india-myanmar-relations-indias-outreach-to-myanmar

Context: The recent visit of Foreign Secretary and Chief of the Army Staff of India reflected India’s multidimensional interests in Myanmar and the deepening of ties between Delhi and Naypyidaw. 

More on the news: 

  • The visit underscored two dimensions that drive India’s Myanmar policy - engagement with key political actors and balancing neighbours.
  • For Myanmar, the visit would be viewed as India’s support for its efforts in strengthening democratisation, amidst its upcoming election.
    • Also a key factor behind the military regime’s decision to open the country when it initiated reforms was to reduce dependence on China. 

Background - Non-interference in internal politics: 

  • Support democratisation: Since the 1990s, India’s Myanmar policy has been to support democratisation driven from within the country. 
    • This has allowed Delhi to engage with the military that played a key role in Myanmar’s political transition. 
    • It has also enabled Delhi to work with the party in power.
  • Geopolitical dimension: India is aware that delay in Myanmar’s democratisation will create challenges and limit its ties with the West. 
    • By engaging Myanmar, Delhi provides alternative options to Naypyidaw. 
    • This driver in India’s Myanmar policy has perhaps gained greater salience in the rapidly changing regional geopolitics.

Recent initiatives:

  • The inauguration of the liaison office of the Embassy of India in Naypyidaw. 
    • Interestingly, China was the first country to establish a liaison office in Naypyidaw in 2017.
  • India has proposed to build a petroleum refinery in Myanmar that would involve an investment of $6 billion. 
    • This is another indication of Myanmar’s growing significance in India’s strategic calculus, particularly in energy security. 
    • Also, India’s evolving competitive dynamic with China in the sector at a time when tensions between the two have intensified is clearly visible.
  • Development of border areas: This will ensure mutual commitment not to allow respective territories to be used for activities inimical to each other. 
  • Maritime cooperation: India announced transferring a Kilo-class submarine to Myanmar demonstrates the depth of their cooperation in the maritime domain.

Challenges:

  • India suffers from an image of being a poor executioner of infrastructural projects.
  • Balancing act between Bangladesh and Myanmar remains one of the keys to its overall approach to the Rohingya issue. 
    • Delhi has reiterated its support for ensuring safe, sustainable and speedy return of displaced persons to Myanmar. 
    • But the choices before Delhi are limited on the issue. 

Way ahead: 

  • Development in north east India: For India, Myanmar is key in linking South Asia to Southeast Asia and the eastern periphery becomes the focal point for New Delhi’s regional outreach.
  • Engaging rather than criticising: For Delhi this is the most practical approach to finding a solution.
  • Some initiatives suggest Delhi is taking steps to leverage its political, diplomatic, and security ties with Myanmar to address some of these issues. 

Source: https://www.orfonline.org/research/indias-outreach-to-myanmar/