Narendra Modi ought to give his full support to Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar. A friend in need is a friend indeed. For a long time India has promised to look east just the way Barack Obama promised that the relationship between India and the United States will be the defining partnership of the 21st century, but we are all waiting eagerly to see the effects of the precocious puberty in the India-US relations.
India has long promised to look east to modernize its foreign policy because when we looked west, we only saw terrorist camps and the Haqqani network disturbing everything, and our neighbors in the west are more interested in looking north.
India has, economically and culturally speaking, much at stake with its neighbors in South East Asia. As far as Myanmar is concerned, India not only shares a long land border of more than 1,600 km with it but has also had historical, cultural, ethnic and religious ties for a long period in the past.
During the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the India-ASEAN partnership two months ago, the title given to the dialogue process was: “India and ASEAN: Charting the Course for the next 25 years.” Under the rapidly changing geopolitical reality in South Asia, it is pertinent to reinvigorate the process that was initiated by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1992, after the economic reforms were introduced in India. The Look East policy is now after 25 years referred to by the Modi government as the “Act East Policy”. The idea is to strengthen the relationships with the Association of South East Asian Nations.
On the day Modi lands in Myanmar, an article lands in The Guardian, urging the global community to take away Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize. The attempt to bring disrepute to the famous Nobel Prize winner by referring to the plight and treatment of the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, by placing the entire blame on Aung San Suu Kyi’s shoulder is not fair. It does not take into account the amount of personal sacrifice San Suu Kyi has made for bringing some democracy to the country. Rome was not built in a day.
Blaming the crisis entirely on San Suu Kyi is based on a lack of understanding of the complexity of brittle democracies in the Asian continent. Of course the need of the minority has to be addressed, but there is an element of misinformation, as mentioned by San Suu Kyi, and we also need to pay attention to what the terrorists are doing in Myanmar.
Myanmar´s Minister in charge of Border Security in Rakhine has informed the international media that the destruction of villages of the Rohingya community was a deliberate strategy by the militants to force the flood of refugees into the neighboring country Bangladesh. The truth has to be established before the entire blame is put on Suu Kyi’s shoulders. Hopefully, Myanmar will resettle the Rohingyas and offer them refuge and nationality, incorporating them as a legitimate minority of the country.
Intensifying and increasing closer ties between India and Myanmar would also help to solve and manage some of the ethnic strife based on ethnic diversity that affects both the countries.
Dialogue with India and partnership between India and Myanmar is in the interest of the Western countries as well. It is a golden chance for India, as Myanmar in San Suu Kyi has a leader who understands India. She has studied in India and her father, the founding figure of Myanmar, also had close ties with India. It is this historical perspective we have to have in mind, and we should not fall prey to the efforts of some to malign an honorable woman, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Western countries should also welcome the growing friendship between India and Myanmar. Otherwise, Myanmar will automatically turn to China, undermining the western democratic influence.
Times of India, September 7, 2017