Myanmar, a Southeast Asian country, shares a 1,643-kilometre-long border with India. The border, which runs through rugged and mountainous terrain, has long been a source of concern for India due to the presence of various insurgent groups and illegal cross-border activities. In recent years, however, a new challenge has emerged for India in the form of China’s growing influence in Myanmar. China has been actively engaged in economic and strategic initiatives in Myanmar, which has led to concerns in India about China’s increasing presence on its north-eastern flank. The Myanmar-China border is a potential flashpoint for conflict between India and China due to its strategic significance. The border region is rich in natural resources, including timber, hydrocarbons, and minerals, and is also a major transit point for illegal drugs and arms trafficking. Additionally, the border region is home to ethnic minority groups that have long been in conflict with the Myanmar government and have sought refuge in China. This blog aims to explore the challenges that India is facing as a result of China’s growing influence in Myanmar and the measures that India is taking to counter these challenges. The blog will delve into the various economic and strategic initiatives that China has undertaken in Myanmar, and how they are affecting India’s security and economic interests. Additionally, the blog will examine the efforts that India is making to counter the challenges posed by China’s growing influence in Myanmar and the impact of these efforts on regional stability and security
GROWING INFLUENCE OF CHINA
China has been actively engaged in economic and strategic initiatives in Myanmar, which has led to concerns in India about China’s increasing presence on its northeastern flank. One of the major concerns is the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), which is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The CMEC aims to connect China’s Yunnan province with the Bay of Bengal through a network of highways, railways, and ports. The corridor passes through Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which is close to India’s northeastern states.
The CMEC has raised concerns in India about its potential to increase China’s strategic footprint in the region and to provide China with access to the Indian Ocean. India has also expressed concerns about the environmental and social impact of the project, as well as the potential for it to be used for military purposes. The CMEC project is aimed to connect the South Western Chinese province of Yunnan to the Bay of Bengal via a network of highways, railways, and ports, passing through Rakhine state. This could potentially provide China with direct access to the Indian Ocean, which would give them an upper hand in terms of strategic advantage over India.
Another area of concern for India is China’s growing military ties with Myanmar. China has been providing military aid and equipment to Myanmar and has also been involved in training Myanmar’s military personnel. This has raised concerns in India about the potential for Myanmar to become a base for Chinese military operations in the region. In recent years China has been increasing its military presence in the Indian Ocean region, through its naval
base in Djibouti and its strategic port development in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. India is concerned that China’s military activities in Myanmar could be a part of its larger strategy to encircle India and contain its naval power.
China is increasing its influence in Myanmar by using the tensions between the government and ethnic minorities to gain leverage. By reaching out to major minority groups, such as the Shan and Rakhine, Beijing hopes to create pro-Chinese sentiment and new avenues to investment, which grew stagnant during the Thein Sein regime, in power between 2011 and 2016. In addition to these strategic concerns, India is also facing economic competition from China in Myanmar. China is Myanmar’s largest trading partner and has invested heavily in the country’s infrastructure and energy sector. This has led to concerns in India about its ability to compete with China in the Myanmar market. India is already facing a trade deficit with China and is struggling to keep pace with China’s economic expansion in the region.
In order to counter China’s growing influence on its north-eastern flank, India has been actively engaged in its own economic and strategic initiatives in Myanmar. These efforts include:
Infrastructure Development : India has been involved in the development of infrastructure projects in Myanmar, such as the construction of a trilateral highway connecting India, Myanmar, and Thailand. India has also been working to improve its own infrastructure in the north-eastern states in order to better connect with Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries. This includes improving road and rail connectivity, as well as building airports and seaports.
Development Assistance : India has been providing development assistance to Myanmar and has been involved in capacity building and training programs for Myanmar’s government and military personnel. This includes assistance in areas such as education, healthcare, and rural development.
Building Regional Ties : India has been working to improve its ties with other countries in the region, such as Bangladesh and Japan, to counter China’s growing influence in the region. Additionally, India has been strengthening its military and security ties with countries in the region, such as the United States and Australia, to enhance its ability to respond to security challenges in the region.
Economic Cooperation: India is promoting economic cooperation with Myanmar as well as with other Southeast Asian countries through various initiatives such as BIMSTEC and BBIN, which aims to increase trade and investment in the region.
Security cooperation : India has been strengthening its security cooperation with Myanmar to counter the threat of insurgent groups and illegal cross-border activities. This includes providing training and equipment to Myanmar’s security forces and sharing intelligence. India is also engaging in joint military exercises with Myanmar .
Diplomatic Engagement : India has been engaging in diplomatic efforts to address the concerns with China’s activities in Myanmar. India has been engaging with other countries and international organisations to raise awareness about the potential negative impact of China’s activities in Myanmar, and to promote regional stability.
Minorities Issue: India does not directly engage with the issue of Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority as they do not want to upset the junta regime. India pledged US $25 million for a five year developmental project in Rakhine State under an MoU signed with Mayanmar government to meet immediate needs of refugees who were returning to their home.
India is taking a multi-pronged approach to counter China’s growing influence in Myanmar and on its northeastern flank. India is focusing on infrastructure development, development assistance, building regional ties, economic cooperation and diplomatic engagement to achieve this goal. It’s important for India to maintain a balance in its relationship with Myanmar and China in order to maintain regional stability and security
In conclusion, the Myanmar-China border region poses a significant challenge for India in terms of both economic and security concerns. China’s growing economic and military presence in the region, including infrastructure projects and engagement with ethnic minority groups, has raised concerns that China is seeking to gain a strategic foothold in the region that could threaten India’s security. India has responded by increasing its own economic and security engagement with Myanmar, including investments in infrastructure projects and ties with other regional powers. However, the ongoing civil war in Myanmar and India’s own economic and security challenges have hindered India’s ability to effectively counter China’s influence in the region.
The issue of the Myanmar-China border holds high significance and needs to be closely monitored and studied as it could have a severe impact on India’s security and economy. Moreover, India needs to find ways to counter China’s influence in the region without destabilizing the region further. India needs to continue to engage and strengthen its
relationship with Myanmar and other neighboring countries, while also investing in its own economic and security capabilities.
Further research is needed to understand the dynamics of the situation in the region, including the role of ethnic minority groups, the impact of China’s infrastructure projects, and the potential for future conflicts. Only a comprehensive and multidimensional approach that takes into account all relevant factors can help to mitigate the potential for conflict and
ensure stability in the region.
5th year student, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University