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:
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.