New Dimension in Indo-Myanmar relations
Indo-Myanmar relations are turning to a new dimension to strengthen exponentially, based on the spurt in bilateral discussion and agreement in the recent past. Increasing connectivity, trade and infrastructure investment and greater security, co-operation with South – East Asia are core aims of India’s Act East Policy. Central to the policy is increased engagement with Myanmar. The changed political structure in Myanmar after 2015 election is the most determinant of the future trajectory of India – Myanmar relations. The resounding verdict was in favour of National relationship. The isolation of Myanmar League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi led to the democratic government in Myanmar and it led to new hopes in Myanmar which for the past many years had seen the country’s economy education and health care pushed to an abysmal position. It pushed the country to depend over China for trade and investment. Comprehensive peace agreement with the ethnic based insurgency groups paved the way for rebuilding Myanmar’s economy. The country focused on maintaining increase economic growth rate and move to create a better climate for longer, stable investment.
In turn, India wants a reliable and stable neighbour in the east to counter the increasing Chinese influence in the South East Asia region. Indian interest in Myanmar mainly narrows down in two factors; one control over the North East insurgent groups based in that country and better integration of ASEAN countries with India. Secondly, a border engagement, which will include institutional and capacity building, economic investments and greater cross border connections. Passive policies and lack of focus on engagement in India’s North Eastern Region has resulted in economic alienation and discontentment. The rise of insurgency in the region has resulted in political instability, greater violence and threat to the country’s sovereignty and national security. India wants to uproot anti-India camps inside its borders to prevent arms and financial support for the Indians outfits. With this in mind, India focuses on increasing economic investment for Myanmar’s development.
A direct trade route, effective security and calculated investment can help in increasing trade between the two countries. Encouraging private parties to invest in Myanmar, support for rebuilding institutions and continuous involvement with the NLD and the military as it negotiates a new peace agreement are critical ways in which the bilateral relations can grow. India’s national security and growth in the region depend on taking greater initiative and committing itself to consistent growth and development in the North Eastern Region.
On August 8, 2018 India and Myanmar officially opened land route in a historic ceremony at the bridge over Mrinal River (Lokchao), near Moreh town of India, which separates the two countries. Now, people living on both sides of the border can pass 16 kms of the border. The agreement for borders pass will enhance the border trade activities, tourism, cultural exchange and people to people contact/control and their socio-economic interactions and it is a long cherished dream of both the people. The opening of the land route will minimize many of the problems and hassles. Now, people of India who possess valid passports and visa can easily travel to South East Asian countries via Tamu. Just after the inaugural function, people processed for border pass and started travelling in both the countries.
Just after 11 days of the opening of Indo- Myanmar land route, Rk Shivachandra, convener of Act East Policy Committee, Manipur in association with Indo-Myanmar Fraternal Alliance invited delegates from Myanmar for the Citizens Dialogue on the prospects of Manipur and Sagaing Region at Hotel Imphal, on the 19th August, 2018. The dialogues were opened by His Highness the king of Manipur, Leishemba Sanajaoba. Four Myanmari nationals, Mr Nyein Chan Soe Win, Executive Director of Fly Mya Company, Mr Myat Kyaw Kyaw, Former Secretary of Sagaing Region, Government of Myanmar, Mr Soe Myint, Editor In Chief and Managing Director, Mizzima Media Company Chairman, Mizzima Foundation and Mr Myo Myint Aung, Language Instructor, Centre for Myanmar Studies Manipur University attended the dialogue. The dialogue was attended from Manipur side by academia, entrepreneurs and interested parties. The speakers in three sessions discussed about the need for more cooperation in the fields of educations, trade, commerce, industry, investment and research works in institutional sectors. The two underdeveloped regions in both the countries tries to find out ways and means for development by collaborations and help each other hand in hand in all sectors of human development, skilling, information and knowledge sharing. Even though Sagaing Region is seven times larger in size, about double in population than Manipur, there are lots of areas in knowledge sharing in education and health care sector which Manipur can help Sagaing. It needs collaborations in industry, business, health care, education and sciences, so that the two neighbours live in peace, love and collective growth in future. People of both the borders filled heart to heart love; only political isolation separates the people. Sagaing is rich in mineral resources and agricultural produces while Manipur need such primary products for its industries.
Even the land route agreement between Myanmar and India was formally signed and opened; today also the facility for issue of e-visa is still in pending. There is need for relaxation of visa for patients who come to Imphal for treatment. There is huge potential for exchange of tourist between Myanmar and India. Every year, 15,000 people from Sagaing and 60,000 tourists from Yangon visit Bodhgaya expending Rs 60,000 to Rs 70,000 per person. People of Manipur, Nagaland and Assam want to visit their ancestors in Myanmar. In January, Naga festival is organised in Sagaing. The dialogue came to conclusion to observe Manipur – Sagaing year in 2019 and share Manipur Sangai festival in November and Naga Festival and Chindwin Festival held during January and April every year. It also resolved that Act East Policy Committee, Manipur and Sagaing Promotion Group which is spearheading the support to Myanmar government should work together and pressurize their government to form a Sagaing – Manipur Development Committee to short out the problems in the two regions, ease their problems and help the two neighbours grow together.