Foreign Policy Watch: India-Myanmar

Myanmar’s Military Coup


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: India-Myanmar relations

Myanmar’s military staged a coup detaining de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and declaring it had taken control of the country for one year under a state of emergency.

Q.Despite its military coup, 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.

What is the news?

  • The intervention came with rising tensions between the military, which ruled the country for nearly five decades, and the civilian government over allegations of fraud in November’s elections.
  • The military had signaled its intentions to seize power to settle its claims of irregularities in the polls, which Suu Kyi’s party won easily.

How was the coup carried out?

  • The military detained the leaders of the governing NLD party and Myanmar’s civilian leadership, including Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, along with various ministers and even the opposition.
  • The military quickly seized control of the country’s infrastructure, suspending most television broadcasts and canceling all domestic and international flights, according to reports.
  • Telephone and internet access was suspended in major cities.
  • The stock market and commercial banks were closed, and long lines were seen outside ATMs in some places.
  • In Yangon, the country’s largest city and former capital, residents ran to markets to stock up on food and other supplies.

Who is Aung San Suu Kyi?

  • Suu Kyi came to power as state councilor in 2016 after the country’s first fully democratic vote in decades.
  • Her ascension to leadership was seen as a critical moment in the transition of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, to democracy from military dictatorship.
  • Suu Kyi, the daughter of the country’s independence hero General Aung San, spent more than 15 years under house arrest.
  • Her time in detention made her an international icon, and she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
  • Since her release, her reputation has been tarnished by her cooperation with the military and her deadly campaign against the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group.

India’s response to the takeover

  • India is “deeply concerned” with the return to military rule, which is a repeat of events thirty years ago.
  • It sees only option to engage, building on its outreach in recent years via the security and defence establishment.
  • India seeks a more pragmatic approach, engaging the military while pushing for more freedoms and democracy in Myanmar.

Various issues concerning India

  • One important reason for the change is that India’s security relationship with the Myanmar military.
  • These days, it has become extremely close, and it would be difficult to “burn bridges” with them given their assistance in securing the North East frontiers from insurgent groups.
  • Apart from strategic concerns, India has cultivated several infrastructure and development projects with Myanmar, which it sees as the “gateway to the East” and ASEAN countries.
  • These include the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and the Kaladan Multi-modal transit transport network, as well as a plan for a Special Economic Zone at the Sittwe deep-water port.

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