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Call for proactive policy on Myanma
Subject: Call for proactive policy on Myanmar
The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April 2, 1997
"Call for proactive policy on Myanmar"
By Apratim Mukarji
New Delhi should adopt a proactive policy towards Myanmar instead of the
reactive policy it has been pursuing in view of rapid developments taking
place concerning that country.
A recent seminar entitled "Recent Developments in Burma: Implications for
India's Security" held at the Jawaharlal Nehru University heard
participants argue that Myanmar which served as a bridge between South
and South East Asia was too important strategically for India to ignore
and be indifferent to.
The call for a proactive Indian policy came in the midst of several
developments concerning Myanmar. A United Nations investigative report
has proved to be severely critical of the allegedly repressive rule of
the military junta. While Washington is said to be examining the question
of slapping hard economic sanctions against the country in view of the
adverse UN report, the growing prospects of the Association of South East
Asian Nations (ASEAN) soon admitting Myanmar have coincided with more
repressive measures against the democracy movement and an all-out
offensive against the Karen minority community on the Myanmar-Thai border.
Seminarists who were critical of New Delhi's approach to the situation in
Myanmar felt it was based on a wrong premise that the State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC) ruling the country had provided a stable
The premise was wrong because the government was an "outlawed" one as it
had usurped power by not allowing the Parliament elected in 1990 to form
popular Government. The participants argued that if the military regime
was stable it would not have sought to nullify the popular verdict.
Similarly, the view that the junta had been able to usher in economic
development was fallacious. Economic activity was taking place only in
sectors where the benefits were accruing directly to the junta and its
business cronies. The serious imbalances in the economy were perhaps
worst reflected in huge forced labour, subjected possibly to a more
ruthless working environment than anywhere else, showing that the economy
had not really taken off.
In such a situation an uprising could occur at any moment catching New
Delhi in an awkward position, these participants felt. The policy of
aligning India with the military junta was shortsighted, they felt.
A second view that emerged at the seminar however felt that the military
regime was going to continue in power despite international pressure.
India, according to these participants, should now attend to the matter
of emerging as a countervailing force against the growing influence of
China in Myanmar.
China had fully exploited the isolation of Myanmar in the international
community by proving to be a friend, a development that India could no
longer ignore as it was happening at its door-step.
China was slated to consolidate its position further in Myanmar and, as
these participants felt, India should lose no further time in engaging in
a "constructive engagement" with the regime in coordination with the