Alternative Strategies towards Myanmar: Revising India’s Look-east Policy
It is in New Delhi’s best interest to secure Myanmar as a permanent trading and strategic partner due to its geographical advantage. So, when faced with the dilemma of whether to support or oppose the first elections in Myanmar in two decades on 7 November 2010, India chose to align with that country and show it solidarity for this first step towards democracy there. Also, internal disturbances in Myanmar will only result in problems for Indian investments in that country.
As long as there is an armed struggle going on in the trade and commercial centres of Myanmar and US sanctions are in place, there will be impediments to investments in that country. A prosperous Myanmar is in India’s best interests. India should therefore, support the call for removal of sanctions on Myanmar because it is due to these sanctions that Myanmar is drawing closer to China.
India’s policy on Myanmar saw a paradigm shift from the erstwhile unfriendly relations to a more adaptive and amicable equation in the mid-1990s. A new lease of life has since been infused into the economic and strategic ties between India and Myanmar resulting in over US$1.4 billion in trade between the two at present. India's present policy has been termed as one of ‘constructive engagement’ with Myanmar with three primary objectives: curbing Chinese influence in the region, containing criminal and insurgent activities along the India-Myanmar border and establishing physical contact with Southeast Asia under the ‘Look East’ Policy.
However, is India utilizing this rejuvenation of friendly relations with Myanmar optimally? Is there enough being done to convert Myanmar’s rich resource base in India’s favour and are these efforts helping both the countries as much as they should? Should India take a more aggressive stance in Myanmar, both economically and strategically? What are the potential areas of cooperation that can be pursued by India in Myanmar in the future, which will prove to be beneficial for both and strengthen their bilateral ties?.