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सेमिनार: अंग्रेज़ी सीखने का अवसर (23 सितंबर: दोपहर 3 बजे)
PM Modi's Myanmar Visit and India-Myanmar Relations
Sep 09, 2017

[GS Paper III: (India and its neighbourhood relations)]

Why in news?

  • PM Narendra Modi made his first state visit to Myanmar from Sept 5-7. 
  • During the visit, 11 MoUs were signed by the two nations in areas like maritime security, strengthening democratic institutions in Myanmar, health and information technology etc.
  • PM Modi visited the ‘mazar’ (shrine) of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, the 12th-century Ananda Temple in the ancient city of Bagan and the 2,500-year-old Shwedagon pagoda and the Kalibari Temple in Yangon. 
Note: The 2,500-year-old pagoda, located west of the Royal Lake in Yangon, enshrines strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy relics.

Importance of Myanmar for India 

  • The North-East connect: Four north-eastern states viz. Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram share over 1600 Km boundary with Myanmar. Many cross-border ethnic groups and insurgents from Northeast India have military bases in Myanmar, making it important for security in the north-east.
  • Gateway to South-East Asia: Myanmar is the only ASEAN country adjoining India and is therefore an important gateway to South East Asia with which India is seeking greater economic integration through its 'Act East' Policy.
  • Bilateral Cooperation in Regional/ Sub-regional context: Myanmar's membership of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and Mekong Ganga Cooperation has introduced a regional/sub-regional dimension to bilateral relations. 
  • Kaladan Project: India is building the Kaladan project, a road-river-port cargo transport project, which aims to link Kolkata to Sittwe in Myanmar and then from Myanmar’s Kaladan river to India’s north-east. Apart from boosting the economy of Myanmar, the project will also create an alternative route for goods from India’s north-east to the rest of the country and the world. 
  • Energy Security: The availability of “abundant oil and natural gas” reserves in Myanmar also makes it India’s energy security provider in its close neighbourhood.

India’s Balancing Act

  • During the visit, the Prime Minister Modi expressed concerns over “extremist violence” in the Rakhine State, from where the Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh.
  • However, India refused to be a part of the Bali declaration adopted at ‘World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development’ in Indonesia. The declaration called on all parties to contribute to restoring stability and security in the region.
  • India objected to the part of declaration that expressed “deep concern on the ongoing violence in the Rakhine State of Myanmar’, stating that the declaration was not in line with the agreed global principles of ‘sustainable development’. 

The Rohingya Refugee Crisis

  • Rohingya is predominantly a Muslim ethnic minority of about 1.1 million living mostly in Rakhine state, west Myanmar, on the border with Bangladesh. 
  • Though they have lived in Myanmar for generations, the Myanmar government insists that all Rohingyas are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. It refuses to recognize them as citizens, effectively rendering the majority of them stateless. 
  • As a result of systematic discrimination, they live in deplorable conditions with limited access to health care, schools or jobs.

Rohingyas in India

  • On September 5, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said the government had set up a task force in various states to identify and deport the 40,000 Rohingya refugees in India.
  • India’s National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the Home Affairs Ministry over its decision to send them back to Myanmar. 
  • NHRC stated that as per the Constitution of India, the right to life and personal liberty applies to all, irrespective of their citizenship.

Way Forward

  • India sees Myanmar as a crucial partner in the fight to end insurgency in India’s north-east, as a gateway to South-East Asia and a key component of India’s new vision for South and South-East Asian regional cooperation. 
  • India is also concerned as Myanmar is increasingly being wooed by China. India has already extended $2 billion in soft loans and offered developmental assistance to Myanmar.
  • Myanmar offers a sizeable, mutually beneficial economic opportunity for India. A consolidation of commercial ties can bring prosperity to India’s north-east and revitalise Kolkata and other eastern ports. 

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