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Mizzima: India prefers to be silent

India prefers to be silent on democracy while dealing with Burmese

New Delhi, November 14, 2000
Editorial, Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

Second-top Burmese military leader General Maung Aye, who is the
Vice-President of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)
and chief of armed forces, is on an official visit to India from
November 14 onwards. This is his second visit to India in this year. The
first visit was in January to Shillong at the invitation of former
Indian army chief General V.P. Malik.

Policy analysts in India maintain that India continues to support for
the aspirations of Burmese people for democracy, despite official policy
of Indian government for a closer relationship with the military regime
in Burma.

?The government of India has been a host to various refugee groups from
Myanmar (Burma) and members of the democracy movement. That has not been
changed over the years. This itself shows India?s stand,? said Sanjoy
Hazarika, a senior fellow of the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research

He said that the people of India at large are with the Burmese people?s
struggle for democracy. ?The civil society in India is completely at one
on Myanmar issue?That the regime in Myanmar is seen as very brutal and
totally opposed to democratic practices and democratic rights,?
continued Sanjoy Hazarika.

India was the first neighboring country, which criticized the Burmese
regime during and after the 1988 people?s uprising. For some years,
India practiced the policy of ?complete disengagement? with the military
junta. However, since 1994, India has been establishing closer
cooperation with Burma not only in economic field but also in military
operations against the insurgent groups of both countries.

During the past six years, senior government ministers of both have been
visiting each other to cement the once-fragile relationship. ?That a
country should have a two-truck diplomacy. It cannot depend only on
government or opposition,? said Professor G.N. Jha from Jawaharlal Nehru
University in Delhi.

Indian policy makers say that India has to establish a ?working
relationship? with whatever government in power in Burma due to certain
compelling factors, including to balance the strong Chinese presence and
economic interests in Burma and the need of support from the Burmese
regime in curbing India?s northeast insurgents which have bases in

?What has changed, however, is the government of India?s emphasis and
public recognition of the importance of the regime in Rangoon both from
the security point of view and in terms of economic relations with that
country,? said Sanjoy Hazarika.

Another factor is economic interest. While the Western countries are
isolating the military regime with sanctions, Indian industry is keen to
trade with Burma. ?Myanmar is not economically isolated in spite these
economic sanctions. If Myanmar follows open-door economic policy and
focuses on economic development, I think nobody can oppose it and India
will be happy to support these efforts,? said TK Bhaumik, Senior Advisor
of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The present policy of Indian government towards military regime,
however, has caused growing concern for the exiled Burmese community.
While they understand the compulsion of a government, they can?t
understand why India has lately been silent on the political repression
in Burma. ?We thank Indian government and the people for giving us
shelter. But that is not enough. India being the world biggest democracy
has the responsibility to actively support the democratic movement in
Burma,? said a New Delhi-based Burmese democracy activist.

There has been no official word from the Indian authorities on recent
events inside Burma where Aung San Suu Kyi was not allowed freedom of

On November 12, three days before the visit of General Maung Aye, India
turned back a prominent exiled Burmese activist from Indira Gandhi
International Airport despite the fact that he was holding a six-month
valid visa to India, issued by Indian Consulate in Chinag Mai, Thailand.

This entry denial of a leader of exiled movement seems to suggest that
India will not allow anything, which will cause embarrassment to the
visiting generals of Burma. For that case, Indian government is cautious
about the annoyance of the Burmese government rather than listening to
the cry of Burmese people for democracy. And it is unlikely that Indian
government officials will raise the issue of democracy and human rights
in the military-ruled country during their discussions with General
Maung Aye.

A sad day for democracy!