NEW DELHI: Notwithstanding the growing level of intolerance against dissenters that has led to executions, unwarranted jail terms and arrests, the military junta-led government in Myanmar due to geopolitics and its strategic location has managed to retain its clout with India, China and Russia.
The junta-led government has recently sentenced the 77-year-old former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to three years of imprisonment with hard labour and also jailed former British Ambassador, Vicky Bowman, and her husband to one year in prison for violating immigration laws. Earlier in July, four jailed pro-democracy activists were executed. Despite all this India remains guarded about its criticism.
External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar, recently said that its relationship with Myanmar is different from what people far away convey.
"India's relations with Myanmar are very different from what people far away convey when they often pontificate. India has consistenly supported democracy and pluralism and we believe that Myanmar is best served by being a democracy by reflecting the sentiments and wishes of the people," said Dr S Jaishankar. while addressing the Chulalongkorn University in Thailand last month.
Dr Jaishankar further added that understanding a neighbour's interests are pertinent.
"I trust people close to the problem than people far away because people far away have a tendency to walk away when they feel like it as we saw that in Afghanistan. When you are an immediate neighbour, the understanding and interests are very different from what is shown by people far away," Dr Jaishankar added.
"The role of Myanmar's army would be key to any democratic transistion there. So, India has to engage actively with the junta. Criticising the junta will only push it closer to China. Myanmar is geographically significant for India as it shares a border with the north-eastern states of India and any rift with the junta could trigger unrest across the border. There are many ethnic groups in Myanmar that are fighting the junta. The junta has also been shielding India in its upcoming projects (like the Kaladan multi modal transport project)," say sources.
Besides, under the Look East Policy, India wants the India-Myanmar-Thailand 1360-km trilateral highway to be completed as it will link India with South East Asia.
China has a strong influence in Myanmar and India's loss will be China’s gain, so India has to tread carefully. China’s foreign minister Wang Yi visited Myanmar in July.
Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, too visited Myanmar in August.
Meanwhile, General Min Aung Hlaing is unlikely to be invited to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders' summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in November with the bloc frustrated over a lack of progress on resolving the country's political crisis, which has led to over 2,200 people being killed since the Junta came to power in February 2021.