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Mr. A.P. Venkateswaran,  Former Foreign Secretary

 


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Lt. Gen (Retd.) Ravi Eipe



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Seminar                         Summary Reports   


Indo-Afghanistan      

Geo-political Contest in Afghanistan and its impact on India ’s Interests

"Strategic Options" by Brig Rahul Bhonsle (Retd)

"The Regional Contest" by                 Dr Shanthie D’Souza

"The Afghan Riddle" by Shri Hormis Tharakan 

"The Way Forward" by 

 Ambassador S K Lambah, IFS (Retd)

Indo-China       

CHina's Defense Modernisation: Implications for India 

"Upgradation of Chinese Forces- Implications by

Mr. D.S. Rajan

"Missile and Space Modernisations" by 

Prof R.  Nagappa,

"A Strategic Review" by Air Chief Marshal Fali Major (Retd)

"Economic Implications " by 

Prof Srikanth Kondapalli

"The Way Forward" by Amb. C.V. Ranganathan

Indo-Iran              
Complexities of the situation of Iran: India's strategic interests and options

"A Historical Perceptive" by           Amb. Akbar Mirza Khaleeli                          "A Strategic perspective" by           Vice Admiral (Retd)         P J Jacob                            "A Media perspective" by Shri Kesava Menon. 

Indo-Myanmar     
Indo-Myanmar security relations: Measures to improve trade and economic ties

Presentations by:

Col. R Hariharan (Retd),  

Dr Sayed Ali Mujtaba,  

Shri T P Sreenivasan,  

Indo-Nepal              
Developments in Nepal: impact on India

Presentations by:

  "A Security Assessment" by            B. Raman

  "The Current Scenario" by               Shri K V Rajan, IFS (Retd)

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd. Ashok K. Mehta  

  "Current Situation and its import" by     Shri Gururaj Rao


Recent developments in Nepal and their impact on India's security

Presentations by:

  "The Political Scenario" by Dr. Arvind Kumar

  "Analysis of Political events" by Dr. Smruti Pattanaik 

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee

  "Strategic Analysis and Opinions "by Maj. Gen (Retd.) Ashok K. Mehta

Indo-Pakistan       

Whither Pakistan?

"The Crisis in Pakistan"  by

Captain Alok Bansal, IN

"A security assessment" by 

Shri S Gopal

"A Strategic Overview" by M K Bhadrakumar, IFS (Retd)

"Whither Pakistan?" by Lt Gen Satish Nambiar (Retd)

Indo-Russia             

India-Russia strategic relations in the new world order 

     

" Vision and Realityby Ambassador Shri Rajiv Sikri  (Retd)

" Historical Perceptive and Current Realities"

by Amb. A Madhavan, IFS (Retd)

"Defence Cooperation Aspectsby

Air Marshal N Menon (Retd)

Indo-US        
Changing contours of Indo-US relations: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities

Presentations by:

"A strategic review"  by Dr. Brahma Chellaney

" A historic perspective"

by Amb. Krishnan, IFS (Retd)

"India's options in the global senario" by

Lt Gen S. S Mehta

"Indo-US core interests" by

Shri Aravind Sitaraman

 

Look East Policy  

Impediments to India's Look-East policy’: suggested remedies

" India's Look-East Policy: Vision and Reality"  by Ambassador Shri C.V Ranganathan (Retd)

 

" Impediments to India’s Look-East Policy – China’s Reservations and Suggested Remedies Realities"

by Shri. D.S. Rajan  

 

"Maritime Aspects of our Look-East Policyby

Vice Admiral (Retd)   P J Jacob

Seminar Summary Report

INDO-MYANMAR SECURITY RELATIONS: MEASURES TO IMPROVE TRADE AND ECONOMIC TIES

  As compiled by Shri A Madhavan, former ambassador of India and a current member of Asia Centre;

  07 July 2007 IAS officer’s Association, # 1, Infantry Road, Bangalore -1

            Asia Centre has been conducting a series of seminars and discussions to review the India ’s security environment in the sub-continent. As a part of this series, a seminar was held on 7th July 2007 on the topic “Indo-Myanmar Security Relations: Measures to Improve Trade and Economic Ties”. The event was chaired by Shri  A P Venkateswaran, former Foreign Secretary. The presentations

Col. R Hariharan (Retd), Military analyst and writer on developments in Myanmar , Bangladesh and Sri Lanka .

Dr Sayed Ali Mujtaba, Journalist and India representative of TV Channel Mizzima in Myanmar .

Shri T P Sreenivasan, IFS, Former Ambassador to UN HQ at New York and Charge D’Affaires in Myanmar .

  This report summarises the essence of the presentations and the discussions that followed.


INTRODUCTION.

Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Ravi Eipe, Director of Asia Centre, gave a welcome address to introduce the main speakers and outline the topic.  Myanmar is little known among India ’s neighbours, though it impinges on our security and has considerable economic potential for cooperation.  Having served as Chief of the Eastern Command in the Indian Army, he was struck by two facets relating to Myanmar , the strategic aspect and the enigma of Indo-Myanmar relations.  With a long term threat of the Chinese from across the Himalaya in the north, Myanmar in the north-east is a good buffer.  A strong and viable Myanmar would be to our advantage.  Myanmar borders four Indian States in the north-east.  During World War II, the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942 was an alarm signal to India on the vulnerability of the route through Kohima and Imphal.  It is vital for India to have a stable and friendly Myanmar .  But the paradox is that Indian influence is very low in that country, far behind China ’s.  Chinese goods flood into Myanmar .  Myanmar is looking for partners to balance it, but perhaps more to Russia than to India as a strategic ally.  

Col. R. Hariharan

Indians know little about their Burmese neighbours.  The security and strategic importance of Myanmar to India is recognised.  (The speaker used the older name ‘ Burma ’ for convenience).  It is a mistake to consider Myanmar ’s power equations as just Sino-centric.  India and Myanmar have demarcated the land border and the maritime border is also settled by both sides.  This is not the case with Bangladesh and of course with China .  The major rivers of Myanmar run north to south, which helps Chinese traders to come down the river valleys with greater facility than it Indians coming across the mountainous land.  India ’s overland trade with Myanmar is much lower than China ’s.  The southern plains of Myanmar are fertile, while the north is less developed.  The speaker recalled the colonial history of Burma , when the country was annexed piece by piece to the British Empire .   Unlike India , Burma at the time of Independence (1948) had no English-knowing middle class.  Indians traders and service people were dominant in Rangoon .   Burma ’s ethnic mix contained Karens (Christian), Kachins, Mons , Shans, Arakanese.  These groups were non-Burmese and feared domination from Rangoon ( Yangon ). 

Burma ’s relations with Laos , Vietnam and Thailand are crucial in its security concerns.  The long-term contention between China and Vietnam for influence in Southeast Asia is a geopolitical factor.  Laos is an unstable country. 

In China ’s regions adjacent to Myanmar , Yunnan and eastern Tibet are relatively underdeveloped compared to the rest of China .  But these regions are more advanced than India ’s Mizoram, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.  China has a natural advantage in executing its development projects.

Burma is among the oldest producers of petroleum.  Now natural gas has also been discovered there.  With worldwide energy scarcity, this confers an advantage which is coveted by eager partners like Korea , France , China and Japan , apart from India .

(The US is abstaining for political reasons). 

Burma is also rich in minerals.  It has Uranium, as yet unmined, in a conflict zone where the army is trying to quell the dissidents. 

The Burmese are not swayed by the Western categories of reasoning, not happy with black and white contrasts.

If the problem of political power in Burma is to be resolved, there must be agreement among India , China and the ASEAN. 

China is well set in some spots and areas.  Sittwe is a listening post for the Chinese to check the US moves in Thailand and adjacent countries.

In the next five years, the quest for energy, mainly natural gas from Burma , will become very important. 

The speaker contrasted the Burma Army with the Indian Army, which has a strong British trained tradition.  The former was part of Burma ’s freedom struggle, unlike the latter.  It had imbibed some of the fascist ways of the Japanese Imperial army in the 1940’s.  This included contempt for civilians as inferior folk.  The Army resistend Japanese rule through the Anti-Fascist League.  It is now called the Tatmadaw, with a heavy infantry component of 240 battalions.  It was Gen Aung San who established a unified Burma , resisting the British scheme of creating separate ethnic states for Chins, Kachins and Shans.  The speaker reviewed the history of Burma in the post-war period and the genesis of military rule, which was deemed necessary for the stability of the country.  The election in 1990 was held, but its results were nullified by the junta. 

  With the corruption of power, the rulers fell out.  There are two generals in power now, while the third has been executed.  Even if Burma regains democracy, the army will retain power, as in Indonesia .  Younger men have risen in the Tatmadaw who may look for a compromise with younger civilian leaders, especially the students, in the expectation that they will be more amenable than Mme Suu Kyi, accepting a mixed kind of governance short of democracy.  The leader of the National League of Democracy is now 84 years old and will be succeeded by younger members. 

ASEAN (of which Burma is a member) is split on its attitude to Burma .  Thailand is a key neighbour, which is itself run by military leaders.  There is an old animosity between Burma and Thailand , made more difficult by Shan rebels living in Thailand .  The US has backed Karen Christians in the past.  The Burmese military government has partly pacified the Karens through an agreement, after fighting several insurgencies

In order to appease international opinion and satisfy the insurgent groups and sections of people demanding a democratic rule, the military junta is involved in the constitution making exercise through a National Convention. It has been boycotted by the biggest political party – National League for Democracy (NLD) – and by the main Shan and Karen insurgent groups. Gen. Khin Nyunt had formulated a road map for democracy which perpetuates the role of army as the guardian. It will always retain the right to intervene.

The US, West Europe and Australia are unhappy at the continued suppression of democracy in Burma , but sanctions may not be effective enough to change the position.  The US is in contact with Burmese representatives, though these are only exploratory talks, through China ’s mediation, revealing once more the growing Asian influence of China .  

Russia is continuing its cooperation with the Myanmar authorities.  It has offered a set up a nuclear reactor, reviving an old proposal.  It is keen on mining uranium in Myanmar and providing lightly enriched uranium for the reactor.  Russia is clearly keen on countering China ’s influence in Myanmar

India has to come to terms with the realities in Myanmar and deal with the government there pragmatically.  We may sympathise with the Burmese aspirations for democracy, but we should not transfer our concepts of governance and society to neighbouring countries.

 

Dr. Sayed Ali Mujtaba was introduced by Gen. Eipe as the author of two books on South Asia and as an award-winning journalist with friends among the Myanmar refugees of the Pro-Democracy Movement (refer “mizzima.com”).  The speaker covered the trade relations between India and Myanmar .  The main points are given below.

Introduction.

Myanmar is the gateway to India ’s ‘Look East’ policy.  India is going all out to strengthen its relationship with Myanmar . There is consequently an unprecedented upswing in our bilateral relations. India is engaged in several projects in Myanmar . The reconstruction of the Settwe port, the Kaladan multi-modal transport project and Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo road project are being completed. The India-Myanmar gas pipeline is another major project which awaits an opportune time for agreement.

 Recently India signed three important agreements with Myanmar : exploration of natural gas, satellite-based remote sensing and promotion of Buddhist studies in Myanmar . There are promising lines of cooperation in IT, automobile, textiles, and agro-based industries. 

Trade Relations, India is Myanmar 's 4th largest trading partner after Thailand , China and Singapore . The two governments had a target of $1 billion worth of trade in 2006-07 but the actuals are well below the mark at $ 650 million.  It stood at $ 341.40 million in 2004-05 and $ 557.68 million in '05-06. Indians are reluctant to invest in Myanmar , which partly explains the low level of trading. India 's exports to Myanmar amount to just $ 80 million.

  India is trying to extend airlines, land and sea routes to promote trade links with the Myanmar . It is also looking for collaboration in agriculture, telecommunications, and oil/ gas production. Our private sector is still shy of investing in Myanmar , which welcomes investment in pharmaceuticals, cement, steel, fertilisers, IT and food processing.

  India and Myanmar share 1,643 kilometers of common border along the Potkai Hills. Four Indian states; Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, share it with Myanmar . The bilateral border trade agreement of 1994 provides the framework.  There are three designated border points, one each in Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland: Manipur at Moreh, Mizoram at Zowkhathar and Nagaland at Lungwa in Mon district.  Another trading point at Pangsu Pass , Mizoram is under discussion.  The volume of border trade is low, valued at about $12 million p.a.  If there is an agreement between designated banks on both sides and if more items are included in the approved list for exports and barter, the volume and value of trade will increase.  Cross-border insurgency is also inhibiting trade.  At present only 22 items are listed in the free trade agreement between the two countries.  The impotable items include mustard seeds, pulses and beans, fresh vegetables, fruits and soyabeans. India can supply clothes, shoes, medicines, woollens and engineering goods. There is a strong plea to include items like mangos, bicycles and its parts, life-saving drugs, cosmetics, fertilisers, imitation jewellery, textiles and pan-masala in our export list.

 There is also demand for our government to open a trans-national bus service linking Moreh and Mandalay in Myanmar . This would not only help traders, but also bring in tourists from Myanmar to India . To arrest the current illegal trade, items of third country origin could be brought under the Indo-Myanmar Trade Agreement or under the clearance of goods of third country origin under the Luggage Rules of 1944.

 The problem of currency exchange rates which hampers trading. Recently the Myanmar Government has approved border trade with five neighboring countries including India to be conducted in Euros as well as the currencies of the countries concerned.

Pulses and Spices. India , a major producer of pulses, still depends on imports for 50 percent of its demand. It has entrusted National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) and two other agencies for the import of pulses. India also intends to cancel import duties on the pluses.  Myanmar sends 60 per cent of its total exports to India . Private traders dominate the Myanmar market, raising prices whenever they come to know of the Indian Government’s plans to import pulses.   This makes price negotiation difficult for India .

India and Myanmar are vying to dominate the world spice market, particularly in turmeric. There is stiff competition from Myanmar , where prices are less than half the ruling prices in the world market. However, turmeric prices have stabilised in India after a bumper crop.  This will enable India to regain its dominance in the world market for spices. 

Tea. Myanmar produces about 90 million kilograms of tea annually.  About 65 percent of the crop is grown in Shan state. There are three types of tea produced in Myanmar ; Green, Black and Pickled. Green-tea accounts for 52 percent of the production, Black-tea 31 percent and Pickled-tea 17 percent. Recently a Myanmar business delegation visited some tea gardens in Assam and sought Indian know-how to boost tea production in Myanmar and improve the quality.

 Gems. Myanmar is renowned for its gems: diamond, cat's eye, emerald, topaz, pearl, sapphire, coral and a variety of garnet tinged with yellow. The three famous gem lands areas are in Mogok ( Mandalay ), Mongshu (Shan) and Phakant (Kachin). Myanmar holds annual gem sale shows. The Indian Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) encourages Indian buyers to participate in these events. Gem smuggling is rampant on the India- Myanmar border. Since all traders cannot distinguish fake gems, smugglers tend to dupe them. Our Government is striving to stop the smuggling.  It has started a training programme in Mizoram for youths to assess the quality and the purity of gems and identify the fakes.

 Narcotics. India has to contend with narco-terrorism through the porous Myanmar border.  Drugs are smuggled into India and exchanged for arms and ammunition. Myanmar is the main source of the drug problem in Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland. Several agreements have been signed between India and Myanmar since 1993 to fight the evil jointly. Border fencing is advisable.  

 Indian Exibition, To boost bilateral trade, the Indo-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industries is organizing a small and medium-enterprises exhibition, “SME India 2007” at Yangon on November 25.

 The Confederation of Indian Industry held a "Made in India " industrial show in February 2004, where steel products, construction materials, medicine and medical equipment, cosmetics, garments, handicrafts, leather goods, farming equipment, electronic products and kitchen-ware were displayed. “SME India 2007” could yield business worth $ 25 million.  

 BIMST-EC. India and Myanmar are also part of BIMST-EC, a regional body comprising of Bangladesh , India , Myanmar , Sri Lanka , and Thailand for Economic Cooperation. A Free Trade Agreement among BIMST-EC nations is desirable. India has already concluded a free trade agreement with Sri Lanka in 1998 and with Thailand in 2004. It is yet to finalise similar agreements with Bangladesh and Myanmar . Currently the BIST-EC countries are discussing the list of items for “preferential rules of origin” facilities. The fear is that concessions under rules of origin may lead to third country imports flowing in on similar terms.

  India has approved the signing of a proposed agreement with Myanmar on double taxation and the prevention of tax evasion.  This will stimulate the flow of investment, technology and personnel.  It will also provide tax stability and facilitate economic cooperation. 

The government has approved the linking of United Bank of India (UBI) at Moreh in Manipur with the Myanmar Economic Bank at Tamu town.  This will provide letter of credit (LoC) facilities and under this system authorise legal conversion between the two currencies. The two banks will be connected by a hotline phone.  These measures will increase the bilateral border trade. There are also plans to allow Myanmar citizens to come in up to Moreh town. The Manipur government has sent a Rs. 200 crore project to the Union government to improve the infrastructure at Moreh and construct a modern check-post there.

 

Ambassador T.P. SreenivasanGen. Eipe introduced him as a seasoned diplomat, with experience of the UN in New York and Vienna , apart from postings in Washington and other capitals;  he is the founder of the Kerala International Centre, Tiruvanananthapuram, a commentator on international affairs in the press as well as TV channels.  A summary of the speaker’s address is given below:

The speaker had served in the Indian Embassy in Myanmar from 1983 to 86.  He offered his perceptions as something that could still be relevant.  India has always been aware of Myanmar ’s importance as a neighbour with a long land and maritime border and historical connections.  The warm relationship between the two countries was broken at the advent Gen. Ne Win’s rule, when many Indians were obliged to leave Myanmar as refugees.  India waited for a change in policy.  There was no political dialogue and no high level exchange of visits.  The Nonalignment link was severed in 1979 when Burma quit the movement. The country avoided contact with the major powers and neighbours too.  On the security front, where we wanted their cooperation to counter insurgency in the North-east states, Myanmar would not cooperate.  The only significant development was the demarcation of the maritime boundary with India .  Indian artistes and cultural visits were well received by the Myanmar people, but so were other cultural shows, few as they were.

Despite the frustratingly low level of exchanges, Myanmar was a good neighbour in the sense that there were no bilateral territorial or other disputes with India .  Ne Win maintained a cordial relationship with PM Indira Gandhi, and later with Rajiv Gandhi.  Later still, however, the Myanmar military rulers negated the results of the democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.  This posed a serious dilemma for India , whose sympathy for her and her democracy movement had to be counterpoised by the necessary policy of dealing with the government in power.  India found that any public display of sympathy for her would damage bilateral relations where they mattered to our interests.  Thus India began to cultivate better relations with the Myanmar junta in view of our strategic and economic interests. 

Two factors determining this line were the durability of the Ne Win legacy and the inroads of China into Myanmar affairs.  India concluded that the army would remain in power in Myanmar for a long time.  The Western campaign against the military rule and the efforts of ASEAN had not yielded any space for democracy.  A new constitution is being prepared to foist on the people.  It may allow some political participation, but will ensure the role of the military in governance.  Suu Kyi, whom the rulers suspect is a Western agent, will be excluded from possible leadership.  Her strategy of accepting house arrest rather than exile has not paid off.   India is considered in some ASEAN circles to have a role to play in the quest for an alternative form of governance for Myanmar . 

India has to factor in China ’s increasing influence in Myanmar .  It gives China a pincer from the east as well as the west (via Pakistan ) to constrict India and reach down to the Indian Ocean .  When the Myanmar rulers after Ne Win’s death faced isolation from the international community, they welcomed China ’s initiatives to modernise Myanmar ’s infrastructure, including a new railway line.  In Cocos islands , China has upgraded its radar and naval facilities.  Pakistan for its part also cultivates better ties with the Myanmar junta, supplying arms to fight traffic in narcotics. 

India ’s benign policy to Myanmar has resulted in high level visits being exchanged and agreements being concluded on defence, border control, trade, energy and communications, besides regular dialogue between the foreign offices. The record is much brighter than in the preceding years.  India has opened a consulate in Mandalay .  Regional cooperation through the ASEAN and BIMSTEC is a new area for advancing bilateral mutual interests.  The Mekong-Ganga project does not include China .  A gas pipeline from Myanmar to India through Bangladesh is still a possibility.  India has offered lines of credit to Myanmar , considering that there are twelve Indian projects with that country.  The ITEC programme is now available to Myanmar too.  More frequent exchanges of visits by defence service officers betoken military cooperation.  Important too are the two Indian companies prospecting for oil and natural gas in Myanmar . 

Trade is still at a low level.  Indian exports are steel products, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods, while Myanmar exports to India are mainly agricultural items.  The balance is heavily in favour of Myanmar .  Some exports from India reach Myanmar via Singapore .  Banks have problems on account of economic sanctions against Myanmar .  Border trade at two designated points does not add up to much.  Indian regulations against the use of the Rupee for border trading inhibit growth.  But there is much illegal trade across the border. 

India ’s response to the Myanmar challenges has been imaginative and ambitious.  There is a mutual need in both countries for cooperative relations.  India as a benign neighbour is an asset for Myanmar in the face of Western disapproval.  India has kept its options open in the unlikely event of a democratic government being installed in the near future.  Any such government will be friendly to India regardless of our present ties with the military regime.  Myanmar is aware that it is in its interest to diversify its ties, instead of relying exclusively on China .  It has turned to Russia for its nuclear development for this reason.  Myanmar has recently revived its diplomatic relations with the DPRK.  From India ’s viewpoint, it is better that Myanmar cooperates with Russia rather than China on the nuclear reactor.

India should continue the policy of dealing with the military regime, without losing the commitment to democracy.  We need not aim to check or match the influence of China in Myanmar , since its military will have a predisposition to receive Chinese support in all fields.  But India has a foothold there.  The Chinese do not appear to view it with concern.  The West also appears to accept the Indian policy as logical.  Some Americans are chagrined by the apprehension that the favourable policies towards Myanmar by Russia , China and India could cancel out the American displeasure expressed through Western sanctions against Myanmar .  India should however understand the limits of its influence in Myanmar for or against the military regime. 

Democracy in Myanmar is a long way off.  It is the younger generation of the military personnel who must lead reforms, perhaps by allowing a form of democratic government in which the army still plays a major role.  In 1988, reforms led to agitation for turbulent change, with insurgent groups waging their own struggles.  If there is contention between China and the West, India could perhaps help to bring about stability and peace.  India needs to prepare for such contingencies in close concert with ASEAN countries.

A study by the Institute of Conflict Management , New Delhi predicts that India ’s Look East policy will have far-reaching demographic implications for the whole region.  Along the Asian Highway there will develop city centres diffusing employment opportunities, economic growth and supply routes for our energy needs.  But on the negative side, we should guard against the spread of AIDS and drug addiction, the local people losing out and the rise of violent insurgency.  India therefore needs an innovative, imaginative and determined approach to the problems of the Northeast states, Bangladesh , Myanmar and beyond. 

It is regrettable that, despite its acknowledged importance for us, Myanmar is so little studied by our diplomats, businessmen, journalists and scholars.  Our universities have no specialised department devoted to Myanmar ’s history, languages and cultures. This must be rectified.

The Myanmar people have endured arbitrary and repressive rule for many years with fortitude and patience.  They rose in agitation for democratic rule, but when the military re-imposed its rule, they had to be resigned to it.  Apart from our strategic and economic interests, we owe it to the people of Myanmar to build up a relationship with that country which would be truly beneficial to them. 

Discussion

The audience participated eagerly in this session.  One member criticised Indian policy towards the Myanmar junta for its callous disregard of the democracy movement, which should have claimed greater Indian concern and pressure on the Myanmar rulers.   Ambassador Sreenivasan explained the security compulsions which India had to weigh against the sympathy we do feel for Aung San Suu Kyi.  He also dwelt on the limits of any pressure that India could effectively exert on the Myanmar military leadership.  Bilateral relations had considerably improved since India switched to the pragmatic approach of dealing with the government in Yangon .  India cannot minimise the advantage that China was gaining in the strategic neighbourhood.  India needs the support of the generals for its counter-insurgency measures in the Northeast.  The ULFA has bases on the Myanmar side.  We need to eliminate them.  Intelligence on these rebel attackers has to be obtained and shared.  Besides, drug smuggling has become a serious problem which we cannot solve without Myanmar ’s effective support.  When Suu Kyi was given the Nehru award, the angered Myanmar leaders released many militants from detention, to our dismay.  On top of these factors, is Pakistan ’s effort to gain ground in Myanmar against Indian interests.   Some Myanmar leaders will be pro-China, and facilitate Chinese projects in Myanmar , including naval bases.  We cannot counter this without stronger bilateral relations and the help of the Myanmar junta.  The Chairman, Sri A.P. Venkateswaran interposed to point out that India ’s non-alignment policy precluded interference in the internal affairs of other countries.  India cannot make official statements critical of Myanmar ’s internal policies, though it could be sympathetic to democracy.  Many NAM countries are in effect autocratic in governance, and yet we have to deal with them.  To a question, why China is preferred by the Myanmar government, Sri Sreenivasan replied that China had dealt with the generals for a longer period than India , and that China as a permanent member of the UNSC, has the Veto power which Myanmar regards as valuable. Further, China is able to offer more economic and technical benefits to Myanmar than India . 

 Ambassador Eric Gonsalves pointed out that civil society in Myanmar lacked a firm basis for democratic government and institutions.  Even Thailand and Bangladesh experienced military rule. India ’s national interests, regional and global, have to be kept in the forefront.  In Myanmar , the military had always been part of the governing system from Gen. Aung San’s freedom movement onward.  In the absence of a strong middle-class, the military furnished the governing class and has become all pervasive.  In the rural sector, Myanmar is better off than India .   The speaker opined that that Indians should pay more attention to the dissensions and groupism within the Myanmar armed forces. 

With globalisation, there is more interdependence among countries.  South Asia and South-east Asia have to explore complementary advantages in various fields, including the military, the economic and satellite technology.  The Kunming Initiative seeks to bring about close networking among four countries, Bangladesh , China , India and Myanmar (BCIM).  We need to develop adequate infrastructure for greater cooperation.  The Yunnan region in China has registered notable advance, ahead of India .  India has to engage with Myanmar and its rulers at various levels, as governments, while allowing our civil society to show sympathy to Suu Kyi and the democracy movement.  We have to cut bureaucratic barriers to freer interchange and think innovatively. 

Regarding India ’s border problem with China and the Sino-Myanmar border being settled in 1960 with the Macmohan Linevirtually acknowledged in that sector up to the trijunction, the speaker said that Premier Zhou Enlailai had offered India a package, which India had not taken up. 

 Ambassador C.V. Ranganathan spoke next and pointed out that Myanmar had to be treated as a sovereign country which could determine its own government without outside intervention.  On the Sino-Indian border war, he recalled that Myanmar ( Burma ) had played a positive role favourable to the Indian position in the 1963 Colombo proposals. 

He referred to the Look East policy which India had taken up and the BCIM Kunming Initiative.  He had taken part in the subsequent consultations.

He said that it is important to give the North-east states of India a sense of opening up.  China had taken great strides in developing its relatively underdeveloped western regions and improving communications.  The connectivity of railways and waterways would also benefit the whole BMIC region and reduce people’s feeling of isolation.  India could try to leverage infrastructure projects in Myanmar as China is doing. 

Regarding Myanmar China relations, he said that nationalism would prevent any swamping of Myanmar by the Chinese.  During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s, Myanmar had slaughtered several Chinese residents, he recalled. 

He concurred with the view that India ’s engagement with Myanmar should go ahead, while civil society could strive for Suu Kyi’s liberation and political life.

 Dr Mujtaba elaborated on trade issues in reply to a question.  There are good opportunities for Indian firms to meet the growing needs of the Myanmar people.  India should make effort to expand information and awareness concerning Myanmar and trade possibilities.  China had stepped in to fill the market when international sanctions were blocking imports from other countries. 

 In reply to a question, Ambassador Sreenivasan clarified that he was only reporting the view in some Myanmar quarters that Suu Kyi would be well advised to go into exile and fight for her cause from abroad, if she wished. It was not his own view of the matter. 

An employee of Tatas said that in bidding for a power station in Myanmar , the Chinese offered credit terms with a liberal 20-25 year period, which India could not match.  They have the edge over India in such contracts.

The possibility of giving ITEC aid to Myanmar in the gem and jewel craft was mentioned. 

A questioner raised the issue of China ’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh, which was recently reiterated.  The Chairman recalled that Deng Xiouping had offered a package plan which in essence was for a settlement of the border with an exchage of claims over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh.  India was unable to take it up. 

 

Conclusion

CONCLUSIONS

 

Inevitably the discussion of India-Myanmar relations must weigh the merits of doing business with the military regime there against pressing that regime to restore democracy and allowing Aung San Suu Kyi to participate as a party leader in the elections.  India has a standing and prestige as a pluralistic democracy and upholder of human rights, despite the security challenges it faces from foreign-inspired insurgency.  It goes against the grain for India to acquiesce in the continued detention of Suu Kyi, while conducting relations with the regime which unjustly represses democracy in the name of the people.  But no state can give priority to the expression of solidarity with political leaders in another country if such a policy seriously conflicts with national interests in strategic and security matters.  The seminar amply revealed that political realism required India to deal with the Myanmar government, unmindful of its military composition.  At the same time, India need not be inhibited in persuading the Myanmar rulers to conform to the international standards we support, in private discussions at top levels and through respected Indian figures and associations from civil society unconnected with our government.  The impression that India is on the side of the Myanmar rulers in their repressive domestic policy needs to be corrected. 

The reasons which must weigh more in Indian policy are plain.  First, the insurgencies in our North-east states have to be combated in concert with the Myanmar forces and intelligence.  We must provide all possible means within our capacity to Myanmar to enable more effective action in support of our operations, for example, by eliminating safe havens on the Myanmar side of the border which the rebels resort to in their campaigns of random violence.  Secondly, China’s political and economic penetration of Myanmar deepens the latter’s dependency to the strategic disadvantage of India, and this must be offset by a more energetic policy of engagement with Myanmar at all levels, governmental, business, cultural.  India may not be able to rival China in cultivating Myanmar , but we can use our geographical and cultural closeness to better effect, if and only if, we do not hesitate to deal with the Myanmar ’s military rulers and their minions.  Even the Western countries and their allies are divided in their policy towards Myanmar .  Japan and South Korea pursue their economic and trade interests quietly, despite the US call for sanctions.  Even the Americans have contacts with Myanmar representatives outside the glare of publicity.  ASEAN, the most closely concerned regional body, is itself ambivalent about pushing for democracy in Myanmar , and no wonder, with Thai and Indonesian experience available all round. 

On the economic side, while some progress has been evident in recent years, our bilateral relations could do with a more purposeful and vigorous drive to use investment opportunities in Myanmar and to promote trade, including improved facilities for border trade.  The current Indian policies are on the right lines, but they could be further energised.  This neighbour country, which is undoubtedly of strategic importance to India , should be studied in our universities and institutions in greater depth, with greater interest and concern than it is now.  The Ministry of External Affairs is perhaps the best branch of government to outline and organise a scheme for the promotion of Myanmar-related studies. 

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