must avoid labeling incoming refugees as security threats, as many have family ties in India. This is essential to prevent violence escalation and foster a compassionate environment.

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