It is an established fact that one cannot change the neighbor, and it is a curse for India that it has already got a problematic state in neighbourhood, and Myanmar has been added to this list.
India was recently caught in a Catch-22 situation, “especially after the four executions of democracy activists by the Military regime.
In a belated reaction, India kept its nation’s interest supreme and diplomatically expressed its concern over the developments (executions) in Myanmar and stressed the dire need of continuous efforts for the restoration in this country.
Amidst the strong worldwide condemnation of regressive and painful executions of four democracy activists by military regime in Myanmar, India reacted with a caution and expressed deep concern over developments (executions) which could be attributed to its geo political compilation and security risks not to offend military generals as they could turn towards China which is bound to exploit it against us.
India favours restoration of democracy
Experts say that India has always highlighted the need for a peaceful resolution to the issue and favors upholding of the rule of law and democratic process.
India has supported the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ efforts to bring peace to Myanmar which has been rocked by civil unrest and widespread fighting since the military seized power from an elected government in February 2021.
India has exhibited Myanmar as friend of the people of Myanmar hence it will continue to support Myanmar’s return to democracy and stability.
Though India reacted after four days, preservation of ties with Myanmar is mandatory to keep army generals on its side which will prevent them from leaning towards China.
India is one of the biggest democracies in the world hence a strong reaction, condemning the executions, was expected by world nations but it has kept its tactical requirement in view.
US may harden stance
The United States is on the forefront while describing the executions as a heinous crime and it has already imposed sanctions against military rulers which would prevent Myanmar’s generals from accessing USD one billion assets parked in American.
US has warned military to relinquish the power and restore democracy besides releasing senior politicians including Aung San Suu Kyi. Several nations have attacked and condemned the executions and favored isolation of dictator to save democracy.
Myanmar gets weapons from China which has got $19 billion direct investment, thereby making it logical to stand by autocratic actions of generals.
Secondly, China is the biggest trading partner of Myanmar and accounts for 30 % of the country’s exports and imports whereas, globally, it has got bilateral trade of 36 USD billion.
Thirdly, Myanmar-China chamber of commerce and industry has registered more than 340 companies mainly in textile and clothing business which exhibits importance of economic ties between two nations.
Similarly, Indian Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) had invested $722 million in four ventures with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise or MOGE in 2019 which is of utmost importance to India.
India’s risky stand
India’s had also refrained from condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine to protect its 3 billion USD defense missile system deal and age old trusted ties.
Analysts say that due to strategic compulsions, India has not condemned the executions in strongest words as it does not want to push military commanders to wall which will encourage the Dragon to fish in the troubled waters to create problems on the Indo-Myanmar borders.
India is an influential member of the Quadrilateral grouping which aims at a larger role in world politics hence silence may not work.
India can ill afford to put the nation’s security at risk because militant groups like United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and National Front of Bodoland (NDFB) from north-east take shelter in Myanmar and the military regime can encourage them. India has invested USD 1.2 billion in Myanmar besides approval of USD 120 million in Shwe Oil and Gas project which will become unsafe in a hostile regime.
India is assisting infrastructure projects like India-Myanmar -Thailand trilateral highway and Kaladan multi modal transit ventures which will link Kolkatta to Sittwe.
Military regime can upset the Land Border crossing Agreement, 2018 which will have fallout on two international points in future. Delhi’s twin policy of engaging with Junta to protect its national interest besides working for restoration of democracy will not work as it defies logic.
India has always been unwavering in standing against anti-democratic forces which was witnessed during the process of democratic transition in Myanmar.
But it had avoided directly condemning coup and favored predominance of the rule of law thereby upholding democratic process and the stand had worked to the advantage of India.
On the same analogy, India has refrained from condemning executions which has dismayed the world but it is logical to protect nations’ interests.
China reacts cautiously
China’s guarded reaction smacks of silent approval of military regime’s executions which is primarily guided by its vested strategic interests to check India’s influence in the region.
Experts believe that China has intentionally avoided a strong reaction against executions as it has got a long-term plan to wean away Myanmar from India which can be attributed to its earlier effort to silently support the coup. China does not believe in human rights protection hence coup or executions are normal events for the Dragon.
Regarding executions, China has urged all parties to resolve conflicts within its constitutional framework which does not exist in Myanmar after the military coup a year ago.
Surprisingly, the military Junta has described the executions as “justice for the people’ but pro-democracy activists apprehend escalation in revenge and violence pushing the country back for decades.
May worsen the situation
Executions have shocked the entire world and the volatile situation may worsen in future as it could be the Southeast Asian nation’s first executions in decades.
The United States and EU may toughen the stand to isolate Junta in Myanmar which is likely to be opposed by China, which is ruled by the military after overthrowing the democratically elected government a year back and more than 2100 people have been killed and thousands arrested by the military since the coup.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is dismayed over the execution of four democracy activists by Myanmar’s military despite repeated calls by the United Nations and the international community to desist from carrying out death sentences.
In this complex and dismal scenario, military rulers have exhibited that they do not care about world opinion about heinous crimes of executions of democracy activists and violation of human rights and vested interests of powers like China may give fillip to the determination of Junta to continue killings and atrocities in Myanmar which will lead to pessimism for any ray of hope restoration of democracy in future.
(K.S. TOMAR is national columnist and political analyst)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.