With an eye on China, India is playing its democracy card to the hilt in Myanmar, where pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is set to contest in the by-elections early next year.
New Delhi believes its position of engaging the leadership in Myanmar — a key neighbour and an important country in its Look East policy matrix — is paying dividends, even with the US.
India’s view is that more democratic countries and institutions will help check the Chinese influence on Myanmar, which has acknowledged that the experience gained from interacting with India can help its “democratisation process”.
After the recent visit of a parliamentary delegation from Myanmar to India, the Myanmar foreign ministry conveyed to New Delhi the interaction had significantly contributed to consolidation of ties.
India has been playing an active role in Myanmar’s transition to democracy. Earlier this month, Myanmar authorities granted permission to Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party to rejoin mainstream politics. This is being seen as a key reform movement aimed at the transition.
Last year, the junta had denied NLD the status of a legal political party after it chose to boycott a rare multi-party poll. For New Delhi, the world taking note of the democratic transition in Myanmar is a welcome development. In December, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton became the highest ranking official from the country to visit Myanmar in the past 50 years.