General Election in Myanmar is scheduled for November 8, 2015 and all political parties are preparing hard to get maximum number of seats in upcoming election. Though, the fight is between Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung Sang Suu Ki, people of Burma are expecting freest and fairest election. On practical grounds, it is military VS democracy.

India-Myanmar relation

There has been long historical and spiritual relationship between these two countries. The exchange of culture in terms of Buddhism and Burmese scripts has built up strong ties between them. Theravada Buddhism has influenced Burma tremendously, 90% of population continuing to follow the religion till date.

Myanmar is strategically important ASEAN country that shares border with India. It is also the only country that can act as a link between India and ASEAN. Myanmar is India’s gateway to Southeast Asia and could be the required impetus to realize India’s Look East Policy. 

Myanmar and India shares their border at Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh which stretches over 1600 kilometres. This geographical proximity has also helped both countries to develop and sustain cordial and amicable relation which leads to people to people contact. A large population of Indian origin lives in Myanmar.(Also Read: Will General Election 2015 bring complete Democracy in Myanmar?)

India has established its first diplomatic relation with Myanmar after its independence from Britain in 1948. India and Myanmar signed a Treaty of Friendship in 1951. 

The visit of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 was a major breakthrough in relationship between India and Myanmar, but soon it got worsened when Military Junta quashed the pro-democracy movement in 1988 which Indian government was in favour. This resulted in influx of Burmese refugees into India. This opportune moment was well utilised by China by maintaining close link with Myanmar.

India always tried to promote democratic forces in Myanmar but once it couldn’t help the country, India has shift its policy and engagement with Myanmar instead of keeping it isolated. Shift of policy was also due to Chinese influence inside Burma. This started from 1993 when then Indian Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee started to follow such policies to establish warmer relation between the two nations.

Some salient points of Economic and infrastructural ties between two countries

•India is the largest market for Burmese exports, buying about $220 million worth of goods in 2000.
• India is Burma’s 4th largest trading partner.
•India is also the seventh most important source of Burma’s imports.
•The Indian government has worked to extend air, land and sea routes to strengthen trade links with Myanmar and establish a gas pipeline.
•On 13 February 2001 India and Burma inaugurated 250 kilometre Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo highway, popularly called the Indo-Myanmar Friendship Road. It was, built to provide a major strategic and commercial transport route connecting North-East India, and South Asia as a whole, to Southeast Asia.
•India and Myanmar have agreed to a 4-lane, 3200 km triangular highway connecting India,Myanmar and Thailand. The route, which is expected to be completed by sometime during 2016, will run from India’s northeastern states into Myanmar, where over 1,600 km of roads will be built or improved.
•Many Indian companies made significant economic and trade agreements in infrastructure and other areas. Some of the major projects taken up by India include the resurfacing and upgrading of the 160 km Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo road and the Kaladan project that will connect Kolkata Port with Sittwe Port in Myanmar (which is still in progress). A bus service from Imphal to Mandalay will begin in October.
•India is also helping Myanmar by setting up high-speed data links in 32 cities. Some other Indian companies such as Essar, GAIL, and ONGC Videsh Ltd. have invested in Myanmar’s energy sector. Tata Motors has set up a heavy turbo-truck assembly plant with financial assistance from the Indian Government.
•Bilateral trade has grown from $12.4 million in 1980-81 to $2.18 billion in 2013-14. 

India’s initiative and cooperation towards close relations with Burma are guided by a desire to counter China’s growing influence as a regional leader and strengthen its own position. India’s concerns and tensions has increased due to Chinese extensive military involvement in developing ports, naval and intelligence facilities and industries, specifically the upgrading of a naval base in Sittwe, a major seaport which is located close to Indian city of Kolkata.

India’s engagement and shift of its policy towards Burmese military junta has helped and lessen Burma’s reliance on China. Both nations sought to cooperate to counteract drug trafficking and insurgent groups operating in the border areas. Recent Indian military operation done on 9th June in Myanmar area against Indian insurgent group NSCN shows the cooperation of Myanmar and commitment towards eradicating all form of terrorism.

How election will influence India

India is the largest democratic country which recognizes the importance of democracy and encourages other countries to be on this line. Myanmar has seen disturbed politically where India most of the time kept itself away and adhere to non interference in internal affairs for which it has to be bare worldwide criticism. India tried to encourage democratic forces in Myanmar but finds the relation at deteriorating end which causes coldness in relations. India has sent an unmistakable sign that while monetary ties are vital, it is quick to assemble a comprehensive relationship and is ready to help with establishment constructing in Myanmar. While the essential establishment for the relationship in the middle of India and Myanmar has been laid by past governments, the onus is on the present Indian organization to show that it can take the relationship to a larger amount. It can likewise turn into an in number local player through a more proactive methodology, bond India’s place in the district and develop into an intense, worldwide nation. This movement of approach was just to counter China’s solid vicinity in Myanmar. So, policy makers at Delhi strongly suggest that India must continue to do business with Myanmar and clip Chinese influence there. Whether it is democratic forces or Military Junta, India has to keep the relation stronger.

 China strong traditional ties with Myanmar are changing. Thein Sein government since 2011 significantly sought to decrease the country’s over-dependence on China. In fact, China has been stung by massive outcry over Chinese exploitation of country natural resources and use of Myanmar’s territory for a gas and oil pipeline and hydroelectricity projects. Now, China is reaching out to Suu Kyi. 

However, after the initial support, India failed to sustain the quantum of support for the pro-democracy movement. Suu Kyi expressed disappointment over India’s courting the junta. Expert analysis of this election result favouring  Ms. Suu Kyi’s party NLD and expecting a win which will be really important to deal. India will have to be very much balanced in dealing with Military Junta and Ms. Suu Kyi. 

Considering that the generals are likely to stay in force, India needs their goodwill and backing to contain the rebellion that it confronts in the North East, enhance respective financial and vitality ties, and use Myanmar as a springboard to enter South East Asia, and hence contain China’s advances into the locale.

You may contact Shree Shubham on or on twitter @shubhamshree85

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