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In News:

  • President Ram Nath Kovind will be on a four-day visit to Myanmar. During his stay, the President will visit capital Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon, and interact with his counterpart U Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. A high-level delegation is also accompanying Mr Kovind.
  • In the past three years, India’s political, economic and defence ties with Myanmar have grown rapidly. Through this visit, the President will reaffirm India’s commitment to developing an important partnership with Myanmar.

Significance of India Myanmar relationship:

  • Myanmar is one of India’s strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of north eastern states. Myanmar is at the heart of Indian government’s Act East policy with the India-Myanmar-Thailand Asian Trilateral Highway, the Kaladan multimodal project, a road-river-port cargo transport project, and BIMSTEC.
  • India is also working closely with the security forces of Myanmar to target the insurgents operating in the country’s northeast.
  • Myanmar is expected to act as the bridge between India and ASEAN, has risen in much significance in the context of India’s Act East Policy, and good neighbourhood policy.
  • Better relations with Myanmar have become crucial for India with China gradually gaining confidence of countries in the region.
  • Further India’s completion of the projects with Myanmar would also prove India to be a responsible regional player, thus improving its reliability.
  • Myanmar is on India’s energy security radar on account of its abundant oil and natural gas reserves.
  • Good relations with Myanmar can help boost the development of North Eastern India through growth in trade and business opportunities, border haats, communication and physical connectivity infrastructure to promote people to people connectivity.
  • Capacity building in Myanmar as India has been actively involved in capacity building in Myanmar through Myanmar Institute of Information Technology, Advanced Centre for Agriculture Research and Education

Important projects by India in Myanmar:

  • Kaladan multi-modal corridor
  • Repair of 69 bridges on the Tamu-Kalewa road
  • The construction of the 120-km KalewaYargyi corridor both of which are part of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway
  • The Rhi-Tiddim road in the Chin state bordering Mizoram

Issues in the relationship:

  • The Rohingya crisis: India does not directly engage with the issue of Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority. Peace and stability in the Rakhine state is important for India’s strategic and economic point of view though but the Rohingya crisis is posing a security challenge to the South and Southeast Asia. As China’s profile continues to rise in India’s vicinity, India would like to enhance its presence by developing infrastructure and connectivity projects in the country. India has found it difficult to counter Chinese influence in Myanmar. India is losing friends because of widespread discontent over continuing delay in completion of flagship projects such as Kaladan and the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway.
  • Despite mutual consensus on the value of people-to-people exchanges, actual progress is negligible due to the absence of an enabling instrument.

Way Ahead:

  • It is crucial for India to focus on timely delivery of projects to improve its legitimacy.
  • It is essential that the two countries immediately start negotiating transit and other agreements for the smooth movement of goods and vehicles for optimal use of the infrastructure.
  • There is a strong need to expand, diversify and upgrade commercial ties in ways that also contribute to Myanmar’s development needs and meet India’s $3 billion trade target set in 2012. Indian businesses could look for avenues to invest in the power, steel, automobiles and even textile sectors in Myanmar.
  • India can certainly help in improving the socio-economic conditions in the area facing violence and also create employment opportunities.

Check Your Understanding:

  • Despite the increasing cooperation between India and Myanmar, there are many roadblocks which need to be solved. Analyse the statement and provide suggestions for future initiatives.
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