All roads lead to Myanmar!

It was probably just the one move needed to make things work for Myanmar. Just the one move which would make it the hotspot destination for most countries, just that one move which would make everyone forget as to why there was no probable multilateral relations nor the strategic deals with the country and that one move made this year seems to be reaching the actual goal or rather may be more than that and that too in such a short span that the Myanmar govt ought to be proud of 2012.


2011 marked the change with the first elections and allowing democracy a starting point. Of course Suu Kyi was not allowed to participate but it still meant something when there was a voting and it sure was a step ahead. A year later Suu Kyi’s party was allowed to participate in the local elections and its sweeping away of the seats again meant something. It was the much needed message for the world saying that Myanmar has moved on from a military country to a democracy. The US has always been a staunch promoter of democracy in Myanmar and that too to such an extent that it had clearly pressurized India to support democracy and impose sanctions on Myanmar for not doing so. Now that the one move has been made, the entire world seems to have shifted its relationship dynamics from the west to the east and specifically Myanmar. To endorse this thought, the recent turn of events and the speed in which the turn has happened is quite phenomenal indeed.


  • Japan has been the most optimistic with the waiver of its 3.1 billion USD loan to Myanmar. Also now it is in discussion with the most favoured nation status with Myanmar.


  • US seems to be happy that Myanmar has taken a positive step toward democracy and they too are keen about the sanctions being taken off. US is looking forward to appoint an ambassador to Myanmar and there has already been an announcement made in this direction.


  • China has been the intelligent partner which has always maintained a very strong relation both with its neighbours and the neighbours around India. We could recall the string of pearls theory here. China has been working on the pipelines, energy projects, developing the roadways and transport system in Myanmar.


  • EU said it is going to suspend the sanctions that it had on Myanmar. However it did not say that it is going to lift all the sanctions, suspension from their point meant that they could be reinstated if something goes awry in Myanmar.


So where do we stand? We seem to be enjoying the competition around and of course Myanmar should be in a state to enjoy all the attention it is getting. India is definitely on a good relational status with Myanmar. Even when the military junta was in rule, India opened itself up to the east, thanks to the look east policy which saved the day for India. The look east policy aims to have a strong relation with the eastern countries and also as a mainframe to bring in development to the north east states of India. A transport way to Myanmar would definitely mean that the route has to be the North east states and that would naturally mean that there sure are going to be some infrastructure projects. And as we know development has its own spiralling effect. That would mean a definite uplift in the quality of life and opportunities in the much battered North East. The natural interest in the raw materials in Myanmar, natural gas and the pipelines, the on shore drilling are the most basic areas of interest. Also interesting to us is that Myanmar is basically an agriculture oriented country and hence a joint research and modernisation look out is a definite possibility. The one thing we would have as a challenge is ensure how we can maintain a strong relation with Myanmar when there is so much competition around. It sure seems to have a lot on the platter and for now the world seems to have shifted focus to the east.


And by east, I don’t mean India or China, it all seems to point to Myanmar now. All roads lead to Myanmar!  And it is not just the phrase, the literal meaning holds good too considering the road, rail and transport projects Myanmar is receiving…

NAM 2.0 and the relevance in a changed scenario

It sounds like a software update whenever I see the numbers 2.0 appended to an acronym like firefox 11.2 or a chrome 20.1 etc. It was quite witty to coin the foreign policy a NAM 2.0 on the same lines and regarding the updates it provides, there are some terms which I found quite in line to be appreciative about. The basic theme remains the same, we don’t swear allegiance to any of the power factions, we still maintain and respect our own autonomy in decision making and also the autonomy of other countries as well. That’s that for a brief intro on what I will be trying to talk about here.


Going a little into details, a small overview of the NAM would help. NAM certainly shaped our foreign policy for a long time, it strengthened our stand and belief to withstand the global pressures and maintain our autonomy in the foreign affairs and the relations. The new NAM dubbed as an update 2.0 calls it under a different name- “Strategic autonomy”. Why the choice of word strategic? Again I think it makes a valid point cos when the NAM was coined, India was not in a position to be strategic for it was a country just into its independence having neither an economic strength nor a stable policy. Over the years India has proved its worth in many fronts, especially the most recent economic crisis has proved the strength as an economy and the participation in the international for a proving its importance and recognition too. The replacement of the G8 by the G20, the importance associated in international meets, the importance of having bilateral deals with the country have all endorsed the idea of the word “strategic” proposed here. I believe the word strategic takes an economic front and an personalized perspective here.


So the question still remains. Is NAM still relevant? NAM at its inception was directly associated with the cold war situation. Now, it doesn’t seem to make a direct reference to any of it cos there are no more of the two opposing factions anymore and there is neither a race to prove who is the strongest. The concept has changed and so has the meaning of NAM. And that’s the reason why the NAM 2.0 takes precedence here. The strategic economy acknowledges India’s changed position, where the goal is not just peace and working towards development but sustenance and growth. It is not at a position where it has to receive benefits or grants as a beneficiary but is in a position to drive growth and play a larger role in the neighbourhood helping the overall growth in the region as a benfactor.


The relation with its neighbours is dealt at a greater importance in the NAM 2.0 which is again a very sensible suggestion considering that Asia offers a great opportunity of growth and the reduced dependence on the west for economic developments. This is further endorsed by our growing interest in the relations in the surroundings. The look east policy has changed our view saying that development and growth is not unidirectional, looking at the west anymore. The east has an equally strong role to play. The recent FTA with ASEAN, the bilateral developments, opening of markets with S.Korea, Japan all seem to prove a bigger point that the dependence is no more a set of one or two countries but individually strong ones and each has to be treated at its own merit. And understanding this idea, the NAM 2.0 proposes the same.


So to answer the question as to whether the NAM 2.0 is relevant, I would say it very much makes its stand strong and clear. The ideas have changed, the roles have changed, but NAM still stays a longer way to come. The independence of thought, the deft, delicate relations to be handled have changed methods. It is not the two military or economic factions any more but individual delicate relations which don’t need allegiance towards any factions or restrictions imposed with a policy or an ideology. It is widening the options the country has and providing a greater position of bargain to arrive at. The changed role from a beneficiary to a benefactor certainly seems a strong driving point for the coinage- ‘strategic autonomy ’ and the update NAM 2.0 cos the basic still remains the same- playing no particular favourites.

NAM- Non Alignment movement and its relevance today..

NAM- Non Alignment movement and its relevance today.


India’s independence meant a lot to us on the personal scale as it meant an end to an era of oppression from the British and the blossoming of a new world which was left to our own choice as to how to define and how to direct the path for the country. On the international scale of events there was another challenge that arose in the name of cold war.

The Second World War divided the world into two factions- one the powerful US block and the other- an equally competitive USSR block. India was faced with a new challenge now as to whom to join. The US block consisted of the British and it would hardly make any sense for us to join someone who oppressed us for years. The other choice was the USSR. However even that seemed to make very less sense even though USSR was highly respected because of its socialistic values which later took form in the name of Marxism with the view of developing an egalitarian society where growth and development was not merely a commodity but an imperative. For India, it realized that the cold war clearly demarcated the world into two military blocks and for a country just out of a prolonged war, joining either of the blocks made least sense. India under Nehru decided that it had a greater job to do and the focus has to be on peace and developmental activity than bowing down to the pressures and joining a particular sect.

It seemed a simple decision but the concept made sense in every direction. It was clear that we needed to maintain our independence in decision making and sovereignty in our foreign policy. We were sure that we wanted to decide who we have a foreign policy with and how and not to be pulled down by the ideologies of a faction which defined a whole lot of restrictions. This gave birth to the concept of NAM. Contrary to what most of us thought, NAM was not a concept originated by Nehru. It finds its origin in Belgrade and was largely the brainchild of the Yugoslavian president. However I can say without much reservation that though we were not the fathers of the NAM philosophy, we sure are the guardian angels of the philosophy.

And regarding what advantages we had in tying ourselves to a challenging philosophy called NAM? We were able to maintain complete independence over foreign policy. There was no US or UK to say that we were not supposed to maintain any relation with USSR. In fact USSR turned out as one of the best partners in the international fora India had. USSR was the largest supplier of military equipments, the restrictions on the use and providing of the technology were way less compared to the rest of the world, it helped in developing public sector industries- the iron and steel industries which the US were reluctant to help with. All the same, US and UK came to our rescue in the China war of 1962. We pursued a friendly relation with china and even supported their inclusion to the UNSC. All in all there were a whole set of events and not many were in a position to command us as to who we should have a relation with and who we should not. Were we wrong in standing by a new and probably a less tested philosophy? I would hardly think so.

NAM has been severely criticised as a selfish philosophy, an act of cowardice and so on. But beyond all these criticism I think it was this one truth which paved way for all the philosophy in our foreign policy.

Regarding the relevance of NAM today, there is no more two military blocks. The world is fairly globalised but that does not mean that dissent is completely absent. It still maintains its own glory, may it be in the ethnic conflicts, religious intolerances or mere misunderstandings. The dissent always finds a way to establish itself. What does NAM mean in the current day scenario? It still means the same, just like we said we maintain our independence in foreign policy, we maintain the same for other countries also. We respect the other countries for their sovereignty in the internal affairs. We don’t dictate policies and impose our ideas. We still say NAM stays as a philosophy for a while to come. We didn’t side a philosophy of arming of the Libyan rebels when there was a UN resolution. We abstained maintaining the stance that a military offensive is not a solution for a political problem. We maintain our ideology and say we are not to be pulled down by the pressures. May it be the Iran issue where we are being pressurised to react to the sanction policy on Iran, we refrain from doing so. And so to tell in the affairs to come.

The recent coinage of the term NAM 2.0 gains a little significance in this debate. Though the perspectives have changes some features of NAM do still remain the foundation stone for the way the foreign policy is enacted. However the NAM 2.0 brings in something with the essence of “Strategic autonomy” which implies that, in matters relating to international affairs and geopolitics, India will not be cajoled, enticed or coerced into actions that would jeopardise its standing as a responsible and restrained regional power with the potential to emerge as a major power to reckon with in the years to come. How does the NAM 2.0 document propose to do this? Is it as tangible as the NAM? I have the same questions too. For now, I am a little short on data. But I promise to come back on the issue tomorrow with a little fact and a little analysis on NAM 2.0 J