India-Myanmar Relations

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  • North East in BCIM-EC: Problems and Prospects

    North East in BCIM-EC: Problems and Prospects

    Widespread problems have made the operating environment ‘dysfunctional and inefficient’. Some of this is on account of inscrutable issues like ‘integration of the services with the MoD’ or ‘civil-military relations’ but, in large part, the immediate problem lies with MoD’s inability to resolve more mundane issues.

    October 14, 2014

    Things that Modi should do in Myanmar

    Things that Modi should do in Myanmar

    The Prime Minister must reach out to Myanmar in unconventional ways and remove any antipathy among the people who once, like other neighbours, had began to perceive India as a big military threat.

    November 10, 2014

    China at your doorstep: Looking east from India’s northeast

    Myanmar and India have followed separate political paths only to find it converging in recent times. Myanmar’s other neighbour China has had a much larger footprint in the country. India has to calibrate its engagement with Myanmar to not just effectively implement its Look East policy but also manage the contiguous border regions of Northeast India given the ground realities.

    March 18, 2014

    Anup Srivastav asked: How can BCIM corridor project boost strategic ties between India and Myanmar when it is believed to be aiding insurgency in India’s northeast?

    Udai Bhanu Singh replies: The cooperative principle behind the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC) is based on the “principles of mutual trust and respect, mutual interest, equitable sharing of mutual benefits…..and securing win-win outcomes.” The BCIM-EC Joint Study Group, which held its first meeting in December 2013 in Kunming, China, is aimed at improving physical connectivity, trade in goods, services and investment (including finance), environmentally sustainable development and people-to-people contacts. However, this a double-edged sword because when connectivity is exploited to encourage drug trafficking, small arms trafficking and promoting insurgency, then the principle of “mutual trust” is compromised. Such a breach of trust can not and should not be ignored or underestimated. In order to ensure that connectivity is not misused, stringent rules and implementation mechanisms have to be put in place. This can be made possible through built-in safeguards and improved facilities and infrastructure at the border check-posts.

    Posted on March 13, 2014

    India-Myanmar Border Problems: Fencing not the only solution

    In addition to building a 10-km fence along its border with Myanmar, India should strengthen the security of the border by deploying adequate guarding forces, revise the FMR and constructively engage with Myanmar to prevent the cross-border movement of insurgents and traffickers.

    November 15, 2013

    Tracking the source of ‘Weapon Providers’ for NE Rebels

    It is well established that the armed ethnic groups in Myanmar act as the interlocking chain for the illegal weapons flow from Yunnan in China via Myanmar to the Northeast India. Reports indicate that the most effective illegal weapons trader in Myanmar is the armed ethnic group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

    November 07, 2013

    Niras asked: It was recently stated that India-Myanmar border trade would be upgraded to normal trade. What is the difference?

    Udai Bhanu Singh replies: Trade on the Indo-Myanmar border was traditionally conducted on an informal basis and was quite negligible compared to the normal trade. Trading in traditional goods on head load basis and through barter was the usual practice. A legal basis was accorded to the customary trade when India and Myanmar signed a border trade agreement in 1994. Land Customs Station (LCS) at Moreh was the first trading-point to be operationalised on the Indo-Myanmar border in 1995. The second one is the Zowkhathar-Rhi LCS. A third LCS is expected to be opened up at Avakhung-Pansat/Somrai.

    Border trade constitutes only a fraction of the bilateral trade. Enhanced border trade is considered as critical for the development of India’s North-eastern Region (NER). India has a long land border (over 1600 km) with Myanmar, but the border trade remains minimal. In 2010-11, the border trade was only $12.8 million whereas the bilateral trade was $1070 million. Indian exports included cotton yarn, auto parts, soya bean meal and pharmaceuticals while India’s imports included betel nuts, dried ginger, green moong beans, turmeric roots, resin and medicinal herbs. Currently, on the India-Myanmar border, trade at a concessional rate of duty (5 per cent ad valorem) and in certain conditions is permitted for 62 tradable items (effective since December 2012 following DGFT notification) through the LCSs at Moreh (Manipur) and Zowkhathar (Mizoram) as per the Department of Commerce notifications.

    The problem lies in the smuggling of items like fertilizers, vehicles especially two wheelers, etc. This illegal transaction on the border gives border trade a bad name while bringing little or no benefit to the communities living on either sides of the border. In addition, the NER is landlocked, and despite its vast natural and human resource, the people of the region cannot have a share in the maritime trade. To the extent the increase in maritime trade does not stimulate the economic growth in the NER (and ignores and even breaks traditional trade links), it perpetuates the perception that the benefits of the ‘Look East Policy’ is bypassing the NER as 98 per cent of the trade is conducted through ports. Thus, promotion of ‘cross border growth poles’ or ‘growth triangles’ is suggested, besides systematic sociological, anthropological and political analyses of the systems in the two countries.

    Normal trade is also permitted through the LCSs. The 3rd India-Myanmar Joint Trade Committee (2008) decided that border trade would be upgraded to normal trade, which refers to the trade between two countries that is subject to payment of custom duties applicable on international trade with any other country of the world. According to the Northeast Vision 2020, “opening up trade routes will expand economic opportunities for the region and accelerate its growth process.” There is great potential in the revival of international commerce through road, river (Kaladan) and railways; and, connecting to Chittagong and Kolkata besides Sittwe (to Dawei and beyond in Indochina). It can boost the economy of the north eastern states which could bring back some of the glory of yesteryears when the land-based silk route flourished. Among the 13 Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) being set up in NER, one is at Moreh in Manipur. The objective of ICP is to provide integrated infrastructure (including immigration, customs, and border security with support facilities like warehousing, banking and hotels) and to interdict elements hostile to the country in order to facilitate legitimate trade and commerce.

    For more details, refer to the following IDSA publication:

    Udai Bhanu Singh and Shruti Pandalai, “Myanmar: The Need for Infrastructure Integration” in Rumel Dahiya and Ashok K. Behuria (eds.), India’s Neighbourhood: Challenges in the Next two Decades, Pentagon Security International, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 110-136.

    Assessing the Bodh Gaya Terror Attack

    With increased cross-border mobility, instantaneous access to information and easy reach to small arms, terror attacks in India are finding new targets.

    July 25, 2013

    Akash Pratap asked: What is the role of Myanmar in India’s “Look East Policy”?

    Reply: Refer to an earlier reply by Udai Bhanu Singh on a similar query, at http://idsa.in/askanexpert/importanceofMyanmarforIndia.

    Also, refer to following publications by the IDSA faculty:

    Myanmar’s Critical Role in Bolstering India’s Look East Policy
    Arvind Gupta, February 2, 2012, at
    http://idsa.in/idsacomments/MyanmarsCriticalRoleinBolsteringIndiasLookEastPolicy_agupta_020212

    An Assessment of Manmohan Singh’s Visit to Myanmar
    Udai Bhanu Singh, IDSA Issue Brief, June 1, 2012, at
    http://idsa.in/issuebrief/AnAssessmentofManmohanSinghsVisittoMyanmar

    The Significance of Connectivity in India-Myanmar Relations
    Shristi Pukhrem, July 6, 2012, at
    http://idsa.in/idsacomments/TheSignificanceofConnectivityinIndiaMyanmarRelations_spukhrem_230512

    Southeast Asia-India Defence Relations in the Changing Regional Security Landscape
    Bilveer Singh, IDSA Monograph Series No. 4, 2011, at http://idsa.in/monograph/SoutheastAsiaIndiaDefenceRelationsintheChangingRegionalSecurityLandscape

    Cooperation Between Indian and Myanmar Armed Forces: Need to Move Away from a Weapons & Equipment Supply-Based Relationship

    While India has supplied arms and equipment quite selectively to Myanmar, the outcome, which was expected to serve India’s interests, has not been commensurate.

    January 15, 2013

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