[Reader-list] Old but interesting article on India's Burma policy

S. Jabbar sonia.jabbar at gmail.com
Wed Mar 3 09:12:26 IST 2010

India's policy on Burma a shame
by admin ‹ last modified 2009-04-23 20:08
September 17, 2007: (The Nation) It was amazing to witness how India chose
to respond to questions on its relations with Burma. When visiting Indian
Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee was in town last week, he was immediately
taken to task on the issue.

New Delhi's support of the regime in Rangoon severely damages its
international credibility

Questions from the floor by American and British diplomats as well as
journalists focused exclusively on relations between India and Burma. After
all, India, the world's largest democracy, is actively supporting one of the
world's most famous rogue states, which continues to oppress its people.

Confronted with uncompromising and undiplomatic questions, Mukherjee simply
recited the textbook answer that one of India's cardinal principles is not
to interfere with the domestic affairs of another country. When he was asked
how India could back a regime with one of the world's worst human-rights
records, he responded with a deadpan expression that it is essentially the
job of the people in the country to decide what government they want.

It is very disappointing that India has chosen to maintain this strange
policy of support concerning the military junta in Burma. Certainly, one
realises that India, which shares a border with Burma in Nagaland in eastern
India, would have to accommodate the leaders in Rangoon to a certain degree
on issues of common concern along the border, especially insurgents. But
nobody would have expected India to kowtow to Burma in such a way.

India's policy towards Burma is a shame. The Burmese people have already
decided that they do not want their government and India is doing nothing.
The Indian foreign minister's answers help explain why India will remain
aloof in the scheme of things in Asia, especially when it comes to
institutional building.

No wonder that when India is compared with China, China prevails. Even
though China is also a supporter of Burma, the reasons its leaders give for
relations with Burma have been more circumspect and sensible. Following
growing international pressure, including that from UN secretary-general Ban
Ki-moon, China has begun to assert pressure on Burma in discreet ways.
Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win was summoned to Beijing recently.

If India wants to "Look East" and continues to deal with Burma in such an
unaccountable manner, its future position and reputation will be greatly
jeopardised. One of the few reasons why India was not admitted into Apec
this year in Sydney was its support for the Burmese regime. With the US, a
key Apec member, lashing out at Burma, it would have been odd for India's
membership bid to receive support. If New Delhi continues with its current
policy, India will be caught in a dilemma, as the country would become
Burma's only strong supporter.

Since 1991, India has pursued a Look East policy to very good result. It
started out courting the economies of Asean and East Asia. In the following
years, it has forged closer ties with Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and
Japan. The country's relations progressed and resulted in the overall
strengthening of ties between India and Asean.

The abrupt change in its policy towards Burma in the mid-1990s was in
response to China's southward policy in Southeast Asia and domestic concerns
over insurgents in Nagaland. That was understandable, but the trouble is
that India has been doing more by strengthening the regime in the past
several years with ammunition and arms. Mukherjee denied outright that India
has sold arms to Burma. Maybe India did not sell the arms but simply gave
them to the junta. India has to answer these questions in front of the
international community.

Obviously, India-Burma relations cannot go on forever like this. It does not
make sense. 

It is strange but true, but this policy is reminiscent of the days when New
Delhi chose to back the Heng Samrin regime, knowing full well that it would
be fruitless. 

That misguided policy caused a long delay in the strengthening of
India-Asean relations. It will be interesting to watch India and its
diplomatic efforts if a new consensus emerges within Asean pushing for India
to do more to contribute to the opening up of Burma.

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