The Coronavirus pandemic is one of the biggest challenges in front of the entire humanity in the contemporary global scenario. The implications of the Coronavirus pandemic is multifaceted and multidimensional in which both healthcare as well as the global economy have been badly impacted due to the restrictions on travelling, public gathering, social distancing and the quarantine policies as implemented by the Heads of state. This has had a serious impact on the human psyche which has direct implications on the economy. Under such situation, the most interesting aspect is the diplomatic and strategic relationship among countries. In this context of relationship between countries, it is important to analyse and assess the India-Myanmar relationship in the times of of COVID-19.
India-Myanmar relationship and Healthcare amid COVID-19
The COVID-19 has been one of the testing times in the human history and in this situation; the convergences and divergences have been observed between India and her neighbours. The bilateral relation between India-Myanmar has got accelerated amid COVID-19. As a neighbouring country of Myanmar, India since the initial days of the pandemic committed to help and support through several possible avenues. In May 2020, India provided about 200,000 hydroxychloroquine tablets to Myanmar as well as other necessary medical equipment in order to combat the pandemic. Indian Ambassador to Myanmar, Mr. Saurabh Kumar, handed over the equipment and the tablets to Ministry of Health and Sports (India-Myanmar Healthcare partnership, 2020). In October 2020, India showed the commitment to help Myanmar in the production of COVID-19 vaccines (Chaudhury, 2020). this gesture not only boosted the relationship between the two countries but also sent a message to stand in solidarity in the moment of crisis. In this course of time India on January 2021 sent 1.5 million of Covishield vaccines to Myanmar (Pasricha, 2021).
India-Myanmar Diplomatic relationship amid COVID-19
In October 2020, Foreign Secretary of India Harsh Vardhan Shringla and General M.M. Naravane visited Myanmar and met with the State Counsellor Aung Sann Suu Kyi and Commander-in-Chief General Min Aung Mliang (Rej, 2020). The contestation of being the unspoken super power in the Asian context, China is engaging with India militarily in the borders in the Line of Actual Control (LAC). China is also involved in making strategic inroads in Myanmar by building the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor connecting the Yunnan province of China to Kyaukphyu port near Indian Ocean (Myers, 2020). The other concerning factor is the stationing of the rebel groups in Myanmar where India in 2015 conducted surgical strike on the camps of the rebel groups. The Naga extremist groups operating from the soil of Myanmar has been one of the major obstacles in the India-Myanmar bilateral relations. Lastly, the issue of Rohingya which has been the concerning factor for both India and Bangladesh where both the countries have urged for the repatriation of the Rohingya population back to Myanmar (Rej, 2020).
The strategic partnership between India and Myanmar has been strengthening. India’s Act East policy has played a decisive role in this regard. In terms of strengthening trade relationship, the boarder trade agreements in viewing the Moreh-Tamu and Zowkhatan-Rhi agreements has helped in this front (Sarkar, 2020). In terms of strategic partnership several programmes such as the Kaladan Multimodal Project connecting Kolkata (in India) to Rakhine state (in Myanmar) as well as the BCIM Economic Corridor (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Economic Cooperation) connecting the countries bordering to the Bay of Bengal (Goswami, n.d.) are being implemented.
The Current Situation
After the General Election in Myanmar which held in 2020 where NLD (National League for Democracy) won 346 seats and defeating its competitor USDP (Union Solidarity and Development Party) remarked that the election was not conducted on a free and fair basis and demanded re-election. On 1st February 2021, a coup d’état was conducted on the civilian government by the Myanmar military or Tatmadaw and detained State Counsellor Aung Sann Suu Kyi and President Win Myint (2021 coup d’état in Myanmar, 2021). The Indian government is closely monitoring the situation developing in Myanmar (Bhattacherjee, 2021).
The analysis points the bilateral relations between India and Myanmar amid Covid-19. India has been proactively supporting Myanmar with all necessary healthcare equipment in order to combat the pandemic. On the other hand, strategic partnership is developing between the two countries, even as Chinese hegemony in on a rise in the region. The recent developments with regards to the 2020 General Election in Myanmar and the consequences caused by the Tatmadaw are being closely monitored.
*** Neil Banerjee is an intern with KIIPS ***
- 2021 coup d’état in Myanmar, 2021. Myanmar military says taking control of country; Suu Kyi, leaders detained. [online] Business-standard.com. Available at: <https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/military-stages-coup-in-myanmar-aung-san-suu-kyi-detained-reports-121020100081_1.html> [Accessed 3 February 2021].
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- India-Myanmar Healthcare partnership, 2020. Covid-19: India Gives 200,000 Hydroxychloroquine Tablets, Other Medical Supplies to Myanmar. [online] News18. Available at: <https://www.news18.com/news/world/covid-19-india-gives-200000-hydroxychloroquine-tablets-other-medical-supplies-to-myanmar-2606765.html> [Accessed 3 February 2021].
- Myers, L., 2020. The China-Myanmar Economic Corridor and China’s Determination to See It Through. [online] Wilson Center. Available at: <https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/china-myanmar-economic-corridor-and-chinas-determination-see-it-through> [Accessed 3 February 2021].
- Pasricha, A., 2021. India Launches ‘Neighborly Vaccine Diplomacy’. [online] Voice of America. Available at: <https://www.voanews.com/covid-19-pandemic/india-launches-neighborly-vaccine-diplomacy> [Accessed 3 February 2021].
- Rej, A., 2020. Indian Delegation Visits Myanmar Amid Growing Outreach. [online] Thediplomat.com. Available at: <https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/indian-delegation-visits-myanmar-amid-growing-outreach/> [Accessed 3 February 2021].
- Sarkar, M., 2020. Up-Down Relationship between Indo-Myanmar. Internal Research Journal of Modernization in Engineering-Technology and Science, 2, pp.525-530.
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