Foreign Policy Watch: India-Myanmar

A progressive Indian policy on Myanmar outlined


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Which Indian states share a border with Myanmar?

Mains level: How India Can Step Out of China’s Shadow

Why in the news?

Three years after the 2021 coup, Myanmar’s military continues to kill, maim, and displace its people. India maintains formal relations despite the violence.

India-Myanmar Ties

  • Formal Relations with Junta: Despite the military coup in February 2021, India has maintained formal relations with the Myanmar junta.
  • Justification of Policy: Indian foreign policy scholars argue that engaging with the junta is necessary to protect India’s strategic interests in Myanmar.
  • Lack of Engagement with Pro-Democracy Forces: The Narendra Modi government has not actively engaged with Myanmar’s pro-democracy resistance.

How India Can Step Out of China’s Shadow

  • Values vs. Interests: India’s Myanmar policy should integrate progressive values with strategic interests, leveraging democratic principles to better align national interests with regional influence because India’s foreign policy for East Asia is based on very narrow strategic interests.
  • Federal Democracy as a Model: India can leverage its credentials as the largest federal democracy to influence Myanmar’s democratic resistance, which aims to replace the military-drafted constitution with a federal one.
  • Capacity-Building and Knowledge Exchange: India can support Myanmar’s pro-democracy forces through programs that promote federal cooperation, distinguishing itself from China.

Weapons Sales and Humanitarian Outreach

  • Halt Weapon Sales: India should stop selling weapons to the Myanmar military, as these are used against civilians. Reports indicate ongoing sales of military hardware and supplies by Indian state-owned manufacturers to the junta.
  • Humanitarian Corridors: India should open cross-border humanitarian corridors in regions affected by the conflict, such as Sagaing Region, Chin State, and northern Rakhine State.
  • Revoking Border Fencing Plans: The suspension of the Free Movement Regime along the India-Myanmar border should be lifted to facilitate humanitarian aid.
  • Collaboration with Aid Networks: India should work with local and international NGOs to deliver emergency aid, ensuring it is not controlled by the junta.

Detention of Asylum Seekers

  • Halt Deportations: The Modi government should stop deporting asylum seekers from Myanmar. Over 115 asylum seekers have been deported from Manipur alone.
  • Adherence to International Principles: India should adhere to the principle of non-refoulement, which discourages deporting refugees back to a country where they face persecution or death.
  • Humane Treatment: Asylum seekers should be treated as refugees in need of humanitarian assistance rather than illegal immigrants. The government should release detained Chin refugees in Assam and provide humane shelter.

Conclusion: India should actively support Myanmar’s pro-democracy forces by leveraging its federal democratic model and providing capacity-building and knowledge exchange programs.

Mains PYQ:

Q Cross-border movement of insurgents is only one of the several security challenges facing the policing of the border in North-East India. Examine the various challenges currently emanating across the India-Myanmar border. Also, discuss the steps to counter the challenges. (UPSC IAS/2019) 

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