India may have certain diplomatic advantages but China is emerging as a more significant neighbour for Myanmar, a Chinese think tank has said following Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent Beijing visit.
Suy Kyi, whose National League for Democracy took power in Myanmar in April after sweeping elections last year, picked China for her first visit outside the Asean region and called on the Chinese president and prime minister.
“Suu Kyi has chosen China for her first overseas trip outside Asean probably not because she is emotionally close to Beijing, but out of Myanmar’s domestic politics and national interests,” Liu Zongyi from the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies wrote in the state-controlled Global Times. “She will lead the country to seek a balance among major powers.”
India, on the other hand, needed close ties with Myanmar to curb militancy along its northeastern borders and get access the neighbour’s energy resources and the Asean region.
“Suu Kyi’s latest formal visit…shows that China seems to be more significant than India in Myanmar’s diplomacy,” Liu wrote.
Though barred from the presidency by a junta-drafted constitution, the 71-year-old Nobel laureate is the de facto leader of her country and holds several government posts including that of foreign minister.
India’s engaging of the erstwhile military rulers could be one of the reasons Suu Kyi was miffed with New Delhi. “…Suu Kyi was never a fan of New Delhi’s dual-track policy -- supporting democratic forces and meanwhile having close ties with the military junta,” Liu said.
New Delhi, however, did have a few leads over Beijing.
“They share a lot in culture, religion and democratic values, and their high-level officials have had close relationship for a very long time,” the commentary said.
Suu Kyi’s mother was an ambassador to India. The democracy icon, he said, spent her adolescence in the neighbouring country and graduated from University of Delhi.
New Delhi had many reasons to ensure Myanmar and China didn’t get too cosy.
Ties with Myanmar were crucial for India’s security, he said. A large number of cross-border ethnic and rebels groups from India’s Northeast had military bases in the neighbouring country. Myanmar was also a gateway for India’s Look East policy.
“Besides, Myanmar is a crucial link to Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor and has worked jointly with China on oil and natural gas pipelines and port construction,” the article said.
India was thus worried that Myanmar could become China’s corridor to the Indian Ocean “which can hence threaten India’s national security and its peculiar interests in the waters”.