On 18th November 2020, Takshashila Institution hosted a #DeepWebinar focused on exploring ways forward for India-Myanmar relations. It included Bertil Lintner(Security Affairs Correspondent for Asia Times and Author of seven renowned books on Myanmar) and Dr. Sandeep Shastri (Pro VC Jain University and Lead Consultant,Myanmar Project,Forum of Federations) as panellists. They were joined by discussants Dr. P.S. Ramya (Asst. Prof. School of Law at Presidency University) and Dr. Sripathi Narayanan (an Independent analyst).
Aditya Ramanathan, Associate Fellow at Takshashila Institution anchored the discussion as the host. The conversation began with deliberation on the similarities between the political scene in both India and Myanmar.
The first of the panellists to speak Dr. Shastri remarked that the recent elections in Myanmar underline major similarities between it and India. In both countries, the incumbent party came back to power with a larger majority, and the opposition was further marginalised. He opined that while India can play a major role in offering support to Myanmar through trade and investment, the government of India hasn’t done enough to secure strong and friendly bilateral ties between India and Myanmar.
The Second Panelist Bertil Lintner opined on the security situation that India must pay more attention to its eastern border as Naga, Manipuri and Assamese insurgency is often fostered in militant camps in the mountains of Myanmar. He further remarked that as Myanmar went from the darling of the west to a pariah, China took advantage of the situation and increased its influence in Myanmar. He opined that India must work to counter this Chinese advantage through greater cooperation between think tanks and the militaries of Myanmar and India.
The discussant Dr. Ramaya expressing her skepticism of the view that China’s influence in Myanmar is rapidly increasing remarked that most major China-led infrastructure projects in Myanmar have been stalled and the progress in the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor has been very slow.
The second discussant Dr. Sripathi highlighted the unique internal political makeup of Myanmar and the several stakeholders that exist within it, he also offered some food for thought questions about the future of Myanmar’s political leadership. Dr. Sripathi also acknowledged the impact of India transferring to Myanmar INS Sindhuvir, a Kilo class Submarine, as a sign of greater cooperation being possible between India and Myanmar going forward.
Towards the end of the session P.M. Heblikar (Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India) remarked that there are vast opportunities for India and Myanmar to cooperate including the development of ports in southern Myanmar and that more than 85% of people in Myanmar believe India is a friend to them.
About the Takshashila Institution
The Takshashila Institution is an independent center for research and education in public policy. It is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates the values of freedom, openness, tolerance, pluralism and responsible citizenship. The Takshashila Institution seeks to transform India through better public policies, bridging the governance gap by developing better public servants, civil society leaders, professionals and informed citizens. The video of the #DeepWebinar can be assessed on Takshashila Institution’s Youtube Channel.