NEW DELHI: The improved strategic relationship between India and Myanmar has a secret benefactor—the tiger. India, which is home to nearly 60 per cent of the world’s tigers in the wild, is set to sign a pact with Myanmar for tiger conservation and checking illegal wildlife trade along the border.
According to government sources, the Ministry of External Affairs has sent an official communiqué regarding this to Myanmar. A team of experts comprising government officials from Myanmar is expected to visit India in January 2018 to discuss the details of the agreement on tiger conservation.
The move also holds importance as Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September this year visited Myanmar, the only Southeast Asian country India shares its land boundary with.
“The process of having a protocol with Myanmar was started seven years ago, but it could not be finalised due to internal issues in Myanmar. With India looking to have a better relationship with its Southeast Asian neighbour now, tiger diplomacy is one of the links,” said a senior environment ministry official.
Myanmar is one of the 13 tiger range countries. Its total tiger population was estimated to be 85 in 2011, according to the Global Tiger Recovery Programme Implementation report 2012. Similar to other tiger range countries, the big cats in Myanmar are also facing threats such as hunting for commercial trade and prey depletion. As per an International Union for Conservation of Nature report 2015, there are no tigers left in Myanmar.
India’s Tiger Estimate 2014 pegged the country’s tiger population at 2,226, of which around 200 are in North Eastern Hills and Brahmaputra Flood Plains. Tigers in the Northeast have habitat connectivity in trans-boundary areas in Myanmar.
India has a MoU with Nepal on controlling trans-boundary illegal trade in wildlife and conservation, apart from a protocol on tiger conservation with China. A bilateral protocol with Bangladesh and Bhutan is in place.
Myanmar is the only neighbouring tiger range nation without a tiger a pact with India.