Mission Myanmar: How India is using subtle measures, ‘trust’ to see off China challenge in big-ticket investment game

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New Delhi | Published: September 5, 2018 11:28:14 AM

While China has gone for big ticket investment, India has taken a calculative move by making its way to sectors like education, health and entertainment services.

With an aim to step up its engagement with neighbouring Myanmar, India is investing in several sectors. However, New Delhi has been facing challenges from several countries, including China. While China has gone for big ticket investment, India has taken a calculative move by making its way to sectors like education, health and entertainment services. Religious tourism is touted as another important sector with great potential, according to a Indian Express report.

A three-day exhibition of Indian health services was going on in Yangon. Indian companies manufacturing medical equipment, medicines, as well as hospitals have set up stalls. “We are planning that a delegation from Myanmar should visit Bollywood to see for themselves the range of production services it can offer,” an official was quoted as saying by IE. Apart from these, India has invested big in projects, such as the Trilateral Highway, and the Kaladan Multinodal project in Myanmar.

However, China is far more aggressive in terms of investing, as per the IE report. While the two-way India-Myanmar trade stands at $1.6 billion, Myanmar-China trade is over $8 billion. China is still the biggest investor in Myanmar. As of July 2018, its investments were worth over $20 billion, while India was the 11th biggest investor with $763 million. Hong Kong is the fourth biggest investor after Thailand, and has invested about $7.8 billion, the IE report said. Myanmar is also a participant in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

But India has a “trust” advantage. “China-Myanmar trade is very big and very profitable for both sides but still, Myanmar people do not trust China. We buy Chinese medicines but we, professionals, and even the people, they know that these are not good medicines. We buy agricultural machinery from China because it’s cheap, but it’s low quality. Indian is better quality but slightly more expensive; Japanese are the best, and they are the most expensive, we cannot afford them,” Secretary-General of the Mandalay Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry Maung Maung said.

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