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ASEAN ANALYSIS  29 July 2010

Needs make for strange bedfellows

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   29 July 2010

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It seems that in the world of power politics, high-minded principles are sacrificed for meeting a country’s needs. A current example is the visit this week of Myanmar’s leader, General Than Shwe, to India, where the democracy-loving Indians are providing Than Shwe with millions in credit to develop projects in Myanmar.

The driving force in the relationship between the two countries is India’s need to counter China’s influence in the country and the need for India to have an ally in battling insurgents on its eastern border. The insurgents are of a concern to Myanmar, as well.

It is plain to just about every nation dealing with Myanmar that sanctions do not work and so Myanmar’s Asian neighbors are employing a step by step approach to pull the reclusive country into the mainstream of the world economy, in the hopes that this will eventually lead to a move toward a more democratic country.

The Indian role is to quiet Myanmar’s paranoia that the whole world is against it so that it can serve as a neutral buffer state between India and China and the Indians feel Myanmar is amenable to that role

This has also been the approach taken by Myanmar’s partners in Asean and it is pertinent to note that this week Thailand’s major energy firm has wrapped up a big natural gas deal with Myanmar. On the other side of Asia, China appears to be increasing its arms sales to Myanmar, while other nations, including India, have refused to take this action.

Myanmar is the stage for the India-China power plays and it will be a long-running show as changes in Myanmar take place ever so slowly.

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