India's outreach to Myanmar
Bilateral Relations between India and Myanmar encompass the political, economic and socio-cultural relations that exist between the two neighbouring countries. Their Political relations have improved considerably since 1993, overcoming tensions related to drug trafficking, the suppression of democracy and the rule of the military junta in Myanmar. Political leaders from both countries meet regularly on a bilateral basis and within the ASEAN Plus Six community. Economic relations are considerable with India representing Myanmar's 4th largest export market and the country's 5th largest import partner.
Recently The Foreign Secretary and Chief of the Army Staff visited Myanmar which reflected India’s multidimensional interests in the country.
India’s Myanmar policy aims at engagement with key political actors and balancing the neighbours. But for Myanmar the visit would be seen as India’s support for its efforts in strengthening democratization amidst criticisms by rights groups over the credibility of its upcoming election.
The political logic that has shaped India’s Myanmar policy since the 1990s has been to support democratization driven from within the country, this allowed Delhi to engage with the military that played a key role in Myanmar’s political transition and is still an important political player.
A key factor behind the military regime’s decision to open the country when it initiated reforms was to reduce dependence on China.
Recently, The inauguration of the liaison office of the Embassy of India in Naypyidaw may seem a routine diplomatic activity but, establishing a permanent presence in the capital where only a few countries have set up such offices does matter. India has also proposed to build a petroleum refinery in Myanmar that would involve an investment of $6 billion.
Conclusively, For India, Myanmar is key in linking South Asia to Southeast Asia and the eastern periphery becomes the focal point for New Delhi’s regional outreach.
India’s political engagement and diplomatic balancing seem to have worked so far in its ties with Myanmar.
The new initiatives could be the beginning of change on the ground by establishing India’s presence in sectors where it ought to be more pronounced.
This article has been written by Yashovardhan Tiwary for The Paradigm
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