Clinton Counts Improved Burma Ties among Top Accomplishments

By Lalit K Jha 1 February 2013

WASHINGTON — On the eve of her departure from her position as America’s top diplomat, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday counted the dramatic improvement in US-Burma ties among her major foreign policy achievements.

“Supporting the historic opening there [Burma] took a blend of economic, diplomatic and political tools. The country’s leaders wanted the benefits of rejoining the global economy,” Clinton told the packed auditorium of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a Washington-based think tank, in her last major foreign policy speech as secretary of state.

Clinton said the Burmese leadership wanted to more fully participate in the region’s multilateral institutions and to no longer be an international pariah.

“So we needed to engage with them on many fronts to make that happen, pressing for the release of political prisoners and additional reforms while also boosting investment and upgrading our diplomatic relations,” Clinton said in her remarks.

Clinton also lauded India’s “Look East” policy as contributing to efforts to promote democracy in the region, which is increasingly dominated by a more assertive China. “We’ve encouraged India’s ‘Look East’ policy as a way to weave another big democracy into the fabric of the Asia Pacific,” she said.

Regarding improvements in relations with other, less democratic regimes in Asia, she said that trade negotiations with Vietnam had helped “to find common ground with a former adversary.”

But it was her Burma policy that won the highest praise from senators in the US Congress. “Through deft diplomacy, she has slowly opened Burma to the outside world. She is encouraging them to free political prisoners, hold parliamentary elections, and finally permit foreign investment. It is happening before our eyes,” Sen Ben Nelson said in a speech on the Senate floor.