UPSC IAS Prelims 2021: India-Myanmar Bilateral Relations & Latest Developments At A Glance
In a turn of events, the Myanmar military seized power in a coup and declared a state of emergency in Myanmar.
Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and some other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, were detained as the military declared their landslide victory at the polls void.
Causes behind the Myanmar Military Coup
There were two reasons
India’s diplomatic response
Image Source: The Diplomat
India expressed "deep concern" on the developments in Myanmar and hoped that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld.
MEA in guarded statement said "We have noted the developments in Myanmar with deep concern. India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar. We believe that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld. We are monitoring the situation closely,"
India’s previous response to military coups
Image Source: Forbes.com
When General Ne Win staged a coup in 1962, the military junta snapped ties with the world including India-and relations went into a deep freeze.
Later in 1988, in Myanmar, demonstrations erupted and soon snowballed into a pro-democracy mass movement. The generals unleashed extreme violence to quell the protests and were condemned worldwide.
Decades earlier, with oppressive and military regimes in its neighborhood, India was uncomfortable. It sponsored democratic movements in neighboring nations, itself a democracy.
In the case of Myanmar, there were other reasons too for India’s pro-democracy policies.
India went on to honor Aung San Suu Kyi, who was leading Myanmar’s struggle for democracy, with the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding but there was a section in the Indian government that was opposed to conferring the award and there was growing concern in India over the implications of supporting the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar.
Drawing the military ruler’s anger was seen to be counterproductive to India’s economic and security interests in Myanmar and it happened.
The Myanmar army, alienated internationally by its repression, turned to China for political, economic, and military support. Like Chinese investment and supplies of arms to Myanmar, bilateral trade soared.
It resulted in a strong relationship, but with Myanmar’s deep dependence on China and growing alienation with India.
The Chinese presence in Myanmar and the clout Beijing wielded over the military had grave implications for India’s security.
India needed to rethink the “idealistic” pro-democracy policy towards Myanmar.
From 1993 and on, India set in motion a realpolitik or pragmatic policy toward Myanmar that saw the initiation of a rapprochement with the military.
India’s present stand
Reasons behind Indian Approach
India’s different reaction is different because of changed geostrategic realities and a willingness to have a different strategic engagement
Image Source: CNN
Myanmar and the country’s Generals by toppling its democratically elected government, are struggling to retain their grip on power in the face of growing pro-democracy mass protests.
The Military power has now deployed the familiar repressive tactics to quell opposition to the latest coup.
One of the most persistent opponents of democracy has been Myanmar's military. In the past, violent crackdowns have faced challenges to Myanmar's military, but today the junta has to face popular opposition.
Even before, when the coup took place, the military leaders placated the people offering them a new Constitution as a compromise as in 2008. This Constitution was the basis of the partial transition to democracy in 2015. This experiment did not last more than five years and in five years, The Myanmarese people had tasted democracy after decades of repressive dictatorship,
Now the protesters are calling for civil disobedience, stoppage of work, sit-ins, and mass demonstrations. The strike has already paralyzed the banking system at a time when the economy, hit hard by COVID-19, is struggling to stand on its feet.
The military is also facing international sanctions and condemnation.
Years of repression have not killed Myanmar’s aspirations for democracy and what was done in 1988 or 2007 does not seem to be getting repeated.
A democratic form is always desirable, where the election results are respected, jailed leaders are release, and power is handed back to the elected government.
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