In ancient Indian chronicles,
was known as Suvarnabhumi or the “golden land”' already famous for its boundless riches. Its fabled wealth of gold, silver, precious gems and much more, attracted invaders and traders from around the world. There is now a 21st century version of a “gold rush” beginning to take hold as Myanmar opens its doors to the world. Nothing demonstrates this more starkly than the Myanmar U.S. government decision to lift the prohibition on new American investment in including doing business with state owned oil companies. This is despite the public plea from the leader of the country’s democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, that such deals should be avoided until these entities embrace transparent practices and remove corruption. Myanmar
Lure of opportunities
At the U.S.-Asean meeting at Siem Reap, Cambodia, which concluded on July 13, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had her second meeting with Myanmar President Thein Sein and the two later addressed the strong business contingent accompanying Ms Clinton. It was announced that a 70-member
U.S. business delegation would soon visit to explore trade and investment opportunities. Other western and Asian states are likely to follow. Clearly the lure of commercial opportunities and profit has triumphed over the hitherto careful alignment with the pace set by Ms Suu Kyi. As this trend gains strength, Ms Suu Kyi will lose one of the more potent bargaining chips she has in dealing with the military dominated government, that is her ability to calibrate the dismantling of western sanctions that have been in place for the past two-and-a-half decades. This may well lead to opinion in Myanmar that we, too, should join this rush or face further marginalisation in a key neighbouring country. India
This may not be the best strategy to pursue.
In Siem Reap, Mr. Thein Sein spelt out three reforms which were on the top of his agenda. The first, he said, was to consolidate democracy, build strong democratic institutions and restore the fundamental rights of people, including the freedom of speech and assembly. The second was to achieve lasting peace in the country by reaching out to the various ethnic groups and bringing them into the national mainstream. And the third was to transform an essentially centralised economy into a market oriented one, open to foreign investment and commercial exchanges. In each of these areas
India can offer itself as a significant and long-term partner, relevant to ’s own identified priority areas. India should avoid falling victim to a herd mentality but instead focus on establishing a long-term and sustainable presence in the country, encompassing political, security and economic fields. Myanmar may currently be the flavour of the month. For Myanmar , it must remain on the menu as a key foreign policy and security challenge in a rapidly changing environment. India
Myanmar important to ? India
· Here is a neighbour with whom we share a 1,600 km long land boundary. Four of our sensitive northeastern States — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram — lie along this border.
· In dealing with the complex security situation prevailing in this region,
's cooperation is often critical. The two countries also share the strategic waters of the Myanmar Bay of Bengal. Any hostile or inimical presence along the Myanmarese coast or on its off-shore islands facing would be of great concern. India
Myanmar is also critical to the success of ’s Look East policy. It is India India’s gateway to Asean and a transit country for trade and economic exchanges with southern . The sub-regional organisation of BIMSTEC, which straddles both South and South-East Asia, gives a pivotal role to China as a regional hub. Myanmar
India has long standing historical, cultural and religious links with which underpin a broad-based relationship. There are cross-border ethnic links, too, with Naga and Mizo tribes inhabiting both sides of the India-Myanmar border. Myanmar
· The prospects for an enhanced economic partnership, in particular, in the energy sector will add to this substantive and comprehensive relationship, but only as a significant component, not as a singular rationale for engagement.
The Prime Minister met Ms Suu Kyi in Yangon and extended her an invitation to visit
which she accepted. This will take place later this year. The meeting was warm and friendly with both sides eager to dispel the sense of disappointment which had resulted from India India’s engagement with the generals while she was languishing under house arrest. Myanmar
Ms Suu Kyi focussed on the development challenges facing her country, particularly the alleviation of poverty among her people and was keenly interested in
’s own experience in this regard. As member of Parliament, she has declared her intention to work hard for the betterment of the lives of people, promote inter-ethnic harmony and national reconciliation and contribute to the consolidation of democracy in her country. She recognises that the way ahead is full of risks and uncertainties. One cannot say that the reform process is irreversible. India
This is a more sensible way of ensuring
India’s political, economic and security interests in its strategic neighbourhood than joining the unseemly grab for resources that appears to have gripped ’s erstwhile detractors. Myanmar
(Shyam Saran is a former Foreign Secretary. He is currently Chairman, Research and Information System for Developing Countries and Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research.)
Source – THE HINDU