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On The Horns Of A Diplomatic Dilemma

History is full of examples of how a coup d’état is capable of pushing a Democratic Nation on the brink of collapse. After seizing an authoritative power by force, the new ruler is hardly bound by any obligation to listen to the opinion of the opposing parties. What has been happening in Myanmar over the past two months is rare in history… the Military Rulers in the South-east Asian nation are not worried about the death toll of the Pro-Democracy activists, as they want to eliminate the last Anti-coup activist. So far, more than 500 protesters have been killed, many political leaders have been arrested, major media houses have been shut down, and at least 10 journalists have been detained without charge. The Military Rulers are not at all interested in Democracy. People in uniform, whose source of power lies in arms, lack the capability of restoring Democracy…

The recent coup in Myanmar stunned the global community, who condemned the act almost immediately. It is becoming increasingly clear that they have warned the state apparatus so that the Military Rulers could restrain themselves. The US, the UK and Canada have already asked their citizens not to travel to the Asian country, while South Korea has suspended arms trade with Myanmar. Japan, the second-largest investor in the country, is constantly monitoring the developments in Myanmar. Although the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is yet to snap ties with Myanmar, it has demanded immediate release of Pro-Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Protests in Myanmar

On the other hand, Russia and China, considered as friends of Myanmar, are trying to provide the Military Rulers with all sorts of help in an attempt to change the dynamics of the Regional Geopolitics. The ongoing diplomatic tug of war over Myanmar is bad not only for the South-east Asian nation, but also for the entire region. If Myanmar becomes a puppet in the hand of Russia and China, then there will be a rise in insurgency inside the country, business relations with other nations will get affected, and regional stability will naturally get disrupted.

Now, the question arises here is: What the world’s Largest Democracy can do for the region? India, while maintaining close relations both with Suu Kyi and the Myanmarese Army, has declared that New Delhi is seriously concerned about the coup. However, the Narendra Modi Administration has said nothing more. According to Political Experts, India is still in a dilemma whether to maintain cordial ties with the Military Rules, or to provide Suu Kyi with Democratic Support. India, initially, had refused to provide shelter and food to political refugees from Myanmar after the coup. Later, New Delhi announced assistance for them. Again, Experts believe that the Governments of north-eastern Indian Provinces cannot ignore the political crisis in neighbouring country, as they share a border of nearly 1600km with Myanmar.

The Myanmarese refugee crisis raises some big questions in India. Should those fleeing repression in Myanmar be sent back by India or should Humanity come before Politics? Former Foreign Secretary of India Kanwal Sibal said: “We are not in the business of Democracy promotion. Our interests come first.” He also said: “Because of India’s larger political, economic and security interests in Myanmar where the Military will retain at least some power no matter how the present situation unfolds, we have to keep the doors of dialogue open. Also, the ‘China factor’ cannot be ignored.” For his part, Political Commentator Sushil Aaron stressed: “Taking in refugees is not only the right thing to do, it’s also good Geopolitics.” “The Indian Government is not popular in Nepal and Bangladesh, as recent protests show. New Delhi is now alienating the People of Myanmar as well. None of India’s interests can be meaningfully served if neighbouring populations turn against it,” added Aaron.

Meanwhile, former BBC Correspondent Subir Bhaumik believes that India has many options, as the Myanmarese Military cracks down fiercely on Democratic Forces. In an article published in The Times of India daily on April 9, 2021, Bhaumik wrote: “This (the Anti-Coup protests) may be a reflection of public anger over a growing narrative that China is a neo-colonialist in Myanmar, conspiring to take away its huge mineral resources, precious stones, hydrocarbons and much else – for which they need a military totally dependent on them and isolated from the rest of the world.

Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar

Hence, irrespective of the interests and relations of the two Governments at the diplomatic level, India, as a Democratic Nation, will have to deliver a strong message to the Military Rulers of Myanmar and support the Pro-Democracy Civil Society there. Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar often talks about India’s exceptional democratic achievements. Hopefully, India’s position and initiative in the context of Myanmar will establish his claim in near future.

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