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  Jun 20, 2020


Brief history of India- Myanmar relation

India and Myanmar has relation from pre independence times. (Role of national freedom fighter). But post-independence, relationship officially got underway after the Treaty of Friendship that was signed in 1951. Relations got strained because of Military rule in getting established in Myanmar for long. Myanmar was diplomatically isolated except by china that maintained its relationship. It was the “Look east policy” by Former Prime Minister P. V Narshimha Rao that gave a flip to the relationship.

Importance of Myanmar for India.

Myanmar's importance lies in its geostrategic position and being a close neighbor of India. In general, Myanmar is important for India as

  • Myanmar is India’s gateway to South-East Asia.
  • To control insurgents group (NSCN(K)) and drugs and arms traffickers along the border.
  • From security perspective, the influx of Rohingya from Myanmar’s Rakhine state needs to be controlled.
  • Some of the Indian companies such as Essar, GAIL, and ONGC Videsh Ltd. have invested in Myanmar’s energy sector.
  • India is building the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport, a road-river-port cargo transport project, to link Kolkata to Sittwe in Myanmar and then from Myanmar’s Kaladan river to India’s north-east.
  • India, Myanmar, and Thailand are building the Asian Trilateral Highway, which will connect India to ASEAN.
  • Both the countries are cooperating in multilateral forum such as ASEAN, BIMSTEC etc.

China’s role in Myanmar

China is a country that believes in “Hide your strength and bid your time”. China has from 1990 to 2010(During military rule in Myanmar), taking full advantage of the international isolation of Myanmar and its interethnic conflicts emerged as the most important influencer in the country. For a fast-growing China that’s needs resources and raw material along with markets, its influence translated into exploitation of Myanmar’s virtually untapped resources. These included minerals, timber and agricultural products. China was also the main supplier of weapons to the military. 

China is today a country that wants to change the world order (its time has arrived). To occupy role of global leader china needs to displace regional power such as India and gain a strategic place for itself in regions such as Indian Ocean or in broader term Indo-pacific. China is changing geo-economic of the region by implementing BRI(Belt and road initiative)across Eurasia. Through Myanmar one its branch will pass. China has long wanted to end its “Malacca Dilemma” (fear of getting choke through Malacca strait) and Myanmar geography provides the way out.

China has also supported Myanmar over its stand on Rohingya crises. China has vetoed resolution demanding action on Myanmar by international community. Also Myanmar is right now facing trails in International court of justice.

In one of the recent visit China-Myanmar Economic Corridor(CMEC)was concluded. The CMEC allows China access to the Indian Ocean (port of kyaukpyu) and to shorten the route for its oil and gas imports from the Persian Gulf and connects China’s relatively less developed southern regions to the world market.

How China’s role can affect India’s role?

1) Through the construction of the Kyaukpyu port, China will be making its presence felt on India’s eastern flank. It is a matter of major concern given that India is already wary of China’s presence at Gwadar in Pakistan (in the west) and Hambantota in Sri Lanka (in the south). Kyaukpyu could end up being a “dual use" facility (military as well as commercial uses). 

2) China’s increased presence in Myanmar could mean constraints on India that wishes to deepen cooperation with Myanmar. Though New Delhi has taken steps in recent years to sign peace agreements with several groups in the region, the situation still needs careful attention

3) Formation of Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia unity in ASEAN that will affect the capacity to take any action against china. 

4) But the most important fear is that India is slowly losing its grip over its neighbor as seen earlier in Nepal, Bangladesh etc. It could challenge our “

Neighborhood first policy

” and India role as “

Net security provider” in the 

Indian Ocean.