Myanmar should not “put all its eggs in one basket”, Chinese state media said today while acknowledging that India has an “advantage” over China in the Southeast Asian nation under Aung San Suu Kyi as Beijing faced flak in the country for backing the previous military junta.
“Compared with Beijing, New Delhi currently enjoys an advantage in strengthening its ties with Myanmar,” an article in the Global Times said.
“Previously, China strongly backed military rule in Myanmar while the West vigorously ostracised it. Yet now…the nation’s domestic public opinion holds a relatively negative attitude toward Beijing. Therefore, in terms of ideology, India seems to have fewer barriers to developing its relations with Myanmar,” it said.
Highlighting the India-China competition to court Myanmar, it said “ties between Beijing and Nay Pyi Taw have always been close, but even so, India has initiated all kinds of interactions with Myanmar for quite some time, including joint programmes over infrastructure work such as highway and hydropower stations”.
“In years to come, the Myanmarese government might have more expectations in India over economic and trade cooperation, defence collaboration and joint works to expand connectivity with neighbouring countries,” it said.
“China is of course of great importance to Myanmar, but Nay Pyi Taw will not put all its eggs in one basket. While New Delhi has always hoped it can draw Myanmar over to its own sphere of influence, the former is thus another basket for the latter to put its eggs in,” the article said.
It said situated on either side of Myanmar, China and India will keep competing for more influence in the country.
“Such a reality will long exist. Given Nay Pyi Taw’s strategic geographical location, the nation will neither fully tilt towards China nor lurch towards India, but will only continue its balancing act and try to pursue friendly policies with the two big neighbours for the sake of gaining the most benefits.”
Myanmar plays a vital role in India’s Act East policy as it’s the closest Southeast Asian neighbour, it said referring to the “chaos and an underdeveloped economy” in India’s northeastern region.
“Under such a background, New Delhi needs to enhance its collaboration with Myanmar in border areas for economic reasons,” the article said.
“More importantly, India sees the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between Beijing and Nay Phi Taw as a threat. It, hence, feels the urge to take the offensive by cozying up to Myanmar in order to gain more influence in the country as leverage to counterbalance China,” it said.
The article said the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor, which is part of China’s Silk Road initiative has not witnessed any major step forward.
“On the one hand, New Delhi has been acting negatively towards it. But on the other, it was stuck due to turmoil in Myanmar…But there is still no signal of any development of the joint project,” it said.