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Foreign Secretary meets Myanmar military leaders

  • Published
    23rd Nov, 2022
Context

India’s foreign secretary met with members of Myanmar’s military junta regime, to discuss border management.

Highlights of the meet:

  • Key issues of mutual importance were discussed:
    • Border Management
    • Human Trafficking
    • Revived Infrastructure projects
    • Collaboration in the regional and multilateral context
  • No meeting with the disposed of National Unity Government
  • Made no demand for the release of detainees, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

Importance of India-Myanmar relations:

  • Myanmar is geopolitically significant to India as it stands at the center of the India-Southeast Asia geography.
  • Myanmar is the only country that sits at the intersection of India’s “Neighborhood First” policy and “Act East” policy.
  • Myanmar is an essential element in India’s practice of regional diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific and serves as a land bridge to connect South Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • As part of India’s SAGAR Vision, India developed the Sittwe port in Myanmar’s Rakhine state which seems to be India’s answer to the Chinese-fronted Kyaukpyu port, which is intended to cement China’s geostrategic footprint in Rakhine.
  • Myanmar is an important member of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), a multilateral subregional organization that is committed to fostering bilateral or regional cooperation among Bay of Bengal countries.
  • To elevate its “Made in India” arms industry, India has identified Myanmar as key to increasing its military exports.

Challenges in India-Myanmar relations:

  • China Factor: Beijing’s bidding into Myanmar regional affairs. Myanmar is inevitability a “kingmaker” in Sino-Indian relations.
  • Trade deficit: With a total bilateral trade of $2 billion, India’s economic engagement with Myanmar lags behind China.
    • Myanmar is vital to fulfilling India’s ambition to become a $5 trillion economy by 2024.
    • India’s withdrawal from Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership can further increase this trade gap.
  • Rohingya Issue: Rohingya crisis in Myanmar has increased the plight of the hapless Rohingya which is not in India’s national security interest in the northeast.
  • Porous Indo-Myanmar Border: The 1643-km-long Indo-Myanmar border, which facilitates the cross-border movement of militants, illegal arms, and drugs, is extremely porous.
  • Infrastructure and Connectivity: India has cultivated several infrastructure and development projects with Myanmar, which it sees as the “gateway to the East” and ASEAN countries:
    • Operationalization of the crucial Sittwe port in Myanmar’s Rakhine state by 2021 is committed.
    • India assists infrastructure projects such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project.
    • The Kaladan project will link Kolkata to Sittwe in Myanmar and then from Myanmar’s Kaladan river to India’s northeast.
  • The two countries signed the Land Border Crossing Agreement in 2018, which allowed bona fide travelers with valid documents to cross the border at two international points of entry/exit- Moreh-Tamu and Zokhawthar-Rih.
  • Security: Indian needs perpetual support and coordination from Myanmar for the maintenance of security and stability along its North East border areas.
  • Energy: The two countries are also expanding their partnership in the area of energy cooperation. India approved an investment of over USD 120 million in the Shwe Oil and Gas project.
  • Rohingya Issues: India is committed to ensuring the safe, sustainable, and speedy return of Rohingya refugees from refugee camps in India and Bangladesh.
  • Investment: With Indian investments of over USD 1.2 billion, Myanmar holds considerable importance than any other country in South Asia.
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