TODAY -

Unmasking the politics of India's Look East Policy
- Part 1 -

Sanatomba Kangujam *

ASEAN-INDIA Car Rally 2012 passing through Indo-Myanmar Friendship Bridge at Moreh :: Pix - Deepak Oinam
ASEAN-INDIA Car Rally 2012 passing through Indo-Myanmar Friendship Bridge at Moreh :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



The Northeast region is set to witness large-scale violation of Human Rights in the backdrop of India's Look East Policy as the policy is predominantly guided by militaristic concern to subdue the armed struggles in the region

The hype generated over India's Look East Policy did not come as a dramatic surprise to the people of Manipur since the opening of the "Eastern Gate" as a belief was rooted in their consciousness. It has been predicted in the ancient Manipuri sacred text called Puya that "Nongpok Thong" or the "Eastern Gate" would eventually open after a long period of "enforced closure". The general belief went parallel with India's announcement of a policy of looking eastward which marked a major shift in its economic and foreign policies.

Even as the news of India's Look East Policy spread rapidly, people remained optimistic about the possible economic advantages that could be derived from such an initiative. Ironically, however, the logic of impending militarization of the Northeast region made many informed quarters skeptical about the Look East Policy despite India's grand design to project it as a viable development alternative. This write-up is an attempt to scrutinize India's security and strategic concerns vis--vis its Look East Policy.

Constructive Engagement or Strategic U-turn

The enthusiasm recently exhibited by India towards Myanmar can be gauged from the unfolding security paradigm in the Eastern Front. Earlier, India had staunchly supported the movement for democracy in Myanmar prompting many pro-democracy activists and student leaders to take refuge in India following the military take-over of Myanmar in 1988. India had maintained an isolationist policy vis--vis Myanmar while simultaneously extending all sorts of logistic support to the dissident groups fighting for restoration of democracy.

India also joined the international community in criticising human rights violation by the military junta and endorsed all the United Nations resolutions demanding restoration of democracy in Myanmar. The conferment of the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, the most prestigious international award conferred by India, to Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the dissident National League for Democracy (NLD) in 1995 marked the zenith of New Delhi's support for democracy movement in Myanmar. Such diplomatic postures adopted by India widened the gulf existing between the two countries. It gave impressions of mutually irreconcilable differences between the two Asian neighbours.

Of late, however, a reversal of policy could be witnessed with the gradual shift in the Indian attitude towards the military rulers in Yangon. Observation made by certain analysts indicates that the twin factors of Chinese expansion and containment of insurgency in North East India made it imperative for India to reassess its policy towards Myanmar.

In fact, the growing expansion of Chinese influence in Myanmar which eventually pose a strategic threat to India's national security coupled with series of armed resistance movements launched by various shades of insurgent groups taking shelter in Myanmar compelled India to review its foreign policy towards Myanmar. Therefore, India's Look East Policy, which finds its articulation partly in Indo-Myanmar Border Trade, is deeply intertwined with the existing as well as the emerging security and strategic development.

The political vacuum in Myanmar created by international isolation in the wake of the popular 1988 uprising provided China with an opportunity for economic and strategic penetration into Myanmar.

Intensive research indicates China's desperate search for markets for its cheap finished consumer goods even as it became more interested in the contracts for extracting Myanmar's rich natural resources. The reciprocal visits between Chinese and Myanmarese officials led to gradual opening of Myanmarese economy to China with the latter becoming the first country to establish formalised border trade with the former.

Separate trade agreements were signed between the two countries in 1989 and 1993 that ultimately resulted in increased trade volume. China extended possible economic assistance to Myanmar in the form of soft loans, technical knowledge and expertise thereby rendering Myanmar a Chinese satellite. Through its economic power China intends to exercise political influence over Myanmar in its bid to enhance its strategic interests in the region especially the Indian Ocean region. In turn, China provided Myanmar with all the diplomatic protection from international pressures against the junta apart from supplying military equipments to Yangon.

China's help to the Myanmarese government with telecommunication network in Northern Myanmar and also the Chinese plan to construct a 1,350 kilometres-railway tract through Laos, Myanmar and China (Kunming) going up to Thailand (Bangkok) is seen by India with suspicion. The emerging strategic configuration in Southeast Asia has rendered Myanmar an important component of Chinese strategy to prevent its encirclement by the United States and its allies as well as to secure vital naval routes to oil supplies from the Middle East.

The Chinese maritime expansion in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea with the logistic support of Myanmar and Pakistan respectively has created a situation of perceived Chinese encirclement of India. In fact, Chinese maritime expansion and inroads into the Indian Ocean through Myanmar is a cause of serious concern for India mainly in the light of Chinese assertion that the Indian Ocean is not India's Ocean.

In the strategic perception of India, Chinese dominance in the Bay of Bengal is an obstacle to its aspiration for economic and strategic influence in Southeast Asia. India finds it hard to tolerate the installation of Chinese monitoring centre in the Coco Island, close to Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which is an overt strategic incursion into the Indian maritime zone. Besides, the Chinese presence all along the Myanmar's border is perceived as a direct threat to India's security.

As such, the strategic concern caused by Myanmar-Pakistan-China nexus in an attempt to encircle India in the long run entails the need on the part of India to reverse its foreign policy in dealing with the military regime of Myanmar.

Another significant factor accounting for India's strategic shift towards Myanmar is the security threat to India's territorial integrity posed by numerous armed resistance groups of the North East with sanctuaries in Myanmar. Constant Myanmarese encouragement to the insurgent groups in India's North East was largely responsible for the Indian government to reverse its earlier isolationist stand.

It became indispensable for India to elicit the support of the Myanmar military regime in flushing out the insurgent groups, some of which are of Myanmarese origin or having connections with Myanmar insurgents. India had to seek the military junta's co-operation due to growing realisation of Myanmar's geo-strategic importance to counter insurgency.

Consequently, as revealed by certain informed sources, a number of officials from the foreign office, defence and intelligence establishment had opposed Indian Government support extended to the pro- democracy movement and the "limited support" extended to the Myanmarese rebels. The logic behind their argument was that if India did not improve relations with the junta, Myanmar would become a Chinese satellite.

This argument received due weightage chiefly on account of the understanding which was generally held in certain quarters that the junta is there to stay as transition from military rule to democracy in Myanmar is a distant dream. As a matter of policy based on real politick, India refrained from lodging a formal protest to the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) regime against its policy of dishonouring the electoral verdict of the Myanmarese people in 1990 thus paving way for normalising diplomatic relations with Yangon.

In this context, India's security anxiety - getting Myanmar to act against North East Indian insurgent groups taking shelter in Myanmar - rather than a desire to give the Look East Policy a continental orientation explains India's U-turn vis--vis Myanmar. It is pertinent to note that India had all along maintained a maritime outlook towards Southeast Asia.

It was against this backdrop that U Ba Swe, Vice Foreign Minister of Myanmar paid a visit to India in 1992 on the invitation of the Indian Government. His visit resulted in identification of concrete areas for bilateral co-operation including border trade, prevention of narcotics trafficking and contact between the civilian and military authorities in the border regions of the two countries to prevent illegal activities (Ministry of External Affair Annual Report 1992-1993).

Later, the Indian side intensified diplomatic offensives against Myanmar marking an era of "Constructive Engagement", a policy which implies active co-operation with that country in the economic sphere without interference or intervention in its domestic political affairs. Such a policy adopted by India towards the military rulers in Yangon was much to the displeasure of the Myanmarese pro-democracy groups.

Thus, India virtually deviated from its cherished principles of supporting democracy movement in Myanmar as it found its own interests increasingly paramount in the backdrop of various considerations like the emerging strategic equation in Southeast Asia. In spite of being the largest democracy in the world, India could hardly stand the trial of circumstances mainly when it comes to questions involving its interest. By aligning itself with the junta, India had laid a bad precedent for extending recognition and conferring legitimacy to the military regime of Myanmar.

To be continued...


* Sanatomba Kangujam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Post Doctoral Fellow, Department of Political Science, Manipur University. He is currently working on "Peace Initiatives and Conflict Transformation in Manipur". He can be reached at sanatombak(at)yahoo(dot)com
This article was posted on December 23, 2013.


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Tripartite Talk: GOI/GOM/UNC :: Gallery
  • Governor's Cup Fencing :: Gallery
  • 13 Aug @Kangla & BT Park :: Gallery
  • Bruce Dickinson: "son-rise" of Iron Maiden
  • Biren should learn from Mamata Banerjee
  • The globe is in your fist
  • AR I-Day festivities with Myanmar army
  • AR celebrates 71st Independence day
  • Unconstitutionality of TR Government
  • Stadium upgrade for I-League
  • NE film festival in Delhi from Aug 18
  • Myanmarese advised to follow traffic rules
  • The human torch and AFSPA
  • The real taste of Independence Day
  • Mission XI football @ Andro :: Gallery
  • Krishna Janma @ Mahabali :: Gallery
  • Blood Donation for 13 August:: Gallery
  • Mahabali Temple , Imphal :: 360 ° View
  • Graphic & plastic arts of Zeliangrong #3
  • Silence :: Poem
  • Sport Univ: Promises kept but corruption?
  • Job requirements at SKY Hospital
  • Jobs @ National Informatics Centre (NIC)
  • I-Day Celebration at BJP State Office
  • Celebrations amid militant boycott call
  • 3 Manipur terrorists arrested in Delhi
  • NSCN/GPRN condemns raid
  • NSCN-K signing hinges on cross-border..
  • Meira Rally on Patriots' Day #1 :: Gallery
  • Patriots' Day @ Kolkata :: Gallery
  • 26th NAMA Convention Report, Houston, TX
  • Forming Plurals in Manipuri Language
  • Mammography and frequently ask question
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • NPF Office Bearers reaffirm support
  • DAN Co-ordination Meeting Resolutions
  • India and China: From rivalry to enmity
  • For better tomorrows
  • Security forces round up NSCN (IM) cadres
  • Survey 'finds' jumbos in Manipur
  • Kirti Chakra for brave major
  • President medal for IPS officer- Robin Hibu
  • 13 August @Hicham Yaichampat :: Gallery
  • Achingliu, Haokhulan, Hiyaichenbi: eMing
  • Patriots' Day @ Hojai, Assam :: Gallery
  • Protest: malpractices of MPSC :: Gallery
  • On MPSC scam & people defending it
  • 126th Patriots' Day observed in Delhi
  • 126th Patriots' Day observed in Hojai
  • Lajong U-12 to represent India in BRICS
  • Learn something from 2015 experience
  • The district creation headache
  • State Thang-Ta Competition :: Gallery
  • Search operation [Aug 12] :: Gallery
  • 13 August Patriots' Day : Read all about it
  • Thangal General : The Patriot
  • Proxy examination and Wrong politics
  • Women should not live in fear ....
  • Summer Thoughts :: Poem
  • NPF Youth serve Ultimatum to Rio
  • A slap on the face of Christianity
  • U-Morok @ Shirarakhong :: Gallery
  • Dangers of 'Trial by Media' & the MPSC
  • Is Culture of insensible activism taking root
  • Meiteilon never been Tibeto-Burman
  • Mechanized threshing of foodgrains #2
  • ZSUB Foundation Day, Fresher's Meeting
  • Sadar Hills District Demand: News Timeline
  • Breaking the barrier
  • Natural Body Building #3 :: Gallery
  • National Handloom Day @ GHY :: Gallery
  • Chirom Indira shine in hearts of NE Weavers
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand : Timeline
  • Investigate killings as ordered by SC
  • MSTC CMD met with CM of Manipur
  • Conspiracy behind the toppling game
  • Armed groups attack..a human right abuse
  • Drawing Competition at Khengjoi, Chandel
  • Govt firm on protecting indigenous people
  • Suspension of Operation term extended
  • Rs 100 cr allotted to study NE floods
  • Save the indigenous people cry : Valley..
  • A matter need to ponder
  • Earthen wares of Ningthemcha Karong
  • Indigenous Wrestling @ SPT #2 :: Gallery
  • Awunching Biodiversity Park #3 :: 360 ° View
  • XXVIII State Thang-Ta Competition 2017
  • India's HLPF review of SDGs & Manipur
  • Robotics as career options
  • International Day of Indigenous People
  • Rejoinder Issued By Shurhozelie Liezietsu
  • Hard facts of political crisis (Nagaland)
  • Viewing through one's community
  • Darkening shadows of doubt
  • Ziumi village, Maram Landscape:: Gallery
  • Inter School Handball Tournament :: Gallery
  • The Proud Bamboo Tree :: Folk Tale
  • Populated Attitudes :: Poem
  • Marijuana, Mahadev and Maneka
  • Notice for MSc Biochemistry Admissions
  • The Killing Fields :: News Timeline
  • Assam edition of NE India Fashion Week
  • Being different from Cong Govt
  • Cracking down on fraudulence
  • Hanuba-hanubi paan thaba :: Funga Wari
  • ... All The Flowers Gone? #1 :: Gallery
  • Need to bust racket running inside MPSC
  • Will PM Modi betray Assam in No ST, no rest
  • State Level Essay Writing Competition
  • RIST Condolence Function at MU
  • When we stumble and fall
  • Customer Care Executive @ basicP, Imphal
  • Petition for Disqualification of 10 MLAs
  • Cracking down on fraudulence
  • Rape of small newspaper
  • Landscape of Ukhrul District #2:: Gallery
  • Jhulon Nupi Pala Phamsak :: Gallery
  • TR is CM by technicality sans Legality
  • One Day in Heaven :: Poem
  • Libraries Vs Google: Are we heading there
  • ..for electrical distribution rearrangement
  • Lessons to learn from CCpur: public hygiene
  • Angaoba Film Scenes #1 :: eRang
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • The dawn of cricket in Manipur
  • Lumbini Leikolda Shat-houba Leirang
  • Workshop on MU Reservations held
  • Job posting at C-DAC Silchar
  • Lafikul murdered to stir communal tension
  • Wayward rules of law
  • Indigenous Wrestling @ SPT #1 :: Gallery
  • Tourist Watch Tower, Khongjom #4 :: 360 °
  • Admission for B.Ed at Manipur University
  • The Evening Blues :: Poem
  • A village called Nbena :: Book Review
  • Employment Generating Hands on Skill
  • Unnatural death of Sainik School student
  • Condemns killing of KNO/KNLF leader
  • AR conducts Pre Recruitment Training
  • Makeshift sheds at Lamphel
  • For a clean future generation
  • Mr Maipak Body Building #2:: Gallery
  • CM referring to ST Comm is ultra vires
  • VIP culture out, VVVIP culture in
  • Be an unchained raindrop :: Poem
  • Holistic education : Trends & challenges
  • Jobs - Going Officers Pamjei
  • Providing Various Health Benefit Plans
  • larification to Tokheho's recollections
  • SoO groups in the news for wrong reasons
  • Confession
  • Nongbrang, bank of Thoubal River :: Gallery
  • Pukpha Fest @Tamenglong :: Gallery
  • Binalakshmi Nepram at UN, NYC : 1 Aug
  • Free Computer Course by KEN @ Imphal
  • Where is the justice in mob justice
  • Ishu : Feature Film in Assamese :: Review
  • Flood: State efforts are too little too late
  • Crisis within NPF unfortunate : KG Kenye
  • decision-making body of NPF resolve: 2 Aug
  • NPF Legislature Party Statement : 2 Aug
  • ..honoring martyrs by raising Tri-colour
  • ..strong Opposition: Cong MLA striving hard
  • Battle Of Khongjom & Manipuris in 1891 #3
  • Khongjom War Memorial #2 :: 360 ° View
  • Oops! They've Done It Again!
  • Photography: Career through lenses
  • Mega Marathon Manipur : Download Form
  • Chemical Ecology: Info for college/Univs
  • Jobs - Nursing Aides in Singapore
  • NPF responds to MLAs' demand
  • Overlooking one's own Cabinet decision
  • Potential of our state
  • Drinking joints in a dry State : Liquor tragedy
  • Landscape of Manipur #7: Wallpaper
  • Singcha Wayawon opening #2:: Gallery
  • Meetei bears more tribal characters ...
  • The slumbering Beauty :: Poem
  • Selected to Global Shapers Imphal Hub
  • NPF Legislature Party Meeting on 31st July
  • Indo Myanmar Post Level Meeting at Onzia
  • Notice: Employment Exchange Imphal East
  • The unintended windfall
  • Singcha Wuya Won (flower) #2:: Gallery
  • Hepatitis C is upto 95 pc curable
  • Sit-in-Demand : ST Demand Committee
  • Police na maheiroi singda kahenba..
  • Manung Kangjeibung, Kangla :: 360 ° View
  • My visit to Shri Lanka #4
  • 1st Mao Market day @Nagamapal:: Gallery
  • ILP : Students protest [27 July] :: Gallery
  • Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon #2 :: Gallery
  • Nomination for State Journalist Awards
  • Rare historical stone inscription #1
  • Singcha Wayawon opening #1:: Gallery
  • Huidrom Kirankr- Fellowhsip for Thang-Ta
  • Ethoi Oinam (Actress) #2 :: eRang Photos
  • Echum Lairembi, Khurkhul #3:: Gallery
  • Tapta :: Funga Wari
  • Nungbi Khullen, Ukhrul #1 :: Gallery
  • NH-102 (Maram road) landslide :: Gallery
  • Featured Photo for 2017 #3 :: Gallery
  • Landslide at Jiribam Highway #2 :: Gallery
  • Tribute to Sapam Robinhood #2 :: Gallery
  • Lai Khong Chingba @Thangjing #4
  • Manipur Sangai Festival 2016 #5 : Ooba
  • SPONSORED ADS