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India's Myanmar Policy:Will Pragmatism Help?


Indian Dy NSA with Myanmar SAC Chairman

The past almost two and half years after the military coup in Myanmar on February 01, 2021, India like many regional countries has been faced with the dilemma of adoption of a policy that can balance vital national interests with avoiding international opprobrium for supporting a brutal military the Tatmadaw indulging in indiscriminate violence.


India has adopted a pragmatic policy of dealing with whosoever is in rule in Myanmar - presently the Myanmar military which calls itself as the State Administrative Council (SAC) and is headed by the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.


Visit of Deputy NSA to Myanmar


In line with the same, India is directly engaged with the SAC with a number of interactions the latest being that of the Deputy National Security Adviser Vikram Misri Mr. Vikram Misri, Misri was in Myanmar to attend the eight anniversary of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and was hosted on 15 October, at the parlour of SAC Chairman’s Office in a direct interaction.



As per a report in the official website of the SAC, "views on national peace and development undertakings, steps to establish a Union based on democracy and federalism, government and Tatmadaw’s endeavours for internal peace, India’s assistance in Myanmar’s peace endeavours, bilateral cooperation to restored peace and stability at the common border, further improving bilateral friendship and cooperation, further promotion of bilateral trade and investments, government and Tatmadaw’s steadfastness to NCA and multiparty democracy, continuous assistance from India towards peace in Myanmar, the country’s full trust in NCA and political developments of Myanmar were cordially exchanged".


Relevance of NCA


Mr Misri was in Myanmar to attend the eighth anniversary of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) held on 15 October. Local agencies believe that the NCA anniversary was a sham event highlighted by the government with the aim of demonstrating to the World at large that the junta was attempting to progress with the peace in the country engaging with various ethnic groups.


Of the ten groups who are part of the NCA two have declined to attend the meeting and those which did are seen in a minority and do not hold sway in the States they are active.


Can Army Meet India's Interest?



On the other hand India is keen to observe the overall developments in Myanmar given the activities of Indian North East militant groups based in their country and the uptick in Manipur violence recently.


Manipur State government and the Centre have projected the violence caused by militant groups who have infiltrated recently in the State.


Indeed if that is the main cause of the violence, than the militant groups in the North East based in Myanmar are mainly on the Indo Myanmar border zone in Sagaing Region.


Presently Sagaing and Chin State which border India are seeing the most intense fighting between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the resistance forces under the National Unity Government (NUG) mainly the People's Defence Force {PDF} detachments.


The Myanmar Army has very little control over this area and it is not clear if it can limit activities or crack down on the anti India groups a request that may have been made by the Deputy NSA.


In fact India could reach out to the NUG if the requirement is to contain the North East militant groups but so far there are no indications of New Delhi having done so.


Background - Foreign Secretary Explains India's Myanmar Policy


India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra outlined the tenets of India’s Myanmar policy during a special briefing on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to USA and Egypt held on June 19, 2023. “Humanitarian assistance, development partnership, capacity-building programs, etc. with Myanmar,” are the key tenets said Mr Kwatra and explained the reasons for the same on being questioned whether there would be any discussion on the situation in Myanmar given the quasi civil war in the country and sanctions by the United States during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the U.S and talks with President Joe Biden.


Kwatra stated that the US understood India’s position on Myanmar, “Let's not forget that we have a large border with Myanmar. Myanmar is our neighbour. The kind of framework in which we deal with our relationship in Myanmar is very different. We have continued with our extensive humanitarian assistance and development cooperation with Myanmar, even during the times that Myanmar was troubled, so to speak”.



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