India-Myanmar Relations IAS Target

India-Myanmar Relations UPSC

22 Jul 2020

Category : International Relations

Topic: India-Myanmar Relations UPSC

Myanmar-India relations are deep-rooted in shared ethnic, historical, cultural, and religious ties. As the land of Lord Buddha, India is a country of pilgrimage for the people of Myanmar. The geographical proximity of both countries has helped develop and maintain cordial relations and facilitated people-to-people contact. India and Myanmar share a long land border of over 1600 km and a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal. A large population of Indian origin settled in Myanmar. Both the countries have signed an agreement ‘Friendship’ in 1951. The visit of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 laid the foundations for a stronger relationship b/w Myanmar and India.

Bilateral relations b/w Myanmar and the Republic of India have improved since 1993, overcoming tensions related to:
  • drug trafficking,
  • the suppression of democracy
  • the rule of the military junta in Myanmar.

Myanmar is positioned south of the states of Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India. Several treaties enhancing bilateral Cooperation have been signed b/w the two countries. Institutional mechanisms for facilitating regular dialogue on a range of issues of bilateral interest have also been formed. Following the cataclysmic cyclone ‘Nargis’ which hit Myanmar in May 2008, India responded instantly with relief materials and offers of assistance. India has also provided support of US $1 million for humanitarian relief and rehabilitation in the affected areas.

High-Level Visit Exchange

After the formation of the new government led by President U Thein Sein on March 30, 2011, President U Thein Sein paid a State trip to India on October 12-15, 2011. The trip represented the first State visit from Myanmar to India following the swearing-in of a new Government in Myanmar in March 2011. During the trip, two main documents were signed, namely:
  • The MoU for the Up-gradation of the Sittwe General Hospital and Yangon Children’s Hospital
  • The Science & Technology Cooperation Programme for the period of 2012-2015
The joint visit by and Smt. Meira Kumar, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and Shri M. Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India/Chairman, Rajya Sabha to Myanmar on the invitation. The visit by the Myanmarese delegation aimed at sharing India’s experience in parliamentary procedures and practices.

Manmohan Singh (the Prime Minister of India) paid a state visit to Myanmar from May 27 to 29 2012. During the visit of the Prime Minister, several new initiatives were declared and signed 12 MoUs and agreements including:
  • An Information Technology Institute in Mandalay
  • A Rice Bio-park in the integrated Demonstration Park in Nay Pyi Taw
  • An expansion of a new line of credit (LOC) for US$500 million to Myanmar
  • Support for establishing an Advance Centre for Education in Yezin and Agriculture Research
  • In addition to important agreements like:
    • Air Service Agreement
    • Setting up of Border Haats
    • MoU on Border Areas Development
    • Setting up of Joint Trade and Investment Forum
    • Cultural Exchange Programme

Development Support

  • A new Indian proposal suggests the establishment of socio-economic and infrastructure projects jointly with Myanmar in the restive Rakhine state—in the fields of health education, agriculture, agro-processing, up-gradation of roads, livelihood activity, and small power projects
  • India is also helping in establishing institutions for higher learning and research, in the area of Information Technology Agricultural Research and Education, for Industrial Training Centres and IT Skills
  • India has extended $2 billion in soft loans. It has supported ‘Myanmar developmental assistance’ in the fields it wants rather than be prescriptive

Economic and Commercial Relations

Year 1980-81 2010-11
Bilateral trade 12.4 million $ 2180 million $

At the institutional level, the UMFCCI (Confederation of Indian Industry and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry) signed an MoU in February 2000. Likewise, other MoUs were signed between different bodies in banking, technology, commercial and industrial entities. A Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) and a Bilateral Investment Promotion Agreement (BIPA) were also signed in 2008. Both the countries are signatory to the India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, which was signed in August 2009. Myanmar is a recipient country under India’s Duty-Free Tariff Preference Scheme for LDCs.

Cooperation b/w India and Myanmar in the regional and Sub-regional Context

ASEAN Myanmar has become a member of ASEAN in July 1997. As the only ASEAN country which shares a land border with India, Myanmar is a bridge b/w ASEAN and India. Some proposals for cooperation have been implemented and some are under consultation with Myanmar within the framework of ASEAN’s IAI programme.
BIMSTEC Myanmar became a member of BIMSTEC in December 1997. Myanmar is a signatory to the BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement. The 13th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting was held in Myanmar in January 2011. Myanmar trades mainly with India and Thailand in the BIMSTEC region.
  • Myanmar’s imports from India include pharmaceuticals, chemical products, electrical appliances, and transport equipment.
  • Myanmar’s major exports to India are agricultural products like pulses, beans, maize, and forest products such as hardwoods and teak.
Mekong Ganga Cooperation: Myanmar became a member of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) in November 2000. MGC is an initiative by six countries – India and five ASEAN countries namely, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam – for cooperation in the fields of culture, education, tourism, transport, and communication. The chairmanship of MGC is supposed by member countries in alphabetical order.
SAARC In August 2008, Myanmar was given the status of observer in SAARC.

Rohingya crisis

The 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis marks a mass migration of people from Myanmar in 2015, collectively dubbed "boat people" by international media. Nearly all who traveled to Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Thailand by rickety boats through the Andaman Sea and the Strait of Malacca. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that people exodus by boats by migrant smugglers for monetary benefits. There are claims that people on the course of their migration died in the water body near Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand when traffickers left them at sea.
Many reports disclose increasing "ghettoization, sporadic massacres, and restrictions on movement" on Rohingya peoples. The researchers also recommended that the Myanmar government is in the final stages of an organized process of genocide against the Rohingya and recommended the international community to stop this crime.

Challenges between Myanmar & India relations

  • India - Myanmar border is poorly guarded and located along an underdeveloped, remote, insurgency-prone region and adjacent to opium producing region.
  • Myanmar is crucial from the security point of view as the influx of sizable numbers of Rohingya from Myanmar’s Rakhine state continues.
  • India–Myanmar border is a challenge to India’s security
  • Bilateral trade b/w Myanmar and India still falls short of expectations
  • Trust deficit has extended b/w India-Myanmar because of India’s poor record in project implementation on time
  • China using its trade and economic relations with Myanmar and finance infrastructure project because of its huge pocket