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Explained: India’s ambivalent stand on Myanmar coup

On 27th March 2021, a military parade was organized in the capital of Myanmar- Naypitaw, to mark the annual Tatmadaw Day (Military Day) of the country. The annual event was attended by only 8 countries this year and given the current political situation of the country, big democracies refrained from attending the event. But what came out as a shocker, and became a topic of discussion across the world, was the presence of India’s military attache at the event, which invited huge criticism of India, from not only the pro-democracy protesters of Myanmar but also from democracies and think tanks around the globe.

Myanmar’s political crisis:

The people of Myanmar have been going through a tough phase for the past few months, after the military of Myanmar under General Min Aung Hlaing, toppled the democratic government led by Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy, and seized control of the government through force. This was a significant setback for Myanmar’s internal politics, as it became a democracy only a few years back, and was in a transition phase to become a constitutional democracy - free from authoritarian military interference. But the suspected reason that could’ve caused the military leaders to plan ‘Coup d’état’ was the unprecedented amount of support that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party gained in the recent 2020 elections, which strengthened the democratic process in Myanmar and made her more popular as a leader amongst the people of the country. That is why the Military, in the beginning, alleged that the elections of 2020 were not free and fair, and ultimately when they didn’t get any support for their allegations, they decided to get hold of the government by force and the Junta was back into power.

Soon after the coup, protests erupted all over Myanmar, with citizens taking to the streets - their demand for restoration of democracy. It also became a matter of concern for democratic nations throughout the world. Most of the global powers condemned the unruly capture of a democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and overthrowing of the elected government of Myanmar.

Since the coup, the socio-political situation of Myanmar has been tense, and full of civil unrest and disobedience against military rule, and that is why major countries have distanced themselves from the current administration of Myanmar and don’t want to engage with them in any way. But India’s participation in the recent annual military parade of the Myanmar Army, at a time when violence against citizens in Myanmar is at its peak, raised serious questions about India’s stance and intent regarding Myanmar’s political situation.

Reason for India’s Participation in the Event:

Since India is one of the biggest democracies in the world and a neighbor of Myanmar, India’s participation in the recent Military parade, according to some intellectuals and world-policy analysts, provided a kind of validation to the military regime of Myanmar. But why did India participate? The answer to this lies in the fact that India and Indian companies have made significant amounts of financial investments in the country of Myanmar before the Junta came to power. The past few years were full of mutual agreement and great financial understanding between the NLD led democratic government and the Indian government, with projects like ‘Sittwe port’ and various research and defence pacts signed between both the governments, but now when Military has come to the power, those investments are under threat and that’s why the Indian government is neutral or rather a little soft in its stance against what’s happening in Myanmar currently. Another reason for India to be careful of its stand on the Myanmar crisis is the increasing influence of aggressive China into the country and its close companionship with the Myanmar military, which again poses a threat to Indian interests in the subcontinent.

So the duality of this crisis has put India into the most challenging situations in the subcontinent, where it can’t afford to risk any dip in relationship with the Military government of Myanmar, as that would mean not only huge losses to Indian investments worth billions of dollars in financial terms but will also open a way for Chinese transgression into the Indian subcontinent, both of which India wouldn’t want to face anytime in near future. So, it would be interesting to see how Indian foreign policy manages to create a balance between what’s right and what’s beneficial for the Indian population in times to come while standing for democracy and freedom.

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