The conference titled ‘India-Myanmar Relations: Looking from the Border’ was held at ISS auditorium on 28 & 29 September 2015.
A recently concluded Indo-Burma seminar in the national capital witnessed many speakers emphasising visible Bharateeya presence in the neighbouring country albeit maintaining its credibility as the largest democracy of the globe. The speakers also insisted on more people to people contact between the two neighbouring countries more precisely the residents from the north-eastern region and its adjacent Myanmar (formerly Burma) localities.
Organised by the New Delhi based Institute of Social Sciences (ISS) and Burma Centre Delhi (BCD) with the support from the Heinrich Böll Stiftung India, the conference titled India-Myanmar Relations: Looking from the Border was held at ISS auditorium on 28 & 29 September 2015. The meeting also highlighted the pain of various communities of the region, who were divided by the international border, and urged the Union Government in New Delhi to provide adequate space for those communities to interact and share vital information as and when needed.
All the speakers were unanimous in their views that the north-eastern region had to play an important role in New Delhi’s Act East Policy.
However, it was cautioned that the sense of alienation of various communities in the region should be addressed properly, such that they can join in the process of development with the enhancement of Bharat-Myanmar economic relationship.
In his key note address, former Bharateeya Ambassador to Myanmar Rajiv K Bhatia argued that India’s Act East Policy is not a mere replacement of Look East Policy. The policy switch focuses on action and implementation. If the earlier emphasis was on economic cooperation, now the accent is on strategic cooperation, he added.
Pointing out that Myanmar is going to play the role of a reliable window to Bharat’s increasing trade & commerce with South East Asian nations, Ambassador Bhatia, who has authored India-Myanmar Relations: Changing Contours, also hoped that a liberal democratic Myanmar will emerge after the November 8 general elections.
The former diplomat also batted for an inclusive growth in the north-eastern region, which has the potential to become Bharat’s trade gateway to ASEAN countries, so that the relationship with Myanmar could sustain without any hindrance. Participating in the conference, another former Bharateeya Ambassador to Myanmar Preet Mohan Singh Malik emphasised on efficient connectivity with the Myanmar. Expressing his concern over the increasing clout of China over Myanmar, Malik insisted on Bharat’s extensive presence in the neighbouring country. He argued that Myanmar remains a vital country for Bharat on the security perspective.
Tapir Gao, former Member of Parliament from Arunachal Pradesh, highlighted about the presence of north-east Bharateeya militants inside Myanmar, lack of concrete border between the neighbouring countries and the potential of Bharat’s rail connectivity with southeast Asian nations including Myanmar.
Expressing hope that a new era in Bharat-Myanmar relations would dawn very soon, the active politician also urged the civil society, media and other stakeholders to help providing a clear blueprint as to how the north-eastern region can act as the game changer.
Lian Bawi Thang of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) welcomed Bharat’s engagement including in the Kaladan Multi-modal Project, but also called for transparency. He narrated that over 50 million people are living in Bharat-Myanmar border areas who share their histories. He also expected New Delhi’s active move for the development of these people.
In his welcome address, ISS director Dr Ash Narain Roy said that the Bharat-Myanmar dialogue at the level of civil society is critically important for the success of Act East Policy. However there exist huge gaps between the government’s policy pronouncements & intent and the reality on the ground.
BCD director Dr Alana Golmei argued that the people of north-east Bharat stand to benefit the most from the connectivity corridors and civil society engagements. This engagement will be of equal benefit to the people of Myanmar particularly those residing in the neighbouring regions of Bharat. —NJ Thakuria