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).
Indian stand on the issue
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For India, the exodus of a large number of people from the Rakhine state to Bangladesh is a matter of concern.
India’s objective will be to see how they can go back to their place of origin and that is not easy.
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.
There is a need for a sober, sensitive and locally sensitive approach in dealing with the humanitarian emergency that the exodus had become.
The centre has brought up ties between connectivity, regional cooperation and humanitarian response to evolving crises.
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.
India’s response to Nepal earthquake relief, Yemen civil war, Maldivian water crisis, and even Operation Insaniyat for the Rohingyas are part of cooperation.
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.
The 1982 Citizenship Law denies the Rohingya Muslims citizenship despite the people living there for generations. They are considered “stateless entities”.
They are regarded as mere refugees from Bangladesh, face strong hostility in the country.
United Nations classifies them as one of the most persecuted refugee groups in the world.
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
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
The dominant group, the Rakhine, rejects the label “Rohingya” and has started to persecute the Rohingya.
The latest surge follows attacks on police posts by an extremist Rohingya group, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army(ARSA).
People from all over the world started calling this crisis and bloodshed “campaign of ethnic cleansing.”
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
The Home Ministry held consultations with Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh the states bordering Myanmar to discuss the Free Movement Regime (FMR).
The FMR permits tribes residing along the border to travel 16 km across the boundary without visa restrictions.
It was found that states follow different protocols for FMR.
The Home Ministry considered this to be a security threat and have come up with common SOPs for all four states.
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.
According to government estimates, there are nearly 40,000 Rohingya Muslims spread across India.
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.
While India allows Myanmarese nationals to stay 72 hours without visa, Myanmar allows stay of only 24 hours.
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
Illegal immigrants” — including 14,000 Rohingya are “susceptible” to recruitment by “terror” groups
They “not only infringe on the rights of Indian citizens but also pose grave security challenges”.
Deportation of the Rohingya is legally untenable- Reasons
Indian government, like any other in the world, is bound by customary international law to respect the principle of non-refoulement.
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.
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.
There are several Supreme Court verdicts which disallow the Indian government from arbitrarily and summarily deporting refugees from its territory.
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”.
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?
Rohingya face an imminent threat to their lives in the wake of the ongoing “ethnic-cleansing” drives in the Rakhine State, Myanmar
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.
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.
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.
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.
It might only embolden the Myanmarese security forces to further intensify the crackdown on the hapless Rohingya.
It is time India rises to the occasion by transcending the politics of pragmatism and embraces the Rohingya refugees.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Myanmar that begins today marks seven decades of diplomatic relations between India and Myanmar
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
It will cover security challenges along the border and various bilateral matters.
Myanmar may also brief the PM on the peace process on ethnic affairs in the country to which Suu Kyi has attached great priority.
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.
No other country has committed as much in grant-in-aid to Myanmar as India.
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.
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.
Six centres imparting training in diverse subjects, from English language to industrial skills, are running successfully in Myanmar.
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.
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.
Myanmar’s government emphasising on higher education and vocational training, so more Indian-assisted institutions can come up in the country.
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
Four states in the Northeast share common borders with Myanmar’s Sagaing and Chin provinces.
The Kaladan corridor also passes through the Rakhine state till it arrives at the Sittwe port developed by India.
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.
Border trade through Tamu/Moreh and Rhi/Zhokhowthar needs to become more formalised with truly single-window clearances and easier currency arrangements.
The border haats can energise exchange of local produce.
Cross- border bus services can promote people-to-people connectivity.
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.
There is also potential for cooperation on larger initiatives, such as the sale of refined petroleum products from the Numaligarh refinery in upper Myanmar.
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.
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.
Bilateral trade between the two countries has, for long, remained at around $2 billion.
India ranks fifth among Myanmar’s import sources and 10th among foreign investors
The regulatory and economic environment has to evolve in Myanmar to enhance the comfort levels of business enterprises.
Indian businesses could invest in the power, steel, automobiles and even textile sectors in Myanmar.
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.
This could also be the time for both sides to explore the possibility of a bilateral agreement on the issue — as mooted last year.
The two sides could also discuss basing this trade on letters of credit and direct shipment than having to go through Singapore.
Aim: Ending decades of separatist insurgencies that have claimed thousands of lives
Context: Fight of ethnic groups since decades for autonomy
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
India and Myanmar relations: Change in dynamics by democratic triumph
After decades of struggle, finally democracy triumphed over military junta and Myanmar parliament enters democratic era after 54 years of military rule. It’s time to glance over India-Myanmar relations and how India will be benefited from such stable democratic government.
India and Myanmar have traditionally had much in common, with cultural, historical, ethnic and religious ties, in addition to sharing a long geographical land border and maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal. Let’s see it in brief!
How did India and Myanmar engagement begin ?
Myanmar is India’s bridge to east, and an important ally for growing its regional power.
India and Myanmar’s relationship officially got underway after the Treaty of Friendship was signed in 1951.
For many years, India did not open up to the authoritarian regime, and it was only over a period of time that India started engaging with the military juntaof Myanmar.
The region’s focus has revolved around the SAARC countries and China, Myanmar is becoming increasingly important for India in both a strategic and economic context.
What about bilateral trade ties?
Bilateral trade has grown from $12.4 million in 1980-81 to $2.18 billion in 2013-14.
Agricultural items like beans and pulses and forest based products make up nearly 90 percent of India’s imports.
Myanmar is also the beneficiary of a duty-free tariffpreference scheme for least developed countries (LDCs).
Both countries also signed a border trade agreement in 1994 and have 2 trade points along their 1,643 km border.
India has also promoted some trade events such as the India Product Show 2012, which represented 19 Indian companies.
But, How shared cultural links promote unique relations between both countries?
The two countries have shared cultural exchanges through various cultural troupes.
One such exchange was in 2009 when Myanmar sent a 13 member student group that attended a SAARC cultural festival in India.
This was followed by another major event at which the Indian embassy in Yangon organized the annual Indian Film Festival, which is a major event on the Yangon cultural calendar.
Does India have historical bond with Myanmar?
Yes!Yangon was once a center for India’s independence struggle.
The Indian National Army (INA), formed by Indian nationalists during World War II in 1942 with the motto of Ittehad, Itmad aur Qurbani (Unity, Faith and Sacrifice).
Comprised over 40,000 soldiers, who fought valiantly against the British imperialist forces.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose became leader of the INA in 1943 and undertook a groundbreaking march towards Indian territories from Burmese soil with the aim of achieving Indian independence.<This time we can expect question on Netaji and his work, as we know current happenings about Netaji’s files declassified>
General Aung San, Burma’s independence hero, was a close friend of Netaji, the supreme commander of the INA.
That friendship was reflected in cordial relationship between the soldiers of the INA and their counterparts in the Burmese National Army (BNA).
So, it’s good to use this historical bond for building more coherent and strong relations with Myanmar.
How Myanmar is Strategically significant to India?
Myanmar is strategically important to India as it is the only ASEAN country that shares a land border with India.
It is also the only country that can act as a link between India and ASEAN.
Myanmar is India’s gateway to Southeast Asia and could be the required impetus to realize India’s Look East Policy.
India has also decided to upgrade the Kalewa-Yargyi road segment to highway standard.
Myanmar would develop the Yargyi-Monywa portion, and this would help to connect Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar.
This in turn would improve India’s connectivity and relationship with both Myanmar and Thailand.
How can India become regional pivot in Asia?
If India is to become an assertive regional player in Asia, it has to work toward developing policies that would improve and strengthen it domestically.
This will encourage more confidence in its ability to lead the region and be an important global player.
Competition with China should also be considered and taken seriously. As China’s growing influence in the region would lead to a more one-sided dynamic in the region.
China has asserted itself through its soft power as well as through its trade and economic relations with Myanmar by taking up large infrastructure projects in the country.
India on the other hand needs to use its soft power more effectively, and at the same time strengthen itself domestically and regionally.
What are advantages that India has over China with regard to Myanmar?
One is the democratic process, which results in different governments at the center and states through free and fair elections.
There is also the respect for institutions that are strong enough to hold the country together.
Finally, cooperation in different multilateral forums such as ASEAN and BIMSTEC strengthen the relationship between the 2 countries.
Apart from these reasons, India has sent a clear signal that while economic ties are important, it is keen to build a holistic relationship and is prepared to assist in institution building in Myanmar.
What is the significance of Connectivity in India-Myanmar Relations?
<How North-Eastern region can play vital role in this?>
Myanmar’s vast oil and natural gas reserves and other resources make it a natural partner for many countries in the world.
India, being its next door neighbour, cannot be indifferent to this reality.
Besides, geo-political considerations, historical and civilizational links, and the ethnic overlap across their borders, have all come together to make India’s North-Eastthe land bridge between the South and South-East Asia through Myanmar.
The 1,640 km-long border between Myanmar and the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram signifies the importance of this eastern neighbour for India.
India expects to reap various economic benefits by bolstering bilateral trade and investment, which critically depends upon better connectivity in the region.
How bilateral cooperation agreement gives impetus to India’s Look-East Policy?
The strategic location of Myanmar is pivotal to India in reaching out to the economically vibrant South-East Asian countries.
India’s Look-East Policy envisages building infrastructure and expanding the transportation network including railroads, aimed at furthering surface connectivity in the region.
It is recognized that in addition to more economic contacts, such connectivity will promote social stability in the region by facilitating people-to-people contact amongst trans-border ethnic groups.
It is expected that insurgent outfits would lose their recruitment base once the local resources begin to be exploited and employment is generated leading to overall development.
Concrete economic benefits are expected to come up in the region with establishment of border haats.
In addition, internal trade routes have the potential to enhance accessibility to sub-regional markets that connect Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan.
The basic foundation for the relationship between India and Myanmar has been laid by previous governments, the onus is on the present Indian administration to demonstrate that it can take the relationship to a higher level.
India can become a strong regional player through a more proactive approach, cement India’s place in the region and grow into a powerful, global country.