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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 
ASEAN policy.