India will not toe the Western line on Myanmar when it interacts with the head of the regime, Senior General Than Shwe, on Tuesday.

Opposed to sanctions that the West has imposed, India will take stock of the moves towards democracy and gently urge the Myanmar regime to move towards a more inclusive society although it is reconciled to the non-participation of jailed National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the coming general elections.

Having gained the Myanmar regime's confidence after engaging with it consistently for a decade, India is in no mood to sacrifice its national interests by adopting a stand identical to that taken by the West which neither shares an unruly border for thousands of kilometres nor the shared past of colonialism when the Burmese social structure was dismantled.

India will listen to the steps being taken by Myanmar to move towards a more inclusive society. Senior General Than Shwe, in his interaction with the Indian leadership, has always acquainted it with steps being taken by his government to ensure more broad-based participation in national governance. The Myanmar leader is expected to once again inform New Delhi of the steps being taken to introduce a more democratic society. India rues that the West lost an opportunity to gain Myanmar's confidence immediately after the deadly tropical cyclone Nargis hit the country in mid-2008. China was busy grappling with an equally devastating earthquake in its south-western parts during the same time. And Myanmar sensed this was a good opportunity to reach out to the world.

However, the U.S. packed its first relief convoy with Marines which immediately made the Myanmar regime suspicious of its intentions and prompted it to turn down the offer. In contrast, India received a different reception thanks to its “realistic attitude” which it wishes the West would adopt. Even though its medical teams were drawn from the military, they were allowed to venture deep into the country. And when supplies began running out and the teams began preparing to return home, the Myanmar government requested India to extend their stay.

In its recent confabulations with the U.S. and other countries, India has consistently told them that sanctions offered no solution. And the motive behind the sanctions — regime change — only made the Myanmar ruling regime more suspicious of the West's intentions.

It is not widely known but when Myanmar refused entry to the then U.N. Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, it was not the West's indignation but India's persuasion that allowed him to visit the country.

Moreover, Myanmar never had an inimical attitude towards India in terms of supporting insurgent groups despite Chin, Mizo and Kachin ethnic groups being spread on both sides of the border.


Facing up to the Myanmar challengeJuly 26, 2010

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