Event ReportsPublished on Feb 27, 2014
A three-day conference on India-Myanmar relations generated a lively dialogue over questions surrounding the possible challenges and opportunities that India would face while redesigning her Myanmar relations and the Look East policies.
A lot of scope to improve ties between India and Myanmar
With an increasing number of high-level political visits between India and Myanmar and also free trade gradually becoming the cornerstone of Myanmar’s foreign policy, there is a lot of scope for enhanced relations between India and Myanmar, according to Mr. Kyaw Swe Tint, Consul General, Myanmar, Kolkata.

Mr Kyaw Swe Tint was speaking at the inaugural session of the three-day international conference on ’Future of India Myanmar Engagement: Existing Impediments, Untapped Opportunities’ organised by the Jadavpur Association of International Relations (JAIR) in collaboration with Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata Chapter and the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies from February 27 to March 1, 2014.

Several eminent persons participated in the conference and presented their views on the challenges and opportunities that prevail presently in relations between India and Myanmar. Subir Bhaumik, reputed journalist and senior editor of BDNEWS24 in Dhaka, spoke about the complexities posed by Indian insurgent groups who have historically taken shelter in the Sagaing, Chin and Kachin areas of Myanmar which border three of the northeastern states of India. The issues of illicit trade and increase in the use of drugs add to the challenges.

The third and final day of the conference was held at ORF Kolkata campus. The day included three technical sessions and the focus was on understanding the areas which could be explored in strengthening ties between the two countries. In the first technical session, Dr Swapna Bhattacharya, Professor, Dept. of South and Southeast Asian Studies, Calcutta University stressed the need for developing interest in studies about Myanmar among students and scholars in India and of studies about India among those concerned in Myanmar. She emphasised the fact that the people of the two countries need to be interested about and conversant with each others’ language to better understand the dimensions of enhancing bilateral relations.

Dr. K. Yhome, Fellow, ORF Delhi, in his presentation, said that geopolitical or historical construct do not limit the potential of India-Myanmar relations. The potential for ties between the two are however determined by certain realities. One such reality is the asymmetrical nature of relations between the two, which shapes perceptions of the challenges and opportunities that exist. The absence of any major issues in the relations between India and Myanmar has resulted in the exclusion of Myanmar from India’s perception. As Myanmar opens up to the international community, there is scope for the two countries, which share a common culture, to engage with each other. What is important to understand is that the way forward for India-Myanmar relations can be directed by looking at the shared historical ties between the two.

Dr. Indrashis Banerjee of R.K.M.Vidyamandira explored the potential of local governing bodies in integrating the two countries. Dr.Debarati Ghosh of Gobardanga Hindu College looked into the problems of the Indo-Myanmar border region which harbour several socio-economic, political and cultural criticalities and has given rise to criminal activities concerning the issue of migration of men and women from both sides for some decades and Yogesh Borse, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Moolji Jaitha College, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, talked about non-traditional security threats in Myanmar and its impact on relationship with India.

Prof. Surajit Mukhopadhayay, Registrar, National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata who was the discussant for the session observed that the impediments that confronted the two countries could be translated into opportunities and thus give a boost to both bilateral and regional equations.

The post-lunch sessions also witnessed informative presentations by Dr. Tridib Chakrabarti, Professor, Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University, Sr. Omkar Rout, Department of Political Science, Utkal University, Dr. Debamitra Mitra, Principal, ILEAD and Aninda Mitra, Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University. Prof. Chakrabarti opined that the present government in Myanmar was in a dilemma due to the increasing presence of regional actors such as ASEAN, China, internal ethnic groups and others in the country.

The final session saw young scholars at the post-graduate level presenting papers. The presenters included Shalini Das, Anindita Malas, Ratul Chowdhury, Shounak Sett and Abhismita Sen who were from the Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. The students highlighted several key aspects such as the role of extra-regional powers in the region, the demands on India to develop Myanmar as an ally, countering an increasing Chinese influence and so on.

Over the three days, the conference generated a lively dialogue over questions surrounding the possible challenges and opportunities that India would face while redesigning her policies, the extent to which India would be able to retain her autonomy in the making of her foreign policy vis-à-vis Myanmar and the manner in which the redesigning of India Myanmar relations in the present circumstances would qualitatively affect India’s Look East Policy.

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