India in middle of Myanmar muddle

None | By, New Delhi
Oct 02, 2007 04:10 AM IST

A joint US-EU statement asks India to use its influence in support of Burma's people, writes HT Correspondent.

India finds itself right in the middle of the ongoing turmoil in Myanmar, with one country after another calling on New Delhi to use its influence, along with Beijing, to make the military government see reason as five protesters were killed in Yangon on Thursday.

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A joint United States-European Union statement urged India, China and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to "use their influence in support of the people of Burma/Myanmar".

In an article published in The Independent on Thursday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote that he was encouraging Myanmar’s neighbours "to use their access to the Burmese government to ensure that the voice of the Burmese people is understood."

Responding to mounting concerns, India spoke twice to Mynamar in two days – through the External Affairs Ministry spokesman on Wednesday and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday. “We are concerned at the situation in Myanmar and are monitoring it closely,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee stated, adding, “It is our hope that all sides will resolve their issues peacefully through dialogue.”

“As a close and friendly neighbour, India hopes to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Myanmar, where all sections of people will be included in a broad-based process of national reconciliation and political reform,” the Minister stressed.

“Myanmar’s process of national reconciliation initiated by the authorities should be expedited”, Mukherjee added. “We are concerned at the situation in Myanmar and are monitoring it closely. It is our hope that all sides will resolve their issues peacefully through dialogue,” the Ministry spokesman commented on Wednesday.

A close reading of the statements would show that India remains unwilling to abandon the military junta in Myanmar. The comments fall far short of what the EU and US want India to do – to use its influence in favour of the people of Myanmar.

India and the US are also part of the Global Democracy Initiative, but the two countries are far apart on Myanmar. “With their solid democratic traditions and institutions, they have agreed to assist other societies in transition seeking to become more open and democratic. They recognize democracy as a universal aspiration that transcends social, cultural and religious boundaries,” India and the US stated in July 2005.

Burmese activists in India have been sharply critical of the Indian inability to sever its ties with the military government, but officials traditionally have pointed to the folly of leaving Yangon’s generals to engage with Beijing alone. In 1993, India had conferred the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding on Aung San Suu Kyi, torchbearer of Myanmar’s pro-democracy forces, who has been in and out of home detention for the last 18 years.

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