Wary of China’s Foothold, Japan Urges India to Help Myanmar
By The Irrawaddy 5 February 2018
Japan’s special envoy to Myanmar urged New Delhi to play an active role in protecting the troubled country before it falls back into China’s orbit.
“India, with her old relationship, should play a more proactive role in Myanmar,” Yohei Sasakawa was quoted as saying in the Times of India.
Myanmar faces mounting international pressure over the Rohingya crisis, including the threat of US sanctions. At the same time, the special envoy said, China has been taking a greater interest in the conflict.
He warned of security problems for Japan and India as China grows more assertive in regaining its foothold in Myanmar by, for instance, taking a more active role in the country’s peace process.
China is establishing a foothold in Rakhine State with its promise to develop a deep-water port at Kyaukphyu at a cost of about $7.3 billion, a very big investment for Myanmar. But Yohei Sasakawa said there was little coordination between Japan and India on Myanmar, a surprise given how close the countries have become on the security front.
According to the Times, the special envoy was also critical of the administration of US President Donald Trump for, as he saw it, lacking clarity in its approach to Myanmar.
Also according to the Times, he said the Myanmar government and military were wary of moving further into China’s sphere of influence despite sharing an old and deep relationship with the Asian superpower but may have no choice if the West turns its back on Myanmar.
“The Japanese government is supporting the Myanmar government. We would like India to do more. Because of the US attitude, India must step up,” Yohei Sasakawa said.
In November, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited both Bangladesh and Myanmar and urged the neighbors to hold bilateral talks. China has also backed Myanmar at the UN Security Council.
In January, Taro Kono, Japan’s foreign minister, went to Rakhine State, becoming the first minister of a foreign country to visit the region since the latest outbreak of violence there in late August.
“Japan is willing to help [the Myanmar government] make the country a place where communities from different faiths can live together peacefully,” Kono said to a village chief.