Oct 11, 2006

India, Myanmar and Realpolitiks

If there is one place our foreign policy is paying some dividends then it is in Myanmar.

According to news reports India and Myanmar have agreed to help each other with their respective dilemmas.

According to reports India has accepted Myanmar's request for military hardware and software in return for Myanmar’s full cooperation in flushing out Indian insurgent groups operating from its soil.

India, keeping its side of the bargain, has begun/will be giving Myanmar 105-mm Indian field guns, an unspecified number of retired T-55 tanks, armoured personal carriers, 105-mm light artillery guns, mortars and the indigenous advanced light helicopters at concessional rates.

Earlier in August this year, our Navy transferred two BN-2 'Defender' Islander maritime surveillance aircraft and deck-based air-defence guns and varied surveillance equipment to Myanmar. In the past we had given them 75/24 Howitzers.

Now with the cease-fire off, the Indian Army is planning a big operation against ULFA and other NE terrorist groups in early-October and security along the northeast borders has been stepped up.

As part of the bargain, Myanmar has to flush out the North East terrorist groups like ULFA, UNLF, NSCN (K), etc which have bases in the thick Myanmarese jungles. The Indian and Myanmarese armies will conduct "coordinated operations" along the 1,643-km Indo-Myanmar border. An intelligence-sharing pact has also been signed.

NDTV reported that after India supplied 98 truckloads of arms and ammunition last month, Myanmar started fulfilling its side of the bargain and has started cracking down on camps run by NSCN (K) and ULFA in Myanmar’s north.

One good thing about India’s involvement in Myanmar is that we are playing some realpolitiks – ignoring the concerns of the West - in order to counter the deep strategic inroads made by China and Pakistan into Myanmar. With the Chinese and the Pakistanis very much present there, helping the Myanmar junta militarily and economically, we had no other option other than to ditch the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

With such attention showered on it by its contesting neighbours, Myanmar will be tempted to playoff one against the other and here we should be on our guard. For a country that is (in)famous for bolting the stable after the horses have fled that is a big if.

BTW, an IMF report has found that increased gas exports by Myanmar are boosting its economic growth so much so that it will end this fiscal in 2007 with 7% GDP growth! That’s better than the forecast for Uncle Sam's FATWAT Pakistan which is somewhere in six percent. And let us not forget the Americans and the Europeans have imposed economic sanctions on Myanmar coz this Junta is of no particular use to them. But that hasn’t stopped Uncle Sam’s boys from doing business with the Myanmar Junta.

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