Published : Friday, 22 September, 2017 11:17 AM
How Myanmar Impacts us?
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Read Current Affairs Topic: How Myanmar Impacts us?
Myanmar, formerly Burma, is the only Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) members sharing border with India. Thus Myanmar can become instrumental in becoming a land bridge between India and ASEAN. However, the Indo-Myanmar relations were not fully exploited during the post-independence era and both the nations remained somewhat secluded from each other.
Before 1937, Myanmar (then known as Burma) was the province of British India and there was hassle free movement of people and goods between the Myanmar and rest of India. However, during the freedom movement in India, one of the demand of Indian National Congress (INC) was separation of Burma from India.
The 1930s saw the rise of Burmese nationalism in Myanmar and riots erupted in Rangoon targeted against Indians because most of the jobs in Myanmar including clerical and labour works, were taken up by ethnic Indians. Since 1948, when Myanmar gained independence, majority of Indian diaspora in Myanmar is living as a stateless people because very stringent provisions were introduced for Indian migrants to get citizenship.
India and Myanmar signed a Treaty of Friendship in 1951 but the foundations of strong relationships were laid after the visit of Indian Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi in 1987.
The all-powerful military in Myanmar introduced civilian government in 2011 and the hermit state was gradually opened to the world. Warm relations with Myanmar is an asset for both India and China and it that case, China has made a lot of progress and India requires some serious efforts to catch up with China.
The latest visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 5-6, 2017, was to give a boost to the Indo-Myanmar relations.
Significance Of Myanmar For India
Apart from becoming a land link between India and ASEAN, Myanmar can also play a crucial role in the development of north-eastern states in India. The Sittwe port in Rakhine state of Myanmar is developed by India. It can provide the states in northeast India a direct link to the sea which will be much shorter than the Haldia port in Kolkata.
Myanmar is also a resource rich country and close cooperation between both the nations will help in growth and development of both the nations.
Many insurgent groups active in north-eastern states often cross into Myanmar after committing violence on the Indian side. Security cooperation with Myanmar will help in curbing the insurgency in north-eastern states.
PM’s Myanmar Visit
As a part of Act East policy, Indian PM Narendra Modi paid his first bilateral visit to Myanmar on September 5-6, 2017 and signed eleven MoUs on maritime security cooperation, cultural exchange programme, medical products regulation, health and medicine, coastal surveillance system, election among others.
Modi’s visit to Myanmar is more significant for Myanmar as it came at the time when Myanmar is facing international pressure over Rohingya situation and desperately needs some international or diplomatic support for which the fig leaf is already provided by China.
The United Nations and many other countries have condemned the military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Maldives went to another extreme and ceased all trade ties with Myanmar over the Rohingya violence.
Rohingyas Muslims are the ethnic minorities in Myanmar living in Rakhine state who are not given citizenship. Several clashes between Buddhists and Muslims have been reported from Rakhine in the past. More than 370,000 Rohingya have reportedly fled to neighbouring Bangladesh due to the violent military crackdown. It started after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an armed rebel group of several hundred fighters, launched attacks on more than 25 military and border police posts, reportedly killing a dozen Burmese security personnel.
While the UN has warned that the military offensive could amount to ethnic cleansing, Myanmar says it is responding to deadly attacks by militants and denies it is targeting civilians.
As a part of its String of Pearl policy, China is making inroads into Myanmar and to deepen its ties with the latter, it has openly supported Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis. India already needs to catch up with China in Myanmar and therefore, it cannot offend Myanmar because doing so will bring China and Myanmar closer.
However, India cannot remain mute spectator because of four reasons:
- First, because Rohingya refugees have now started reaching India and currently, around 50,000 Rohingyas have found refuge in the country.
- Pakistan-based terror groups like LeT, Al Qaeda and even ISIS are exploiting the displaced Rohingyas for terror activities.
- Secondly, Bangladesh is also grappling with the crisis due to the huge influx of refugees and it wants India to play active role on this issue.
- Thirdly, Indian values do not allow to ignore the issue.
Therefore, India had to follow a very balanced approach to help in resolving the issue. For that matter, India condemned the terror attack by ARSA on Myanmar security forces and also run daily flights with relief material for the Bangladesh government to deal with Rohingya refugees.
While the Indian government is planning to deport the Rohingya refugees, Supreme Court is hearing a petition challenging the proposed deportation. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj also told Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina that India will oppose Myanmar's acts of pushing Rohingyas into Bangladesh or other countries. Thus India is adopting a multi-dimensional approach to deal with the issue.
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