Prime Minister Modi’s recently concluded trip to Myanmar has ensured that relationship between the two countries goes to the next stage, keeping in view the present evolving geostrategic realities in the region. Apart from the various MoUs signed, the various ratifications that have taken place, the major takeaway of this visit is the fact that both India and Myanmar recognise in each other a sturdy partner, a stable friend bound in a relationship which is non-exploitative, non-hegemonic, and which stands on co-equality. The partnership also aims to work in unison towards addressing the major challenges of the region and by taking the opportunities to create a new structure of relationships in the region.
The recognition of the threats to India’s and Myanmar’s national security and the reiteration by both sides to stand by each other in addressing these was one of the high points of the visit. Section number 6 in the joint statement issued by the two leaders essentially demonstrated how India was redefining the articulation on terrorism, on non-state actors and their patrons, in the sphere of international diplomacy.
The statement noted, for example, that: “The two leaders discussed the security situation prevailing along their borders and expressed concern at various incidents of terrorism and extremist-inspired violence that have taken place in their respective territories. Recognising that terrorism remains one of the most significant threats to peace and stability in the region, both sides condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and agreed that the fight against terrorism should target not only terrorists, terror organisations and networks, but also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against States and entities that encourage, support or finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, and falsely extol their virtues. Myanmar condemned the recent barbaric terror attacks during the Amarnath Yatra in India as also various acts of terror perpetrated by terrorists from across the borders.
India condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Rakhine State, wherein several members of the Myanmar security forces lost their lives. Both sides agreed that terrorism violates human rights and there should, therefore, be no glorification of terrorists as martyrs. They called on the international community to end selective and partial approaches to combating terrorism.” Prime Minister Modi’s ceaseless articulation on how terrorism was, in fact, threatening vast swathes of the globe, and of how these terrorist acts originated from some particular regions and through some specific groups is now gaining ground and acceptance, the BRICS declaration which named specific terrorist groups was a clear exposition of that shift. In fact, the solidarity that India expressed on the Rakhine state terrorist attack and her steadfast refusal to be dragged into false and misleading narratives is an expression of her determination to stand by countries affected by terrorism and not to allow the germ to spread in the region and around. India’s stand on the Rohingya issue has been based on her national security imperatives. Likewise, Myanmar’s handling of the issue to has been based on her reading of her national security challenges and demands. Both have clearly articulated their stands, despite pressure being mounted by some interested groups of activists, false cause endorsers, and heads of international agencies, who have displayed scant understanding of the security dynamics of the region. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Hassan, for example, who has very little understanding of Indian conditions and seems to rely for information on motivated sections, in a strange and callow statement, tried to hector India on the overall human rights situation in the country. Mr. Zeid’s main pick, however, was that India had taken a clear stand on the Rohingya issue, had stood by Myanmar and had condemned the attacks on innocent civilians and security forces by terrorists in the Rakhine state while refusing to be pulled into the refugee vortex. Mr. Zeid understanding of democracy, of parliamentary systems and free societies, is of course very stunted and perhaps that is natural, but the statement coming from his official position displayed the bias that he nurtures against India and for that matter any country that is pledged to take on non-state actors and terrorists. India’s response to Mr. Zeid’s hallucinatory statement is a classic statement on how biased and motivated internationalism ought to be handled. The statement described the exact state of human rights activism today when selective and targeted condemnation and silence exposes the actual political mindset of those who arrogate to themselves the position of standard-bearers of human rights across the world. “Tendentious judgments made on the basis of selective and even inaccurate reports do not further the understanding of human rights in any society…Assessments of human rights should not be a matter of political convenience…”, India’s rejoinder noted. While India has initiated Operation Insaniyat to help Bangladesh in its handling of the Rohingya refugee issue, she has “strongly condemned the terrorist attacks on Myanmar security forces in Rakhine State” and affirmed that, “The two countries [India-Myanmar] shared a determination to combat terrorism and not allow its justification under any pretext.” During his visit, Prime Minister Modi had also expressed “his concern at the casualties of security forces as well as other innocent lives. He had also urged a solution based on respect for peace, communal harmony, justice, dignity and democratic values.” Daw Aung San Su Kyi also displayed a similar determination and understanding of India’s stand on the issue of terrorism. Her handling of the Rohingya issue in Myanmar’s interest has also disappointed those who had assumed that she could be manipulated to suit their false narrative of human rights. India’s approach to the ongoing Rohingya issue has thus, besides displaying great maturity, also indicated that she is willing to stand up for her national interest and for those who have been like her victims of terrorism and of motivated slander. That is in itself a principal shift from the past, which for the biased seems unacceptable!