Foreign Policy Watch: India-Myanmar

May, 21, 2019

[op-ed snap] Moral ambiguity on the Rohingya


India’s abstention from voting on a UN Human Rights Council draft resolution, in March this year, on the “situation of human rights in Myanmar” needs closer examination. Co-sponsored by the European Union (EU) and Bangladesh, the resolution “expresses grave concern at continuing reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar”, particularly in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States, and calls for a full inquiry into these by the Council’s own mechanism and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

  • In its follow-up explanatory statement, India’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Rajiv Kumar Chander, said that it would “only be counter-productive” to support “extensive recommendations regarding legislative and policy actions” and “threatening Myanmar with punitive action, including at the ICC, to which that state is not a signatory”.
  • ” India, for its part, continues to maintain ties with the Myanmar armed forces (Tatmadaw), supplying them with combat hardware and imparting UN peacekeeping training.
  • An edition of the India-Myanmar bilateral army exercise, IMBEX 2018-19, took place this January at Chandimandir.

Arms and business ties

  • According to the arms transfer database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is one of Myanmar’s top arms suppliers, and weapons sales includes military aircraft, artillery, naval vessels and reconnaissance equipment, armoured vehicles, anti-submarine torpedoes and missiles.
  • One analysis by the Dutch advocacy group, Stop Wapenhandel (Stop Arms Trade), claims that India transferred combat equipment in violation of international embargoes.
  • India’s core logic here is to “modernise” the Tatmadaw with the intent of securing its 1,640-km plus border with Myanmar and forge a sustainable strategic partnership at China’s doorstep.
  • But, in this inflexible realpolitik approach, there is little space for end-user accountability and human rights. 

Through Dhaka’s lens

  •  India’s soft, backfoot approach is being increasingly seen by Bangladesh, which is hosting nearly a million Rohingya refugees, to be tilted in Myanmar’s favour.
  • Bangladeshi journalist Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan argues that “Indian policy regarding the Rohingya crisis has always favoured Myanmar.”

  • Alternate ways
  • Instead of just pushing one-time economic aid into Bangladesh and Myanmar, India could have forged a regional ‘compact’, much like the Jordan Compact on Syria, to ensure sustained humanitarian assistance in addressing the short- and long-term needs of the displaced Rohingya population.
  • This would have ensured uniform donor interest and better monitoring of where aid is going to. I
  • Using the geo-economic leverage that it enjoys with Myanmar, India could compel Myanmar to bring the alleged perpetrators of war crimes to book or at least get a guarantee that such conduct would not be repeated in the future.
  • Conclusion
  • For now, India is happy to be in a stable, but morally tenuous, friends-with-benefit relationship with Myanmar. The victims continue to be the stateless Rohingya.
Mar, 05, 2018

Myanmar puts off border pact with India

Image source


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: India Myanmar border agreement

Mains level: India-Myanmar relations


Agreement to streamline free movement along border deferred

  1. Myanmar has indefinitely deferred signing an agreement with India to streamline the free movement of people within 16 km along the border
  2. On January 3, the Union Cabinet had approved the agreement between India and Myanmar on land border crossing to enhance economic interaction between people of the two countries

Mechanism for agreement to work

  1. The Centre had asked four States — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram to distribute “border pass” to all the residents living within 16 km from the border
  2. These states share the unfenced border with Myanmar
  3. As per the proposal, there would have been no restrictions on the movement of people across the borders

Why border passes?

  1. India had raised the issue of movement of extremists and smugglers freely across the border
Jan, 11, 2018

[pib] Cabinet approves Agreement between India and Myanmar on Land Border Crossing


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Agreement on Land Border Crossing

Mains level: India and its neighborhood-relations


  • Approval of the Agreement between India and Myanmar on Land Border Crossing.

What will agreement do?

  • The Agreement will facilitate regulation and harmonization of already existing free movement rights for people ordinarily residing in the border areas of both countries
  • It will also facilitate movement of people on the basis of valid passports and visas which will enhance economic and social interaction between the two countries


  • The Agreement is an enabling arrangement for movement of people across India-Myanmar border.
  • It is expected to provide connectivity and enhance interaction of the people of North Eastern States of India with the people of Myanmar
  • The Agreement would give a boost to the economy of the North East and allow us to leverage our geographical connections with Myanmar to boost trade and people to people ties
  • The Agreement will safeguard the traditional rights of the largely tribal communities residing along the border which are accustomed to free movement across the land border
Oct, 27, 2017

India for ‘constructive’ Rohingya policy


Mains Paper 2: India and neighborhood- relations.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Rohingya, Rakhine State.

Mains level: This article talks about the latest step taken by the government with regard to the Rohingya crisis. It is a important topic for mains and must be studied via linking with the earlier newscards on the same issue.



  1. Foreign Secretary highlighted India’s regional humanitarian responsibilities and growing convergence with Tokyo in the background of the India-Japan cooperation in the Bay of Bengal and Asia-Pacific regions.
  2. Seeking a constructive approach to dealing with the exodus of the Rohingya, India said that the displaced members of the community will have to return to their place of origin in the Rakhine province of Myanmar.
  3. For India, the exodus of a large number of people from the Rakhine state to Bangladesh is a matter of concern.

India’s Approach

  1. India’s objective will be to see how they can go back to their place of origin and that is not easy.
  2. The government is talking to Bangladesh and separately engaged with Myanmar and feel that this is a situation better addressed with practical measures and constructive conversation, rather than doing very strong condemnations.
  3. There is a need for a sober, sensitive and locally sensitive approach in dealing with the humanitarian emergency that the exodus had become.

Regional cooperation

  1. The centre has brought up ties between connectivity, regional cooperation and humanitarian response to evolving crises.
  2. There is a need to highlight collaboration on the HADR in the agenda of BIMSTEC that is, member countries to cooperate on humanitarian assistance to disaster situation.
  3. India’s response to Nepal earthquake relief, Yemen civil war, Maldivian water crisis, and even Operation Insaniyat for the Rohingyas are part of cooperation.


Rohingya Crisis

  1. The Rohingya people are a Muslim minority group residing in the Rakhine state (in the south western Myanmar), formerly known as Arakan and are considered to be a variation of the Sunni religion.
  2. The 1982 Citizenship Law denies the Rohingya Muslims citizenship despite the people living there for generations. They are considered stateless entities”.
  3. They are regarded as mere refugees from Bangladesh, face strong hostility in the country.
  4. United Nations classifies them as one of the most persecuted refugee groups in the world.
  5. To escape the dire situation in Myanmar, the Rohingya try to illegally enter Southeast Asian states like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, begging for humanitarian support from potential host countries
  6. As per the United Nations refugee agency from August almost 400,000 Rohingya have crossed Naf river over to Bangladesh from the northern Rakhine state in Myanmar, putting Bangladesh under immense strain
  7. The dominant group, the Rakhine, rejects the label “Rohingya” and has started to persecute the Rohingya.
  8. The latest surge follows attacks on police posts by an extremist Rohingya groupArakan Rohingya Salvation Army(ARSA).
  9. People from all over the world started calling this crisis and bloodshed “campaign of ethnic cleansing.”
Oct, 17, 2017

SOP to help movement of locals, raise security at Myanmar border


Mains Paper 2: India and neighborhood relations

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Not much

Mains level: This article gives insights about the latest move of the government to devise standard operating procedures to facilitate movement across Indo Myanmar border.




  • The government has decided to devise standard operating procedures (SOP) to facilitate movement of Indian and Myanmarese citizens residing within 16 km of the India-Myanmar border.

The Free Movement Regime

  1. The Home Ministry held consultations with Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh the states bordering Myanmar to discuss the Free Movement Regime (FMR).
  2. The FMR permits tribes residing along the border to travel 16 km across the boundary without visa restrictions.
  3. It was found that states follow different protocols for FMR.
  4. The Home Ministry considered this to be a security threat and have come up with common SOPs for all four states.
  5. It is a measure to upgrade security at the border amid the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar following turmoil in Rakhine province of that country.
  6. According to government estimates, there are nearly 40,000 Rohingya Muslims spread across India.
  7. The Home Ministry is also having a parallel discussion with the Ministry of External Affairs and their counterparts in Myanmar to allow Indian nationals living near the border to visit Myanmar for up to 72 hours.
  8. While India allows Myanmarese nationals to stay 72 hours without visa, Myanmar allows stay of only 24 hours.
Oct, 10, 2017

India-Myanmar border: Panel may not curb free movement within 16 km


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FMR

Mains level: Suggestions of the panel are crucial for country’s border security in the North-East.


Government panel set up to study gaps on the India-Myanmar border

  1. It may suggest not to restrict free movement of Indian and Myanmarese citizens within 16 km of the border as allowed before
  2. But will recommend strengthening border security to prevent infiltration
  3. Also, the panel may suggest that Indians going and staying in Myanmar under the bilateral agreement may be allowed to stay for 72 hours, unlike 24 hours at present
  4. India allows Myanmarese nationals to stay for 72 hours without a visa

Reason behind this move

  1. It is a measure to upgrade security amid the mass exodus of Rohingyas from Myanmar

What is Free Movement Regime (FMR)?

  1. The FMR permits the tribes residing along the border to travel 16 km across the boundary without visas
Sep, 13, 2017

[op-ed snap] Embrace the Rohingya

Image result for Rohingya

Image source


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

“Both morally and legally, India cannot deport refugees facing a grave threat in Myanmar.” Critically comment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rohingya

Mains level: India-Myanmar relations



  • Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju stated that the Indian government will detect and deport the Rohingya back to Myanmar


  1. Illegal immigrants” — including 14,000 Rohingya are “susceptible” to recruitment by “terror” groups
  2. They “not only infringe on the rights of Indian citizens but also pose grave security challenges”.

Deportation of the Rohingya is legally untenable- Reasons

  1. Indian government, like any other in the world, is bound by customary international law to respect the principle of non-refoulement.
  2. As per this law, No government, can forcibly push back asylum-seekers to the country they have fled to escape violence, as it might endanger their very survival.
  3. Not being a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol is no excuse to abdicate India’s responsibility to provide much-needed succour to people under duress and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
  4. There are several Supreme Court verdicts which disallow the Indian government from arbitrarily and summarily deporting refugees from its territory.
  5. The courts in India have traditionally upheld the rights of refugees facing deportation or forced eviction in different contexts by taking recourse to what is called the “canon of construction” or a “shadow of refugee law”.
  6. For example, the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution has been so interpreted by the SC that it can be extended to anyone living in India irrespective of her nationality.

Is deportation morally correct?

  1. Rohingya face an imminent threat to their lives in the wake of the ongoing “ethnic-cleansing” drives in the Rakhine State, Myanmar
  2. Various reports — by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch etc — point to the Rohingya undergoing gross human rights violations at the hands of Myanmar’s armed forces in the name of counter-insurgency operations.
  3. Prime Minister’s decision to underplay the impending refugee crisis by choosing instead to express solidarity with Myanmar’s “extremist concerns” on his maiden visit there could only be described as politically naïve.
  4. This is further evidenced by India’s refusal to sign the subsequent “Bali Declaration” which unequivocally condemned the unfolding refugee crisis in the Rakhine State.
  5. Silence by Asia’s most experienced democracy in the wake of a fast deteriorating humanitarian crisis does not bode well for the future of human rights in the region.
  6. It might only embolden the Myanmarese security forces to further intensify the crackdown on the hapless Rohingya.
  7. It is time India rises to the occasion by transcending the politics of pragmatism and embraces the Rohingya refugees.


Sep, 08, 2017

India keeps off ‘Bali Declaration’

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: It is a hot topic these days. This article shows India’s stand on the issue.


Show of solidarity with Myanmar

  1. India has refused to be a part of a declaration adopted at an international conference here in Indonesia
  2. Why: According to government, as it carried “inappropriate” reference to the violence in Rakhine State from where 1,25,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh
  3. An Indian Parliamentary delegation, dissociated itself from the ‘Bali Declaration’ adopted at the ‘World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development’
Sep, 05, 2017

[op-ed snap] Delhi to Yangon

Image result for modi's visit to myanmar

Image source


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

“Discuss about the bilateral issues that have the potential to transform the relationship between India and Myanmar”

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kaladan multi-modal corridor, India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, Border haats

Mains level: India-Myanmar relations



  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Myanmar that begins today marks seven decades of diplomatic relations between India and Myanmar
  2. PM Modi’s visit to Myanmar is an opportunity to improve business and strategic ties and bolster the Look East policy.

 Official discussions during the visit

  1. It will cover security challenges along the border and various bilateral matters.
  2. Myanmar may also brief the PM on the peace process on ethnic affairs in the country to which Suu Kyi has attached great priority.
  3. The volatile situation in the Rakhine state is also likely to be discussed.

Broad sets of bilateral issues that have the potential to transform the relationship between India and Myanmar.

Strengthening the development cooperation framework.

  1. No other country has committed as much in grant-in-aid to Myanmar as India.
  2. These include four major connectivity projects – the Kaladan multi-modal corridor, repair of 69 bridges on the Tamu-Kalewa road and the construction of the 120-km Kalewa-Yargyi corridor, both of which are part of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, and the Rhi-Tiddim road in the Chin state bordering Mizoram.
  3. It is essential that the two countries immediately start negotiating transit and other agreements for the smooth movement of goods and vehicles for optimal use of the infrastructure

 India’s involvement in Capacity building in Myanmar.

  1. Six centres imparting training in diverse subjects, from English language to industrial skills, are running successfully in Myanmar.
  2. The Myanmar Institute of Information Technology set up in Mandalay with the collaboration of IIIT Bangalore has been a success with all its graduates finding ready employment.
  3. The Advanced Centre for Agriculture Research and Education set up in collaboration with India’s ICAR is a fine example of pooling research efforts on pulses and oilseeds.
  4. Myanmar’s government emphasising on higher education and vocational training, so more Indian-assisted institutions can come up in the country.
  5. Scholarships for undergraduates can work if a way is found to bridge the difference between the matriculation system of schooling in Myanmar and India’s 10+2 system.

Greater cooperation between Northeast India and Western Myanmar

  1. Four states in the Northeast share common borders with Myanmar’s Sagaing and Chin provinces.
  2. The Kaladan corridor also passes through the Rakhine state till it arrives at the Sittwe port developed by India.
  3. Businesses on both sides, especially SMEs in contiguous provinces, and the governments need to come up with action plans for transforming the evolving corridors into development corridors.
  4. Border trade through Tamu/Moreh and Rhi/Zhokhowthar needs to become more formalised with truly single-window clearances and easier currency arrangements.
  5. The border haats can energise exchange of local produce.
  6. Cross- border bus services can promote people-to-people connectivity.
  7. Cross-border trade in services can be boosted in sectors like medicine, diagnostics, or even education and training for which there is a large market.
  8. There is also potential for cooperation on larger initiatives, such as the sale of refined petroleum products from the Numaligarh refinery in upper Myanmar.
  9. Strengthening the border region cooperation project, implemented by India in Myanmar’s Chin and Naga areas, can help India in securing political and other support at the local-level in Myanmar.
  10. Such development initiatives could also prompt Myanmar to collaborate more in tackling the insurgency issue in Nagaland, particularly in a post-Khaplang scenario.

Expanding bilateral trade and investment.

  1. Bilateral trade between the two countries has, for long, remained at around $2 billion.
  2. India ranks fifth among Myanmar’s import sources and 10th among foreign investors
  3. The regulatory and economic environment has to evolve in Myanmar to enhance the comfort levels of business enterprises.
  4. Indian businesses could invest in the power, steel, automobiles and even textile sectors in Myanmar.
  5. The Myanmar would raise the issue of restrictions imposed by India limiting the import of pulses following a steep fall in domestic prices in India.
  6.  This could also be the time for both sides to explore the possibility of a bilateral agreement on the issue — as mooted last year.
  7. The two sides could also discuss basing this trade on letters of credit and direct shipment than having to go through Singapore.
Oct, 20, 2016

India, Myanmar agree to enhance ties in a range of areas, including security and trade

  1. Event: Aung San Suu Kyi’s first visit to India after her party won the election in Myanmar
  2. Agreements: The two sides signed three agreements to boost cooperation in power, banking and insurance sectors
  3. They also decided to step up ties in areas of oil and gas, agriculture, renewable energy and health care
  4. Myanmar, considered one of India’s strategic neighbours, shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern States, including the militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur
Aug, 31, 2016

Myanmar holds historic peace talks with ethnic groups

  1. Aim: Ending decades of separatist insurgencies that have claimed thousands of lives
  2. Context: Fight of ethnic groups since decades for autonomy
  3. Background: The previous military-backed government brokered individual truces with various insurgent groups and oversaw a ceasefire covering eight minor insurgencies last year that fell short of a nationwide deal
Mar, 31, 2016

Myanmar swears in first civilian President in five decades

  1. News: Myanmar has sworn in Htin Kyaw, as the country’s first civilian President in more than 50 years
  2. He promises to change the charter which bars Suu Kyi from presidency
  3. Ms. Suu Kyi has been appointed as a minister in Mr. Htin Kyaw’s government
  4. Future: There is a hope of greater business with India, under a popularly elected leader and govt
Mar, 16, 2016

Myanmar parliament elects Suu Kyi confidant Htin Kyaw as President

  1. News: Myanmar’s parliament elected Htin Kyaw, a close friend and confidant of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the first Head of State
  2. Context: Ms. Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy (NLD) to a landslide election win in Nov, but a constitution drafted by former junta bars her from the top office
  3. About Mr. Kyaw: He runs a charity founded by Suu Kyi and has been a trusted member of her inner circle since the mid-1990s
  4. Relevance: NLD’s sizeable majority ensured a comfortable win for Suu Kyi’s pick in a vote by both houses of parliament
  5. Secured Votes: Mr. Kyaw received 360 of the 652 votes cast, the parliamentary official counting the votes said
  6. Way ahead: Relations between the armed forces and Ms. Suu Kyi will define the success of Myanmar’s most significant break from military rule since the army seized power in 1962
Dec, 31, 2015

Cabinet nod for building 69 bridges on trilateral highway in Myanmar

The Union Cabinet has approved the construction of 69 Bridges including Approach Roads on the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa (TKK) road section of the Trilateral Highway in Myanmar.

  1. Cabinet nod for building 69 bridges on trilateral highway in Myanmar.
  2. TKK road section seeks to improve connectivity between India and Myanmar and facilitate movement of goods and traffic.
  3. The project will be implemented in Engineering Procuring and Construction (EPC) mode through Project Management Consultant (PMC).
  4. The project is envisaged to be completed by mid-2019 and is also part of the route for the proposed Imphal-Mandalay bus service.
Nov, 14, 2015

Aung San Suu Kyi registers an emphatic win in Myanmar

  1. A quarter century after Myanmar’s generals denied Aung San Suu Kyi an election win, she led her party to victory.
  2. Suu Kyi, 70, and her party (NLD) are the longtime antagonists to the generals who ruled Myanmar from a coup in 1962 until 2011.
Oct, 15, 2015

Union Cabinet gives approval for Kaladan Multi Modal Project in Myanmar

It will provide an alternate access route to India’s north east region and contribute towards the regional economic development.

  1. Objective is to create a multi-modal mode of transport for cargo shipment from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar.
  2. The strategic link will promote economic, commercial and strategic links between India and Myanmar as it will connect North-East, reducing pressure on the Siliguri Corridor.
  3. Project will connect Sittwe Port in Myanmar to the India-Myanmar border via roadway.
  4. It will provide alternative cost effective shortcut to landlocked north eastern states.
Sep, 28, 2015

MHA, JIC chief differ on Myanmar border security

  1. There are some differences between MHA and Joint Intelligence Committee on the handling of security along the porous Myanmar border.
  2. JIC has suggested that the Assam Rifles, which is currently posted along the Myanmar border, be replaced by the ITBP.
  3. The Home Ministry has said that the could have serious financial and security-related implications.
  4. India and Myanmar share an unfenced border of 1,643 km permit a ‘free movement’ regime up to 16 km across the border.
  5. The border is shared by adjoining Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.


The Assam Rifles functions under the Defence Ministry, but its administrative control is with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Jun, 11, 2015

Myanmar operation: Hot pursuit a message to all

  1. Indian Army carried out a covert operation deep inside Myanmar, killing several militants in two camps of northeastern rebel groups.
  2. Myanmar denied use of their border, as it could cause a controversy for the Myanmar government over sovereignty issues.
  3. The commandos of 21 Para regiment, equipped with assault rifles, rocket launchers, grenades and night vision goggles completed the operation.
  4. Govt. is planning to adopt a two-pronged strategy, first on offensive side to plan more strikes and other being defensive to counter retaliation.
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