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Why India's Strengthening Bonds with Myanmar are Essential for Countering China's Influence

Published On Wed, 27 Mar 2024
Avani Shah
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Myanmar shares a border with India, making it a significant neighbor within the subcontinent. Despite India's efforts to maintain connections with neighboring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Afghanistan, its level of engagement with Myanmar falls short in comparison. While India does provide developmental assistance and participates in various projects in Myanmar, its involvement doesn't match the depth of its engagement with other neighboring nations.
With a 1,643-kilometer border shared across four northeastern states, namely Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram, ethnic groups spanning this border have experienced insurgencies. Some of these insurgent groups have found refuge in adjacent areas of Myanmar. Although India has sought cooperation from the Myanmar military to address these anti-Indian elements, doubts linger about the extent of control exerted by the Myanmar army over these elements. India has occasionally conducted operations against these groups, a sensitive endeavor due to the geopolitical context.
Under the Modi government's focus on the Northeast, efforts have been made to integrate these states more firmly into the Indian Union, with economic development being a priority. However, despite the strategic importance of Myanmar in facilitating connectivity projects and economic links with Southeast Asia, India's attention to developments in Myanmar hasn't been commensurate with the significance of its stability for the Northeastern region.
China's increasing influence in Myanmar poses a significant challenge to India's interests. China's economic corridor through Myanmar, coupled with its military presence and strategic investments, underscores its intentions to establish dominance in the region. Leveraging Myanmar's internal conflicts and geopolitical vulnerabilities, China has managed to consolidate its foothold in the country.
Amid rising concerns about Myanmar's stability and the potential for ethnic fragmentation, India needs to prioritize its engagement with Myanmar to mitigate these risks. Strengthening ties with Myanmar can also serve India's maritime security interests, especially amidst growing Chinese assertiveness in the Indian Ocean region.
Drawing from India's experiences with diversity and federalism, Myanmar could benefit from India's constitutional framework as a model for accommodating regional identities and cultural diversity. There is a growing consensus within Myanmar for India to play a more proactive role in promoting stability and resolving internal conflicts. Initiatives such as appointing a Special Envoy to Myanmar could enhance India's understanding of ground realities and bolster its credibility as a counterbalance to Chinese influence in the region, aligning with India's Act East policy objectives.
Disclaimer: This Image is taken from Mint.
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