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India should throw its full weight behind Myanmar’s dramatic transition to democracy

Written by The Indian Express | Published: April 5, 2012 12:05 am

India should throw its full weight behind Myanmar’s dramatic transition to democracy

The political miracle in Myanmar continues,as the army facilitates a genuine transition towards democracy. It has released political prisoners,begun dialogue with disaffected ethnic minorities,legalised trade unions and made a start towards a freer media. This was capped by Sunday’s by-election that saw the formerly incarcerated pro-democracy champion,Aung San Suu Kyi,claim her place in parliament.

Suu Kyi,whose National League for Democracy took 43 out of the 45 seats that went to polls,is no longer a long-suffering symbol of protest against an unjust regime. She’s a small but legitimate part of the system. This will demand a whole new set of skills — how she negotiates her equation with the generals,and how she balances ethnic divisions will be a test of her politics,not just her moral fibre.

India,meanwhile,should have no more hesitation in engaging all the elements of Myanmar’s society. It shares a critical 1,600-km border with Myanmar,has interests in its energy and mineral resources,and its strategic capacity to be a gateway between India and Southeast Asia. India had long been a friend of Myanmar and since the 1990s,it has operated out of realpolitik,maintaining a necessary relationship with the military rulers. It couldn’t ignore the fact that Myanmar is an economically and geographically significant site for China and Pakistan,and has a role to play in insurgencies in its own Northeast. Now,as the situation shifts again,India must fully stand by the consolidation of democracy and press the West to lift sanctions. Myanmar needs all the support it can get as it segues into a more open society.

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