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Parag Bisht asked: What are the Chinese and US interests in Myanmar, and what are its implications for India?

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  • Udai Bhanu Singh replies: Both China and the US are conscious of their economic and strategic stakes in Myanmar. However, it was China that seized the opportunity (especially after 1988) to exercise influence in Myanmar at a time when the US ostracised the military regime for neglecting human rights and democracy. The US followed a two-pronged approach of sanctions and non-engagement till the visit in November 2011 of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. China utilised the economic and strategic opportunity in Myanmar:

    • To develop its backward Yunnan province by exploiting Myanmar’s natural resources, sending its surplus population across the border and advancing its business interests.
    • To access energy from off-shore Arakan region laying a dual pipeline starting from Kyaukphyu.
    • To provide access to landlocked parts of its territory to the Indian Ocean through Myanmar by means of road, rail and river connectivity.

    The US belatedly realised for following reasons that it too had interests in Myanmar:

    • The rise of China and its growing influence in Myanmar accompanied by increased assertiveness in the South China Sea and multilateral bodies.
    • Negative impact on the US business interests.

    For India, Myanmar is important due to following reasons:

    • A key component of its neighbourhood and Look East Policy.
    • Critical to the comprehensive development of its North-eastern region, and for curbing insurgency.
    • As a source of energy.
    • Growing Chinese influence and its implications for the Indian Ocean and other non-traditional security issues.