Myanmar’s romance with electoral democracy did not prove to be a long affair and it came to an abrupt end and shook the comity of nations. The army regime may face sanctions from America and other European nations in near future, but for the present, political party leaders are held in detention.
India has, so far, taken a cautious stand distancing self from the USA that has threatened sanctions, and arguably so for protecting its immediate economic interests in mind – the Kaladan project agreement signed with Myanmar besides developing a port in that country. Besides, India has a long history of good relations with the neighbouring nation.
Analysts believe that India has built its ties with army generals and will desist from any harsh action against the new regime.
India’s Foreign Secretary, Harsh Shringla along with Army Chief, General M. M. Naravane to Myanmar had visited Mynamar last year which was aimed at strengthening ties with army generals. India has had maintained good relations with non-democratic countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and hence won’t find it tough to warm up to the army junta in Myanmar.
Army officials have carried out a coup d’etat, their first against a civilian government since 1962 which could be the fallout of Suu Kyi’s efforts to placate power-hungry generals in her cabinet whom she once described as “rather sweet.”
Myanmar Constitution Gave Some Leverage To Army Which Proved Disastrous
According to experts, the 2008 Constitution guarantees the military 25 seat share in the parliament and does not permit constitutional amendments without a seventy-five percent-plus majority supporting such initiative. It had led to the control the Tatmadaw over Mynamar’s law-making processes, even if elected representatives decided on foreign and domestic policies which was witnessed during Kyi’s control in the past few years.
Timing is also very important which seems to be well designed and well thought of. The army generals were feeling uncomfortable with Kyi which can be attributed to her rising popularity amongst the Bamar-Buddhist majority, more-nationalist-than-most populism (as witnessed during the Rohingya crisis) and repeated demand to reduce the percentage requirement for undertaking the Constitutional amendments thereby deepening the Tatmadaw’s suspicion of Suu Kyi trying to alter the civil-military balance of power in the country.
Analysts also opine that owing to this deadly combination of the military’s suspicions coupled with Suu Kyi’s ambitions about the advancement of democracy resulted in an open confrontation between the State Counsellor and the Senior-General (S-G). One could witness the enhancement of concern within the Tatmadaw could risk losing influence and autonomy over critical policy domains, including the peace process which could make little progress during past five years.
It is an open secret that the S-G has been critical of China in recent months and blamed Beijing for supporting the Arakan army in Rakhine state. Suu’s perceived tilt towards Beijing which was visible during her red-carpet welcome to Xi Jinping in January 2020 added to the woes of army generals.
The Tatmadaw perceived it as a deceitful and Machiavellian attempt to carve out more political support for herself which was unacceptable to the generals in Mynamar especially when America and the European union were unhappy with Suu Kyi over human rights violations and massacre of Rohingyas.
A Dictatorial China Silently Supports The Coup
On the other hand, China does not support democratic forces and refrained from either criticizing or condemning the commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing. It believes that all sides in Myanmar will properly handle their differences under the constitutional and legal framework and maintain political and social stability.
Beijing does not view it as a setback though past record shows that army generals were never sympathetic or pro-China. China is also more concerned with its USD nine billion China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), which provides it access to the Indian Ocean.
It may be recalled that prior to the outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus, Myanmar was the last country Chinese President Xi Jinping visited in January 2020. In the visit, coming after a gap of 18 years, China and Myanmar signed 33 deals covering such areas as politics, trade, investment, and people-to-people communications.
Experts opine that Beijing is focusing on the execution of the CMEC, which is on the lines of the USD 60 billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which reflects its ambition to have access to Pakistan’s Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea. The CMEC is also a giant connectivity project linking landlocked southwestern China to the Indian ocean.
India’s Association With New Army Ruler May Help In Preserving Ties
India had appreciated General Min when he visited Delhi in the summer of 2017 when India and China were locked in direct confrontation with each other on the Doklam plateau in Bhutan. Min was received by then Army chief General Bipin Rawat in Bodh Gaya, where the former paid his respects at the Buddha shrine.
After this, General Min traveled to several military and non-military sites across the country. He General also called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then late Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
Given the US president Joe Biden’s strong opinion about dictatorship, he might re-impose sanctions on Myanmar which were lifted in 2016, though serious human rights violations continued to take place and the massacre of Rohingyas stood out in the cruelty of it all.
Biden appears determined to punish the army rulers for overthrowing an elected government, and hence his administration is in touch with like-minded nations like India and Japan which are having good relations with the Mynamar military.
India Does Not Join Diplomatic Missions And European Union And Takes Its Independent Stand
Several diplomatic missions of Australia, Canada, the Delegation of the EU and European Union Member States located in Myanmar and nations like Denmark, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden; as well as Switzerland; the United Kingdom; the United States; Norway; and New Zealand etc have affirmed their support for Myanmar’s democratic transition and efforts to promote peace, human rights, and development in that country.
They stand by all those nations that work toward greater democratic freedoms, lasting peace, and inclusive prosperity for the people of Myanmar.
But China and India have kept away.
Army Faced Threat From Democratic Forces
Feeling threatened by the landslide victory of Nobel laureate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in November 2020 parliamentary elections in Myanmar, the Army took over the government. Her party had defeated the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
Suu Kyi has been detained along with ruling party leaders who were supposed to meet for the first time during the proposed parliament session that was to be held shortly. The coup is a big jolt to the transition to democracy in Myanmar, for the present a halt for at least one year during emergency now in force there.
Aung Kyi Has Got Strong Bonds With Delhi
India has been cautious while reacting to the Mynamar crisis though it believes in the preservation of the democratic process which has been thwarted by the army. Myanmar’s supreme leader, Kyi, is considered close to India as she got her education in Delhi especially when the military seized power in Myanmar and later leading to her detention.
At that time, she was indirectly helped by the Indian government hence she seems to be more inclined towards India which had finalized the Kaladan project agreement with Myanmar besides developing a port in Myanmar.
Army generals were upset with kyi’s national league for democracy landslide victory
Kyi’s, National League for Democracy (NLD) had posted a resounding victory in the just-concluded parliamentary elections in Myanmar last year defeating the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) which might have resulted in the decline of China’s influence besides accelerating the strategic, economic, military, cultural, educational, and ensuing engagements between India and Myanmar.
Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) had won 396 of the 476 Seats in the combined houses of the National Parliament.
Aung Kyi’s victory was disputed by the main opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), a military-backed opposition which demanded a re-conducting of the elections. USDP called on poll authorities to hold polls again without any delay in order to give an opportunity to voters to have a free, fair, unbiased use of their franchise which should be free from iniquitous and unfair campaigning.
China Had Favoured Kyi’s Victory And Now It May Not Go Smoothly With Army Generals
Analysts opine that China supported Myanmar’s military alliance in 2015 general polls but it has changed track in polls last year to win the confidence of the pro-democracy Aung San Suu Ki.
Chinese government officials found it difficult to convince the generals of the military rule as compared to the leaders of the pro-democracy, National League for Democracy (NLD). Aung Kyi’s party has been close to China in recent years to maneuver the Rohingya conflict and getting financial assistance.
China wants Myanmar to approve several projects for its Belt and Road Project to build pressure on the government of Myanmar.
Analysts feel that Suu Kyi made a blunder when her party ruled over the last five years and tried to appease Tatmadaw. Generals continued to control the key security ministries – home, defence, and border affairs which became a major factor in seizing the power.
India needs to take a tough stand against dictatorship to protect democratic forces in Myanmar. Now the main question being asked is whether India will override United State’s pressure and keep its independent stand to deal with the new army rule in Mynamar?
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