July 25, 2010


[With its four different states - Arunchal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram in the north east, India shares 1643 kilometer long, strategically important border with Myanmar, which is now facing tough international isolation for its non acceptance of democracy and human rights.  General Than Shwe, the military junta leader from Yangon (Rangoon, which is now called Naypidaw), is visiting New Delhi today apparently seeking New Delhi’s endorsement for the 'general election' later this year (date uncertain).   Myanmar has been rumored as having  ‘nuclear ambition’ and also trying to rid itself of ‘over-China-dependence’. The giant northern neighbour, China has taken advantage of prolonged diplomatic and economic vacuum in Myanmar. The US Secretary of States, Hillary Clinton, has warned Myanmar not to pursue any nuclear ambition and hold free and fair election. But a question pops up: ‘how could such elections be fair and impartial as the military junta regime has already banned contesting political parties ?’ 

In the mid-nineties China adopted ‘Burmese Strategy” taking advantage of the international isolation Myanmar is facing since. Being very much sensitive about the Chinese move, which seems very  natural, India also signed a ‘Border Trade Agreement’ with Myanmar in 1994 as  the fruition of its ‘Look East Policy'. But this policy suffered a set back when Myanmar pulled out from  ‘Golden Bird  Operation’ - a joint military operation against  the separatists, -  United Liberation Front of Assam, [ULFA], Greater Niglam   or   National Socialist Council of Nagaland [NSCN],  Kuki National Army,  Manipur People’s Liberation Front,  the Mizos  etc. who were in their movements for separate states. Myanmar pulled out  in protest as India  had awarded Aang San Suu Kyi 'Nehru Award for International Understanding' in 1995. India virtually wants to promote democracy in its neighbouring countries. So, it did not pay much attention to the military regime in Naypidaw  (Yangoon). The doubting Naypidaw Military Junta  also turned blind eyes towards the Naga, Mizos, Kukis and other ethnic rebels who were spearheading their  separatist movement elsewhere from Myanmar border.  The situation has not changed that much. Last May, some Nepalese speaking people were killed in Meghalayan violence in border dispute in between Assam and Meghalaya.  The  public  in India seems to be interested in strengthening Indo-Burma  relations, which  means ‘support the military regime and do not push them for a quicker reform'; which the west hates most.   Please read the posts below. Editor]


WASHINGTON — As Snr-Gen Than Shwe prepares for a five-day visit to India beginning on Sunday, the Obama administration is calling on New Delhi to tell the Burmese junta leader that it is time for Burma to change.

Speaking to reporters at his daily news briefing on Friday, US State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley said, however, that the administration is not worried about the relationship between Burma and India.

“Are we afraid that there's proliferation between India and Burma? Not at all. That is not something that concerns us,” Crowley said in response to a question.

“[India] has a relationship with Burma, and we would ... encourage India and other countries to send a clear message to Burma that it needs to change its course,” Crowley said, adding that other countries in the region and around the world share the same interest in regional stability.

“Others who have relationships with Burma share a responsibility to communicate directly and forcefully to Burma about its responsibilities, whether they are protecting the region against the risk of proliferation or telling Burma directly that it should more constructively engage its opposition and other ethnic groups within Burma,” Crowley said.

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell also told reporters that the US is seeking New Delhi’s help to achieve its goal of democracy and protection of human rights in Burma.

“We have raised Burma in our conversations with Indian interlocutors. We've made very clear to Indian friends that we think India's very important role in the international community gives it a voice,” he said in response to a question.

“We've asked them to encourage interlocutors inside the country to embrace reform, to free political prisoners and to engage more responsibly with the international community,” said Campbell, who met with Indian officials in New Delhi earlier this year to discuss India's “Look East” policy, which includes Burma.

“Our conversations suggest that Indian friends have taken steps over a period of years and are beginning to play perhaps a more active role in this regard,” he said.

“They've also been very clear that they have strategic interests. We respect those, but we also want to work closely with not just India, but other countries in Southeast Asia, on encouraging this group of military leaders in Naypyidaw to take more responsible choices,” he said.

Campbell said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would meet Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna in Vietnam next week on the sidelines of the annual Asean Regional Forum meeting, which includes the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) plus other key nations from around the region, including JapanSouth KoreaChinaAustralia and New Zealand.

“During those sessions, we anticipate a very broad and diverse discussion about North Korea; about regional security issues in Southeast Asia; [and] about the importance of architecture, in terms of the American role in the evolving architecture of Asia,” he said.

“While in Vietnam, Secretary Clinton will hold a number of bilateral meetings. Those are being scheduled as we speak. There will be a bilateral meeting with Japan, with China, with India, and several others, including some key states in Southeast Asia as well,” Campbell said.

By Zarni Mann

Civil society groups based in India sent a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday to  protest an upcoming state visit to the country by the head of Burma's ruling junta, Snr-Gen Than Shwe.

The letter, submitted by the Burma Center Delhi (BCD) and signed by 38 civil society organizations and 71 individuals, says that “Than Shwe does not represent the people of Burma but only the military regime. India should not work freely with the military regime.”
Dr. Alana Golmei, the coordinator of BCD, said, “India is the world's largest democracy and also stands against violations of human rights. [This visit] is not acceptable because Than Shwe is one of the worst dictators in the world.”

The letter also urged the Indian prime minister to push the Burmese regime to release detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners, begin a dialogue with ethnic leaders, review the 2008 Constitution, and ensure a free and fair election.

“We need to take this opportunity to urge the government of India to show stronger support for the Burmese people. We believe that the situation will be worse after the military government's election,” said Golmei.
The US, which has growing ties with India, also called on New Delhi to put pressure on the Burmese regime during Than Shwe's five-day visit, which will begin on Sunday.
“We would encourage India and other countries to send a clear message to Burma that it needs to change its course,” US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on Friday.
The Indian government's decision to welcome Than Shwe also came under fire from the International Federation for Human Rights, which represents 164 organizations around the world. On Wednesday, the federation sent a letter to the Indian prime minister protesting the visit.

Meanwhile, sources in Bodh Gaya, an important Buddhist religious site that Than Shwe is expected to visit during his stay in India, say that the walls and trees around the Mahabodhi Temple and along the way to Burmese Monastery have been covered with protest messages and photographs of monk-led demonstrations that the regime brutally crushed in September 2007.

“We don't know who posted these notes, but some Burmese security personnel and Buddhist nuns are now removing them,” said a monk in Bodh Gaya. “It also seems that we will not be allowed to enter the temple compound when he arrives.”

Some monks at the Burmese Monastery have reportedly decided to refuse to accept offerings from the junta leader, as a form of protest against his role in ordering the deadly crackdown on the 2007 uprising.

Than Shwe's visit to India will start on July 25 to 29 and is expected to include meetings with President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and other senior officials.

He will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including three ministers—Minister for National Planning & Economic Development Soe Tha, Minister for Science and Technology U Thaung and Commerce Minister Tin Naing Thein—and other senior officials.

According to India's Financial Express newspaper, the Burmese ministers will address captains of Indian industry at a roundtable meeting on July 27 to seek enhanced investments.