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Terms of engagement

Suu Kyi has not let past problems colour her ties with India, now New Delhi must reciprocate in full.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2012 23:34 IST

The ability to adjust is crucial to any relationship, be it between individuals or nations. New Delhi and Myanmar’s Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is on a six-day visit to India, seem to have understood this fact and have managed to strike a conciliatory note despite their difference of opinion on India’s engagement with the ruling junta in Myanmar. Keeping with the spirit of things, Ms Suu Kyi in an interview said that though she was sad after India decided to do business with the junta, which kept her under house arrest for 15 years, she never felt betrayed by her old friend. On its part, India rolled out the red carpet for the pro-democracy icon since it is keen to build a good rapport with all stakeholders in that country. The next election in Myanmar is in 2015 where Ms Suu Kyi’s party NLD is expected to sweep.

India had supported Ms Suu Kyi in her fight against the junta in Myanmar in the 1980s and early 1990s, but started engaging with the military establishment in the mid-1990s to counter China’s growing clout and also because of the economic opportunities in the country. Then there was the important issue of security: insurgent groups in the north-east had been operating from bases inside Burma. In 2010, the two nations agreed to combat terrorism along the border.

India’s engagement with the junta was not a sudden decision; it was a part of a bigger foreign policy matrix. After 1992, India has been following a Look East Policy and has unleashed a number of engagements in trade relations with the Association of South East Asian Nations and other Asian states. As India’s gateway to East Asia, Myanmar is at a key geo-strategic position and it has managed to exploit that in negotiations with India. In a TV interview, Ms Suu Kyi said that governments often take a path that they think is best for the country. Hopefully this realisation will improve her ties with India.