North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Two years of Myanmar Coup and Concerns for India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Military coup in Myanmar

myanmar coup

It is exactly two years since the Myanmar army seized power.

Myanmar Coup: A quick recap

  • A coup in Myanmar began on the morning of 1 February 2021, when democratically elected members of the country’s ruling party, were deposed by the Tatmadaw—Myanmar’s military.
  • The coup occurred the day before the Parliament of Myanmar was due to swear in the members elected at the 2020 election, thereby preventing this from occurring.
  • Pivot leader Aung San Suu Kyi was detained, along with ministers, their deputies, and members of Parliament.

India’s continuing policy tightrope in Myanmar

  • For some three decades, India has pursued a ‘Dual-Track Policy’ which essentially means doing business with the junta.
  • India shares a 1,600 km border with Myanmar along four NE states.
  • It has a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal, the failure of the Myanmar state presents a foreign policy dilemma that it is struggling to resolve.
  • It has ruled over Myanmar for all but five years since 1990, with tea and sympathy for the pro-democracy forces.

Why in news now?

Ans. Pro-democracy armed rebellion within

  • Hundreds of armed pro-democracy civilian resistance groups (People’s Defence Forces) are fighting the junta and turning swathes of the country into no-go areas for the army.
  • In addition some among the two dozen ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) that have been fighting the Myanmar state for autonomy for the last seven decades, have joined hands with the PDFs.

India’s concerns

  • Chinese inroads: Over the last two decades, as China with its deep pockets emerged as a rival in the region, engaging with the junta was also seen as a way to retain Indian influence in Myanmar.
  • No democratic restoration: Delhi had to calibrate this engagement during the “democratic transition” of the last decade and rebalance the dual track.
  • Narrowed interests: These are becoming apparent, even going by India’s narrowly defined national interests: border security management, and restricting China in Myanmar.
  • Limitations to strategy: India has limited to its old template of engagement— doing business with the military regime, encouraging it restore democracy, and offering sympathy to democratic forces.

Recent success: Completion of Sittwe Port

  • In the first week of January, Sittwe port, developed by India as part of the Kaladan project, was ready for operation.
  • It is set to be inaugurated soon.

Five ways in which India’s calculations have been upset

  • Bluff over connectivity: While maritime trade was one objective, the primary objective of this project, to provide alternate access to India’s landlocked north-east states, now seems like a bridge too far.
  • Huge refugee influx: Mizoram is hosting tens of thousands of refugees from the adjoining Chin state in Myanmar. Refugees have come into other Northeastern states, though in fewer numbers.
  • Clouds of terrorism: More dangerously, the recent bombing by the Myanmar Air Force of a Chin militia headquarters on the border with Mizoram, with shrapnel hitting the Indian side during this operation, triggered panic in the area.
  • Narcotics smuggling: Another potential cross-border spillovers is contained in the latest report of the UN Office for Drugs and Crime on Myanmar (Myanmar Opium Survey).
  • Supporting insurgents in India: Myanmar junta has recruited Indian insurgent group (IIGs) in regions adjoining Manipur and Nagaland to fight against the local PDFs and other groups.
  • Worsening of Rohingya crisis: The military cannot resolve the Rohingya crisis, another regional destabilizer.

Way forward for India

  • Championing this cause in G20: India has projected its year-long presidency of the G20 as an opportunity to project the voice of the global south.
  • Extra-diplomatic engagement: India can open channels to the democratic forces and to some ethnic groups; it can work more actively with ASEAN; it could open an army-to-army channel with the junta; increase people-to-people channels; offer scholarships to Myanmar students like it did for Afghan students in a different era.
  • Ensuring fair elections: The junta is mulling elections later this year after rejigging the first-past-the-post system to proportional representation to undermine the NLD’s electoral might.


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