HomeIndian DefenceIndia requires to open multiple channels to safeguard Myanmar interests

India requires to open multiple channels to safeguard Myanmar interests

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India continues to enjoy an amicable partnership with the military junta in Myanmar but it faces evolving challenges in the region, with China making deep inroads in the Southeast Asian nation, dealing simultaneously with the men in uniform and the rebels, including in the critical Rakhine state, said experts.
While the Indian government as well as military have had effective ties with Myanmar’s military leadership, challenges are emerging from the lack of deep contacts with the current army leadership and the country’s elites, they said.

In this backdrop, national security advisor AK Doval met his counterpart from Myanmar in St Petersburg this week.

China and Thailand’s militaries have developed strong contacts with the military junta, the experts said.

China has also established working ties with almost all ethnic groups that operate along the states bordering India, China and Thailand, including the Arakan Army, they said. The ethnic armed organisation has enormous influence in the Rakhine state, which hosts ports built by both India (Sittwe port) and China.

The Arakan Army does not want to secede from Myanmar and is keen to open channels of communication with India, according to people in the know. Experts suggest that India should also open channels of communication with the ethnic groups, at least in the regions bordering Northeastern states.“India is concerned about the deteriorating situation, but concern is not enough,” Rajiv Bhatia, India’s former ambassador to Myanmar, told ET. “We should translate it into purposeful action. We should actively consult other neighbours and key ASEAN states. Further, the government should ginger up its expert community for concrete proposals. Appointment of a special envoy for Myanmar should also be considered.”Bhatia further suggested, “Our interlocutors in Myanmar should be the military government as well as others who wield power in border and other areas.”

India could face a revival of insurgency in the Northeast and increase in cross-border drug trafficking, arms trafficking and human trafficking, according to observers of Myanmar’s internal dynamics.

A key challenge for India could be safeguarding its assets, including Kaladan multimodal project and the trilateral highway amid Chinese interference in Myanmar and its links with both junta and rebels, said one of the observers, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

China controls the essential commodities entering Myanmar as well as the foreign exchange as it is the largest receiver of US dollars from Myanmar, being the largest supplier of most of the products imported by Myanmar, according to one of the observers. Essentially, China controls the ecosystem and Myanmar’s economy directly and indirectly, the observer said.

If the situation persists, India’s ties with Myanmar could see some strain in the next five-seven years over the border region, said another observer, adding that the China Myanmar Economic Corridor will provide China smooth access to the Bay of Bengal, closer to the Indian coast and the Exclusive Economic Zone of India.

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