Sunday, September 27, 2015

India-Myanmar ties: Marching towards Greater Cooperation


The much awaited November 8, 2015 elections in Myanmar will mark a significant milestone in that country’s history. The polls will be important even from New Delhi’s point of view – both strategically and diplomatically - as an 'unstable' Myanmar is always a matter of concern vis-a-vis insurgency-hit northeastern states for India.

The government of India attaches great importance to its immediate eastern neighbor. The government under Prime Minister Narenra Modi has in recent months held enhanced interactions and successfully established better relations with that country aiming to seek strategic advantage in more ways than one.  There is certainly a growing thirst for change in that country and the poll results will spell out the tone for the future of democracy in Myanmar.

Blogger in Corridors of Parliament
Over the years, it goes without saying, the Chinese influence has increased in Myanmar. Thus India’s improved relationship in last one year or so with Myanmar is some kind of a milestone in itself.
Now importantly for New Delhi, the Indian government needs to be on guard about certain things.
Certain issues are very sensitive for Indian diplomatic establishment especially in the context of Prime Minister Modi’s keenness to resolve insurgency problems in the north east India and also have improved relations between Nagas in Nagaland and Manipur with the Nagas in Myanmar.
India shares a long land frontier with Myanmar that runs longer than 1600 km. A sizeable portion in western Myanmar is dominated by the ethnic Nagas, who share biological fraternity with the Nagas in India. 
Security experts therefore often say that the condition of Nagas in Myanmar can have some impact vis-à-vis the insurgency movement of the Nagas this side. India is already talking to insurgent groups while Myanmar authorities are working now for ceasefire with the armed groups active in their land.
Earlier in June this year there was some cooperation between Indian armed forces and Myanmar. More such cooperation will be solicited.
An enhanced dose of democracy in Myanmar and especially free hand to local aspirations of Myanmarese Nagas in western Myanmar will be interesting feature to look at. But the people of Myanmar and political establishment in that country have to also ironically grapple with certain realities.

Insurgency can be tackled with Myanmar
There is a system under which 25 per cent of the seats are reserved for the military in parliament. This gives the Myanmar military “veto rights” against any drastic constitutional change. 
As a matured neighbour, India needs to be vigil on these developments too.
On it part, repeatedly the Myanmar government has maintained that the country can play the role of a bridge between India and South-East Asia. This actually gives due recognition to India’s Look and Act East Policy pursued with much enthusiasm by the 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was assured during his June meetings that Myanmar will not allow its territory to be used by anti-India insurgent groups.
These words are certainly assuring and worth appreciation in diplomatic parlance.
Last elections were held in Myanmar in 2010 and subsequent to that only a measured democracy has been granted in that country. Now as the date for polling day approaches, the debates are on how and what to really expect from these polls.

Significantly enough 25 years ago in 1990 when the people of Myanmar had given a landslide victory to Aung San Suu Kyi's party National League For Democracy, contrary to the mandate, the military rulers had nullified the polls. Ms Suu Kyi was also banned from holding government office. But things have changed a lot in last two-and-half decades.
The military junta has shown flexibility and tilt towards appreciating the overwhelming sentiments of people’s demand for democracy. Importantly, the western world opinion on Myanmar has also undergone change.
Myanmar is no longer a pariah before the global community. ASEAN members are with it. Therefore, the coming elections in Myanmar will be vital in many ways.

Will Namo rewrite Nehru's foreign policy

As a close neighbour, the outcome of the elections and the subsequent developments in Myanmar would be vital for India. In recent years, India has rightly adopted a more pragmatic approach towards Myanmar.
India truly needs to pursue its track for a ‘Comprehensive Myanmar Policy’ with enhanced emphasis on the economic and strategic cooperation.

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