Mon 30 Nov 2009
Filed under: Regional
New Delhi – A group of Indian intellectuals and Burmese pro-democracy leaders in exile on Thursday held a brainstorming seminar on the possibilities of democratic transition in Burma and the role of its giant neighbours – India and China.
Speaking at the seminar, titled “The Paranoia of Unpredictability: Is democracy possible in Burma/Myanmar?” held in Jamia Millia Islamia University, speakers discussed Burma’s current political scenario, the ruling junta’s 2008 constitution and the planned elections in 2010.
While a minister for the Burmese government in exile – the National Coalition Government of Union of Burma (NCGUB) – Dr. Tint Swe explained the stand of Burma’s main opposition party the National League for Democracy, other Burmese speakers talked of the role of women, ethnic nationalities, and the urgent need for humanitarian assistance in the Southeast Asian nation, which has been plagued by decades of civil-war.
Dr. Tint Swe, a vocal critic of India’s ‘Look East Policy’, said India seems to have set its focus on China in dealing with Burma.
“We are calling on India not to focus too much on China when it comes to its policy on Burma,” Dr. Tint Swe said.
Explaining the nature of the junta’s planned 2010, Dr. Tint Swe, who is a Member of Parliament elected in 1990 from the NLD said, his party has demanded that the junta amend its 2008 constitution, release political prisoners, including party leader Aung San Suu Kyi and initiate a dialogue.
“The NLD is a pro-democracy party. Therefore, we do not directly oppose the 2010 elections but will contest only if the regime fulfils the demands,” Tint Swe said.
The seminar organised by Centre for Northeast Studies, Academy of Third World Studies (ATWS) was also attended by Burmese pro-democracy leaders including Harn Yanghwe, Director of the Brussels-based Euro-Burma Office (EBO), and Dr. Lian H. Sakhong of the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC), an umbrella group of ethnic nationalities of Burma.
Indian intellectuals including Prof. Veena Sikri, former High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Rajiv Sikri, Former Secretary of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, and Lt. Gen. (Retd.) V R Raghavan, Director of the Delhi Policy Group and President of Centre for Security Analysis in Chennai, also spoke on India’s current policy on Burma.
India, which was once a strong critic of the military junta in Burma, changed its policy in the early 1990s and began engaging the military dictators under the aegis of its “Look East policy”.