In a speech delivered at theGraduation Parade of the 11th Intake of Defence Services Medical Academy SeniorGeneral Than Shwe, Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services, emphasized on thecore theme of the military led government, national unity. Highlighting thepeculiar multi ethnic composition of Myanmar,General Than Shwe said, and “National unity is the most essential requirementfor the perpetuation of the sovereignty of the State which is resided by overone hundred national races. Although we have different faiths and traditions,all the nationalities are the citizens of the Union of Myanmar with the samecharacteristics such as kindness, helpfulness, patience, bravery, andpatriotism. True patriotism means not to harbour narrow-minded nationalism, butto have the true patriotic spirit desirous of working together for theperpetuation, progress and prosperity of the Union”.
The call fornational unity was relevant even as on 16 December six people were killed and12 injured when a time bomb exploded in restive Karen state at (1430 GMT) as the ethnic Karen celebratedtheir New Year. The bomb exploded in Phapun town in northeastern KarenState, about 120 miles (192kilometres) from Yangon.
This is also impacting the country’sexternal relations. While Myanmarenjoys excellent relations with China,unrest in the Kokang province bordering Yunnanhas been a sore point over the past one year. Reports indicated that overseasChinese businesses were looted and ethnic Chinese Kokang army was routed by Myanmar’sarmy testing the relationship.
Myanmar’sproblems of a multi ethnic society with a Burmese majority and large number ofethnic minorities are well appreciated. Assimilation of these nationalities inthe national mainstream remains a major challenge given the fissiparousmovements that have developed over the past many decades. So far the militaryway to national unity has been the solution and seems so in the years ahead aswell.
IndoMyanmarrelations continued on an even keel with bilateral trade at $1 billion in2009-10 a small increase from $951 million in 2008-09. Teak, timber, maize andpulses are major items of export from Myanmarinto India,steel, cement, fertiliser and pharmaceuticals were the major items of importinto Myanmar.Analysts continue to be critical of Indian inability to use this leverage topressure the Myanmargovernment for greater openness towards Aung Suu Kyi and the democraticmovement.
On24 December the U.N. General Assembly condemned human rights violations in Myanmarin a resolution voted through by 86-23 with 39 abstentions. It also called forimmediate release of opposition leader and Nobel peace prize laureate Aung SanSuu Kyi from house arrest
Russiasigned a contract to deliver 20 MiG-29 fighter planes to Myanmarworth 400m euros (£356m; $570m). Russiahad already given 12 MiGs to Burmain 2001. this purchase is likely to increase tensions in relationship with itsneighbours in ASEAN and lead to more arms purchases by neighbouring Thailandas well.
Indo Myanmar Relations: The Militant Groups Issue
A dimension of Myanmar’srestive periphery which affects neighbours including Indiais the sanctuary provided de facto due to lack of government presence in theareas of the country bordering India.The Indo Myanmar border areas are extremely difficult terrain in manyparts wholly impassable thereby limiting deployment of troops by either sidefor surveillance and patrolling. This situation is taken advantage of byterrorist groups who have established camps and operate in these areas withimpunity as per reports.
Themilitant groups in the North East have increasingly shifted base in 2009 from Bangladeshto Myanmaras they find that the situation in Bangladeshis not favouring continued operations from there due to controls exercised bythe Awami League government. On the other hand the Sagaing region of Myanmaris not covered by the Myanmar Army which has more pressing insurgency problemswith the Kachin, Chin and lately in Kokang areas. Thus this has formed a havenfor groups operating in India’sNorth East. Despite frequent requests by Indian authorities nothing much hasbeen forthcoming over the years.
Anotherappeal was made during December particularly after it came to light that theULFA so called commander in chief, Paresh Barua could be lodged in the region."We discussed the issue of Insurgent groups working against Indiafrom the soil of Myanmar.He assured me of full cooperation in this regard," External AffairsMinister S M Krishna told the media onboard his aircraft during his visit to Myanmarfor the BIMSTEC ministerial meet. Krishna said that anassurance had been given to him by Myanmar Prime Minister Thien Sein to lookinto the matter.
Similarlyduring a Press Conference the Foreign Secretary, Ms Nirupama Rao on beingspecifically asked of information of Paresh Baruah and the kind of cooperation soughtfrom Myanmarstated, “As you know, our External Affairs Minister was recently in Myanmarin the context of the BIMSTEC Summit. During this visit he met with theleadership of Myanmarand had useful discussions on various issues of mutual interest with them. Onthe question of security cooperation and the presence of Indian insurgentgroups in Myanmar,this is an issue we have consistently taken up with the Myanmarside, and they in turn have assured us that they would not let their territoryto be used for anti-India activities. There is no conformation about thepresence of Paresh Bauah in Myanmar.But we will continue to take whatever steps necessary to see that our securityinterests are addressed”.
Obviously the degree of cooperationthat is required to stem activities of terrorist groups needs to be increasedif Myanmaris to be denied as a haven for ULFA, the NSCN and their ilk. What measuresshould be taken for the same needs some deliberation?
In case you come across any suspicious activity, any suspicious movement or have any information to tell to the Anti-Terror Squad, please take a note of the new ALL INDIA TOLL-FREE Terror Help-line "1090". Your city's Police or Anti-Terror squad will take action as quickly as possible. Remember that this single number 1090 is valid all over India.
This is a toll free number and can be dialled from mobile phones also. Moreover, the identity of the caller will be kept a secret.
Please try to make aware each and every citizen of India about this facility.
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