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Myanmar Challenge

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With all the celebratory and political drama during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, important initiatives have also been taken on economic and diplomatic ties between the two countries. At the same time, the situation in Myanmar has also been discussed by the two leaders, whose nations are most affected by the exodus of Rohingya refugees. The Bangladesh PM, Sheikh Hasina, has urged India to use its influence as a member of the UN Security Council to get the international community to act in this regard. At the same time, the latest development – the military coup in Myanmar – has also figured in the discussions, although no public statement has been forthcoming in this regard. India, in particular, has considerable stakes in Myanmar at many levels and cannot compromise these in a knee-jerk reaction at the present time.

However, something like an action plan will have been discussed, which will likely unfold in the coming days. The killing of civilian protestors by the military is on the increase in Myanmar and has reached a level that the global community can no longer ignore. At the same time, though, many will be expecting India and Bangladesh to take the initiative. Otherwise, there could very well be another wave of refugees coming through the borders, recreating something like the situation that had led India to intervene in the erstwhile East Pakistan. If it goes on much longer, the peaceful protests may take a violent turn; even escalate to the level of an insurgency.

As usual, China is the spoiler in the game. It cares little for human rights as long as its objectives are achieved. It will continue to extend support to the generals not just to highlight India’s ‘helplessness’, but also to undo whatever economic and political advances that have been made. In that context, some hard decisions will have to be taken, even if these are to be covertly implemented.

It may be noted that for PM Modi to act with the necessary decisiveness, he needs the continued mandate of the people. The plight of the Myanmar people may end up ignored if the political situation within India gives the opposition fuel to criticise his actions. Although he does have the penchant for ignoring adverse circumstances, Modi could do with favourable verdicts in the ongoing state elections and various bypolls. India needs to be united if it is to play a bigger role in world affairs, particularly in its neighbourhood.