Myanmar and India’s Expressway to ASEAN

Myanmar and India’s Expressway to ASEAN

Kamal Baruah
Guwahati

The first Global Investors Summit in Guwahati will be held in February. Assam has geostrategic advantage and now she is considered India’s expressway to ASEAN. The summit will explore vibrant business investment opportunities in Assam. It can focus various sectors from pharmaceuticals to petrochemicals, IT, Tourism, Power, Agriculture & food processing, inland water and handloom, textile & handicrafts. Already a team of Delegation have been sent to Vietnam, Cambodia, Toronto and various Road shows are organised in Seoul, Tokyo, Mumbai, Hyderabad, New York. Business houses are contacted for potential investment. Even the govt consider inclusion of Knowledge partner like foreign Universities to collaborate our institution.

 

Myanmar is a key pillar of India’s Act east policy. Both the countries have shared history of colonisation by the British. Ahom are the descendants of the ethnic Tai people of Burma that ruled for six centuries. Myanmar also attached from the time of Buddha. It was said that the Chinese were exploiting Myanmar’s own resources. Myanmar has finally realised after New Delhi kept distance from China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative, which hampered India’s sovereignty from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. OBOR is now renamed as ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI). India just cannot accept that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity. Asia’s third largest economy India has one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean. Delhi is already upset over China’s refusal to allow it entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and refusing to block UN sanction on Masood Azhar, the Pakistan-based head of terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed. India is ready for intervening Chinese strategic inroads by expanding defence cooperation with ASEAN countries. India has already started dealing of military arms and equipments to Myanmar. Indian army speeds up cooperation with Myanmar Army for patrolling of porous long border. Also Indian Navy warships undertake bilateral maritime boundary.

 

Myanmar is India’s strategic neighbours that share a 1,640-km-long border of India’s north eastern states. It has significance from various angles as the only member states of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with which have a common border. New Delhi’s backing the military junta clouded the relation between the two neighbours. Now Myanmar looks to India for bilateral defence and security cooperation. They now review check in balance on strategic dependence only on China. New Delhi is closely watching this opportunity which was dominated by China and Pakistan. The landslide victory by Aung San Suu Kyi has led the formation of government and provided opportunities to strengthen the engagement building on India’s efforts.

 

When Indian and Chinese troops were continued stand-off near Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction, India rolled out the red carpet for Myanmar military chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, who was visiting India in last July. India has been concerned for long from the cross border activities of North-East insurgent groups that taking shelter in Myanmar. India also worried about China’s aggressive sway over Myanmar’s peace process. On the other hand they kept providing shelter, aid and weapons to NSCN-K, who is fighting for independence of Nagaland for decades from Sagaing region of North West Myanmar. The attack on pilgrimage of Amarnath yatra at Anantnag was a cowardly act supported by another unfriendly neighbour. Whirlpool violence in unrest Kashmir is caused by propaganda, falsification of non state terror. The increased incidence of drug abuse and unemployment in the valley are committed by radical Islamic terrorist. Despite all a closer relationship between Burma and India is not in China’s interest.

 

PM Modi took up India’s foreign policy on Myanmar from where his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh had left. Myanmar is rich in energy and natural resources. India is yet to exploit its geographical proximity with Myanmar to the fullest. The annual trade between the two countries is minimal. And Russia provides training to Myanmar Army Officers. In June 2015, Indian army carried out operation near Indo-Myanmar border against NSCN (K). Is ULFA (I) in real trouble after NIA charge sheeted them recently? India is eyeing against counter insurgency operation and sharing intelligence on Islamic insurgents in Bangladesh- Myanmar border.

 

OBOR initiative is expected to cement China’s dominance over Asia in coming decades. To counteract, India is trying to develop railway connectivity with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal. BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar) Economic Corridor has just revived for consultation and academics. India now finds a new trade route to Afghanistan that bypasses Pakistan. The strategic sea route via Iranian port of Chabahar is a significant step in bolstering trade with Kabul that has been hampered. It is India’s answer to the Gwadar port in Pakistan being developed by China.

 

It is high time that the two countries shed their past in a fresh ambience and strive for a better future. New Delhi needs to get closer to Nay Pi Taw to plug the loopholes as it has done successfully with Bhutan and Bangladesh. Myanmar is not just a little corridor for trade but a gateway to the South East Asian countries in the future. Is that India’s answer to China’s OBOR?