India, Relations with

   Independence leader Aung San and Prime Minister U Nu were close to India's prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, sharing the common experience of struggle against British colonial rule. Nehru's and U Nu's governments also shared a commitment to nonalignment in foreign policy and moderate socialism. The Burma-India border was relatively unproblematic, and a joint boundary commission was established only in 1967; by 1976, most of the 1,600-kilometer-long, mountainous border had been demarcated. When Ne Win seized power in March 1962, relations were strained because the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) regime's nationalization and demonetization policies appeared to target Indian businesspeople. The latter petitioned the Indian government for help, but New Delhi ascertained that because the BSPP policies affected all people resident in Burma and not just Indians, it could not interfere. Approximately 300,000 South Asians (including both Indians and Pakistanis) were repatriated between 1963 and 1967; Burma offered them some compensation in the early 1970s. U Nu's residence in India from 1974 to 1980 caused additional tensions because the former prime minister had led a Thailand-based antigovernment insurgency.
   Following Democracy Summer and the seizure of power by the State Law and Order Restoration Council in September 1988, India was the only Asian country that was outspokenly supportive of the prodemocracy movement. Along with the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Voice of America, All India Radio (AIR) provided listeners in Burma with crucial information on the domestic political situation. When two Burmese students hijacked a Rangoon (Yangon)-bound Thai airliner to Calcutta in late 1990, Indian officials treated them leniently, releasing them on bail.
   By 1991-1992, however, New Delhi's policy had begun to change, as reflected in the halting of critical AIR broadcasts. Although the Indian government continued to give moral support to the prodemocracy movement (Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1995), trade ties with Burma were promoted, and high-level meetings of Indian and Burmese officials became more frequent, including a visit by General Maung Aye, second most powerful figure in the State Peace and Development Council, in November 2000. Three factors account for India's growing reliance on constructive engagement. First, New Delhi feared that China was gaining too much influence over the SLORC. Indian leaders were alarmed at the volume of Chinese military aid to the Tatmadaw, including modernization of naval bases fronting the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Bengal. Plans announced by Beijing in 1997 to construct a new transportation corridor from Yunnan Province by way of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River to Kyaukpyu in Arakan (Rakhine) State were another source of concern, though these plans have yet to be put in action. From New Delhi's perspective, it seems that China has been using Burma to challenge India's mastery of the Indian Ocean.
   Second, insurgents belonging to the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) had long used Burmese soil as a sanctuary in their attacks on Indian security forces, while the Chin National Front, which has not signed a cease-fire with the SPDC, has bases in India's Mizoram State, where the local people are ethnically the same as the Chins. Agreements between the Indian and Burmese militaries have enabled them to carry out joint operations against these groups and to more effectively halt the flow of Burmese drugs across the Indian border. To develop the border area, India has given aid to construct infrastructure, such as an Indo-Myanmar Friendship Road connecting Chin State with Moreh in Mizoram.
   Third, India now has substantial economic interests in Burma. Two-way trade in 1997-1998 totaled US$264.7 million. Principal Burmese exports to India are beans, pulses, and wood products, while Burma imports manufactured goods, such as iron and steel, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals. Trade also flourishes at the border. In 2004, it was announced that a natural gas field, the "Shwe [Gold] Prospect" in the Bay of Bengal off Arakan State, which is being developed by South Korean and Indian oil firms in cooperation with the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, would start production in 2009, providing India with natural gas piped either through Arakan to Assam or by way of Bangladesh to West Bengal. The Shwe Prospect will provide much-needed energy for India's rapid industrialization and earn the SPDC between US$800 million and US$3 billion in profits each year. India and Burma are both members of the BIMSTEC ("Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thai Economic Cooperation) group.
   See also India and Burma.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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