likes a dictator Obama loves to hate
Tuesday November 09, 2010 04:30:04 PM,
M.R. Narayan Swamy, IANS
US President Barack
Obama's impassioned appeal to India to speak out against the
military junta in Myanmar is unlikely to impact New Delhi's
policy. Myanmar is one of the few spots where India does not see
eye to eye with the US - for good reasons.
The US and sections of the West - who end up getting labelled the
'international community' - view Myanmar's entrenched military
junta as usurpers who need to be toppled to make way for Aung San
Suu Kyi, the Delhi-educated pro-democracy leader who has been
under arrest for years.
This makes sense - from a democratic point of view. It is not that
it is India's desire that Suu Kyi should rot in prison. But
isolating the junta is only pushing it deeper into China's arms.
And this New Delhi does not like.
The US is located far away from Myanmar. India is not. Myanmar
shares a 1,642-km winding and porous border with four northeastern
states of India - Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and
Manipur. Of these, three have had insurgency movements or still
suffer from it. Similar ethnic groups inhabit both sides of the
India-Myanmar border, making the border areas vulnerable to
The reality is that Myanmar (earlier Burma) is the only country in
India's immediate neighbourhood which has not played the China
card against New Delhi despite Beijing's growing shadow. And
although it had opportunities, Myanmar did not promote insurgency
directed at India. India cannot - and will not - ignore this.
It is not that India always supported the military rulers. In
1989-90, it was actively backing the pro-democracy movement. That
is when it dawned on Indian policy makers that China had begun
making inroads into Myanmar, thanks to the West's refusal to
engage with the regime.
Yes, India understands there are human rights concerns in Myanmar.
But unlike the West, India does not believe in megaphone
diplomacy. Indian leaders take up with the Myanmar junta issues of
democracy and Suu Kyi when they can. But this is not done to score
The issues figured in discussions when Senior General Than Shwe,
head of the military junta, visited India for five days in July
this year. Indian leaders have also clarified this to friendly
governments in the Far East, who understand far better than the
West the reality in Myanmar.
Decades of sanctions against Cuba did not topple Fidel Castro.
Economic sanctions against Myanmar are unlikely to succeed either.
And India is aware that Washington will never advocate sanctions
against Pakistan though Islamabad has promoted and promotes the
worst of terrorist groups.
Indeed, the West is committing a blunder by trying to isolate the
junta. This has left the field wide open for China to cement its
influence in Myanmar. India is thus the largest country in the
democratic world actively engaged with Myanmar, quietly trying to
shape events knowing well that the junta is deeply entrenched.
At the same time, India plays host to a large pro-democracy
population from Myanmar. Economically, it makes sense for India to
use Myanmar to connect its economically-backward northeast with
Southeast Asia for trade and commerce. With Dhaka dilly-dallying
on transit facilities, Myanmar is India's best bet.
India does not believe that Myanmar is engaged in nuclear
proliferation. There is no clear evidence of this. In any case,
while calling on India to shun Myanmar, Western companies do
billions of dollars of business with the junta over its oil.
Strangely, neither New Delhi nor Beijing buys a drop of oil from
In any case, India doesn't take the high moral ground on political
governance. It sees no reason to topple the military junta. Any
instability in Myanmar that spins out of control will cause huge
problems for India's fragile northeast. India cannot afford this.
Narayan Swamy can be reached on email@example.com)
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