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Why is India responsible for continued dictatorship,
prolong suffering and the repeated bloodshed in Burma!
India: Military Aid to Burma Fuels Abuses
India unveils business proposals with Myanmar
Business Week: India's Role in Burma's Crisis
India Silent on Myanmar Crackdown
India's foreign policy
India: Military Aid to Burma Fuels Abuses
India Must Halt Arms Sales and Training to Burmese Army
(New York, December 7, 2006) � The Indian government is
offering a package of military assistance to the Burmese army, which is
likely to use such arms and training to attack against civilians in its war
against ethnic insurgents, Human Rights Watch said today.
It is shocking that a democracy like India would offer
military assistance to Burma�s brutal military
dictatorship, which is likely to use that assistance
against the civilian population.
Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights
Human Rights Watch called on the Indian government to cease its support for
the Burmese military, halt arms sales and press the government to stop its
attacks on civilians.
India�s air force chief, S. P. Tyagi, offered a multimillion dollar aid
package to Burma�s military when he visited Burma�s new administrative
capitol at Nay Pyi Taw on November 22 to meet the leaders of the military
government, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). This aid package
includes counterinsurgency helicopters, avionics upgrades of Burma�s
Russian- and Chinese-made fighter planes, and naval surveillance aircraft.
This followed recent pledges in early November by Indian army chief of
staff, J. J. Singh, to help train Burmese troops in special warfare tactics.
�It is shocking that a democracy like India would offer military assistance
to Burma�s brutal military dictatorship, which is likely to use that
assistance against the civilian population,� said Brad Adams, Asia director
at Human Rights Watch. �India may think it has to compete with China to
cultivate good relations in the region, but this is going too far.�
Last year, India halted military aid to Nepal after a coup by King Gyanendra.
Yet India has shown no such restraint in Burma, a country with an appalling
human rights record and no semblance of democracy. Human Rights Watch is
particularly alarmed that such assistance has been offered while the Burmese
army is mounting its largest operation in more than 10 years, with well over
50 military battalions moving through northern Karen State.
Early this year, India sold Burma two BN-2 Islander maritime surveillance
aircraft that it had brought from the United Kingdom in the 1980s. The
aircraft were delivered in August despite the British government�s
objections that they were being supplied to a country under an EU arms
embargo. The EU Common Position on Burma, renewed this year, states that the
European Union prohibits the sale of military equipment to Burma. Although
there was no specific end-user provision in the original sale, Britain�s
High Commissioner to India in January warned the Indian government that such
a sale could affect further military transfers to India. Britain has refused
to continue to supply spare parts and maintenance to India�s remaining
Islander aircraft as a result.
Later this year, India sold T-55 tanks and 105mm artillery pieces to the
SPDC. The Burmese military routinely uses weapons such as artillery and
mortars in conflict areas to destroy villages and exact retributions against
civilian settlements as it wages war against ethnic insurgents.
Burma rarely uses air power against anti-government insurgents, and has not
directly done so since the offensives of the early 1990s. In the 1980s it
abused the aid provisions attached to US-supplied aircraft to attack
villages in Shan State. Currently, the Burmese military uses air power
mainly to transport troops and supplies to combat areas. India�s offer of
assistance, however, consists of counterinsurgency aircraft and tactics,
including the Dhruv and Lancer light-attack helicopters manufactured by
Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL). This would augment the Burmese army�s
ability to attack insurgents in difficult terrain, out of view of
international observers. Helicopters such as these are designed to attack
targets on the ground, and civilians often suffer as a result.
India�s offer to train Burmese special forces in counterinsurgency tactics
also risks contributing to further serious human rights abuses. Burma uses
small mobile death squads in Karen State, called �guerrilla retaliation�
units, which attack civilian settlements suspected of harboring Karen
soldiers. In other parts of the country, including Shan and Karenni States,
counterinsurgency tactics by the Burmese army routinely include abuses
against civilians. The army uses a longstanding strategy called the �Four
Cuts,� to cut off insurgents� access to food, finance and information and,
in the last �cut,� recruits and civilians.
Given the Indian army�s own brutal record in counterinsurgency operations in
places like Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur, Human
Rights Watch expressed concern about the role of the Indian army in offering
training to the Burmese army.
�The Burmese government�s record shows that these weapons and special
training are used as tools of repression, not of defense,� said Adams. �They
are likely again to be used to attack and mistreat civilians. It is
impossible to understand how the Indian government can justify this.�
For the past 10 years India has increased military cooperation with the
military government in Burma, which took power after nullifying 1990
elections won by the opposition National League for Democracy. In return,
New Delhi hopes that the regime will help contain antigovernment insurgents
that operate from bases in Burma�s Chin State and Sagaing Division into
North East India along the shared 1,664-kilometer border.
India has also financed infrastructure projects in Burma, such as the Asian
Highway project, the extension of which in Sagaing Division has sparked
numerous reports of forced labor. India is a major investor in natural gas
projects in Arakan State, which will include a pipeline route along the
border with India. The Islander aircraft sales may be used to provide
security for this project. India is now Burma�s fourth-largest investor.
�India must not endanger the lives of civilians in Burma for commercial and
strategic aims,� said Adams. �India�s interest lies in the emergence of a
peaceful and stable government in Burma, not in the strengthening of a
Indian plans to sell an attack helicopter
Threat' to EU-Burma embargo
A European Union arms embargo against Burma is being threatened by
to the Rangoon regime, a new report says.
Burma's military junta has been accused of gross rights
The report, from Amnesty International and a number of
other NGOs, focuses on India's Advanced Light Helicopter.
It says the ALH includes parts and technology from France,
Belgium, the UK, Germany, Sweden and Italy.
Transferring the craft to Burma risks making a mockery of
the EU's ban on all sales there, Amnesty says.
Burma, also known as Myanmar, is ruled by a military junta
which suppresses almost all dissent and wields absolute power in the face of
international condemnation and sanctions.
The generals and the army stand accused of gross human
rights abuses, including the forcible relocation of civilians and the
widespread use of forced labour, which includes children.
"The EU embargo explicitly states that no military
equipment should be supplied, either directly or indirectly, for use in
Myanmar [Burma]" Roy Isbister from Saferworld, one of the report's
"What's the point in having an arms embargo if it is not
going to be implemented or enforced?"
The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says
the ALH can be used for a variety of tasks.
It has an anti-tank role but can also be used for
counter-insurgency operations and can be equipped with both rockets and a
Unarmed versions can be used for logistical support and
The ALH was developed in association with Eurocopter
Deutschland and is built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited - whose helicopter
division has in the past produced machines based on French designs.
According to the report, the Indian-made helicopter would
not even be operational without vital parts from the EU member states,
- Rocket launchers from Belgium
- Rockets, guns and engines from France
- Brake systems from Italy
- Fuel tanks and gearboxes from the UK
- Self-protection equipment from a Swedish company
- And German assistance in design development.
Should the proposed transfer go ahead, Belgium, France,
Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK could therefore be undermining an EU arms
embargo on Burma in place since 1988, the report's authors say.
Our correspondent says the ALH's development illustrates
the complexity of the international arms trade which now involves
co-operation and technology transfer as much as simple nation-to-nation
Amnesty International's arms control researcher Helen
Hughes says that the ALH case shows the need for a tightening of
international arms controls:
"Greater attention has to be given to the end-use
agreements and the re-export of components from EU member states. Otherwise,
these states could find themselves indirectly propping up a brutal regime
which they themselves have condemned and whose violations have amounted to
crimes against humanity."
Though India is not itself restricted by such an arms ban,
the report calls on the EU to begin immediate consultations with its
government to press for a rethink on the plan.
India unveils business proposals with Myanmar
GANDHI'S BIRTHDAY, SGM DEMANDS INDIA SUSPEND OIL AND GAS
A few articles on India's military and economic (natural
gas) interests and hence alliance with the brutal regime in Burma:
1. "The reason for the hesitation lies in the strategic needs
of India's booming economy. In recent years the Indian government has been
courting the military junta, hoping to win gas supplies and to prevent
China's growing influence in Burma." More...
Myanmar: Rhetoric and reality of Indian democracy
"It was reported on November 22, 2006, that Air Chief Marshal
S. P. Tyagi made a three-day visit to Myanmar to discuss several arms offers
made almost two years ago by his predecessor, Air Chief Marshal S.
Krishnaswamy. These included a comprehensive fighter aircraft upgrade
programme and the sale of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) built advanced
light helicopters, Bharat Electronics (BEL) radars, airborne radio equipment
and surveillance electronics."
3. India and China Compete for Burma's Resources (an article
from last year) -
Burma is saturated in more than ten trillion cubic feet of
natural gas, and possibly also oil, beneath its offshore waters, which
stretch from the border of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal down to within
sight of Thailand's azure blue coastline, dotted with tourist resorts. It is
that rugged and undeveloped coastline of almost 1,000 miles that
particularly interests the new great game players.
India unveils business proposals with Myanmar
By admin | October 8, 2007
IANS - Earth times :
Guwahati, Oct 7 - India announced Sunday a series of cross-border development
projects with Myanmar aimed at better connectivity and boosting the regional
economies of the two countries.
‘We are involved in a variety of projects with Myanmar in
diverse fields such as roads, railways, telecommunications, IT, science and
technology, and power,’ External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee was delivering a lecture titled ‘India’s Look East
Policy - Challenges for Sub-Regional Cooperation’ in Assam’s main city of
Guwahati organised by the public diplomacy division of the external affairs
‘These initiatives are aimed at improving connectivity between
northeastern India and western Myanmar and are expected to give an impetus to
the local economies as well as bilateral trade,’ the minister said.
Mukherjee’s statement assumes significance in the context of
the present brutal attacks on pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar and the
international condemnation of the military crackdown.
The external affairs last week issued a guarded statement
expressing ‘concern’ over the turmoil in Myanmar.
‘As a close and friendly neighbour, India hopes to see a
peaceful, stable and prosperous Myanmar, where all sections of people will be
included in a broadbased process of national reconciliation and political
reform,’ the statement had said.
The minister said that among the notable agreements reached
with the junta is the one about connectivity of the waterways between the two
‘Probably among the most important is the Kaladan Multi-Modal
Transit Transport facility, which envisages connectivity between Indian ports on
the eastern seaboard and Sittwe Port in Myanmar,’ Mukherjee said.
Exiled Myanmarese leaders had earlier expressed concern over
India’s lukewarm response in condemning the military crackdown on pro-democracy
protesters in Myanmar, although analysts said New Delhi is walking a diplomatic
tightrope to appease the junta for strategic interests.
‘It is indeed very shocking to find one of the world’s largest
democracy (India) adopting a nuanced approach when the (Myanmar) military is
trying to neutralize pro-democracy supporters,’ Min Maung, an exiled Burmese
student leader here, said.
GANDHI'S BIRTHDAY, SGM DEMANDS INDIA SUSPEND OIL AND GAS
INVESTMENTS IN BURMA
Despite Principles of Gandhi, India Continues Support to Military in
Burma Through Lucrative Gas Deals
For Immediate Release
Contact: Wong Aung (Thailand)
Soe Lunn (Bangladesh) +880-1710939498
NEW DELHI / THAILAND, October 2, 2007 -- As violent crackdowns on
peaceful protestors continue in Burma, the Shwe Gas Movement (SGM)
condemns the Government of India's oil and gas partnerships with the
military regime in Burma and urgently calls on the Government of India
to suspend all oil and gas investments in the country.
According to Wong Aung, Global Coordinator of the SGM, "India's
financial support for the junta through lucrative gas deals and trade
cooperation is integral for the regime to maintain its stability, and a
stable junta is a violent junta."
The SGM's demand comes on the birthday of India's most revered
spiritual and political leader, Mohatma Gandhi. The pioneer of
satyagraha, a concept of mass civil disobedience against tyranny, and
rooted in ahimsa, or nonviolence, Gandhi led India to Independence and
inspired the world to speak out against injustice.
"India's current support for the regime in Burma and insignificant
response to the ongoing violence and killings in Burma is a total
affront to everything Gandhi taught us," added Kim, Coordinator of the
SGM in India. "India should stand up for freedom, human rights, and
democracy in Burma."
Nationwide protests in Burma began over one month ago when the State
Peace and Development Council (SPDC) raised the price of fuels,
including a 500 percent increase in the price of natural gas. Led by
Buddhist monks, protests climaxed last week with hundreds of thousand
of protestors taking to the streets in Rangoon and other cities,
peacefully protesting the military regime. It was the biggest challenge
to military rule in 20 years. The military responded with brutal force,
beating and killing protestors with automatic weapons and live
ammunition. In the midst of this, India's Petroleum Minister Murli
Deora traveled to Burma with executives of the national oil company
ONGC Videsh to sign three new deals to extract and export natural gas.
The regime in Burma has confirmed an estimated 15.85 trillion cubic
feet (tcf) of natural gas in offshore reserves, with another 768 tcf
onshore. ONGC Videsh and the GAIL both have investments in the
lucrative Shwe gas fields in Burma's Bay of Bengal. The Shwe Gas
Project, led by Korea's Daewoo International, stands to earn the regime
between US$12-17 billion. Last year, the regime earned approximately
US$2.2 billion in gas sales to Thailand through the Thai company PTTEP.
EarthRights International has an open letter to the CEO of Chevron,
Dave O'Reilly, and a petition to him, regarding the brutal crackdown on
peaceful protests in Burma:
The Petition to sign is here:
"DOWN THE RAT HOLE: Adventures Underground on Burma's Frontiers"
is the latest book by Edith Mirante (author of "Burmese Looking Glass")
published by Orchid Press:
In Asia, order online from:
"Down the Rat Hole" is available at
It can also be requested from your local bookshop or ordered at:
Business Week: India's Role in Burma's Crisis
New Delhi has sympathy for the troubled nation,
but energy needs and relations with China are complicating the equation
For the last two months, Burma has been in a
crisis. The long-ruling military regime has been crushing a people's movement
that arose over the removal of fuel subsidies and a 500% hike in fuel costs for
an already impoverished populace. Global supporters of democracy have been vocal
about the repression. The West wants to impose more sanctions and is urging
China—Burma's largest trading partner—to pressure the Burmese junta.
But what of India, the democracy closest to
Burma? The world wants India, which also has an economic interest in Burma, to
lend its democratic voice to the cause and put pressure on the generals to stop
the killing. In early October the European Union issued a démarche to India, urging it to use its good offices with
the junta and reconcile with the democrats. The world has been disappointed.
For those who have been following India's foreign
policy, India's bumbling is not surprising. The nation has long clamored for a
place on the international high table, citing its democratic traditions, size,
and strategic geopolitical importance. In reality, however, its foreign policy
is still immature. The problem of Burma (renamed Myanmar by the junta) has
suddenly thrust an unprepared India into the field along with the professionals.
India's interests in Burma are indeed vital. The
country is encircled by hostile neighbors under military or autocratic rule. For
years, India supported Aung San Suu Kyi's democracy movement. Officially, India
hosts about 70,000 Burmese refugees; unofficially, the number is twice that.
Nearly 60% of top Burmese dissidents are based in India, and they receive active
and staunch support from several Indian politicians such as George Fernandes, a
fiery labor leader who was Defense Minister from 1998 to 2004. Burmese students
often gather at his Samata Party office in New Delhi, and he often takes up
Burma's cause in Parliament.
The country's ties with Suu Kyi run deep and
long. She spent her early years in New Delhi, when her mother was a diplomat
posted to India, and she went to college in India's capital city. In 1995, while
under house arrest, Suu Kyi was the recipient of the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for
International Understanding—the highest honor of its kind in India.
But by supporting democracy all those years, say
the hawks in New Delhi, India left the door wide open for China to enter and
establish itself in Burma with the junta. "From 1988 to 1998, India burned its
interests in Burma by isolating the junta and supporting democracy," says Brahma
Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at New Delhi's Centre for Policy
Research. "By then, China had already come in. India does not want to repeat
"In 10 Years, Burma Will Be China's"
Indeed, China is at center stage in Burma. In
Rangoon and Mandalay, Chinese merchants, traders, and contractors live lavish
lives, and some pursue drug dealing, human trafficking, and bribery of junta
officials, says Mungpi, assistant editor of Mizzima News, a Burmese
news agency operating out of India. Burma-China bilateral trade is $1.5 billion,
making China the largest partner for Burma; and China is Burma's largest arms
provider. "In 10 years, Burma will be China's just like Tibet is," predicts M.D.
Nalapat, professor of geopolitics at Manipal University, Karnataka.
However India has grown from a nation of poverty
to an emerging economic giant. The country's economy has expanded, and so have
its energy needs. For the last four years, India has been engaged in fierce
competition with China over securing its energy requirements from Africa,
Russia, and Burma. Human values and democratic tradition have given way to
realpolitik, and Burma has become a battleground for India and China for energy
and regional dominance. The field is uneven: China dominates with the lion's
share of commercial and political influence. China also gets most of the
country's energy resources.
India has other interests in Burma. New Delhi
would like to use the country as a trade link to the fast-growing ASEAN region,
so the Indians are building ports and roads, including a 165km "India-Myanmar
friendship highway" linking Manipur in India's northeast to central Burma and
continuing to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. India is also spending $100
million to fund a deal linking Burma's Sittwe port with an Indian one, perhaps
Calcutta. In return, India gets a little gas from Burma and a production-sharing
agreement for three deep-water exploration blocks, according to Nimmi Kurien
from the Center for Policy Research. And Burma's army empties the camps that
India's insurgents from the northeast routinely set up in Burma.
Doing Business With the Generals
Foreign Ministry officials in New Delhi
stridently say their relationship with Burma is one of "pragmatic engagement."
According to them, India's strategic interests lie on the side of the generals.
Yes, Indians sympathize with ordinary Burmese, and Indian officials say they are
using diplomatic channels to urge the generals to release Suu Kyi.
Yet India, they say, is in desperate need of
natural resources, so doing business with the generals to get part of Burma's
vast natural gas reserves is vital. Intelligence officials also credit the
Burmese junta for helping destroy camps of anti-Indian insurgents fighting in
the northeastern Indian states of Manipur and Assam. "The Burmese generals are
very nice to us," says an intelligence officer in New Delhi.
Human rights groups, however, point out that the
Burmese military has received $200 million in military aid from India. "India's
security concerns are misplaced," says Suhas Chakma of the Asian Center for
Human Rights. "In fact, the Burmese army and Indian insurgents cooperate." They
also point out that India's economic interests in Burma are limited. India's
lack of influence was shown up when China won the rights to explore for natural
gas in western Burma earlier this year. Experts say that Beijing's ability to
use its Security Council veto to keep Burma's human rights record off of the
U.N. agenda is more important to the junta than any economic incentives India
Asian Diplomatic Initiative Needed
But the current Burmese crisis presents New Delhi
with a chance to stake its claim in global affairs by offering an alternate
solution to Burma's problems. For starters, says Uday Bhaskar, a securities
analyst in New Delhi, India can use its Buddhist card. "We have a repository of
Buddhist leaders with credibility in Southeast Asia," he says. "We should have
been taking a Buddhist initiative, like a non-government-run convention of
Buddhist leaders in the region."
But, he says, the Foreign Ministry dominates the
issue of Burma and does not encourage civil society groups like the People's
Union for Civil Liberties to interact with the Burmese in India. India's
Communist Party, surprisingly, supports India's strategic shift on Burma in
favor of the junta. But Nilotpal Basu, the sole Communist representative in the
upper house of India's Parliament, says the government should be working more
closely with neighbors. "We would like to see India and China cooperate," he
says. "We would like to see an Asian diplomatic initiative on Burma—there is
none so far."
India's time—and credibility—may be running out.
Meenakshi Ganguly, top South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, worries
that if India does not take the initiative with Burma now, it could lose its
sheen as a champion of freedom and democracy in Asia. India already has a
disappointed and resentful Tibetan community, she points out, that is now a
second generation of refugees feeling hurt and let down by India's new
realpolitik towards China. The Burmese are first-generation refugees, and many
are still crossing the borders into India.
Long Term Approach
For now, their resentment is not evident. But Mizzima News' Mungpi
notes that the Indian government "says it supports democracy" but "has a double
standard with the Burmese junta." He adds: "This is the beginning of the end of
the military junta. The people are willing to carry on." More important,
explains Roberto Herrera-Lim of consulting firm Eurasia Group, the junta is
running out of money despite the support from India and China: "They're running
up against their own reserves and are virtually bankrupt." Tourism is down
sharply, and the regime cannot get access to Burmese Army-related bank accounts
in the U.S. Governments are pressuring other countries to cut off access too.
India must think more long-term about Burma. New
Delhi would do well to trade in its friendship with the regime's generals in
return for global goodwill and support for a much-coveted seat on the U.N. Security Council. If the generals are broke, there's no point
throwing good money after bad. Better for the Indian government to support a new
Burmese regime and secure India's interest early on this time around.
Kripalani is BusinessWeek's
Mumbai bureau chief
India Silent on Myanmar Crackdown
By GAVIN RABINOWITZ
The Associated Press
Tuesday, October 23, 2007; 3:53 AM
NEW DELHI -- A United Nations envoy visited Indian leaders on Tuesday,
hoping to rouse the world's largest democracy from its relative silence over the
violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests by the military government in
U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari is on a six-nation tour to press
Asian nations _ in particular
India _ to take the lead in resolving the crisis as the European Union and
the U.S. push for expanded sanctions against Myanmar.
India, which has established deep economic and military ties
with the junta over the last decade, says it's talking quietly to its neighbor,
an approach that has galled critics who argue New Delhi's inaction makes it
complicit in the brutal repression taking place in Myanmar.
"We feel that India should stop protecting and strengthening the
military butchers of Burma," said Thin Thin Aung of the Women's League of Burma,
while protesting recently outside the home of Sonia Gandhi, the head of India's
ruling Congress party.
Protests in Myanmar began Aug. 19 after the government raised
fuel prices in one of Asia's poorest countries. They were based in a deep-rooted
dissatisfaction with the repressive military rule that has gripped the country,
previously known as Burma, since 1962. The protests were faltering when Buddhist
monks took the lead late last month.
Soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators and the military junta
said 10 people were killed, although diplomats and dissidents say the death toll
is likely much higher. Thousands were arrested, and the hunt for participants is
On Friday, President Bush announced new measures targeting the
assets of Myanmar's leaders. He also tightened controls on U.S. exports to the
country, also known as Burma. In addition, he urged China and India to do more
to pressure the junta.
China, which Gambari is expected to visit on Wednesday, has
taken some action _ Beijing is credited with pressuring Myanmar's generals to
meet with Gambari earlier in the month. India, however, has done little
publicly. In fact, as the protests gathered steam last month, India's petroleum
minister, Murali Deora, was in Myanmar signing a $150 million gas exploration
Apart from several mild statements expressing "concern" over the
situation in Myanmar and suggestions that it would be "helpful" to release
detained democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, India has said
little else, even as pressure has grown on New Delhi to act.
India insists that quietly working behind the scenes is more
"Violence and suppression of human rights is something that
hurts us," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters last week on the
way home from a visit to
"Having said that, we have to recognize that Myanmar is our next
door neighbor and sometimes it does not serve the objective you have in mind by
going public with condemnations," he said.
Critics dismiss India's quiet diplomacy, saying New Delhi is
simply loathe to give up access to Myanmar's copious natural resources, such as
timber and natural gas.
"As a democracy one expects more from India," Brad Adams, the
Asia director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
"We would like India to speak publicly. They do their diplomacy
in private but there is no doubt that public diplomacy is necessary" said Adams,
adding that India needs to make it clear to the junta that there will be
consequences for its actions.
As India's economy began to boom it became desperate to lay its
hands on the energy resources necessary to fuel its rapid economic growth and
provide power to its 1.1 billion people. Myanmar's natural-gas reserves proved
India has also been keen to secure the cooperation of the
Myanmar military to help contain several separatist groups fighting New Delhi
rule in India's northeast, a region that borders Myanmar. Several of the groups
have set up bases over the border used to launch attacks against India.
India's foreign policy pragmatism
BBC News, Delhi
Just as thousands of saffron-clad Buddhist
monks hit the streets of Rangoon to protest against the military junta,
India's oil minister was in the Burmese capital negotiating greater
involvement for Indian gas companies.
For days the Indian foreign office maintained
a studious silence as violence escalated in its neighbour.
Pressure on the Indian government from US and
European countries did not deter Delhi from its now well-established policy
- that economic and security interests dictate foreign policy.
Earlier this year Foreign Minister Pranab
Mukherjee visited Burma and was questioned on India's growing economic and
military ties with the authorities there.
"India is a democracy and it wants democracy
to flourish everywhere. But we are not interested in exporting our own
ideology," he said.
The remarks reflect the new pragmatism that
dictates India's foreign policy.
On a number of recent issues India has either
refused to react, delayed its response or just said it is an internal matter
for the countries concerned.
Israel's invasion of Lebanon last year, the
Israeli blockade of Gaza, the actions of Sudan's military authorities,
Iran's nuclear stand-off with the US and the recent crackdown in Burma are
all examples of this new approach.
At least 100 Indian companies have invested more
than $2.5bn in Sudan, led by the public oil company, ONGC Videsh, which
recently built a 700km pipeline project in the country.
It did so while flouting international
guidelines on investment in Sudan compiled by the European Coalition on Oil
Following the Indian government's decision to
look for new areas of investment in Sudan, power generation companies,
tractor, construction and real estate companies have made a bee-line for the
country. The automobile giants, Tata and Maruti Suzuki are also scouting for
In Iran, ONGC Videsh has sought a 20%
participating interest in the Yadavaran oil fields with an estimated
capacity to yield 60,000 barrels of crude daily. Linked to this is the
liquefied natural gas deal that India signed with Iran in 2005.
Syria, another country that the US has named
as a sponsor of terrorism, has also generated strong interest in Indian oil
companies. ONGC Videsh has inked a contract to explore over 3,800 sq km in
central eastern Syria for oil.
Such investments in the last few years are
reflective of the "flexibility" that has come to dictate India's foreign
An important development in the 1990s
triggered a change in outlook towards Burma. For years India had championed
the cause of pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
In 1993, India awarded the Nehru Peace prize
to her in recognition of her contribution to world peace.
The decision to do so provoked Burma, which
lost no time in releasing anti-India rebels it had arrested at Delhi's
This presented a warning to the Indian
political establishment. The Congress government decided to steer away from
what had been an avowed policy to support pro-democracy movements all over
the world, to make foreign policy decisions based on its interests.
Today, India sees Burma as its strategic
gateway to East Asian countries.
G Parthasarthy was India's ambassador in
Rangoon when the policy turnaround took place. He says India's perception
gradually changed after the end of Cold War and apartheid.
Mr Parthasarthy points out that Burma shares a
long border with India and its sensitive north-eastern states where many
separatist groups are active.
"We need friendly neighbours and Burma has
been a good one," he says.
But it has only been good for some.
Insurgent groups who for decades used Burmese
soil to launch attacks into India have been largely controlled. In return
India has refused to comment on Burma's internal affairs.
Today the world recognises that India is the
only country which might be able to influence the Burmese junta, apart from
A booming economy coupled with a growing
energy demand has led Indian policymakers to look at various options.
India has a 20% stake in the huge Shwe gas
field in Burma.
Comparatively late to invest in Burma, India
is now building roads across the country that will connect the rest of India
with its north-eastern states.
now treading a difficult path
Sittwe Port - which will connect the state of
Mizoram with the rest of India through river transport - is nearing
In the past, India did not engage with
military dictatorships. But in these days of globalisation all that changed.
Delhi wanted to check China's growing influence, while looking beyond mere
It was felt that there was a need to focus on
India's economic and energy security as well.
And many Indian politicians and academics
point to Western hypocrisy over their selective criticisms of India's Burma
They argue that China and Vietnam are also
one-party states, but the West has no scruples about dealing with them.
Neither have the US and others been reluctant
to intervene in Iraq, influence the government of Pakistan or support the
Taleban before 9/11, they say.
"India cannot afford the luxury of being
selective. We are not in the business of selective sermonising," says Mr
All this also vividly illustrates another
recent geo-political development: the weakening of the Non-Alignment
Movement which Delhi championed in earlier decades.
India is now treading a different path, where
building bilateral relationships is considered to be a better way of
engaging and influencing countries.