Rohingya Conflict

India-Myanmar relations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: India-Myanmar relations

The Foreign Secretary and Chief of the Army Staff have recently visited Myanmar reflected India’s multidimensional interests in the country.

Try this question:

Q.Myanmar is the key in linking South Asia to Southeast Asia and the eastern periphery becomes the focal point for New Delhi’s regional outreach. Analyse.

India-Myanmar relations

  • There are two lines of thinking that drive India’s Myanmar policy: engagement with key political actors and balancing neighbours.
  • For Myanmar, the visit would be viewed as India’s support for its efforts in strengthening democratization amidst criticisms by rights groups over the credibility of its upcoming election.

Non-interference in internal politics

  • The political logic that has shaped India’s Myanmar policy since the 1990s has been to support democratization driven from within the country.
  • This has allowed Delhi to engage with the military that played a key role in Myanmar’s political transition and is still an important political actor.
  • A key factor behind the military regime’s decision to open the country when it initiated reforms was, in part, to reduce dependence on China.

India as an alternative

  • By engaging Myanmar, Delhi provides alternative options to Naypyidaw.
  • This driver in India’s Myanmar policy has perhaps gained greater salience in the rapidly changing regional geopolitics.

Recent initiatives

  • Like in other neighbouring countries, India suffers from an image of being unable to get its act together in making its presence felt on the ground.
  • The inauguration of the liaison office of the Embassy of India in Naypyidaw (the capital) may seem a routine diplomatic activity.
  • However, establishing a permanent presence in the capital where only a few countries have set up such offices does matter.
  • Interestingly, China was the first country to establish a liaison office in Naypyidaw in 2017.
  • India has also proposed to build a petroleum refinery in Myanmar that would involve an investment of $6 billion.

Strategic calculus

  • This is an indication of Myanmar’s growing significance in India’s strategic calculus.
  • It also shows India’s evolving competitive dynamic with China in the sector at a time when tensions between the two have intensified.
  • Another area of cooperation that has expanded involves the border areas.
  • Furthermore, the recent announcement that India was transferring a Kilo-class submarine to Myanmar demonstrates the depth of their cooperation in the maritime domain.

The balancing act

  • For Delhi, the balancing act between Bangladesh and Myanmar remains one of the keys to its overall approach to the Rohingya issue.
  • Delhi has reiterated its support for “ensuring the safe, sustainable and speedy return of displaced persons” to Myanmar.
  • By positioning as playing an active role in facilitating the return of Rohingya refugees, India has made it clear that it supports Myanmar’s efforts and also understands Bangladesh’s burden.
  • For Delhi, engaging rather than criticizing is the most practical approach to finding a solution.


  • 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.
  • Delhi’s political engagement and diplomatic balancing seem to have worked so far in its ties with Myanmar.
  • Whether it has leveraged these advantages on the ground to the full is open to debate.
  • The aforementioned initiatives could be the beginning of change on the ground by establishing India’s presence in sectors where it ought to be more pronounced.

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