India and myanmar relationship

Bilateral relationship between India and Myanmar

india and myanmar relationship

PM Narendra Modi's visit to Myanmar is significance for two reasons. First, this is his first visit to the country as Prime Minister (his earlier visit. India has a deepening bilateral security relationship with Myanmar, and is taking steps to help address the crisis in Rakhine State. But Chinese. Bilateral relations between Burma and the Republic of India have improved considerably since India had long historical relationship with Myanmar since antiquity, cultural exchanges included Buddhism and the Burmese script, which was.

Later, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to provide temporary refuge to the Rohingya. Thailand said, it would provide humanitarian assistance and would not turn away boats that wish to enter its waters. Shortly thereafter, the Bangladeshi Government announced plans to relocate the 32, registered Rohingya refugees who have spent years in camps near the Myanmar border.

Initially, Thengar Char, an island 18 miles east of Hatiya Island was reportedly selected for the relocation. A subsequent report put the location as hectares selected on Hatiya Island, a nine-hour, the land-and-sea journey from the camps.

  • India–Myanmar relations
  • India-Myanmar Relations: Frontiers of a New Relationship
  • India-Myanmar relationship

Since the United States has allowed 13, Myanmar refugees. India has been receiving Rohingya refugees and allowing them to settle in the different parts of the country over the years, especially after the communal violence in the state of Rakhine in However, India considers the refugee crisis as an internal affair of Myanmar. The questions pertained to the condition of Rohingya refugees in the country and were framed as follows: According to the Government of India, there are no refugee camps established for either Bangladeshis or Rohingyas in India and there were only schemes of assistance for Tibetan and Sri Lankan refugees.

Why does India try to keep away from the issue? India considers the issue as an internal affair of Myanmar. India already has several issues like poverty, unemployment etc for her own people. The Rohingyas are now the most genocided community in recent past in South Asia, they are stateless and no place got to go. It considered as will rather die in India than return to Myanmar for Rohingyans.

Adding to this, recently an insurgent group — Haraquah Al-Yaqin formed in Saudi Arabia commanded by Rohingyas on the ground with tactical training and guerrilla operation skills. India had a history of Lankan refugee issue which eventually ended up in the Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Along with security issue, it may lead to political, governance and economic problems in the country. It should be noted that the Myanmar government today is more dependent on Chinese support than it was two or three years ago.

Its dependence on China characterised by a largely extractive relationship focused on natural resources and access to the Bay of Bengal where it already has an oil and gas terminal, concession to build a Special Economic Zone and seeks a possibly controlling stake in a natural deep sea harbour at Kyaukpyu that could form part of its ambitious BRI.

China has been a major player in the peace negotiations between the armed ethnic groups and the Myanmar government. Further, because of the on-going conflict in the Rakhine state, the Myanmar government will be dependent on the support from China on various human right platforms including the Security Council. Successive Indian prime ministers have refrained from assessing the relationship with Myanmar through the prism of China and instead focused on developing a comprehensive bilateral relationship.

These cover large directly funded and executed connectivity infrastructure projects like Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport project and The India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway has picked up momentum in the recent past. High value capacity and human development projects like the Myanmar Institute of Information Technology in Mandalay. There is a possibility that new connectivity projects or cooperation on Special Economic Zones may be announced during the visit.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of commercial trade and investments. Both stand on narrow bases. In the light of recent developments, Prime Minister and his counterparts in Myanmar may examine new frameworks to cooperate on regional security issues.

In the political domain, India has scaled up its engagement with all the important power centres in Myanmar. The fact that a Chief Minister of the most populous state chose Myanmar for his first overseas visit suggests that this neighbour has acquired a prominent position in the cultural map of India.

Unfortunately, the recent decision to impose quantitative restrictions on the trade in pulses does exactly the opposite. The two countries reached several agreements and Prime Minister should use his visit to review the progress of the various bilateral projects that was underway. The substantive development partnership, trade issues, and revival of cultural and people-to-people ties Defence relations too have been growing steadily, especially between the two armies and navies.

Security related talks have been taking place at the National Security Adviser NSA level Underlining our strong cultural, people-to-people and diaspora relationship, PM will also visit Bagan where the Archaeological Survey of India is in the final stages of a face-lift to the venerated Ananda Temple and where the Cabinet has approved Indian assistance for the restoration of pagodas damaged by the powerful earthquake; As part of his emphasis on re-connecting with the neighbourhood, bringing connectivity as the top priority during his meetings with Myanmar leaders is of urgent need.

A recent positive development was the agreement to launch a weekly bus-service between Mandalay in central Myanmar and Imphal. There is need to push for operationalisation of the service at the earliest possible. India had earlier agreed to undertake the task of repair and upgradation of 71 bridges on the Tamu-Kalewa friendship road, the Kalewa-Yargyi road segment and the Yargyi-Monywa stretch. Progress in these segments is important as they form part of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway.

In maritime connectivity, the joint study group on shipping was set up to examine the commercial feasibility of direct shipping links. Indian industrial goods, pharmaceutical products and IT services have started entering the Myanmar market and enjoy a good reputation for quality, but given the head start that our competitors have, cost and price considerations, and the logistical handicaps we will continue to face, it is unlikely that we will be able to catch up with either of them or compete with several other players, through trade alone.

Taking China as an example, given Chinese pricing, we cannot compete with China in Myanmar by exports from India alone. But we can compete with them even beyond Myanmar in the ASEAN and even China itselfif we combine lower factor costs of production in the CMLV countries with Indian technology and management and build a brand image in the region around quality, cost and reliability that India is already beginning to enjoy. I believe that India could also compete with Japan on the cost-quality index on many products if these were produced locally.

In so doing, our companies would also raise domestic industrial and service capabilities, create new employment opportunities, and add value to local products that Myanmar is seeking from foreign investorsand create a symbiotic and productive rather than extractive economic relationship between India and Myanmar that would benefit both. So far however, private sector Indian investment in Myanmar has been disappointing.

Vietnam and late comer, Japan stand at 10th and 11th. The are several reasons for this: These are gradually being addressed, but will need some gestation time. But the most important reasons are two others.

First, as has already been pointed out, Myanmar falls in a cognitive and information blind spot for Indian industry. How many Indian investors think of Myanmar as a neighbour, and a resource rich neighbour at that?

India Myanmar Relations - Analysis and Explanation by Mudit Gupta

Or the importance of Mandalay as distribution centre for goods from the north, south, east or west? And second, that we have rarely thought of Indian investment abroad as an arm of our foreign policy or as an instrument of political and economic influence. All our efforts have revolved around building domestic industrial capacity, with foreign investment and integration global value chains as the relatively elements.

Though there are growing exceptions, Indian industrialists too have thought more in terms of the domestic market than global markets, and when they have, the reasons have sometimes been questionable. Perhaps, in our ambivalence towards Indian investment abroad there is a fear that this would mean an outflow of badly needed investment and jobs that could be had in India. There are comparative advantages in investing abroad in many cases, and opportunity costs of not doing so.

Conversely, global chains and companies from Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and others will cash in on the opportunity, as they are already doing, and we will be the losers.

As we can see, the pattern of foreign investment in Myanmar is in the most capital intensive and revenue generating rather than employment generating sectors, and is bypassing the vast majority of the people.

india and myanmar relationship

Additionally, notwithstanding the rhetoric of sustainability, inclusivity and equitability advocated by major international development and financial institutions and foreign investors on grounds of need, scale and viability, large, capital intensive projects tend also to be the ones that are the most socially, economically and environmentally disruptive, forcing people from the countryside into cities, from inner cities to shanty towns on the outskirts and suburbs, and with the greatest environmental impacts.

Of course, large projects are also required, but as a matter of development and investment strategy, I would advocate a very different approach for India.

These are precisely those areas where the least investment is now heading, and where small investments, spread wide, would benefit the largest number of people directly, be least disruptive, and bring about equitable development from the base of the economy upward.

This would also be a good political investment at the level of the people. One of the fundamental problems for investment at this level and sectors is that while it is not difficult to find financing for large projects and investments, mobilising finance for small scale investments and for SMEs is not easy. We have done this in India quite successfully, but need some viable strategies for handholding and finance for such investments abroad.

india and myanmar relationship

The Party is being criticised for not coming out with a clear economic policy as yet, but given their base among the people and public interests that are at variance from international development orthodoxy, they are thinking hard about these things.

With our investment in the ACARE and Rice Biopark, and a healthy line of credit that can be used for agriculture, we have the opportunity of taking the lead and partnering Myanmar in this effort. This is also very much in our interest.

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As the largest agricultural surplus country in our vicinity already bound to India through its trade in pulses, Myanmar is already important for us for our food security. This could be developed and formalised into a strategic food security relationship for both countries.

For some time now, we have been trying to promote the idea of a stable arrangement for procurement and supply of beans and pulses with Myanmar that could serve the interest of Myanmar farmers for an assured market and predictable, remunerative prices as well as availability of pulses and price stability in India. So far, it has not yet fructified not because Myanmar is not willing to consider it, but because it does not have a procurement and canalising agency.

An agreement on beans and pulses can be the building block of a much larger food security relationship. These could include increasing production through extension of Indian agricultural scientific, technical including adaptation measures to climate changemarket access services, procurement and import of not only beans and pulses, but also rice and edible oilseeds which too Myanmar produces for export and which we import on a large scaleand mutual food assistance in case of floods, cyclones and other natural disasters which typically affect both of us.

Such an agreement would be novel and worthy of signature at the level of Prime Minister and the top leadership of Myanmar. I would like to particularly mention the strategic significance of rice trade with Myanmar.

Presently, we do not import rice from Myanmar.

Bilateral relationship between India and Myanmar

Proposals for import of small quantities of rice from Myanmar for political and strategic reasons have been made by our Ambassadors in Myanmar from time to time, but run up against resistance from our public food distribution agencies on economic and other grounds. It was made once again two years back to supply rice to Manipur and Mizoram while the Lumgding-Silchar railway line was being upgraded to broad gauge. It could not fructify. Currently, Myanmar supplies nearly 1 MT of rice to Chinainand expected to increase.

But the trade which is crucial for Myanmar farmers and traders, is subject to quality and arbitrary barriers and arm-twisting by authorities and importers on the China side.

Even modest, 10, tonnes of rice imports for the North East which is close to Shwebo, one of finest rice growing areas of Myanmar where Myanmar rice varieties are appreciated, would be a great political gesture to Myanmar farmers, establish our image as a good and friendly neighbour, and promote the kind of North East-Myanmar trade ties that would benefit both sides, without making much of a difference to us.

india and myanmar relationship

Of course, agriculture and related industries are not the only areas of investment interest to Myanmar and foreign investors. The event was an eye-opener for our industry and highly welcomed by the Myanmar as a signal that India was serious about Myanmar.

I would particularly like to highlight garment manufacturing and consumer goods, air connectivity, capacity-building, health and IT, tourism, and renewable energy as areas for trade and investment that would bring us particularly good dividends in terms of business, branding, and image of India.

Having addressed the question of why and what areas, sectors and level to invest in, I will next turn to where to invest. This too is of strategic significance as investing in Myanmar can enable us to expand our economic footprint across the Greater Mekong Sub-region all the way to Vietnam and to the South China Sea.

If we look at a connectivity map of Myanmar and the GMS or the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity you will see the whole region seeking to be interconnected by a network of north-south and east-west road, rail, maritime and riverine routes.

As I have said earlier, India itself is making huge investments in surface connectivity from Sittwe via Ponnagyun industrial zone, Paletwa and Myeikwa to Mizoram through the Kaladaan waterway and valley; and about miles from Moreh-Tamu-Kalay-Kaleywa to Yargyi along the trilateral highway to Thailand via Monywa, Mandalay, Meiktila, Bago, Hpa-an, Kawkareik and Myawaddy.

Each of these places along these routes can be investment centres depending on their local strengths. Sittwe port can and should also be connected to the beans and pulse growing hinterland of Magwey through a place called Ann, and southwards to the Ayeyawady delta. Sittwe is the obvious base for trade and investment in Myanmar and Rakhine state from Kolkata as it used to be under the British. While there is quite a lot of excitement about the Trilateral Highway and the central and coastal east-west highways though Thailand and Cambodiawe should look at the potential of this route as a trade route and investment corridor leading towards the northern GMS, to Laos and onward to Vietnam via Dien Bien Phu to Hanoi.

The second set of zones to invest in are the three Special Economic Zones that are in various stages of development at Thilawa near Yangon, Dawei on the eastern shore of the Andaman Sea near Thailand, and Kyaukphyu, on the Bay on Bengal coast, just south of Sittwe, and some 25 plus industrial zones coming up in various parts of the country along major trunk routes. Thilawa, being built with Japanese partnership, is the most advanced and the best connected for international trade, but until May, not a single Indian investor had invested in the zone.

The SEZ for Kyaukphyu and deep sea port, hurriedly awarded by the outgoing government in January to a Chinese-led consortium headed by CITIC, is ideally suited for us as an investment destination in the Bay of Bengal for Indian and international markets.

Why ties with Myanmar are important for India

There is, at this stage, very little knowledge, let alone understanding and appreciation of the Chinese plans and implications of this project in strategic or commercial quarters for us. There is some opposition to the project in Kyaukphyu and Rakhine state in general on Rakhine nationalist grounds as well as environmental and anti-Chinese feelings, and we have been approached by several Myanmar businessmen, even those working closely with the Chinese, for India to be part of the SEZ, and not to let the Chinese monopolise the project.

The Chinese too realise that India is a natural partner to make this project viable. The third planned SEZ in Dawei too has offers strategic economic possibilities for us.

It has still not achieved financial closure and is undergoing restructuring with the Myanmar and Thailand trying to rope in Japan. For some odd reason, nobody has thought of courting us for this project.

Dawei stands due west of Chennai, location of a number of Japanese and Korean investments in the auto, electronics and other sectors and close to one of the garment and hosiery manufacturing centres of India. Potentially, it could serve as potential processing point for value chains between India and East Asia, and local products, once again typically marine and agricultural products, light and medium industries, and downstream hydrocarbon industries drawing from the offshore Yetagun and Moattama oil fields.

India-Myanmar Relations: Frontiers of a New Relationship

Dawei could also be a serious launching pad for Indian investments eastwards to the Pacific. I do not have the economic experience to provide answers, but as Ambassador, I was often confronted with Indian businessmen keen to invest in the power or capacity-building sectors, and others willing to consider investing in Myanmar. My suggestion is that Chambers of Industry, big ticket consultants or interested large entrepreneurs should take the lead in forming a consortium of companies willing to invest along with a power provider and a training partner to propose consolidated, Indian industrial zones in areas of interest, with power and training solutions and surplus capacity open to all.

This would also give our investors the necessary bargaining power to get a good deal.

india and myanmar relationship