Military Rule in Myanmar and Way Forward for 2023

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    In News 

    • Recently, Military-ruled Myanmar marked  75 years of independence.

    About

    • Myanmar’s junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing announced that the elections would be held in August 2023

    Internal Situation of Myanmar 

    • Coup: On 1 February 2021, Myanmar’s military took power in a coup, abruptly halting the country’s fragile transition toward democracy.
      • It justified the coup by alleging widespread fraud in the 2020 election – which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won by a landslide.
        • Independent observers have rejected such claims.
    • In the weeks following the coup, huge numbers of people took to the streets for mass protests. 
    • Army’s Response: The military responded with deadly violence and imposed a campaign of terror, raiding homes and arresting anyone suspected of supporting democracy.
      • As compared to 2021, the resistance took more violent forms and spread mostly to the North and Western parts of the country. 
      • The regime has introduced further restrictions on political parties by barring them from speaking with international organisations or foreigners without permission from the electoral body.

    Repercussions 

    • Safety and protection: The conflict constrained the movement of assistance, supplies and people, along with heightened security measures and denial of travel authorisations. 
      • The safety and protection of humanitarian and front-line workers have also become a serious concern, as they are increasingly targeted and subject to arbitrary arrests and detentions. 
    • Media freedom:  It was also curtailed and the Information Ministry imposed pre-broadcast censorship on local and foreign television
    • Refugee problem: the ongoing conflict has resulted in widespread displacement within and outside the country, leading to the refugee problem in neighbouring countries, particularly India and Thailand.
    • The incidents of drug trafficking and money laundering have also increased across bordering states, especially Thailand and India. 
      • Finally, drug consumption has surged within the country, deteriorating the health and potential of the younger population.
      • There are also reports of Myanmar emerging as a human trafficking hub.
    • The environmental crisis: It  also loomed over the country as the military regime was unable to take initiatives to address the problems of climate change. 
    • Economic: The price of basic commodities increased.In addition, as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, there was a rise in the cost of fertilisers leading to a shortage in the production of food in Myanmar. 
      • The banking sector has seen a slowdown, with a number of private bank branches closing due to armed resistance and instability, as well as Military Council guidelines that restricted fund transfers and limited cash withdrawals.
      • Since the coup, there have also been concerns over the shortage of electricity and frequent power cuts across the country. 

    Response of Global Community 

    • The UN’s human rights office said that the military’s actions might amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
    • The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution in December 2022 that demanded an immediate end to violence in Myanmar and urged the military junta to release political prisoners, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
      • In the 15-nation Security Council, 12 members voted in favour, and India, China and Russia abstained.
    • The US included Myanmar on the list of 12 countries that are of “particular concern” for religious freedom violations. 
      • They reported that the Christian minorities now face persecution similar to what the Rohingya have faced.
    • The EU imposed several rounds of sanctions on both Min Aung Hlaing and military-controlled conglomerates and companies.
      • The EU also did not invite Myanmar to its meeting with ASEAN leaders. 
    • China maintained close relations with the military by providing both defence and economic assistance.

    Impact on India 

    • Incidents of cross-border movements of people and transport of illegal goods were also reported. 
    • It has had an adverse impact on India’s Act East policy, which had since 2014 become more dynamic and result-oriented. 
    • It has negatively impacted India’s initiatives in terms of land outreach towards the vibrant economies of South East Asia and  It has also retarded development in the Northeast.
    • This is creating impediments to the Centre’s overtures for future peace initiatives. 
      • Also, reports of meddling by Chinese intelligence in supporting these militant groups are of concern and demand proactive action.
    •  India’s strategy concerning the military coup in Myanmar comes at the expense of security concerns for the indigenous stakeholders in the NER

    Options available for India 

    • There is a need for continued engagement, both formal and informal, with the warring factions in Myanmar.
    • Favourable bilateral relations with Bangladesh  offer an opportunity for opening a new axis of land-sea connectivity for promoting trade and commerce with Southeast Asia. There is a need to upgrade the multitude of land routes to the seaports in Bangladesh, from Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura
    • Appropriate infrastructure such as container depots, cold storage facilities and seamless highways will have to be developed on a war footing. 
    • Indian manufactured goods will have to be transported to the rail/roadheads in the Northeast like Guwahati for ready access to the seaports of Bangladesh.
    • There is a need to raise an empowered department for monitoring and facilitating projects that support India’s Act East policy, transcending all critical Ministries like Home, External Affairs, Industry, Surface-River Transport, etc.

    Way Forward 

    • As the country crisis enters its third year, it is important that all stakeholders are at the table to establish a peaceful and long-term solution. 
    • The year 2023, therefore, will be a very significant due to likely scenarios that might unfold in Myanmar and their impact on South Asia as well as Southeast Asia.
    • India needs to maintain a close look at the situation at the borders to ensure security. 
      • The increase in violence could further lead to an influx of refugees, which could create an economic and social burden in the Northeastern states.
      • Furthermore, the security of the border states is important given the increasing incidents of drug and arms trafficking.
    •  there is a need to ensure the continued economic development of Northeastern states. 
      • Positive overtures by the Government of India will not only improve the security situation but reassure the locals that the region’s interest is paramount and kickstart the stalling economic outreach to the east.

    Do you Know ?

    • India-Myanmar relations are rooted in shared historical, ethnic, cultural, and religious ties. 
      • As the land of Lord Buddha, India is a country of pilgrimage for the people of Myanmar.
    • India and Myanmar share a long land border of over 1600 km and a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.
    •  India and Myanmar signed a Treaty of Friendship in 1951. 
    • The visit of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 laid the foundations for a stronger relationship between India and Myanmar.