China wary of bilateral ties between India and Myanmar

Feb 16, 2009
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China wary of bilateral ties between India and Myanmar - Hindustan Times

China is both Myanmar's most influential foreign neighbour and its most nervous. No country is as deeply entrenched in the economy of Myanmar while being so wary of the political reforms that began there last year. This poses a challenge to India on several levels.

Senior Myanmar officials, say diplomatic sources, told their Indian counterparts last year that China was the only external player that could destroy the reform process in one fell swoop. Beijing's concerns were geopolitical. The fear is that a democratic Myanmar will gravitate towards the US and become a democratic thorn in China's southern flank.
India has already warned Washington that the US should consider a lower profile in Myanmar. However, say US officials, China seems suspicious whether the West is loud or silent. "Every where we go, all the Burmese want greater engagement."

China's economic hold on Myanmar goes back to Deng Xiaoping's determination to fill the void in Myanmar's economy left by Western sanctions. Factories came up all across Myanmar's eastern border, especially near the Shan state areas. Today, in cities like Mandalay and across Upper Burma, China's economic presence is overwhelming.

Democracies like India, Japan and the US already informally discuss how they can work together economically in Myanmar. Infrastructure proposals like the Trilateral Highway running from India to Vietnam top the list of ideas.

The Chinese have not helped their cause by working so closely with the military all these years. Says David Methieson of Human Rights Watch, "Burmese felt a sense of victory when their government cancelled a $ 3. 6 billion dam last year." While described as a concession to minori demands, there were reports that it reflected growing anti- chinese sentiment in the Mysnmar army as well.

Chinese practices like importing their own labour have also made Burmese unhappy, says Thin Thin Aung of the newspaper Mizzima. "Their projects give us no jobs. " Knowing they have little standing with the pro-democracy leaders like Aung San SuuKyi, the Chinese have sought to cultivate other sources of influence. Former Indian Ambassador to Myanmar, Rajiv Bhatia, says Beijing has three targets in mind. One is the top Myanmar military leadership, the other is the military's politicsl wing the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, and the two speakers of the Myanmar Parliament — Khin Aung Myint and Thurs Shwe Mann.

SuuKyi has been careful to send the right signals to China. Asked about the scrapping of the dam, she merely said that the Chinese should not be blamed but rather the Myanmar officials who agreed to such an unfair deal in the first place. Says Mathieson, "She sent the signal that we won't hurt you. You can deal with us."

This is practical. China's accomplishments in Myanmar dwarf anything India has done, even though India is in a perfect position to serve as an alternative for Myanmar without causing Beijing alarm. The Myanmarese know they cannot live without their northern neighbour. They have a saying, "When China spits, Burma swims."

Kunal Biswas

Member of the Year 2011
May 26, 2010


Reports from Myanmar indicate that during his visit to Myanmar next week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be meeting Aung San SuuKyi at Yangon (Rangoon) on May 29,2012. She has reportedly re-scheduled a visit to Bangkok, her first visit abroad since her release from house-arrest, in order to be available at Yangon for meeting our Prime Minister.

2. This gesture of hers is indicative of the importance attached by her to Myanmar's relations with India despite her past unhappiness over India's close relations with the military junta that ruled the country till the end of 2010.

3. The Prime Minister's visit comes at a time when there are reports of spreading public unrest over severe power-cuts in many towns. The unrest in the form of street demonstrations first started in Mandalay and from there has since spread to Pegu, Monywa and Yangon.The protesters have not taken the permission of the Police for holding demonstrations which is an offence, but the Government has chosen to ignore the violation of the law in order not to provoke them further. The protesters have been using their restricted access to Facebook and Twitter to call upon people in other towns to demonstrate.

4.It is not yet clear whether the street demonstrations are spontaneous or have been instigated by anti-democracy hawks in the Army to weaken the position of the TheinSeinGovernment which has been steadily moving towards greater political reforms and opening-out to the world.

5.However, in an attempt to project the demonstrations as spontaneous, the protesters have accused the former military government of selling off natural gas reserves to China and pocketing the profits, while 75 per cent of the local people have no access to electricity. Electricity consumption in Myanmar averages 104 kilowatts an hour per person—one of the lowest in the world.

6.Speaking during the opening of a local office of her National League For Democracy (NLD) on May 22,2012, SuuKyi said that the power shortages were the direct result of government mismanagement and called upon the Government to give priority to increasing the power supply and to creating jobs for the unemployed youth.

7.The Government announced on May 23 that it was purchasing six generators from U.S.-based Caterpillar Inc., which will be air-freighted within a week, and two 25-megawatt gas-turbines to be bought from General Electric Co. The Government has blamed the Kachin insurgency for severely damaging electricity production and distribution.

8.During his visit, our Prime Minister should offer to help the Myanmar Government on an emergency basis to increase the power supply and also gift a plane-load of generators of the required capacity needed by the Government. The Prime Minister could also offer a special credit to enable the Government to repair the damages to the power infrastructure. ( 26-5-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )
:: - Indian Military News Headlines ::


The Chairman
Apr 17, 2009
China has good reason to be wary of India around the neighbourhood.

It is also interesting to see how the US is slowly ingratiating itself with the Asia countries.

Ms Clinton visit to Bangladesh as laudatory remarks is a worthwhile indicators of things to come.

Ms Clinton also remarked about the role Bangladesh is capable of playing in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. It surely must have boosted Bangladesh's ego!

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