Myanmar: an emerging surrogate

Myanmar an emerging surrogateHistoric identity of Myanmar is military ruled underdeveloped and backward country of South and South East Asia. But there are some other facts are lying in history, like it is one of ancient breathing space of Buddha followers, it has so much enrich culture and civilization. Since it occupied by Japanese in 2nd world war the dynamic of Myanmar’s politics and society started to change. With the support of nationalistic military general Ne Win father of Myanmar Aung San established Myanmar as an independent and democratic country. But in the prior of independence Myanmar lost only hope of Myanmar (former Burma) democracy. Since that shock wave Myanmar are falling under the grip of military junta. From 1948 to till date Myanmar ruled by military lead executive and bureaucratic bodies. Military of Myanmar followed escalation and penetration model to govern central and provisional executive system and civil administration. Absence of democratic culture the country with many hope and prospect is being isolated from international community. ASEAN is the only forum where the Myanmar get the taste of internationalism into some extend. Political structure and system have not major fundamental changes but due to transition of international politics Myanmar received much more attention from international society. When reelected president of  United States, Barak Obama chose Myanmar as his second destination for state visit in post election it considered not only as a major shift in US policy regarding Myanmar but the transition of Myanmar’s status quo in regional and international political surface. Mr. Obama’s trip follows visits to the region in recent days by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. The whole scenario indicates the certain transition of US policy framing regarding Asia. Due to the rise of China, Myanmar, with its significant strategic location, became an important piece in the puzzle in US plans to return to the Asia-Pacific region.US attention and policy shift towards Myanmar attracted policy makers of South-East Asian countries and ultimately old friend of Myanmar-Republic of China. The visit of Obama is a shock to China who considers Myanmar strategically important because of its access to the geo-strategically important Indian Ocean and Myanmar’s natural resources. The US is eager to resume relations with Myanmar, a country which it viewed as an “enemy” for more than 20 years. In simple equation international politics experts and analysts describe this visit as an attempt from US side to make meaningful economic relations so it can access the proximately estimated natural resources of Myanmar (i.e. coal, hydrocarbon & oil in Bay of Bengal) and geo strategic importance of patrolling the international trade and transit route from strait of Malacca- strait of Singapore- Korean peninsula. When Myanmar was enduring its most difficult period, China became its most important partner. Thanks to China’s assistance, Myanmar gradually developed its infrastructure, and slowly but progressively developed its economy and it also came out of the political wilderness. China is observing the transition of US-Myanmar relations very closely. China may not be occurred situation but it is in alert. With the political and economic rise of China, the US initiated its “return to the Asia-Pacific region” strategy in a bid to reconsolidate its global hegemony. Myanmar was once more on the US political agenda. International economy observers are forecasting that US might lose to China its status of advanced and leading economy.  European Union the ally of US is in deep trouble due to euro zone crisis and economic recession. If China succeeded to make economically and strategic ally with ASEAN countries then it can at least able to overthrown US from its position of unilateral leadership in international economy.

Developing Myanmar-United States relations does not mean that Myanmar will completely relinquish its relationship with China. History reminds that the US stresses the importance of its relationship with Myanmar when the situation in China is unstable. But when China is in a period of stable development and Myanmar is experiencing turmoil, the US becomes estranged from Myanmar. But this time story seems different. Myanmar is a strategic pawn or an economic pivot is predicated on Myanmar’s geo-strategic position, since it shares common borders with its two giant neighbors, China and India. Myanmar is geographically located at the southwest of China and is strategically important as a ‘landridge’ for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the long term to reach the Indian Ocean via the Myanmar-controlled Coco Islands, which are about 30 km north of the Indian-controlled Andaman Islands. Along with natural resources is main attraction. India completely reversed its strong anti regime policy toward Myanmar starting in 1993, almost entirely because of China. India’s relationship with Myanmar is the result of a reactive response to safeguard a potential threat to its territorial integrity and internal stability in the vulnerable northeastern parts of the country. India’s territorial integrity in the northeast; the internal security, stability, and economic development of India’s northeastern states; India’s strategic interests in the Bay of Bengal and the eastern Indian Ocean, including the security of the strategically vital Andaman and Nicobar Islands; India’s energy requirements; and India’s “Look East” policy, which considers Myanmar the geographic bridge between India and the ASEAN countries. The shift of Indian policy towards can be incorporate to the US initiative to make special relationship with India since 2004 due to economic interest and India fact in South Asian regional strategic politics. If United States able to make cordon of strategic relationship: India- Myanmar-Singapore-South Korea- Japan then it can fully deter China from invading Taiwan and islands of South China Sea, resist North Korean threat to Japan and South Korea, constructing  security framework for South China Sea to East Sea.  China and US both are considering Myanmar as a neo protégé state or surrogate who not only petrol on behalf of but an important outsourcing   for natural resources. In contrast question raised Myanmar will choose whom? China is experimented friend and US can be conveners of political recognition of Myanmar’s government. Or apart from that it consolidates its relations with neighbors and ASEAN on the ground of economic interests. But most importantly Myanmar now has the option of making choice.

Writer is member of Foreign Affairs Insights & Reviews (FAIR).

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