India’s Policy towards Myanmar: Interests, determinants and risk factors
Guru Aiyar and Priya Ravichandran, The Takshashila Institution
Myanmar’s elections in November 2015 have given a resounding verdict in the favour of National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Ms Aung San Suu Kyi. As a new democratic government takes shape in Myanmar, we assess that the changed political structure in Myanmar is an important determinant of the future trajectory of India—Myanmar relations.
In view of the changed political scenario in Myanmar, this discussion document recommends the following directions for India’s Myanmar policy:
One, integrate markets of North East India with that of neighbouring countries. The region sits in the hub of a geographical space which is home to nearly a billion people comprising the population of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, Southwestern China and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). This will make India an attractive partner to many countries in the region, including Myanmar.
Two, complete transit projects that promise connectivity between India and South East Asia. Connectivity to Myanmar and by extension the rest of South East Asia will expand India’s market and exports. It will also ensure greater people to people connectivity.
Three, consider greater investments in Myanmar. There’s a first mover advantage to investment in Myanmar and the value of capturing critical markets cannot be overstated.
Four, offer help in building the Myanmar state’s institutions. Education, healthcare and governance structures need attention. As a democratic republic in Myanmar’s vicinity, India’s experience in the area could prove to be valuable.
Five, continue to liaison with the Myanmar Army which will continue to play an important role in deciding Myanmar’s foreign policy strategy. Strengthening the security partnership by capacity building of armed forces of Myanmar would ensure stability. A well trained and equipped forces will guarantee internal stability as well as security from external aggression.
Finally, an increased economic and security cooperation with Myanmar need not be seen from the prism of competition with China. As a geopolitical actor seeking to balance its relationships, Myanmar would welcome multiple stakeholders in its path to progress. And this is where India can play a positive role.
This discussion document can be cited as: Guru Aiyar and Priya Ravichandran, "India’s Policy towards Myanmar: Interests, determinants and risk factors", Takshashila Discussion Document, 2016-02. (2016) www.takshashila.org.in.
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