- The recent visit of India’s Foreign Secretary and Chief of the Army Staff to Myanmar reflected India’s multidimensional interests in the country and the deepening of ties between Delhi and Naypyidaw.
Significance of the visit
- The visit underscored two lines of thinking that drive India’s Myanmar policy:
- Engagement with key political actors and balancing neighbours.
- For Myanmar, the visit would be viewed as India’s support for its efforts in strengthening democratisation.
Non-interference in internal politics
- The political logic that has shaped India’s Myanmar policy since the 1990s has been to support democratisation driven from within the country.
- This has allowed Delhi to engage with the military that played a key role in Myanmar’s political transition and is still an important political actor.
- It has also enabled Delhi to work with the party in power.
- India is cognisant of the geopolitical dimension of Myanmar’s democratisation that it would create challenges for Naypyidaw and limit its ties with the West.
- India and a few Asian countries have engaged Myanmar keeping in mind the need to reintegrate it with the region and world.
- By engaging Myanmar, Delhi provides alternative options to Naypyidaw.
- This driver in India’s Myanmar policy has perhaps gained greater salience in the rapidly changing regional geopolitics.
Delhi is taking steps to leverage its political, diplomatic, and security ties with Myanmar.
- The inauguration of the liaison office of the Embassy of India in Naypyidaw.
- Though it may seem a routine diplomatic activity, establishing a permanent presence in the capital where only a few countries have set up such offices does matter.
- Interestingly, China was the first country to establish a liaison office in Naypyidaw in 2017.
- India has also proposed to build a petroleum refinery in Myanmar that would involve an investment of $6 billion.
- This is another indication of Myanmar’s growing significance in India’s strategic calculus, particularly in energy security.
Development of border areas
- The joint visit reiterated the mutual commitment not to allow respective territories to be used for activities hostile to each other.
- Both Delhi and Naypyidaw have been collaborating in the development of border areas with the understanding that it is the best guarantee to secure their borders.
- The balancing act between Bangladesh and Myanmar remains one of the keys to India’s overall approach to the Rohingya issue.
- By positioning as playing an active role in facilitating the return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, India has made it clear that it supports Myanmar’s efforts and also understands Bangladesh’s burden.
- For India, Myanmar is key in linking South Asia to Southeast Asia and the eastern periphery becomes the focal point for New Delhi’s regional outreach.
- The aforementioned initiatives could be the beginning of change on the ground by establishing India’s presence in sectors where it ought to be more pronounced.