By Sakshi Chhabra
India has expressed its deep concern over the Myanmar coup and the detention of top political leaders. India’s concern has intensified with the influx from Myanmar.
The massive influx from Myanmar has imposed a diplomatic challenge for India which has close relations with the armed forces of Myanmar. More than 1000 people in order to be free from the violence in Myanmar have crossed India’s border and entered Mizoram since the late February.
This number includes a huge number of citizens from Myanmar as well as approximately 280 policemen from Myanmar and more than 25 fire department personnel according to sources from Mizoram.
Why are the Myanmar people taking shelter in India?
According to a deputation of 2 members of the parliament and representative of the Mizoram’s ruling party Mizo National Front (MNF) the refugees from Myanmar have faced atrocities at the hands of the armed forces after the coup.
The police personnel who entered Mizoram said that they fled Myanmar because they feared that they will be arrested after they refused to obey the military orders that was to shoot the protestors and other citizens in order to make them oblige the emergency.
According to reports it is to be known that a secret network of activists and volunteers is helping hundreds of people to enter India from Myanmar. This activity that is going on, although illegal, is helping people to escape the horrifying situation in Myanmar.
Mr. Vivek Katju, the former secretary of Ministry of External Affairs in an interview said that, “It is interesting that how Indian people are helping the Myanmar citizens to escape and how the Mizoram government has taken up the matter and taken many actions in order to protect them even when the centre wants to keep the Myanmar people out”.
The Chief Minister of Mizoram, Mr. Zoramthanga has requested the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi to personally investigate this matter and to provide asylum to the refugees of Myanmar on humanitarian grounds.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had written a formal letter to the Chief Secretaries of the 4 states in order to alert them against the influx from Myanmar.
Mizoram shares a 510-kilometre border with Myanmar’s Chin state and most of the Burmese nationals. The refugees who have taken shelter in the state of Mizoram belong to the state of Chin, also known as the Zo community.
Intensifying situation in India
Between the growing disagreement between the Mizoram Government and the Centre, politics has begun with the opposition Congress party backing the Chief Minister of Mizoram Zoramthanga on the issue of the Myanmar citizens taking shelter in Mizoram and the guidelines of the ministry of Home Affairs ordering to stop the illegal migration from Myanmar as it is illegitimate.
The Mizo National Front is a BJP led northeast democratic alliance which is the regional version of the NDA. However, these two parties do not function together at the State Government level.
With China announcing its plans to mediate between the Myanmar’s military and the political parties, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations deciding to put pressure for the return of the parliamentary democracy, India seems to be standing out on this situation as an unenthusiastic neighbour with no intent to play any role in such a huge ongoing crisis.
In the first and only statement issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, it was said that India expressed its ‘deep concern’ over the situation in Myanmar. This statement was issued after one month of the declaration of emergency in Myanmar.
The statement also said that India has always been supportive to the procedure of democratic transition in Myanmar, and it believes that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld.
Since the statement issued India has been strangely silent on the situation in Myanmar.
India has now joined China Russia and Vietnam in opposing the UNSC (United Nations Security Council) resolution that was drafted by the United Kingdom and was much more critical of the military Junta.
India’s Reaction on the Coup
India’s silence despite of its realpolitik constraints is making it stand out in the global community of democracies. There can be 2 reasons that India is avoiding the direct criticism of the Myanmar military junta.
Firstly, it does not want to upset the Tatmadaw, that is the Armed Forces of Myanmar, to not provoke it into any action against the rebel groups from India based in Myanmar.
Secondly, it does not want to push this military junta into the arms of the Chinese who are willing to do the business with anybody who is running the country obviously their main concern will not be bringing the parliamentary democracy.
However, both these reasons are mislaid. India is not taking any strict action or till now has not reacted in any possible way to curb the ongoing crisis in Myanmar.
Situation in India
The traders of Myanmar have been approaching the Indian companies requiring agency to sell their products in Myanmar, thinking that it will be a potential business boom, but the corporate India is extremely oblivious to this opportunity and the military leaders and diplomats have done nothing to exploit the situation.
India is risking losing its way towards a diplomatic no man’s land on an extremely critical regional issue by not joining the other democratic nations which are strongly pushing for a restoration of the dissolve parliament in Myanmar.
If India thinks that it is an important power in the world it must start behaving like one as India’s situation in the Myanmar crisis is becoming extremely burdensome.
The military of Myanmar has asked India to send the trespassing policeman back to Myanmar, but India has not yet deported them.
However, the Government at New Delhi has also issued a notice regarding the Myanmar nationals fleeing into India is illegitimate and they are not at all welcomed. India has sealed its border with Myanmar and the and the paramilitary Assam rivals which guard the Indian Myanmar border are on high alert.
After the New Delhi’s measures to prevent the Myanmar nationals from entering India has taken the limelight the people in the north-eastern states have shown their anger towards it.
Since the coup, India has always adopted a cautious approach towards the situation. while it has clearly expressed its full support to the crisis in Myanmar it has always avoided criticising the military.
Mr. Shankari Sundararaman, said that the political situation in Myanmar needs to return to its normalcy and if Myanmar wants to function in an effective way political stability will be needed. He also added that since 1993 India has been engaging with the Tatmadaw specifically about the insurgency issues in Northeast India.
Thereafter India also has concerns over China’s presence in Myanmar which is a security threat for India. Thus, distancing itself from the Myanmar rulers would provide enough space for the China influencers to grow further in Myanmar.
India’s balancing strategy is now being tested because if India deports the police officials of Myanmar this act will be appreciated by the Tatmadaw, but it will upset the rest of the world. This would bring another blow to India’s claims of being a democracy also it will damage the relations with Myanmar at the grassroots level.
The Myanmar coup has evoked a strong response in India’s North-Eastern states as the plight of their ethnic kin has been triggered. Many organisations in Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur have expressed their due solidarity with Myanmar’s protesters.
Responding to this situation the Government of Mizoram issued a standard operating procedure (SoP) to provide shelter to the refugees and migrants from Myanmar. However, after a week the Central Government issued the instructions to revoke the SoP with immediate effect.
Mizoram’s Chief Minister Mr. Zoramthanga road to the Prime Minister of India stating that Mizoram just cannot remain indifferent to the Myanmar nationals’ sufferings and India cannot be ignorant to this crisis which is unfolding right in front of their eye.
India is now being forced to show more support to the parliamentary democracy in Myanmar. There is a need for India to articulate its stand in order to support the restoration of the elected NLD government.
If Myanmar’s situation does not improve, the effect of it will also be seen in India. There will also be a huge set back to the economy of India as there are about 100 Indian companies having their stake at Myanmar with about an investment of 1.2 billion.
The Indian business community in Myanmar is currently in a wait and what situation after the power was seized in Myanmar. One great matter of concern is whether the coup will bring back the international sanctions on the nation which was last lifted in 2016.
When Mr. Harsh Vardhan Shingla, the Indian Foreign Secretary visited Myanmar last year along with the Chief of Indian army Mr. Manoj Mukund Naravane, it had announced that it would invest 6 billion dollars in order to construct a petroleum refinery in Thanlyn region near Yangon. Thus, if economic sanctions are imposed the Indian Government may find it difficult to implement this investment and get profits.
Hence, India needs to take a step forward and react on the Myanmar situation in an effective way and make sure that there is not much effect of it in India.