IMPORTANCE OF MYANMAR FOR INDIA
India-Myanmar relations are rooted in shared historical, ethnic, cultural and religious ties. As the land of Lord Buddha, India is a country of pilgrimage for the people of Myanmar. The geographical proximity of the two countries has helped develop and sustain cordial relations and facilitated people-to people contact. Myanmar has a 1, 643 land border with India and is emerging as the gateway for India to other Southeast Asian countries. A large population of Indian origin (about 2.5 million) lives in Myanmar. India and Myanmar’s relationship officially got underway after the Treaty of Friendship which was signed in 1951, after which the foundation for a more meaningful relationship was established during Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit in 1987. Bilateral ties received another significant boost when the two countries signed a trade agreement in 1994. For many years India did not open up to the authoritarian regime, and it was only over a period of time that India started engaging with the military junta of Myanmar.
DEMOCRACY IN MYANMAR
After decades of military dictatorship, the country returned to civilian rule, with the 2015 elections. In November 2015, the National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in the first open general election to take place in Myanmar (also called Burma). It was preceded by the 2010 General Election, which was marred by a widespread boycott and allegations of systematic fraud by the victorious Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), proxy party of the military rulers. Htin Kyaw, the candidate nominated by the NLD, was elected president, affirming civilian rule in Myanmar. Although Aung San Suu Kyi was prohibited from becoming the President due to a clause in the constitution she assumed the newly created role of State Counsellor, a role akin to a Prime Minister or a head of government.
Yet despite the progress, serious challenges remain that could derail Myanmar’s democratic transition. Corruption is widespread, ethnic violence remains entrenched, economic reform is sorely needed, and, crucially, the military, or Tatmadaw, is still the most powerful political force in the country.
The 2008 constitution, written by the military junta, includes four provisions that limit the NLD’s power. First, it assigns the Tatmadaw 25 percent of all seats in both houses of the legislature. Second, it requires a majority of more than 75 percent to approve any constitutional amendment. Third, it prohibits anyone with a foreign spouse or child from becoming president, a provision likely written against the president of the NLD and long-time opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Her husband and children are British citizens. And finally, the 2008 constitution continued to give the Tatmadaw control of three key ministries: border affairs, defense, and home affairs.
Over the last few months, the NLD, led by Suu Kyi, has conducted talks about the shape of the new government with the Tatmadaw, although the military has consistently denied that anything resembling a “negotiation” has taken place. For now, the military seems to be playing a role that is neither accommodating nor disruptive. Clearly, the NLD will need to handle its relations with the Tatmadaw with great skill, if Myanmar’s democratic transition is to continue apace.
While former military leaders still wield enormous power in the country, Burmese Military have taken steps toward relinquishing control of the government. The amendment of the constitution is in process. This, along with the release of political prisoners, has improved the country's human rights record and foreign relations, and has led to the easing of trade and other economic sanctions.
No country in the region would be more keenly interested in Myanmar’s progressive transition to democracy than neighboring India. India’s relationship with Myanmar’s erstwhile army junta was caught in the dilemma between its own democratic conscience and the need to keep Myanmar from falling into China’s sphere of influence. Now that Myanmar finally has a civilian government of its own, India will be hopeful of progress on a number of fronts.
India would also want the new Myanmar government to help with tackling border insurgency, and hope for its cooperation in the eradication of militant camps along the Indo-Myanmar border. Suu Kyi would stand to benefit greatly from closer ties with New Delhi. As the civilian government maintains a tenuous balance with the military, Myanmar would stand to gain from Indian business investments. Despite being rich in resources such as natural gas, Myanmar remains woefully poor and its economy morbid. About 70 percent of its population has no access to electricity, according to a report in Time. All of this can gradually change if investments start pouring in from across the border.
But above all, Suu Kyi would want New Delhi’s support in her bid to advance democracy in Myanmar. There is no denying a trust deficit between the two sides; India has always been an ardent supporter of democratic values, but it went back on its word in Myanmar in the early 1990s, when then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao thought it more convenient to engage with the ruling junta. Suu Kyi responded to India’s shift in foreign policy at the time by saying “It’s saddened me that India, the largest democracy in the world, was turning its back on democracy in order to maintain good relations with the military government”.
Whatever its past policy, however, India would be delighted to have a civilian partner to work with in Myanmar. This is a golden chance for the two countries to build their path forward.
Myanmar is the most ethnically divided country in the world. Perhaps the British rule accentuated this division. The Myanmarese military played an important role in achieving independence. Plausibly, if it weren’t for the military government in Myanmar, the country might have broken down. Given the central role it has played, the military has reserved a preeminent role for itself in the country’s future. Therefore, Myanmar’s transition from military rule to true democracy might not be easy and rapid. Myanmar, ethnically, is one of the most diverse countries in Asia with Burmans making 69%, Shan 8.5%, Kayin 6.2%, Kayah 0.4%, Rakhine 4.5%, Chinese 0.7%, Mon 2.41%, Indians 1.3% and other Tribes 6.99%. By religion Buddhists are in a majority with 89.4%, Christians 4.9%, Muslims 3.9%, Animists 1.2%, Hindus 0.5% and others 0.1%. About 40% of Myanmar’s population (around 60 million) is composed of ethnic minorities often referred to as ethnic nationalities. Officially there are 135 national races though the major ethnic groups are seven in number- the Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Karen (Kayin), Karenni (Kayah), Mon and the Shan. The ethnic groups are located on the peripheral mountainous areas of Myanmar occupying around 60% the land area while the majority Burmans are in the inland plain areas. More than a dozen ethnic minority groups, mostly in Myanmar's border areas, have been struggling for greater autonomy since the country attained independence from Britain 67 years ago. Several have fielded substantial guerrilla armies, though the government over the past 25 years has reached shaky provisional ceasefires with many. On 15 October 2015, the Myanmar government and eight ethnic organisations signed the final version of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). The agreement had been under negotiation since August 2011 and is one of the key political outcomes of Myanmar’s transition.
MYANMAR HOLDS PEACE TALKS WITH ETHNIC GROUPS
- To End decades of separatist insurgencies that have claimed thousands of lives
- Fight of ethnic groups since decades for autonomy
- The previous military-backed government brokered individual truces with various insurgent groups and oversaw a ceasefire covering eight minor insurgencies last year that fell short of a nationwide deal
- Rohingya came to Myanmar in the 19th century when the British ruled all of what is now India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
- In 1982, the Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship by the government of Myanmar.
- They are Muslim people who live in northern Rakhine (Arakan) of Myanmar & are one of the most persecuted minority groups according to the UN.
- The Rohingya conflict is one of the longest conflicts between the majority Buddhist Burmese and the minority Muslims in Myanmar.
- In 2015 a refugee crisis involving the Rohingyas spread panic across the region, after boats carrying hundreds of refugees were found floating in the sea. Many of these refugees also fled to India. There are an estimated 36,000 Rohingya refugees presently located in India. For India, the Rohingya problem is made further significant by the fact that many of them occupy Rakhine province – home to Sittwe.
- Suu Kyi has thus far been reluctant to make direct and open commitments toward the resolution of the Rohingya crisis, fearing a possible political backlash at home.
India’s restive northeast shares a long forested border with Myanmar, used as a hideout by secessionist insurgents operating on the Indian side. On June 4, 2015 tribal guerrillas, using rocket-propelled grenades and detonating improvised explosive devices, killed 20 soldiers and injured several others, in an ambush when a military convoy was traveling to the state capital Imphal from the town of Motul in Manipur. Underlining India’s resolve to pre-empt terror threats, undeterred by borders, Para Commandos of the Indian Army carried out surgical operations deep inside Myanmar killing several militants in two rebel camps. Indian Army has also conducted a number of cross-border raids in the past in collaboration with Myanmar against terrorist camps along the Indo-Myanmar international border.
Defense cooperation and improving political relations, led the two countries to sign a "Memorandum of Understanding on Border Cooperation" in Naypyidaw on May 8, 2014. The ministry of external affairs announced that it "provides a framework for security cooperation and exchange of information between Indian and Myanmar security agencies. A key provision is that of conduct of coordinated patrols on their respective sides of the international border.
Myanmar is open for trade and investment but the response from Indian business has not been adequate despite the growing political ties between the two countries. Our bilateral relations with Myanmar have gathered momentum in recent times. We have agreed on a wide-ranging development cooperation agenda. India has made substantial commitments to assist Myanmar in the areas of capacity building, connectivity, and infrastructure and border region development. Our trade and economic ties have however not kept pace. India figures at only the fourth place in Myanmar’s trading partners whereas China is the top trading partner of Myanmar. India is even lower at the13th place in terms of foreign investments into Myanmar. Being a large and contiguous neighbour, a closer overall engagement would call for a more robust trade and investment share that seems definitely possible at a time when rapid changes are unfolding.
MORE OPEN ECONOMY
Myanmar is also moving towards an accelerated development programme with the promise of a more open economy. An unexpectedly deliberative Parliament, social activism and loosening of media controls have further energised the process. An economic reform programme launched with more debate is likely to be more acceptable and enduring even if the process is slower.
Lack of adequate infrastructure is a constraint and an opportunity. The government is paying attention to setting up power and other infrastructure projects. Expansion of telecom network, airports development, hotel zones in major cities and real estate development, including affordable housing, are other areas where one can see specific initiatives being taken. This is apart from the offers invited for a large number of onshore petroleum and gas blocks.
Many Indian trade and industry associations have mounted delegations to Myanmar during the last several months. A few product shows have been held. Some companies are exploring trade and investment opportunities. A few have also been shortlisted for certain infrastructure projects. Our companies and industry associations will however need to pack in a lot more punch to significantly improve our trade and investment ranking. The $500 million concessional Line of Credit extended by EXIM Bank of India to the Myanmar government could play an important role in enhancing trade relations to mutual benefit. Both the governments and the agencies concerned will however need to ensure that the proposals for utilising these credit lines are quickly finalised and translated into contracts.
Devising suitable commercial strategies can also help to build on our development cooperation programmes. For example, our businesses can explore possible commercial ventures that can ride on the back of some of the infrastructure that will be created from the Indian government-assisted Kaladan project in western Myanmar or the Kalay-Yargyi road project in the North-West that will enable Moreh on our Manipur border to be connected to Mandalay and beyond by 2016 as part of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project. Similarly, our IT companies could work on commercial spillovers of benefit to both countries from the Myanmar Institute of Information Technology that is being set up with the Indian government support as a centre of excellence in Mandalay. All such commercial proposals will no doubt need host country approvals but if they are well conceived and bring value addition, they would be welcomed.
On its part, our government will also have to try and make the cost of doing business with Myanmar more competitive. Encouraging enhanced direct air connectivity between our metros and Yangon is now rendered easier with a more liberal bilateral air services agreement signed during former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Myanmar in 2012. As of now, there is only a tri-weekly Air India flight from Kolkata to Yangon. It is woefully inadequate. Compare this with airlines from Japan, the Republic of Korea, Qatar and Taiwan which have introduced regular flights to Yangon in the last six months, and airlines from China, Singapore and Thailand now flying more frequently every day and to more destinations in Myanmar.
India has been trying to build a strong relationship with Myanmar in recent years, both on the economic and strategic fronts, by seeking to enhance connectivity through the Northeastern States. In addition, India has also been assisting Myanmar with capacity building in areas such as English language training and Information Technology. Further, under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme, 500 slots have been reserved for Myanmar nationals with the goal of strengthening human resource capacity. All these steps send out a clear message: that India would like to play a constructive role in Myanmar’s transition to a robust democracy.
SHIPPING, BANKING & FINANCE
Direct shipping services that will enable our goods to reach Myanmar in a matter of a few days, as in fact they did during the colonial days, than several weeks at present, would play a critical role in facilitating greater trade. The Shipping Corporation of India will need to take the initiative here with some initial support from the government to make the services viable.
COOPERATION THROUGH CONNECTIVITY
India is also actively engaging to upgrade infrastructure in Myanmar as this would enhance the economic ties between the two countries. India has undertaken a few key projects to improve connectivity between the two countries. They are Kaladan multi modal project and Trilateral Highway Project.
1. THE KALADAN MULTI MODAL PROJECT
In order to develop closer economic ties and also provide access to the landlocked Northeast states of India, the Kaladan multi modal transport project was initiated which would ensure three vital things:
- Sea connectivity to India’s Northeast and roads connecting India to ASEAN.
- Greater economic cooperation between the two countries.
- Ensuring an alternate market for Myanmar’s gas supplies
Having originated at Chin Hills in Myanmar, Kaladan River flows through Mizoram and back into Myanmar’s Sittwe Delta in the gas-rich Arakan peninsula. This project involves development of a trade route between the two countries along the river Kaladan. The river Kaladan is navigable from its confluence point with the Bay of Bengal near Sittwe up to Setpyitpyin, Myanmar, on its North. Beyond this the river is not navigable owing to shallow water depth and frequent rapids. Therefore, transportation by road is proposed for this stretch. From Sittwe Port to Paletwa, transportation will be by waterway and from Paletwa to India-Myanmar border transportation will be by road. The project was undertaken in three phases:
- Dredging and modernising Sittwe port
- Dredging sections of Kaladan river
- Construction of roads from Palewta (Myanmar) to Mizoram.
Although the deal was signed between the two governments in 2008, work on the project commenced only in 2011. The sea link of the project is to connect Kolkata with Sittwe. The port of Sittwe is being developed by India. Work on the port was delayed as the Myanmar government took time to hand over the land at Sittwe port. The port-cum inland waterway project involved building of the port and dredging of the Kaladan River till a length of 158 km to make it navigable. The Cabinet gave its approval to the revised cost estimate of Rs 2,904 crore for the Kaladan Multi Modal.It is expected to be fully completed by 2016.
This project will reduce distance from Kolkata to Sittwee by approximately 1328 km and will reduce the need to transport good through the narrow Siliguri corridor, also known as Chicken’s Neck. Initially India had tried to persuade Bangladesh to offer transport and transit rights to the north-eastern states. However, Bangladesh has consistently refused to grant such rights, including access to its Chittagong port, which is less than 200 km away from Agartala, the capital of Tripura. This will connect Sittwe Port in Myanmar to the India-Myanmar border, is expected to contribute to the economic development of the North-Eastern States of India, by opening up the sea route for the products. In the absence of an alternate route, the development of this project not only serves the economic, commercial and strategic interests of India, but also contributes to the development of Myanmar, and its economic integration with India. Since the project is of political and strategic significance, it was decided to execute it through India’s grant assistance to Myanmar.
- Wrong estimation of the road length in Myanmar.
- Due to construction of hydro electrical projects on two tributaries of the Kaladan River, Navigation of boats could be effected.
- Cost of the projects has risen due to the delays.
- According to MEA, the project monitoring activities are not being done efficiently and effectively.
- Fragile and pristine environment of the North East may be affected as the region is a biodiversity hotspot especially in the region from Paletwa to the Indian Myanmar border as land acquisitions and local displacement may be required.
- Insurgency in Rakhine and chin regions of Myanmar.
The Kaladan project and improved connectivity & transportation facility provided by it is expected to act as a catalyst to the overall development of the region. It is a fact that the Rakhine and Chin states have very poor transport and communication infrastructure. This is one of the fundamental reasons due to which the people of these states are finding it difficult to develop agriculture, trade and commerce to their full potential. The Kaladan project will open up a unique multimodal transport system in the region and same is therefore very important for the people. The project will also generate many opportunities for trade between India and Myanmar for the benefit of the region.
2. TRILATERAL HIGHWAY PROJECT
The trilateral highway project will be a game changer for India, notably for its Northeast states. The highway is expected to connect Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myamar. Myanmar has asked India for the highway to be built connecting Mandalay as it is an important commercial city in Myanmar. The project’s importance can hardly be overstated as it would connect the Mekong sub-region with India. It would enhance connectivity between ASEAN and India. Also from an economic viewpoint it would benefit the Northeast states in India.
From Myanmar’s perspective this enhanced connectivity between India and the ASEAN would mean enhanced trade opportunities and greater access. Myanmar has been consistently supportive of India’s deepening ties with the ASEAN and it sees itself as a bridge between India and the ASEAN. There is a considerable level of convergence between Indian and Myanmar in developmental ties through multilateral institutions such as the MGC (Mekong-Ganga Cooperation). Multilateral organisations like Asian Development Bank too have been eager to fund trans-border projects between India and its neighbours.
It would certainly be in India’s interest to harness the goodwill and build trade corridors across its neighbourhood so that its neighbours have a vested economic interest in India’s economic growth, which would then translate to symbiotic growth for them as they get access to the great Indian markets. But the pace of development needs to be increased so as to build the necessary infrastructure. A stronger economic partnership between India and Myanmar will also result in strategic benefits for India.
INDIA-MYANMAR-THAILAND MOTOR VEHICLES AGREEMENT
India, Myanmar and Thailand (IMT) may sign a Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) for regulating and enabling passenger, personal and cargo vehicle cross-border traffic in the three countries.
This agreement will enhance intra-regional and inter-regional trade and commerce in South Eastern Asia.
EXTENDING INDIA-MYANMAR-THAILAND HIGHWAY
- The India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) trilateral highway is facing inordinate delays, and has already missed a couple of deadlines. The IMT may now become operational by 2018-19.
- On the Indian side there are as many as 69 bridges that are in a damaged state, which have to be rebuilt. Although work is on to modernise these bridges, the progress is slow.
- During the visit of Prime Minister of Thailand to India in June, both countries agreed to expedite the completion of the highway.
- Both sides also agreed to speed up the negotiations on the India-Myanmar-Thailand Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA). India is not keen on signing the MVA now unless the work on the highway progresses.
- Meanwhile, the new government in Myanmar is now creating hurdles to the project. It has demanded a renegotiation of the MVA and its applicability on the trilateral highway as the agreement was negotiated under the previous military government.
- The trilateral highway is crucial for the success of the Indian government’s ‘Act East’ policy.
- The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is planning to extend the proposed India-Myanmar-Thailand highway to the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) countries in the second phase, despite the first phase being stuck on procedural issues.
- India is keen on extending the highway as it will give access to Vietnam which is a member of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement with the US. Indian exporters are now keen to gain access in that market as sending goods over roads will be much easier than through the waterways.
- The idea is to connect the trilateral highway with a free trade zone that will be developed at the Sittwe Port in Myanmar. The distance from the Sittwe economic zone to the trilateral highway is about 100-120 km.
- India has invited ASEAN countries to participate in the Sittwe Economic Zone, at the 14th ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane on July 25, 2016.
COOPERATION IN THE REGIONAL/SUB-REGIONAL CONTEXT
ASEAN–India Free Trade Area (AIFTA) free trade Agreement was signed among the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India. The initial framework agreement was signed on 8 October 2003 in Bali, Indonesia and the final agreement was on 13 August 2009. The free trade area came into effect on 1 January 2010. ASEAN and India together contribute an economic space of 1.8 billion people and a GDP of USD 3.8 billion.
Myanmar was accepted as a fully-fledged member of ASEAN in 1997. It is the only ASEAN country which shares a land border with India and acts as a bridge between India and ASEAN. A few proposals for co-operation have already been implemented and more are in their negotiation stage.
BIMSTEC- the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organization involving a group of seven countries in South Asia and South East Asia. The countries are Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal. BIMSTEC member countries agreed to establish the BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement in order to stimulate trade and investment in the parties, and attract outsiders to trade with and invest in BIMSTEC at a higher level. Myanmar is the lead country for the energy sector. While India leads in transport and communication and tourism. Myanmar trades mostly with Thailand and India in the BIMSTEC region.
Mekong-Ganga Co-operation: The Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) is an initiative by six countries – India, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam launched in 2000 at Vientiane, Laos, for cooperation in tourism, culture, education, as well as transport and communications. It was India’s Foreign Minister who had suggested that the names of the two rivers, Ganga and Mekong, should be in the title of this initiative founded in 2000. Both the Ganga and the Mekong are civilizational rivers, and the MGC initiative aims to facilitate closer contacts among the people inhabiting these two major river basins. The MGC is also indicative of the civilizational, cultural and commercial linkages among the member countries of the MGC down the centuries.
SAARC- the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and geopolitical union of eight member nations that are primarily located in South Asia contingent. Its secretariat is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal. Its policies aim to promote welfare economics, collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia, and to accelerate socio-cultural development in the region. The member countries includes India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Maldives. The SAARC has developed a role in external relations around with world. Permanent diplomatic relations have been established with the EU, the UN (as an observer), and other multilateral entities. Myanmar was given the status of observer in SAARC in august 2008.
Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM) - is a sub-regional organisation of Asian nations aimed at greater integration of trade and investment between the four countries. China and India are trying to the establishment of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor, which is expected to link Kolkata with Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan province, passing through Myanmar and Bangladesh, with Mandalay and Dhaka among the focal points. The focus on linking provinces and States in this case, Yunnan and West Bengal.
MYANMAR: INDIA’S DOOR TO ASEAN
Myanmar is strategically important to India as it is the only ASEAN country that shares a border with India. It is also the only country that can act as a link between India and ASEAN. Myanmar is India’s gateway to Southeast Asia and could be the required impetus to realize India’s Act East Policy. India has also decided to upgrade the Kalewa-Yargyi road segment to highway standard, while Myanmar would develop the Yargyi-Monywa portion, and this would help to connect Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar. This in turn would improve India’s connectivity and relationship with both Myanmar and Thailand.
If India is to become an assertive regional player in Asia, it has to work toward developing policies that would improve and strengthen it domestically, which will encourage more confidence in its ability to lead the region and be an important global player. Competition with China should also be considered and taken seriously. China’s growing influence in the region would lead to a more one-sided dynamic in the region. China has asserted itself through its soft power as well as through its trade and economic relations with Myanmar by taking up large infrastructure projects in the country. India on the other hand needs to use its soft power more effectively, and at the same time strengthen itself domestically and regionally.
There are several advantages that India has over China with regard to Myanmar. One is the democratic process, which results in different governments at the center and states through free and fair elections. There is also the respect for institutions that are strong enough to hold the country together. Finally, cooperation in different multilateral forums such as ASEAN and BIMSTEC strengthen the relationship between the two countries. Apart from these reasons, India has sent a clear signal that while economic ties are important, it is keen to build a holistic relationship and is prepared to assist in institution building in Myanmar.
CLMV IN INDIA’S “ACT EAST” POLICY
The 2015-2016 Indian budget includes a proposal to set up manufacturing hubs in CLMV countries. The CLMV includes four Southeast Asian nations – Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, which are seeing the highest foreign direct investment growth in the region, especially in manufacturing. As India seeks to deepen economic partnerships with Southeast Asia under an “Act East” policy declared by Prime Minister Modi, it has prioritized CLMV economies. The commerce ministry has sought Rs. 100 crore (US$16.1m) in budgetary allocations for a Project Development Fund to oversee investment in the CLMV manufacturing hubs. There is a history of industrial cooperation between India and the CLMV countries. Major Indian investment in Vietnam includes large projects such as oil exploration, power generation, and chemical manufacturing. In January 2015, there are a total of 84 projects funded by Indian investments in Vietnam. The EXIM bank of India has contributed a total of 20 Letters of Credit worth US$ 1 billion in CLMV countries towards power, irrigation, and manufacturing projects.
SCOPE FOR IMPROVEMENTS
Many countries esp. Japan, UK, France, US have started investing in Myanmar. Hence India needs to step up its efforts and innovativeness leveraging upon its soft skills and advantages it enjoys with the Golden country.
Indian economic outreach to Myanmar which invests heavily in that country but brings no benefits to India’s North-East will exacerbate these problems. So, domestic factors should weigh deeply in India’s mind as she engages with Myanmar. Needs to understand what Myanmar’s basic needs are: Food, Skill development, Education, University tie ups, think tanks collaborations – that have the potential to influence policy formulations.
Most of all, the governance system requires inputs in management skills, taxation, law, finance, tourism, environment, parliamentary and electoral procedures, commercial regulations, etc. It is in the area of creating and maintaining capabilities that India has a competitive advantage as the largest flourishing democracy in the world. Students exchange can help in creating a good image of India in the coming generations that are going to rule. Buddhist studies in Indian universities can be an attraction for Burmese students.
Myanmar has opened doors to support the agriculture sector and companies can tap opportunities in the entire value chain including seeds, agri-machinery, pre- and post-harvest technology. Further, in the energy sphere, companies should look at setting up power stations, transmission and distribution lines and supply of generators. Myanmar has an estimated 283 billion cubic metres of proven gas reserves. Further on, its deepwater reserves are estimated to be sizeable too. Increasing investment in energy sector will be win –win for both sides.
Both countries are fighting insurgency, sharing intelligence and cooperation in border management cam improve ties between India and Myanmar. India needs to engage more through sub-regional groupings like BIMSTEC and BCIM-Economic Corridor. This will result in a holistic development of the entire region including north-eastern part of India. Connectivity is the main pillar for development. To invest more in infrastructure to improve connectivity will be key for India-Myanmar relations.