Myanmar's Demonization by the West

and Calls for Democracy

Myanmar stands demonized by the Western countries and their media in the last two weeks particularly following the demonstrations by Buddhist monks. Pressure is being built up in the United Nations by the United States and other Western countries for international intervention to stop the suppression of democracy movement and human rights by the military government in that country.

South Asia's western and eastern flanks present a sordid spectacle of double standards being adopted by the United States and the Western countries in calls for restoration of democracy and human rights. Myanmar on the eastern flank is being 'demonized' for not respecting democracy and human rights whereas on the western flank Pakistan is being 'lionized' by the United States and the West , blatantly and conveniently forgetting that General Musharraf brutally suppresses democracy and human rights without any reproach from them. So why are the double standards being adopted?

If Myanmar is being penalized for having close military links with China then why not Pakistan too which does not have only close military links with China but also deep strategic links with China in the nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles field?

The answer is simple. Pakistan serves the strategic interests of the United States and the West even though it is 'double-timing' with them along with China. Myanmar, however is perceived otherwise.

Calls are being made on India, both externally and internally, that India as a neighbor of Myanmar and having appreciable influence with the ruling government there should throw its weight in favor of the Western initiatives for international intervention for restoration of democracy in that country.

India would be well advised to steer clear of all such initiatives for two reasons. The first reason is political and the second reason is strategic.

Politically, India has no moral right to call for democracy in Myanmar when right throughout 2007 it has maintained a dubious and studied silence over suppression of democracy in Pakistan and where the developing political confrontation between the military dictator and the Pakistani masses has reached explosive proportions. India when pressed as to why is it silent on suppression of democracy in Pakistan when as a regional power and a country terrorized by the proxy wars of the military dictator it should have made calls for democracy there, took a feeble stand that it is an internal issue of Pakistan and India has to do business with whoever is in power.

If that is the morally political correct position of the present Government of India then by the same token the present Government of India should apply the same yardstick in Myanmar. Its response to Western overtures should be that it considers that whatever is going on in Myanmar is an internal issue and the international community should stay clear of it.

Coming to the strategic imperatives that should dictate India's stances on the current crisis in Myanmar whose stimulus lies outside, India should not forget that Myanmar's geo-strategic location has a strong bearing on the security of India's north-east an eastern flanks and also in the maritime sphere in relation to Myanmar occupying the entire eastern littoral of the Bay of Bengal.

More importantly, what should weigh heavily in favor of Myanmar from India's strategic point of view is the significant fact that Myanmar has never adopted adversarial stances against India nor provided bases for proxy wars against India. In fact it has actively assisted India in the control of insurgencies targeted against India in that region.

India's policy establishment should not overlook that we lost Myanmar to China strategically in the 1980's due to the pro-democracy stances of the Indira Gandhi Government. It was the farsighted vision and painstaking initiatives by PM Narasimha Rao in the 1990's that could help reclaiming Myanmar and its goodwill to India's strategic advantage.

Myanmar and its goodwill is an important strategic imperative for India and we should not lose Myanmar again by becoming part of any Western initiatives of demonizing Myanmar or their calls for international intervention to restore democracy in Myanmar. Let them begin with Pakistan first and then India can see.  


More by :  Dr. Subhash Kapila

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