Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Helping Myanmar achieve stability can provide common ground for China, India

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/6 23:23:39


Rising violence in Myanmar's western Rakhine state is a sensitive issue, and discussion of it cannot be evaded by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his ongoing visit to Myanmar, but it seems India does not have much power to help stabilize the situation in Rakhine.

Hundreds of people have died in violence in Rakhine in recent weeks, resulting in a tide of refugees fleeing the unrest. The economic impact of the increasing violence has hit the development of some international cooperation projects, including a transport corridor that begins in Rakhine and links up with the Indian-built port of Sittwe. 

India, which has a certain influence upon Myanmar, may have a strong interest in helping tackle the issue of Rakhine, but New Delhi still has very limited ability to mediate conflicts beyond its borders to maintain regional stability.

China may face the same problem. Growing violence in Rakhine has increasingly become a source of concern for Chinese businesses, which have gradually increased their investment in the region. China and India share an interest in easing the situation in Rakhine, so cooperation is the best choice for both countries. India's contribution to regional stability should not be seen as rival to China's growing presence in Myanmar. Geopolitical gamesmanship will only increase the complexity of the issues in Rakhine.

It is likely that India will continue to step up investment in Rakhine and the rest of Myanmar, which occupies a key strategic position connecting India itself, China and Southeast Asian countries. Beijing would also like to see Chinese companies increase their economic presence in Myanmar, which is a key point along China's Belt and Road (B&R) initiative. Efforts from China and India to improve the infrastructure facilities in Myanmar will be mutually reinforcing.

New Delhi has sought to distance itself from the B&R initiative, but it seems India cannot "shake off" the initiative entirely as it has decided to make huge investments in Myanmar's railways, roads and ports, which are also investment targets of projects under the B&R initiative. 

Myanmar could serve as a testing ground for interaction and cooperation between Indian investment and China's B&R initiative. Efforts by China and India to ease tension over issues regarding Rakhine deserve attention. It is to be hoped that the two countries can find a reasonable and feasible approach for cooperation under the B&R, and India will eventually see the positive aspects of the B&R initiative as it generally steps up its own investment in Myanmar.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

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