Myanmar Head of State, General Than Shwe will be visiting India from July 25 to July 29, 2010 in what can be termed contextually as a highly significant visit to India. Myanmar is of the highest strategic significance for India lying astride the entire Eastern littoral of the Bay of Bengal and also covering the Eastern land approaches to India from China. Myanmar had been virtually lost to China strategically but for a last minute strategic reclamation by India’s first non-dynastic Congress Prime Minister, the late P. V. Narasimha Rao. Thereafter, India has forged strong strategic links with Myanmar with high level political and military exchanges despite strong pressures from the United States and the Western countries that have been constantly demonizing Myanmar This Column may please be read contextually with my earlier Columns on Myanmar:
General Than Shwe is visiting India after receiving high level Chinese dignitaries and he has chosen to visit India before he visits China in the forthcoming weeks. He is also visiting India just before Myanmar goes to the polls later this year. From the Indian side in the last one year, Myanmar has been visited by the Indian Vice President, the former Indian Army Chief, the Home Secretary and the Indian Foreign Secretary. All of this points to the political and strategic importance that India attaches to its relationship with Myanmar.
Even before the visit has taken place India is being targeted in the Western media of laying on the red carpet for General Than Shwe. The United States and Western countries in tow conveniently forget that they have cavorted with more authoritarian leaders. They conveniently forget that in the case of Pakistan they are relying on the Islamic Jihadi Pakistan Army and ignoring its role in 9/11 and Mumbai 26/11 terrorist attacks to suit their own national security interests. Then what is wrong for India to do likewise when the Myanmar military regime never allowed Pakistan Army’s ISI to use Myanmar territory for destabilization activities against India.
If India can talk and have dialogues with a ‘rogue state’ like Pakistan then why cannot India welcome and forge strong links with Myanmar, a nation that is well disposed towards it and in the process India’s national security interests are secured?
General Than Shwe will begin his India visit with a visit to holy Buddhist city of Gaya in Bihar. He then will spend two days in New Delhi for high-level discussions. Thereafter he will proceed to Hyderabad to acquaint himself with India’s advancement in the IT field in which he wants India’s assistance.
India is actively involved in high-connectivity road and waterways projects linking India’s North East states with the neighboring regions of Myanmar which ultimately would raise the levels of trade exchanges between the two countries. In addition major Indian industrial houses like the TATAs are involved in establishing production facilities in Myanmar.
In the defense field India has supplied defense equipment and also regular visits are exchanged. Recently a high-level Myanmar defense delegation was also conducted to Tawang, a territory claimed by China.
India must go all out to welcome the Myanmar Head of State and readily provide all assistance sought during the visit from defense to trade and political support. India must never ever become a party to any political or economic isolation of Myanmar in which the Western countries are engaged.