India is “cozying up” to Myanmar because it is threatened by the growing strategic ties between China and Myanmar, a Chinese think-tank has said.
However, the Shanghai-based think-tank acknowledged that India had less barriers in building its relations with Myanmar as compared to China, which had strongly backed its erstwhile military junta.
Zhao Gancheng, director of Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies, Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said no matter how fiercely India and China compete to wield influence in the country, Myanmar will astutely maintain neutrality to gain the most benefits.
“Myanmar plays a vital role in India’s Act East policy as its closest Southeast Asian neighbour. Bordering Myanmar, India’s northeastern region has long suffered from chaos and an underdeveloped economy.
“Under such a background, New Delhi needs to enhance its collaboration with Myanmar in border areas for economic reasons.” Zhao wrote in an oped published on Wednesday in the Global Times.
“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.”
The write-up made a reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on the sidelines of the just-concluded India-Asean summits and the East Asia Summit in Laos in which he assured Suu Kyi that India stood by Myanmar.
“Compared with Beijing, New Delhi currently enjoys an advantage in strengthening its ties with Myanmar. Previously, China strongly backed military rule in Myanmar while the West vigorously ostracized it.
“Yet now, after Nay Pyi Taw’s political and power shift, 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.”
Zhao argued even though China was of great importance to Myanmar, 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,” he said.
The article said that despite India having an upper hand in Myanmar, its economic might was “limited” and “the economic and trade volume between China and Myanmar as well as Chinese investment in Myanmar have long left India’s far behind”.
“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 toward China nor lurch toward 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.”