Friendly Myanmar : A strategic partner or an economic burden?

China, the major superpower has been a constant rival for India in territorial expansion as well as in economic growth. Its dominant presence around a large fraction of Indian landmass and its close ties with the minor neighbours poses a threat and a challenge over the sovereignty and security of India. The higher location with a comparatively planer topography already gives it an upper hand in the Himalayan borders. But its weakness was that most of its oil flows through Indian Ocean, over which , due to geographical location, India has had massive control. But this only significant control in the hands of India seems to be moving away.

With its clever diplomatic strategy of ‘The string of pearls’, China is trying to increase its naval influence in Indian Ocean and surrounding India. It is developing string of ports around India. Among its various collaborators: Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, it is Myanmar whose friendship with China is of most alarming for India.

For Chinese, Myanmar could be a gateway to India, that too into the North-Eastern states where it has already waged a territorial dispute. Who knows, after Arunachal, it may be Nagaland which might fall prey to the Chinese map.

With these concerns in mind, India’s ‘Go East’ policy, with a special focus of fostering trade and good bilateral relations with Myanmar is not just casually important but indispensable. Recently the two nations sought to cooperate in counteracting drug trafficking and insurgent groups operations. But since India is quite strong nation in all terms: area, military, government, infrastructure etc, compared to Myanmar, the friendship requires greater aid from India’s side.

This is especially important because if India fails to help, China would deliberately be ready to pool out its resources to Myanmar and gain indirect control over its land, leading to complete elimination of India’s presence. So, it should not sound shocking that in 2013, India provided loan to Myanmar for its development, about US$500 million. India has stood as the largest market for Burmese exports, purchasing about US$220 million worth of goods in 2000. Indian government has spent a lot in establishing trade links spreading out gas pipelines. The Indo-Myanmar Friendship Road, being build mainly by the Indian Army’s Border Roads Organisation, which aims to provide effective transport route from North-East India to Southeast Asia, via Myanmar shows a great deal of optimism in the growing friendship of the two nations.

But every cooperation has a deeper realisation. India is still a poor country, if the world ranking of countries based on per capita income is created, India would occupy a place at the bottom of the list. So, surrounded by the darkness of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment, one-sided investment in Myanmar sometimes seems to be a burden for the poor Indian currency.

But since security and sovereignty come before development, investments in Myanmar can’t be stopped. So, the other way out to somewhat relax the economic hardship on India is to check the unregulated import of goods inside India, through the Burmese border. It is a matter of utter shame that local markets of Nagaland are filled with commodities from other side of border which infiltrates illegally, causing tremendous loss of revenue to Indian government which the nation could have got by the import duties. So, the focus of government in strengthening the custom’s checkpoints is vital. No trade should go unregistered. So, there needs to be a good balance maintained between establishment of friendship and at the same time saving the resources where ever possible.

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