Video Summary

[RSTV The Big Picture] India-Myanmar Relations

The Myanmar’s President U Win Myint was on a four-day visit to India recently. The visit saw signing of many agreements between the nations on various areas and is expected to deepen the ties between the two neighbours.
By IT's Video Summary Team
March 02, 2020

Contents

  • Introduction
  • MoUs inked between the nations
  • India-Myanmar Ties
  • Way Forward
  • Conclusion

India-Myanmar Relations

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Introduction:

India and Myanmar have recently exchanged 10 agreements in a number of fields ranging from infrastructure, energy, communication and health. The agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed and exchanged after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Myanmar President U Win Myint.

MoUs inked between the nations:

1. Combating Trafficking:

  • India and Myanmar have signed a MoU on Cooperation for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons; Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation and Re-Integration of Victims of Trafficking.

2. Infrastructure:

  • The countries have signed MOUs on Infrastructure, i.e. India building Road in Myanmar, solar panels and resettlement of Rohingyas etc.
  • An agreement regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of Quick Impact Projects (QIP).
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Myanmar’s President Myint held talks at the Hyderabad House and 10 agreements were signed between the two countries. The focus of many agreements was on development projects under India’s assistance particularly in the conflict-torn Rakhine state.

3. Payment and Currency:

  • The two leaders said that for launching of the RuPay Card, the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) needed to adhere to Myanmar laws and regulations.
  • They observed that its launch would stimulate the economy of Myanmar and facilitate tourism and business from India.
  • On the proposed creation of an India-Myanmar digital payment gateway, the countries expressed hope that it would help expand options for cross border remittance between the two countries.
  • For exploring a bilateral mechanism for settlement in local currency with the aim to boost cross border trade, the two sides agreed to expeditiously convene the existing mechanism of India-Myanmar Joint Trade Committee meetings, the statement noted.

4. Energy sector:

  • Both sides recognised the mutual benefit of greater integration in the energy sector between the two countries.
  • They have agreed to cooperate in the field of petroleum products, for cooperation in refining, stockpiling, blending and retail through a Government-to-Government Memorandum of Understanding.
  • Both agreed to encourage and facilitate cooperation among oil and gas companies of India and Myanmar for development of petroleum products, including enhancing trade and investments in this area.

5. Other sectors:

  • India will offer medical radiation equipment Bhabhatron II for treatment of cancer patients, and strengthen cooperation in the health sector.
  • India will help Myanmar with the project of e-ID cards, which is modelled after the Aadhaar project.

India-Myanmar Ties:

  • India and Myanmar have common historical, cultural, ethnic and religious ties.
  • The two countries share a long geographical land boundary and maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.
  • They share cultural ties in terms of Buddhist heritage and shared history of colonialism.
  • India and Myanmar signed a Treaty of Friendship in 1951 and the relations are seeing uptrend.

The importance of Myanmar for India can be understood as:

1. Strategic location of Myanmar:

  • The nations share 1,600 km geographical land border and maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal & shares borders with 4 Indian states; Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India.
  • The border is highly porous, poorly guarded and located along a remote, underdeveloped, insurgency-prone region.
  • Also, Myanmar is India’s gateway to South-East Asia. It is a link pin to connect India and ASEAN nations.

2. Multilateral Partnership:

  • Myanmar is the key component of India’s strategy to connect South and South-East Asia through Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
  • Myanmar’s has gained significance in context with India’s “Act East” policy.
  • Further its membership of ASEAN, and Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) has generally been supportive of India’s stand and vision.

3. Economic relations:

  • The present bilateral trade between the counties is about $ 1.7 BN till date & is still growing.
  • Indian companies have engaged in manufacturing, banking services, power sector etc. in Myanmar.
  • India is the fifth largest trading partner of Myanmar.
  • Myanmar’s has high untapped potential in energy sector, some of the Indian companies such as Essar, GAIL, and ONGC Videsh Ltd. have invested in it.
  • India is investing in Sittwe port, Myanmar for making Special Economic zones (SEZs).

4. Connectivity projects:

Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit transport:

  • The project aims to connect the Kolkata port with Sittwe seaport in Myanmar by sea. It will then link Sittwe seaport to Paletwa in Myanmar via Kaladan river boat route & then from Paletwa on to Mizoram in India by road transport.
  • Thus, it will reduce distance from Kolkata to Mizoram by approximately 1000 km and cut travelling time to 3-4 days for transport of goods.
  • The access to sea the project provides could boost the economies of North-eastern states.

India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway:

  • India has committed to complete the 3,200-km India-ASEAN trilateral highway that extends from Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Mandalay, Myanmar.

5. Defence Cooperation:

  • Myanmar is a key partner to tackle insurgency in North-East as a large number of cross-border ethnic groups and insurgents from Northeast India have military bases in Myanmar.
  • India-Myanmar joint operation destroyed several militant camps of Arakan Army on the Indo-Myanmar border.
  • It was done to contain threat to the Kaladan transit and transport project which is important for improving the connectivity in the Northeast.
  • The countries conduct regular joint military exercises, like India-Myanmar Bilateral Army Exercise (IMBAX)

6. Cultural ties:

  • Buddhism is the connecting link between both the countries and India offers a great destination for religious tourism and thereby enhance people to people contacts.

Way Forward:

India should focus on the following aspects to enhance the bilateral relationship between the countries:

  • Timely completion of projects undertaken.
  • Follow up meetings after high profile visits and meet to review the progress of the projects.
  • Increasing people to people ties and promoting exchange of culture and soft power of India.
  • Increasing cultural, religious and medical tourism.
  • Larger Military engagements and border security engagements.
  • Moving forward with greater synergy and enthusiasm.
  • Recognizing the needs and role of Myanmar in International forums and groupings like BIMSTEC, etc.
  • Need for frequent dialogues at local level, business level and political level.

Conclusion

As India is looking forward to engage with its neighbourhood in a substantial way, there is a need to increase the multi-dimensional engagement with Myanmar. Keeping in mind the hostile neighbourhood, increasing Presence of China, Rohingya infiltration and India’s larger goals, India needs to shun its casual attitude and take its promises & deadlines seriously.

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