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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

India Extends Warm Welcome to Burmese Ruler

India has face waves of criticism from human rights groups due to a high profile 5 day long visit from General Than Shwe of Myanmar (Burma). The general berated by human rights groups for the illegality of his rule and the appalling human rights record in his country, was given a ceremonial welcome and greeted by top Indian officials as a State guest before being driven to the shrine of Mahatma Gandhi to pay homage to the late spiritual leader.

The Indian Government once was a staunch supporter of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi but began having greater dealings with the illegal rulers in the mid 1990s. The two nations have actually been allies since 1951 when they signed what was known as a 'treaty of friendship'. Since then the nations are estimated to have traded $1 billion worth of goods.

So if India was willing to support Burmese democracy why did it turn into one of the few backers of the oppressive regime? The reasons are defense and economic.

Both India and its equally powerful neighbour China are on a mission to tap into the resources of their smaller Asian counterparts and both are very interested in the largely ignored oil reserves, mineral reserves and gas fields of Myanmar.Also, India shares a border with Myanmar on which tensions have been rising as separatists add to growing tension in the North East.

The West has imposed numerous sanctions on the state and band travel to the region however,  these sanctions impact have been diluted by support from India, China and Thailand.

Later this year the country will hold its first elections since 1990. The then winner Aung San Suu Kyi will remain imprisoned during these elections and will be banned from competing. For the county's recent vote on its new constitution citizens were marched to polling stations by armed military personnel. General Than Shwe will be keen to get India's support for the elections however this is unlikely. The EU and US have described the ballot as a shame.

Many senior figures in India are keen to stress that engagement is not an endorsement. While it may be true that if India didn't engage with the Burmese China would pick up the slack, does this justify their support of one of the worlds cruelest dictatorships? What d you think?


  1. i think a lot of political strategies today, given the effects of globalization, have become more tuned to economic thoughts.

    since i'm awful at being articulate, i'll try to just state my thoughts haha.

    for example, a growing government decides to trade with a corrupt regime. the government may be berated for its lack of ethics. however, you have understand the benefits of such a relationship. by trading with the regime, the government gains a new market and therefore can generate profit. also, perhaps, by trading with the regime, the government may in fact be keeping the regime from becoming more corrupt.
    that is not to say that the trading will benefit the poor common people of the regime, since a corrupt ruler will probably not share his profits. however, by the trading with this regime, the government prevents the corrupt leader from trading (these specified goods, at least) with another corrupt regime, and therefore creating more corruption and poverty/violence. that, simply put, would be opportunity cost.
    ok, whew, i'm not sure if that made sense. hope it does!

  2. Thanks for the comment and for following.

    Your point absolutely makes sense. I never thought about it that way A regime like Burma would never properly respond to sanctions anyway. They refused aid after the cyclone I remember. It seems to have total disregard for the safety of its people.