Is India missing the wood for the trees in Myanmar? It has been our stand for long to not let any Western quibbling about democracy in Myanmar come in the way of better relations with that country. But is that policy paying any dividends or is it turning out to be a vast sink-hole for Indian resources, financial and political?
As reported in Mint today, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) is footing the bill for hydrological studies for executing two power projects there.
India has always viewed Western notions of human rights as a tool used by those countries to pressure developing nations. India, until recently, was at the receiving end of the ideology of human rights. As a result, it views such assaults on Myanmar in a similar light.
At the same time, however, Indian support to the Myanmarese regime is no longer cost-free. As it prepares for a bigger global role, such support may come to haunt India. As a result, a cost-benefit analysis has to be factored in.
In the present case, India was to help Myanmar build the 1,200MW Tamanti hydroelectric power plant in northern Myanmar and a 620MW project on the Chindwin river. In return, India had hoped for a share in hydrocarbon resources from that country. That hope has, however, been belied. China has stolen a march and has garnered the lion’s share of those resources.
At one level, the problem is that of poor coordination between the many Indian players involved: MEA, the petroleum ministry and the various public sector units involved in projects there. This, it goes without saying, is a precondition for success.
At another level, however, India needs to assert itself in a manner that makes the Myanmarese government understand our priorities and concerns. So far, even from the scattered reports that emanate on the subject, that does not seem to be the case. India does not have to hold ultimatums to a country that is its friend, but perhaps it is time to take another look at our strategies of persuasion.
There is a case for spending money in a manner to get the maximum bang per buck. The question is: has the Prime Minister’s Office, which increasingly drives foreign policy, given thought to the matter?
Is there a case for recalibrating support to Myanmar? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org