Fri 13 Jun 2014
Filed under: Opinion,Regional
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decisive victory in India’s elections last month has opened a new chapter and emboldened the aspirations of over a billion Indians. There is also hope Modi will develop ties with neighboring countries, especially given his positive gesture of inviting South Asian leaders to his inauguration.
Myanmar, India’s “gateway” to Southeast Asia and having close cultural and historical ties, may also welcome this rise of a “right-wing” leadership in India. This an opening for both countries to come together, make use of the opportunities available and
harness the potential strengths to gain a strategic advantage in the region.
Modi’s nationalistic fervor and vigor sends strong signals to neighboring countries and is an indication of a deterministic and stable foreign policy in the long run. The new premier’s focus on trade and economic diplomacy is also being seen as opening for neighboring countries and especially for Myanmar. This could ease Myanmar’s over-dependence on China and help end its half century of international isolation.
With its great energy resources and strategic connectivity to other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Myanmar is of great geo-strategic importance, especially in view of the growing Chinese influence in the region and the United States’ pivot to Asia.
Development and economic prosperity in the northeastern part of India has been a guiding principle behind India’s Myanmar policy.
In view of this policy and security and stability in the northeast, Modi’s appointment of former army chief General V K Singh as federal minister for the northeast region bordering Myanmar speaks a lot on his future policy prescriptions for the region.
Guided by realism and national interest, the new government in India may try to make the northeast region a center point and pivot for its connectivity to the rest of Asia by bridging missing trade links via Myanmar.
Given the lack of enterprising private sector investment from the Indian side in Myanmar and the lackadaisical attitude of the government visible in the infrastructural projects there, Modi’s vision and statesmanship is certainly going to give a boost to bilateral ties between the two countries.
His catchword of “minimum government with maximum governance” may do away with the unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles and delays limiting their implementation. India needs to learn from its previous lessons of lost opportunities and pull up its socks so far as the new players are ready to play its role in Myanmar.
Modi has to make the maximum use of these opportunities amid the competition posed by the other regional powers in Myanmar such as already influential China, emerging player like Japan and South Korea and the long-time partner Thailand.
Modi’s agenda of development and good governance may well be appreciated in Myanmar, since the current regime under President Thein Sein has also given prime importance to these in its reform initiatives.
Both countries are facing similar problems so far as corruption and crony capitalism is concerned. Administrative and economic reforms are high on the agenda of both countries and the current regime in Myanmar would have much to learn from the Modinomics (Modi’s style of economic reforms).
Last but not least, Modi’s image of being an advocate of “Hindu nationalism” in some ways coincides with the present rhetoric of “Buddhist nationalism” in Myanmar. The current Myanmar leadership could identify itself more with the new government in India, particularly in the wake of controversy over majority-minority divides in Myanmar. Probably, the Southeast Asian nation will get an opportunity to learn from India’s experience of managing multiculturalism amid the present overwhelming support for the Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) ideology in the country.
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online’s regular contributors.
Sonu Trivedi is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi.