For the fourth time, the Myanmar military regime has been excluded from an international meeting, with India’s decision not to invite the junta’s foreign minister to its upcoming meeting with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers next week.
The exclusion is another major diplomatic blow to the junta, which has been desperate for international recognition as the legitimate ruler of the country since its coup last year.
According to India’s The Economic Times, ASEAN, which works by consensus, has taken the position that in multilateral forums, Myanmar should be engaged at a nonpolitical level, as the junta has shown no signs of progress in resolving the post-coup crisis in the country.
The paper reported that India has invited Myanmar Foreign Ministry officials but not the foreign minister of the military-ruled country.
Myanmar has been a thorn in ASEAN’s side since the military takeover in February 2021 due to the social and political instability caused by the coup.
In an effort to settle the problems, the bloc adopted a peace plan, known as the Five-Point Consensus, in April last year but the regime has failed to implement the points. Instead, it has continued to kill its opponents, with the death toll now standing at more than 1,800 people.
As a result, in a very rare move, the 10-nation group has blocked the regime leadership from attending its summits since last year.
So far, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has been excluded from the regional summit in October and the US-ASEAN Special Summit in Washington last month. Its Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin was also barred from the bloc’s foreign ministers meeting in February this year.
India’s exclusion of the military regime from next week’s meeting will likely come as a huge embarrassment to the junta, as New Delhi has refrained from backing Western sanctions against Naypyitaw following the takeover. Plus, the two countries’ armies cooperate on countering an insurgency in India’s northeast.
Furthermore, India has key infrastructure projects in Myanmar, including the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMMTTP), which connects Northeast India with Kolkata through Myanmar’s Sittwe Port via the Bay of Bengal and is nearing completion in Mizoram. It is also constructing the 1,360-km India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway.
New Delhi’s exclusion of the foreign minister from the meeting hardly means it is turning its back on the junta, however. In April, Vinya Kumar, India’s ambassador to Myanmar, met with the junta-controlled electoral body, asking about electoral processes and discussing further cooperation with the Union Election Commission on an election the regime plans to hold next year.
The regime frequently claims its coup was necessary due to electoral fraud in the country’s 2020 general election, in which the since-ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide victory. Local and international observers said the polls were free and fair.
After staging the coup, the junta said it would hold an election when the state of emergency was over and hinted last year that it could be possible in 2023. However, the regime has failed to bring the country under its control, more than one year after the takeover.