India Reaches Out to Myanmar Junta
By The Irrawaddy 22 December 2021
Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s visit to Myanmar is New Delhi’s first outreach to the isolated junta since the coup in February this year.
The two-day working visit to Myanmar on Dec. 22 and 23 will include meetings with high-ranking junta officials, according to a press release from New Delhi. “India will hold discussions with the State Administration Council (SAC), political parties and members of civil society,” it said. The SAC is the junta’s governing body.
The statement said that “issues relating to humanitarian support to Myanmar, security and India-Myanmar border concerns, and the political situation in Myanmar will be discussed”.
It comes exactly two weeks after India said on Dec. 7 that it is “disturbed” by the verdicts relating to Myanmar’s ousted leader, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and others.
Underlining that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld, New Delhi had said any development that “undermines these processes and accentuates differences is a matter of deep concern.”
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to a four-year jail term by a Myanmar court, which held her guilty of inciting dissent in the first of a series of verdicts. Her sentence was later reduced to two years under house arrest.
New Delhi had steered clear of criticizing the military in Myanmar and the coup. In fact, hours after the coup, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it had “noted the developments in Myanmar with deep concern”.
New Deli has been wary of Beijing’s growing influence and the high stakes involved to maintain peace and security along the India-Myanmar border.
India was among eight countries that sent a representative — its military attaché — to attend the Myanmar Armed Forces Day parade in Naypyitaw on March 27, a month after the coup.
China, Russia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand also sent military attaches to attend the military parade in Naypyitaw.
The regime also said it considered New Delhi one of its allies along with China, Russia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
India also faces security challenges along its eastern frontier in the form of cross-border insurgencies, which over the past few years have led to increased cooperation with the Myanmar military.
India shares a porous, 1,643-km-long border with Myanmar. The rugged terrain makes it easy for the rebels to slip back and forth between their camps and ambush sites on the Indian side.
Ethnic separatist rebels from the northeastern Indian states of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur have for years had bases in remote, mountainous areas of Myanmar’s Sagaing Region. From there, they have launched armed raids into India and then retreated back across the border beyond the reach of Indian security forces.
Last week, Myanmar handed over to India five insurgents belonging to an Indian rebel group operating in the remote northeastern region bordering Myanmar.
The rebels belong to the People’s Liberation Army, which has been fighting for secession from India in Manipur since 1978.
In 2020, the Myanmar military transferred to India 22 rebels belonging to six insurgent groups operating in two northeastern states, Assam and Manipur.
In November, there was speculation in the media that coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing will be invited to attend next year’s Republic Day parade in India. India’s Foreign Ministry denied the reports, however.
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