abandoned Aung Sun Suu kyi, Indians have not
Monday March 21, 2011 08:42:29 AM,
Syed Ali Mujtaba
India has abandoned the Aung Sun Suu
kyi, the democratic icon of Myanmar is the startling revelation that
WikiLeaks has made with regards to Myanmar, courtesy, “The Hindu”.
According the expose, India’s Ministry of External Affairs Joint
Secretary Mitra Vasishtha told Political Counselor Geoffrey Pyatt on
November 2, 2004 (22299: confidential) describing the Nobel
laureate, Aung Sun Suu kyi as someone whose “day has come and gone.”
The WikiLeaks reveals that India has no problem dumping old friend
Aung San Suu Kyi to romance Myanmar's generals. Its clear that
democratic leader of Myanmar particularly Auug Sun Suu kyi do not
aspire those in the mandarins of power in New Delhi.
The Indian foreign office seems to disagree with the Indian
consensus on the pro democracy leader in Myanmar once diligently
nurtured as Nelson Mandela of Myanmar.
According to Ms Vasishtha, the world had made democracy in Myanmar
synonymous with Ms. Suu Kyi, but this may “backfire,” meaning the
pro democracy leader has lost relevance to India.
The author of the cable, Embassy Chief of Mission Carmen Martinez,
commented that India's “pragmatic” approach was “a severe blow to
the leaders of Burma's beleaguered democratic opposition, most of
whom draw their inspiration from India's historic struggle for
independence and democracy.”
It’s indeed a sad commentary as the world looks upon India as bacon
of democracy. It appears, on the alter of ‘pragmatism’, ’democracy
is bei8ng sacrificed when it comes to dealing with Myanmar.
One needs to ask those making policies on behalf of India, whether
the common Indians will abandon the democratic icon of Myanmar Auug
Sun Suu kyi. Can a referendum be held on this count and if that
happens its a foregone conclusion that such uncouth rulers will be
unseated by the ordinary folks of this country.
The other revelation that WikiLeaks makes is India’s refusal to deny
that it not supplying arms to the military junta in Myanmar. In a
cable sent on November 7, 2007 (129067: confidential). American
Political Counselor Osius suggested Joint Secretary T.S. Tirumurti,
to make a public declaration of New Delhi’s policy of s ban on arms
sales to Myanmar, he offered no response.” The joint Secretary
however acknowledged that a Myanmar request for military equipment
had been turned down by India.
This again is something puzzling. Indian Army Vice-Chief Lt. Gen. S.
Pattabhiraman in a interview to the Force magazine stated that in
the past India had supplied 75/24 Howitzers to Burma though the
numbers were not “much” they were neither “symbolic”. He also
disclosed that 105-mm Indian field guns were given to Myanmar.
The Indian Navy, transferred two BN-2 ‘Defender’ Islander maritime
surveillance aircraft and deck-based air-defence guns and varied
surveillance equipment to Myanmar.
According to sources, as part of the agreement reached at the Home
Secretary level talks, India supplied 98 truckloads of arms and
ammunition to Myanmar. India also offered unspecified number of T-55
tanks that the Indian army is retiring, armored personal carriers,
105-mm light artillery guns, mortars and the locally designed
advanced light helicopters to Myanmar.
All this was part of the deal struck with the military junta to
cooperate in flushing out militant groups operating from its soil in
the northeast region of India. It’s also to neutralize Myanmar’s
dependence on Chinese arms.
One has to recall the story of “operation leach” in Adman islands
that revealed that India was officially supplying arms to the pro
democratic forces in Myanmar to carry out the struggle for freedom.
Then India made a 360 degree turn around and arrested the same
people whom it supplied arms slapping charges on them of treason,
The issue snowballed into a major controversy and the rift between
then Naval Chief Visnu Bhagwat and then defense minister George
Fernandez came in open leading to the sacking of the Naval Chief by
the Defense Minister.
What an irony, India’s policy of supplying arms to the pro
democratic forces in Myanmar is changed to provide arms to the
junta; apparently to flush out the insurgents operating in
north-eastern India but in actual fact is being used to crush the
ethnic groups and democratic forces raising standard of revolt.
Mohan Kumar, MEA Joint Secretary dealing with Myanmar, is reported
in a cable sent on February 20, 2007 (97303: confidential) saying to
the American diplomat that engagement with the Myanmar junta was an
imperative for India for several reasons.
First India’s 'Look East Policy' to reach out to the ASEAN. Second
coordinated effort with Myanmar is required to develop India’s
northeast region and to tackle insurgency there, third is the
strategic necessity to contain Chinese influence over Myanmar.
In India's look east policy, the trilateral highway between India,
Myanmar and Thailand plays a major role to reach the South East
Asian countries. So is the Trans Asian railway that is to connect
New Delhi with Hanoi.
A deep economic relationship with Myanmar in India's view would give
a tremendous boost to the development of its northeast region. The
planned infrastructure development of road, rail and waterways are
all steps in this direction. This includes, Kaladan multi-modal
transport project in the Rakhine State and road project to improve
access to a border-trade crossing opened in January 2004 IN Chin
According to Mohan Kumar, MEA Joint Secretary, “Bangladesh's
stubbornness in allowing access to transit routes for trade leaves
India with Burma as the only alternative to connect the northeast to
The MEA joint secretary says insurgency in the northeast region is
another reason to engage Mayanmar. “The ULFA guys are hiding in
Burma and screwing the hell out of us and Burma is the only one
helping us to tackle the northeastern insurgency.”
“India is also trying to deal with the insurgency by creating
economic opportunities in the northeastern region, and Myanmar was
crucial for this, the economic incentive may lure the ULFA to lay
India sees China's involvement in Myanmar having geo- strategic
implications for the region and may like to engage Myanmar through
greater economic strategic cooperation, so the Chinese do not have a
Reflecting the India’s worries about China, Ms. Vasishtha said “what
you hear about the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Burma
is only the tip of the iceberg. The U.S. intelligence must surely
know this. China took Myanmar for granted and this was why Myanmar
wanted to engage with India, she said.
Ms. Vasishtha confirmed Indian grant of $20 million to the junta for
the development of energy and gas infrastructure, however, she
offered no conclusive answer why Myanmar sold it gas to China.
Indian- Myanmar relationship faces the pangs of proximity. The
Indian government faces the moral dilemma whether to listen to the
call of the conscience that demands to side with the democratic
forces, or adhere to the rules of real politics and align with the
military rulers in Myanmar.
Indian government was believed to have resolved this moral dilemma
by following the middle path, giving moral support to the democratic
forces, at the same time engaging the Military junta for geo
The WikiLeaks expose however has revealed that idealism has no place
in the modern state craft of India. The sentiments and emotions that
bind India and Myanmar relations are of little consideration in the
current policy framework that tantamount to sidelining Aug Sun Suu
What is apparent is there is a total disconnect between India and
the Indians in dealing with Myanmar. Can a government makes policies
opposed to the wishes of its people. Can India afford to abandon Aug
Sun Suu Kyi annoying millions of Indians who admire her as an icon
If the answer is no, then it’s high time that such policy is changed
immediately or the current dispensation making such policy may pack
off its bags.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a
journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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