US policy toward Myanmar is shifting from one of isolation to engagement, as underscored by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s three day visit to Myanmar in early December. In this post, we highlight how this change is viewed in India and China, two major Asian powers with potentially competing interests in Myanmar.
Of the diverse range of Indian commentaries on this topic, a generally shared opinion is that this liberalization of relations with Myanmar shows that India’s policy of engagement since the mid-1990s has been the right approach all along.
- An Indian Express editorial states, India has “won the argument for bringing change and openness in Myanmar with a guiding presence rather than punishing sanctions.”
- After all, India has a range of concrete interests in Myanmar, including energy, trade and transport routes, border security and development of relations with ASEAN. India’s recent offer of $500 million in credit to Myanmar is an example of possible economic leverage, as the Times of Indiapointed out.
On the geopolitical implications of US engagement with Myanmar, many see this as an opportunity for India to counterbalance China through strengthened relations with Myanmar. See, for example,commentary by Shyam Saran, the former Indian ambassador to Myanmar.
- Some are wary of aligning too closely with the US on this issue. C. Raja Mohan, expressing what is known as a “Great Power Realist” school of thought, says India will have to “raise its game” with an “independent, credible and sustainable strategic engagement with Myanmar and its people.“
- The “Liberal Globalist” perspective is more optimistic about cooperating with the US. Sreeram Chaulia, Vice Dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs, argues that an “India-US team” with common geopolitical interests “can tilt Myanmar decisively away from authoritarianism and Chinese stranglehold.”
- The exception are Leftist opinions, such as this editorial in The Hindu, which are deeply suspicious of America’s pivot toward Asia and stress that China is an important neighbor that cannot be slighted.
A critical question is whether India’s relations with Myanmar should take into account the country’s progress in political liberalization. (more…)Continue Reading →