Scholars, Experts Consider India’s Role in Post-Election Burma
20 November 2010: A prominent group of scholars and experts held a round table discussion this week in the Indian capital of New Delhi following the November 7 general elections in military-ruled Burma to discuss India’s role in its immediate troubled neighbor to the east.
Organized jointly by the Jamia Millia Islamia University and the Euro-Burma Office (EBO), the conference featured panel presentations by prominent Indian scholars, regional experts, diplomats, as well as, a leading Burmese activist.
Dr. Maire Lal, Asia expert and Associate Fellow at Chatham House said that the election in Burma ealier this month was only to legitimize continued military rule. She said that the elections failed to provide for a political settlement with the ethnic nationalities and the democratic opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi, noting that India and the larger international community have important roles to play in [post-election] Burma.
Mr. G. Parthasarathy, former Indian ambassador to Burma from 1992-1995, acknowledged a dramatic shift in India’s policy towards Burma since 1992, saying that it was influenced largely by China’s growing influence in its military-ruled neigbor and instability in India’s northeastern borders with Burma.
India, which is considered to be the largest democracy in the world, has long been accused of maintaining an uncritical stance on the Burmese junta and abandoning ethical principle for short-term interests.
India yesterday voted against a proposed United Nations General Assembly’s resolution that condemns Burma’s recent elections as “Not free and fair.”
US President Barack Obama, in his recent address to the joint session of Indian Parliament, reminded that India needed to have a greater share of responsibility in terms of speaking out and standing on the side of the oppressed. Decrying India’s stance towards Burma, Obama accused India of not living up to its democratic credentials by not standing up with the democratic aspirations of the people of Burma.
Referring to the gross violations of human rights in Burma Obama said, “It is the responsibility of the international community-especially leaders like the United States and India-to condemn it. If I can be frank, in international fora, India has often avoided these issues. But speaking up for those who cannot do so for themselves is not interfering in the affairs of other countries.”
Conference penalist Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong, Chairman of the Chin National Council (CNC) and Vice Chair of the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC), argued that it is in India’s long-term interest to see a democratic Burma. He said that Burma can only have genuine peace and stability when it recognized the rights of its diverse ethnic groups. “A multi-ethnic plural society like Burma requires a federal political arrangement, so democracy [a system of majoritarian rule] is not enough,” sakhong said.
The conference penal on Thursday included five distinguished personalities: Chin activist Dr. Lian. H Sakhong (CNC,ENC), Dr. Marie Lal (Associate Fellow, Asia Expert, Catham House), G. Parthasarathy ( Ex Indian Ambassador for Burma and Professor in the Centre for Policy Research and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Prof. Veena Sikri ( former High Commissioner to Bangladesh), and Prof . Manmohini Kaul , Southeast Asian studies.
The Conference was held at the India International Center (ICC) in New Delhi on November 18, 2010.
Reporting by Palto Van Rung Mang