Dialogue October-December, 2009 , Volume 11 No. 2
Experiencing the Depth of Bond between India and Myanmar
Swapna Bhattacharya (Chakraborti)*
Introduction: Divided into three sections, the present contribution addresses a large number of political, social and economic issues in the field of India-Myanmar relations. The first section takes up a wide range of subjects, starting from the early civilization of Myanmar and up to the period of General Ne Win, focusing on his relations with India. Political developments in the post-1988 period, occasionally placed in international perspective, finds description in the second section. The second section is also concerned with more recent developments in India-Myanmar relations, especially placed in the regional context. I see in present India’s active engagement with Myanmar, in various sectors, a very positive sign of a more meaningful policy than our country had followed earlier. Even then, there is a string of continuity, which runs through all the sections. The third section, a very short one, is entitled “Going beyond Look-East.” Whoever defends the Indian policy towards Myanmar justifies it within the context of “Look East” Policy. In this section, my aim is not to reject the “Look East Policy”, but to “go beyond” it. With my humble background of knowledge in Sanskrit, Buddhism, Indian culture and history, it becomes difficult for me to argue that India’s Northeast was an isolated region. The concept of “excluded area”, “Tribal Area”, “Hill Area”, and such others were developed by the colonial rulers in order to create a permanent barrier in the eastern frontier between the mighty Myanmar Empire (the Alaungpaya dynasty) and the mainland India. Manipur was a strong centre through which the vaishanvas of Bengal went to Mandalay and various parts of Upper Myanmar where, even today, the descendants of Hindu priests and astrologers roam around, practice their profession and are no strangers there. The policy of “Exclusion” was practiced in these regions, transforming suddenly the core regions of culture into “Frontier Region”. The commercial calculation was that the opening of a route to connect China with north eastern India would neutralize the strong Hindu-Buddhist heritage of the entire region that stretches from Bengal-Bihar, Assam via Manipur up to upper Burma’s Mandalay. In this section, a small note on the Buddhist Khamti Shans of present Arunachal Pradesh as cultural kin of Myanmar may help enthusiasts to understand the cultural world which I wish to tread on, while fully appreciating the economic, strategic and political aspects of the “Look East Policy” of India.
Experiences of my Interaction with Myanmar History and Myanmar People
Myanmar (former Burma) is a country which makes headlines in Indian newspapers due to its political instability, uncertainty or constructive transformation, democratization — depends how one likes to focus on the situation in Myanmar. But the overall interest of Indian journalists and media in Myanmar is remarkable. In fact, it has grown since 1988, the year which saw unprecedented upheaval against the rule of General Ne Win. Deplorably, serious academic engagement with Myanmar’s history and culture is less popular in India and, hence, least pursued branch of learning. This is in sharp contrast to the western scholars, who engage themselves in this field. Although Myanmar’s high culture and its age old close links with the Indian civilization is known to the Indian scholars, yet academic pursuit is few and far between. There is no dearth of subjects (for example, Myanmar’s art and architecture, its music and dances, its rich handicraft, its Buddhist traditions and Pali scholarship, etc.) that can be used as an ideal tool for strengthening future relationship between India and Myanmar. This is possible, however, if scholars of both the countries can interact with each other in a free environment.
Though quite often Myanmar is seen either from Chinese or Indian perspectives, yet, neither China nor India has shaped Myanmar. In fact, the people, in general, of Myanmar don’t like to be under the shadow of any of these two big neighbours. Myanmar people, quite legitimately, want to be treated as they are, especially, based on their individuality. Myanmar is unique in the sense that it has the rich heritage of its own civilisation, which is their national asset and bears evidence of an unprecedented power of balance and assimilation throughout its history. The country absorbed every influence from outside; it withstood every challenge, whether overland or overseas. To the Mons, also called the Talaings, the Myanmar people owe their religion: Buddhism. Coastal Burma, Pegu, and Martaban regions were involved in the maritime trade activities between the Coromandel (coast) of India and the Mediterranean world. Thaton, the flourishing port in ancient Lower Myanmar 1 was dominated by the Mons. The region between Sittang and Salween rivers was known as the Mon kingdom of Ramannadesa. Thaton (Sudhamma) was also known as the Suvaranabhumi or the Golden Land.
From the North, precisely from China and Tibet, came the major part of the late comers, who are known as the Bamars or the Burmans. One can even go to the extent of arguing that Myanmar brought India and China together on her fertile soil. Besides the majority of Bamars (Burmans), there are Shans, Mons, Kachins, Karens, Kayahs, Rakhines, Chins and other small groups, either concentrated in their respective regions (States) , or scattered across the country. The British divided the country into Upper and Lower Burma. At the same time, they divided the entire country into two administrative categories: Burma Proper and the Frontier Region. Interaction with India during the colonial period was largely limited to Burma proper, while the Frontier regions (Shan States, Kachin Hills, Karen State, Chin Hills, Arakan Hills, etc.) had very small number of Indian population. The Indians living in Myanmar were thus found only in the Irrawady Delta region, in and around Yangon, and in few urban centres like Mandalay in the North, and Sittwe (the former Akyab in Arakan) in the western fringe.
Even today2, the Indians are represented in the above mentioned urban centres and, perhaps, in tiny number in other small settlements. So far as the descendants of mixed marriages are concerned, it is very difficult to trace their ancestry with an Indian. Thus, the Indian population in Myanmar are seen as “mixed up” with the Myanmar people. But, those who have maintained their racial identity are naturally seen as “foreigners”. Yet, cases differ— depending on how an individual stands in the society.
On the aspect of historical-cultural kinship, the Rakhine (Arakanese) people and the Mons (called Talaing people) stand closest to India. All in all, there are about 100 “national races” in Myanmar. Notably, the Myanmar Government prefers the term “National Races” for them to the term “Ethnic Minorities” as used by the western scholars. However, many of the races have their own language and script, though every one speaks the standard Myanmar language, which itself has a very rich vocabulary. Moreover, the 2008 Constitution3 has given Myanmar language the status of the only official language.
position, between China and India on the one hand, and between Island Southeast
Asia and Arab and Persian World, on the other, has shaped her destiny and
influenced her external relation to a considerable extent. As the recent work of
Thant Myint U4 has
in her history had always been home of various stock of people, coming as they
were, from various directions. Myanmar never closed her door to foreigner
powers, but, vigorously resisted any force that challenged it. For example, when
the British started their aggressive “Forward Policy” to annex the whole
country, Myanmar king Mindon Min (1852-1878) tried to ally with non-British
European powers (for example, France, Italy and Germany). However, Upper Burma
ultimately fell prey and was annexed and later attached to the British-Indian
Empire during 1885-1886. The last king Thibaw was deported to Ratnagiri in 1886.
In no other country of Southeast Asia, past lives on as vividly as it is in Myanmar. The reason is found in the fact that no radical left movement (like the one in communist China) uprooted the tradition, especially the religious tradition. What happened in the name of “Burmese Way to Socialism” under General Ne Win was strengthening or centralisation of state power and weakening or at least neutralisation of Buddhist Sangha. However, I must mention that the monks of Myanmar, in general, are not eager to enjoy political power, but certainly, they want to be revered or taken note of, by the policy makers.
On the other hand, since early 1990s a new chapter has been inaugurated in the history of Myanmar, as if almost a new country with a new vision has emerged on the map of Asia! The Constitution drafting exercise (National Convention) took several years; it was adjourned between the years 1996-2004, got again in action and in 2007 the National Convention 5 was concluded. The importance of this Convention lies in the fact that for the first time since 1962, a large number of ethnic insurgent groups surrendered their arms and sat across the negotiation table with the objective of arriving at an arrangement as to how best the power could be shared between the Centre and the States. Some of them took part in the Election of 1990, but others did not. Even then, a few groups have denied Ceasefire Agreement6. Constitutional experts, army personnel, high officials, and, also, representative from civil society took part in the Convention.
The formal name of the Myanmar State (Nation) as given in the 2008 Constitution is Pyihtaungsu Thamada Myanmar Naingngandaw. In English it would be called: “The Republic of the Union of Myanmar.” The word “socialist” has been dropped 7. It should also be a “discipline flourishing, genuine, multi-party democracy” and instead of federal structure, the State will have a “union system”. The earlier arrangement of dividing the power between the central Government, on one hand, and seven states and seven Divisions, on the other hand, remains8. Instead of Yangon, Naypyitaw, located in the heart of the country, has been made the nation’s capital. Through a country-wide referendum held in 2007, the Constitution, was been passed. Therefore, as it stands now, major commitments of the 2003 announcement, “Seven-Point Road Map” 9, have been fulfilled. The Seven Point starts from the reconvening of the adjourned National Convention and ends with the promise of building a modern developed and democratic nation by the state leaders elected by Hluttaw and by the other central bodies. But, the problem remains that a large number of exile Myanmar nationals and dissident groups, even those living in India, Bangladesh Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Japan, U.S.A, U.K and other European countries do not accept the present government’s Road Map. They would like to have a more federal structure, and also do not like the role of Army in the future constitutional arrangement. As it stands now, 25 percent of the seats in the future Hlutdaw (People’s Assembly) will have to be reserved for the Army. While government-to government relation with many Asian countries appear to be quite normal, a number of civil societies in the same Asian countries (including India) oppose the present government of Myanmar. Noble Laureute Daw Aung San Suu Kyi10, the receiver of Jawaharlal Nehru Peace Prize, and the leader of National league for Democracy (NLD), has a large number of followers around the world, including in India. In the election of 1990 NLD emerged with a landslide victory. Unfortunately situation has made it that she sits with an uncertain political future. Even U.N envoys in the past failed to successfully mediate between the NLD and the government. She was invited to join the Convention, but, withdrew herself.
In early 1990s, India entered in to a new era of relationship with
ASEAN11 following the end of cold war. This new partnership with
ASEAN naturally opened various
economic opportunities for India, as well as for ASEAN countries. Besides China,
ASEAN countries remain the most active economic partner for Myanmar. In spite of
acute pressure from the United States and European Union, ASEAN refused to
disassociate herself from
Myanmar. On the contrary,
ASEAN leaders, defending their policy of non-interference and constructive
engagement argue that
Myanmar would find out her
own political solution. Thus, there appeared to be no problem when Myanmar got
her full Membership of ASEAN in 1997. The only political pressure from the
United States to which ASEAN succumbed to, was when a few years ago
was not allowed to act as host of the ASEAN Meet.
It is often argued that India has shifted from her earlier position of “promoting” Democracy and supporting NLD, on pragmatic consideration. Two more arguments are often brought forth: first: India is supporting the present SPDC government as India will otherwise get more trouble in the Northeast region. Second, the compulsion on India’s part to have a fair share in getting (bargaining, buying etc.) gas from Myanmar.
Those12 who place strategic and economic compulsions being the most vital factor in India’s Myanmar policy, do not properly appreciate the treasure in India-Myanmar relation beyond these. How can that be used. I would like to maintain that in many aspects the British colonial rule brought the two countries even closer. In my recently published book India-Myanmar Relations 1886-1948 13 I have described in detail various phases of close collaboration between the Indian nationalist leaders and their Myanmar counterparts.
Changes in international political order and economic system in recent years have left their impact on Myanmar. On the one hand, the business lobbies, precisely, multi-national concerns, are eager to explore the economic opportunities that Myanmar, a rich country in terms of natural resources, offers to them. On the other hand, at home, their respective governments support sanctions, and criticize the present government for keeping Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest denying democracy. The American sanction has led the foreign trade into a major crisis. Most severely hit is the textile industry.14 Export of textile to U.S in 2003 was worth around US $ 400. As a result, the country is increasingly depending on border trade with neighbouring countries. India, with which Myanmar shares about 1600 KM long border — is one among them. In winter 2006, when a Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS) delegation15 met the members of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) in Yangon, the difficulties faced by Myanmar due to the sanctions was discussed. We discussed prospects for a more fruitful border trade with India along shared international boundary. Again such opportunity to discuss border trade came when I visited Myanmar in October 2008. We felt that the infrastructure and road, in particular, should be in a better condition on both sides. And over and above, peace should prevail. If human life is not secure, how can one do business? On an earlier occasion, I had an opportunity 16 to interact with some eminent trade and business houses, largely from India’s Northeast, Myanmar Consulate in Kolkata and Indo-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and industry, Mumbai, last but not least, ICC (Indian Chamber of Commerce). I noticed keen interest among all the concerned partners to collaborate with each other.
Myanmar today is not the same as earlier viz. 1962 to 1988. Many restrictions to visit places and institutions have been done away with. Myanmar welcomes Indians from all sections of society to visit their country. Still, it is quite strange that barring a few exceptions, archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and other academics from Indian universities hardly visit Myanmar. I cannot resist my temptation to share my experiences of visiting Pagan, Mandalay (1995), Pegu (2005) and last year the Pyu archaeological sites. The Pyu area is famous for its old civilization, called Sriksetra. The Pyus were Sino-Tibetan (Sanskrit Kiratas) people with a deep influence of Indian culture. They worshipped all the Hindu Gods and Goddesses and at every stage of their civilization they were in contact with centers of Indian civilization—from Gupta period up to the Palas. Indian history, which I would like to describe under the concept of “shared history”, is visible in all the corners of Myanmar.
During my trips I met besides
others, two sets of people. First include learned scholars and devout Buddhists
attached to important Museums, Government Institutions, and Pagoda Trustees and
scholars who were in India
and got their professional training in our country. The other set of people that
I met were common people who were running road side shops, restaurants or such
There is a ray of hope that now scholars from Buddhist and Pali Studies Departments of various Universities from our country are re-discovering the importance of Myanmar in the world of Theravada Buddhism. Thus, they undertake academic trips to Myanmar. This is a healthy and happy development. Unlike Sri Lanka, where Buddhism occasionally appears to be too exclusive, at times almost contra Hinduism, in Myanmar is a very genuine amity between the Hindus and the Buddhists. Indeed, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians —all live peacefully. Resident Indians visit Myanmar pagodas to worship Buddha, whom they also call Phaya. In many Pagodas and shrines one can find images of Hindu gods and goddesses. Remarkable is also the Myanmar people’s regard for Mahatma Gandhi and his ideals. Besides Rabindra Nath Tagore, scholars also relate with Prof. Nihar Ranjan Ray and W.S. Desai.
Myanmar study has been experiencing a noteworthy resurgence since early 1990s with openings which allow scholars from various countries to undertake field research trips to Myanmar. It has opened her door for investment from neighbouring Asian countries, and also from Korea. Indian investment is welcome in various important sectors, including service sectors. India’s policy of constructive and quiet engagement with Myanmar is showing result. During the Nargis disaster in May 2008, India stood firmly with the people of Myanmar. India’s increasing efforts to reach the fruit of its own development in science and technology to the people of Myanmar is being highly appreciated by the general public
With neighbouring Thailand, Myanmar has a very close economic relationship. Thailand’s harbouring of Myanmar refugees, a large number of whom are dissidents; do not come in the way of peaceful economic relationship. Singapore, with its strong economy also gives a lot of economic cushion which helps Myanmar to at least partly recover from the effect of western sanction. Thailand and Singapore have almost become second home for certain elites of the Myanmar society. On the other hand, people from high and middle income groups come to India (Kolkata nursing home) for medical treatment. The Indian Airlines direct flight, started in the year 1996, brings a large number of pilgrims from Myanmar to visit Buddhist centres.
certainly better placed in Myanmar so far big business is concerned. Border
trade with China
has been so successful that the people living along the border are dominated by
the Chinese enterprise. Certain European countries have already started a kind
of Track II diplomacy with Myanmar, in spite of the fact that official line of
economic sanction continues. Recently the USA is also inclimed to pen contacts.
Civil society movement across Myanmar is also brining non-governmental
organizations from various countries of the West closer to Myanmar people.
In its long history of thousands of years Myanmar has shown marks of good neighbourly relations, but not a sign of surrender to a single power. It started, as early as from 9th-10th centuries, with the rise of the Pagan Empire. Pagan Empire laid the foundation of the first Burman Empire 22. Yet, the great kings, starting from Anawrahta (Aniruddha) of the 11th century to Bodawpaya of the 18th century, accommodated all other races (for example, the Mons) within their Empire, Keeping good neighbourly relations, and, at the same time, upholding of a strong national identity. After a long struggle against British imperialism and colonialism, when the country won its independence in 1948, one of the messages heard from Myanmar was of neutrality, peace, good neighbourly relation, socialism and anti-imperialism. Myanmar, or, what then was called Burma, was during 1950s and early 1960s a vibrant republic with a lot of international contacts. U Thant became General Secretary U.N. India stood firmly by its side whenever Myanmar faced formidable security challenges from outside and inside. Without India’s help it would have been extremely difficult for Myanmar (Burma) to solve such problems. For example, the challenge from the Karen rebels in late 1940s and early 1950s. The former Prime Minister of Myanmar U Nu, said as “India managed to send several shipments of arms without which Burma might never have recovered”23. (Sudhir Devare’s book India & Southeast Asia) During 1960s and 1970s, Myanmar maintained a “friendly distance” from India, but their relations never experienced major setback, or break down. Regrettably, at certain point of time relation between the countries might have been influenced by a third party, for example, China. General Ne Win, one of the Thirty Comrades (besides General Aung San), who fought the War against the British, after being trained by Japan, is prominent figure in the history of the national struggle in Asia. Ne Win’s rise to power (1962), inaugurated a new chapter in India-Myanmar and also Myanmar-China relations. Ne Win ruled the country with a stick in one hand and carrot in the other. He legitimized the indispensability of his power and the role of the Army in the State. Nationalization as such is not a modern political agenda in Myanmar. It started in 1940s, and became extremely popular among socialists and communists of British Burma. But, nationalization program as was followed by General Ne Win severely affected a large number of Indians in respect of their businesses or services, landed and other properties. Interestingly, Indian leadership preferred to accept the reality. It is estimated that by 1964, 80,000 Indians had registered for repatriation. The number continued to add on and by 1967, over 200,000 people left Burma for India. It was at this point of time (Sept 1964) Swaran Singh, the Minister of External Affairs of India visited Yangon. The time period under reference was a very crucial phase in the political history of India, because the Chinese attacked India in 1962. In 1965 (February), Ne Win came to India on a state visit. Our former Prime Minister Shastri visited Yangon in December of the same year. In March 1968 Ne Win’s visit again to our country must have disappointed China.
Myanmar, a country of a deeply religious people, majority being Buddhists, actually rejected communism as a state ideology. Neither the Christians nor the Muslims25 of Myanmar accepted communism. In March 1969, Prime Minister Sm. Indira Gandhi went to Yangon, and within a short period Ne Win came again to Delhi. This mood of rapprochement between India and Myanmar prepared a fertile ground for the period when the Janata Party, came to power with Morarji Desai as the Prime Minister. The then External Affairs Minister and our former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Bajpai went to Yangon in 1978. His speeches 26 indicate that India maintained the spirit of Panchsheel (Five Principles of peaceful Co-Existence) in regard to its relation with Myanmar. Military ruler, General Ne Win took several steps to “democratise” his authority. The earlier constitution of 1947 was replaced by a new, 1974 Constitution27. This new one made Burma Socialist Program Party as the only party in the Parliament. The country emerged with the name “Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma”. This constitutional change however failed to impress insurgent groups active in various parts of Myanmar, along the border with China and Thailand in particular. War lords, drug barons, whose money was used to purchase arms, used to fight among themselves, as well against the Government forces. This became a great challenge to the state of Burma. Interesting appears to be also the relation between the Buddhist Sangha and the State under General Ne Win, both during the Revolutionary Council period as well as under BSPP period. Buddha Sasana Council was dissolved and the State defended that it was not anti-religion.28. The state in Myanmar needed a strong Tamadaw (Army), more for the internal reasons. Insurgency, small war within and nation building went hand in hand throughout the period. Amidst all these formidable challenges Myanmar’s engagement with India and other neighbours remained normal. Myanmar gave equal importance to her relations with various countries from the West (USA and her allies in Europe) and the East (Soviet Union and her allies in Eastern Europe). Myanmar had also Japan by her side as one of the largest donors. Socialist ideologies might have impressed a few, but various problems like black marketing and generation of illegal money could not be controlled.
It is interesting to note the role that Myanmar played during the Bangladesh War. Notwithstanding the fact that on the western Front (especially in northern Rakhine state) a large number of anti-muktiyuddha (anti-freedom) people took asylum29.Myanmar, quickly recognized Bangladesh, immediately after its independence. Indeed, China totally opposed the spirit of freedom movement of Bengali people. China saw in the muktiyuddha a design of Indo-Soviet Axis to cut one of the wings of her ally—Pakistan.
During the late 1970s and early 1990s, Bangladesh faced unprecedented problem along its south eastern border. A section of predominantly Muslim people from northern Rakhine State (north Arakan) 31, popularly known by the name “Rohingyas” took shelter in and around Cox’s bazaar area of Chittagong in Bangladesh in large numbers. It happened in 1978 and again in early 1990s. Exodus of such a large number of people is an unprecedented phenomenon in the recent history of South and Southeast Asia. The problem was partially solved through bilateral (Bangladesh and Myanmar) dialogue and actions, as well as with the help of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). Yet, the problem remains, since a large number of Rohingyas living in various countries (Japan, Southeast Asia, U.S, U.K, Bangladesh, Australia, Canada, etc.) do not accept the present constitution and ongoing or recently concluded political and constitutional arrangements. As I have argued elsewhere, this region’s problems cannot be seen separately, and has to be studied in the context of a long history, taking into consideration other areas, like Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh and, even partly India’s Mizoram and Tripura.
Inspite of this, as well as other problems in Arakan-Chittagong front, relations between Myanmar and Bangladesh never suffered from any major crisis. Today, Bangladesh, like India, looks to the “East” through Myanmar only. Myanmar is the only country of Southeast Asia with which Bangladesh shares a boundary. The river Naaf separates the Rakhine state from Cox’s bazaar. Bangladesh is engaged in building roads which will connect her southeast (Cox’s Bazaar) with western part ( Rakhine State/Arakan) of Myanmar and perhaps further to China. In this context, both the ports, Chittagong port of Bangladesh and the port of Sittwe ( Akyab) of the Rakhine State of Myanmar will emerge with immense importance. Mention may be made in this context that from the period of mid 19th century Sittwe emerged as one of the world’s most active rice exporting ports.
More on India-Myanmar Relations
A kind of socialist fraternity between Myanmar and India was visible during 1950s. To properly appreciate the background of such anti-imperialist spirit one has to understand the degree of devastation caused by World War Second. While the Soviet Union captured this anti-west sentiment, communist China was more concerned, with communism as state ideology, a goal that the Asian countries were not aspiring for. India’s eminent socialist leaders like Jai Prakash Narain, Rammonohar Lohia and Dr. B.R Ambedkar had a genuine love for Myanmar. Indian socialist leaders developed a genuine friendship with the Myanmar socialist (Burmese) leaders like U Ba Swe and U Kyaw Nyein and others. The first Asian Socialist Conference was held in Yangon (Rangoon) in 1953. The next one was held in 1954, in Mumbai (Bombay). Jawaharlal Nehru was also held in regard Aung San and U Nu. Dr. Ambedkar’s deep respect for Buddhism and Myanmar peoples’ Buddhist devotion brought him very close to Myanmar33. Myanmar hosted the Third Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in 1954, and in the year 1956, the Sixth Buddhist Council. It was during those years during 1950s that China occupied Tibet and thereby hurt the sentiments of the thousands of Buddhists across Asia.
Nevertheless, China’s rise as a big power impressed the Myanmar people, at least certain section of the elites. Ideology mattered little, but illegal money and drug decided courses of local and to some extent regional politics in large areas of the country which share a long ( more than 2000 KM) border with China. The CPB (Communist Party of Burma) backed by China fought against the Kuomintang forces. Serious turmoil erupted along the border regions, among the Karens34 along the Thai border, Kachins (KIO: Kachin Independence Army) along the China border, the Rakhines, the Buddhist Rakhines, as well as the so-called Rohingyas, in particular along the Bangladesh border. Both, the Buddhist and Muslims crossed over to what was then called East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Yet, and, here lies the uniqueness of Myanmar’s foreign policy—the relation of Myanmar with all the neighbours renamed by and large peaceful.
On 4th March, 1962, two days after General Ne Win took over power,
China recognized the regime of General Ne Win, China came up with necessary help with money and manpower. Myanmar’s policy of nationalization and centralization of state power, first through Revolutionary Council, and, later through Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP) were in tune with communist China’s political ideology of one-party (communist party) system.
In NE Win era there was increasing uneasiness, sometime termed as “friendly distance”, between India and Myanmar distinctly. The nationalization policy of Ne Win caused a huge exodus of Indian populace from urban centres of socialist Myanmar. A large number of Indians left Myanmar, after selling their properties making the life for Indians in Myanmar insecure. Various Indian institutions and organizations35, faced closure.
Relation with China also soured due to the help extended by China to the Burma Communist Party (BCP). But, BCP’s presence and activities outweighed the need for a “good neighbourly relation” with China. But, everything was not so easy. In 1968, anti-Chinese riots broke out in Yangon (Rangoon); this anti-Chinese mood continued to prevail in the country until 1971. In 1971, General Ne Win travelled to Beijing and during this time the validity of the Sino-Burmese Economic and Technical Cooperation was allowed to be extended by further ten years. This was the year in which Bangladesh emerged with her Independence, much to the chagrin of China. On the other side India’s active role in the non-aligned movement could not contribute anything remarkable to bring Myanmar closer to India. In the year 1979, Myanmar herself withdrew from the fold of the Non-alignment Movement, as she found it too pro-Soviet. Her “positive neutrality” came in conflict with this alleged pro-Soviet stance of the non-alignment movement. Sino-Soviet rivalry could be a factor also? It may be recalled in this context that in 1978 the then Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma closed down its Consulate36 in Kolkata (Calcutta).
Thus, the period from the end of 1970s up to the time of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Yangon in 1986 is a critical period for Indo-Myanmar relation defined by uneasiness. The reports of this visit of the Indian Prime Minister got wide coverage in the Myanmar newspapers indicating the level of importance ascribed to the India-Myanmar relation on the part of the Government of Myanmar. During each of my four visits to Mynmar, I had interactions with the people, diplomats, policy makers, high officials, business people and scholars.
I can confirm that India’s continuity in her relation to Myanmar and her neutral stance are appreciated in Myanmar. Also, I can vouch for the eagerness of Myanmar to respond positively to the furtherance of India-Myanmar relations. India too gives high priority to continue nurturing and enhancing the India-Myanmar relations. Indeed, this continuity is an asset for building up even more active economic, cultural and political relations, to bring the people of both the countries closer. After all, Myanmar needs India as much as India needs Myanmar.
The visit of Senior General Than Shwe to India in 2004 is significant. The Myanmar Times in its issue of November 1-7, 2004, on its front page published a photo of Senior General Than Shwe, the Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, flanked by Prime Minister Dr. Monmohan Singh and the then President of India, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. Senior General Than Shwe visited Bodhgaya and Kolkata during his trip. Senior General Than Shwe’s visit was preceded by several other high level visits from Myanmar side. India reciprocated to Mynmar by sending high-level delegations. Our former President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, visited 37 Myanmar in March 2006. This visit broadened the path of future cooperation between the two countries. A wide range of areas were identified in which India would become partner for Myanmar. This includes promotion of trade, the volume of which during the years 2003-04 $ 470 million. But, the target was set to make it US $ 2 billion within next three years by signing MOUs between UMFCCI (Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry), CII (Confederation Indian Industries), and Bengal Chambers of Commerce and Industries. Cooperation on hydro-carbon sector near Rakhine (Arakan) coast, I.T sector, skill development and capacity building, gas and oil exploration and such areas India could come up. Myanmar, with her huge natural potential and rich agriculture (including rice) can offer India a lot. Myanmar was addressed by our President as a “trusted partner” and Myanmar’s role in integrating India more with the ASEAN forum had been highlighted. Importance was duly given to two border posts: Moreh-Tamu (Manipur) and Zowkhathar-Rhi (Mizoram), to make the full utilization of the facilities for promoting border trade.38
The Kaladan multi-modal project, the formal treaty for which was signed between the two countries, in March 2007, is to link the state of Mizoram with the port of Sittwe (Akyab) of the Rakhine State (Arakan) of Myanmar. Once connected, land-locked northeastern region will have access to the sea (Bay of Bengal). The Rakhine state produces a lot of rice, which may find market in neighbouring Indian state of Mizoram. On 22 July 2009, an important business meet, Mizoram Trade Investment Conclave, was organized by Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Government of Mizoram39. Myanmar and Bangladesh—two countries sharing international border with Mizoram came together with their Indian partners to discuss future prospect for business promotion in the interest of all three countries. It was organized jointly by the Indian Chamber of commerce and the Govt. of Mizoram. Mizoram today is one of the most peaceful states in the Northeast, and this state has a bright future for economic development which will be beneficial to not only India and Myanmar, but also Bangladesh, besides having a beneficial fall out in denying use of this tract by the insurgents in NE of India.
Due to a thoughtful external policy of Myanmar, giving a lot of attention to good neighbourly relations and neutrality (often called “positive neutrality”), the country has gained a steady standing within Asia. Myanmar became a member of ASEAN in the year 1997. The country became member of several other regional forums, BIMSTEC, Mekong-Ganga Initiative etc. Very recently Myanmar has become observes in SAARC. Yet, Myanmar Government prefers to be seen more as a country of Southeast Asia, than South Asia. In the plans and purviews of the ESCAP (Economic Commission for Asia and the pacific) of the UN Myanmar has an important role to play in the future Trans Asian Railway, Asian Highway and facilities of land transport in general.
The cooperation between the Indian Army and their counterpart from Myanmar had already started joint operations in early 1990s. Some successful operations have already taken place. It is expected that more intensive joint operations to fight the insurgency will be undertaken so that the vast areas of India’s Northeast, especially Manipur and Nagaland, become peaceful and the ongoing and future connectivity plans could be optimally implemented. Myanmar Chronicle of National Development published yearly by the Ministry of Information, Govt. of Myanmar, shows the vast areas in which projects have been undertaken aiming at over all development in all sectors. Border area development plays a very significant role. In several cases U.N worked intensively with Myanmar Government and non-Government bodies. India too gives high priority to all such areas. It is also expected that the imbalance in trade with Myanmar will also be rectified.41 The change of capital to Naypyitaw will bring north eastern India geographically closer to Myanmar.
Going Beyond “Look East Policy”: placing Myanmar in a more meaningful Cultural and Historical Context
One of the ways to improve bilateral trade, and economic relations in general, based on mutual trust between the two countries is to get rid of the concept of “South Asia” and “Southeast Asia”. Further, concepts like “Highland”, “Plains “, “Mainland” “Frontier” are also confusing. These concepts were created by the British administrators and rulers to separate people from each other. Indeed, western anthropologists themselves questioned the validity of such concepts, and thereby questioned the very theories built upon these concepts. I can just mention the name of Edmund Leach whose book Political Systems of Highland Burma nullified the theory of “ Highlands versus Plains”, which has a succinct connotation of “ less civilized” versus “ more civilized”. Examples have been drawn from the Kachin and Shan communities of Myanmar.
Another important step is to know each other’s history, culture, religion, customs, traditions and most importantly, the language. All the four states, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Manipur share common cultural and linguistic asset with their cross-border neighbours in Myanmar. Streams of Sino-Tibetan people, who are known in the Sanskrit literature as the Kiratas, came down from Upper and middle Myanmar to the Hills and plains of Assam in several waves. It started very early, even in the early centuries of Christian era, and went on until the 18th-19th centuries. In the case of Bangladesh, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the same migration took place from Myanmar. But, the original wave was from all directions: from the vast areas, from as far as south western China, Tibet, and modern Thailand. This is why Myanmar has a solid continuity in political authority, dynastic rule, by the Mons, by the Shans, and predominantly by the Burmans. Conflict and consensus shaped the type of societies that we find in various parts of Myanmar. In course of natural movement in search of fertile land, the people came down from North towards South. Thus, they spread over vast areas of the Up country between modern Myanmar and various bordering states of India. And then, down to the valley of Brahmaputra. The Tai-Shans of Myanmar thus appeared in the valley of Assam and as Ahom kings ruled Assam from the 13th century up to the period of the annexation of Assam by the British in 1826.
One of the successors of the Tai-Shan race is the Khamti community42
in present Arunachal Pradesh of India. The Khamtis are late comers in the Assam valley. The Khamti community, know little about Myanmar, and for that matter Thailand. Yet, they practice Theravada Buddhism of Myanmar School and their script has been derived from the Tai Shan script. They have retained various cultural traits from their forefathers. It is also important to note that the Khamti priests give a lot of importance to Pali studies. In general, like many other groups, the Khamtis have been absorbed in the Indian milieu.
In the north eastern states of India, one can find commonalities between the people of Myanmar and the people living in these states, in the material culture, like basketry, metal works, textile, food habits, dress, etc. But, as in the case of Myanmar, so also in the case of this region, the linguistic plurality dominates the scene. This is because of the existence of closely isolated social units, living in areas far from each other making communication extremely difficult. Thus, every clan spoke a different language. Even a casual glance over the monumental work by Abraham Grierson Linguistic Survey of India43 would help us to understand how fragmented were the societies in this entire region The Sino-Tibetan family of languages are divided in to numerous sub-groups, but can be brought under two major branches: Tibeto-Burman and Siamese-Chinese44
Though Myanmarese is a tonal language with lot of features, unknown to us, but the language has a rich vocabulary. We find a large number of words, derived from the Sanskrit and Pali sources in Myanmar. Sometime they are easily recognisable, but, not always, since the original Sanskrit word is phonetically so much twisted, that we fail to recognise them. Judosn’s Burmese English Dictionary will convince the readers. As the maritime frontier was very open, contact with Persian and Arab sailors and traders, as well as Portuguese adventurers remained active.
Of all the four states, it was Manipur which was most accessible from Myanmar as well as to the plains of Eastern India. Indeed towards the end of the Ahom rule, and before the coming of the British to Assam, the mighty Myanmar Empire became almost a “challenge” to the region. Manipur was at the cross road, through which Pandits, priests and astrologers moved between Assam, Bengal and Upper Myanmar. In all its history and relations with Southeast Asia, India’s position as exporter of knowledge had been fascinating. The Brahmins, astrologers and Vaishnavas were invited in the court of Mandalay. Many of them went from Navadvipa, a place in modern West Bengal, famous for its tradition in knowledge and scholarship. Vaishnavism found a very fertile ground in Myanmar. The archaeological remains of the Pagan Empire (10-12 c. A.D) remind us of extreme popularity of Vaishnava thought and ideals. Indeed, Hindus worship Vishnu as one of the incarnations (Avatar) of the Buddha.
The modern Rakhine State ( Arakan) also experienced such exodus of learned scholars and priests from Bengal, or eastern India. Indeed, the vast area from western Myanmar (Rakhine state) up to Pegu in the Lower region and Pagan in the upper region occupied a very significant place in the cultural history of Myanmar and India. The 16th century Tibetan monk Taranath wrote about this region, which was known as Kokibhumi45. The word “Koki” relates to Kuki of Kuki-Chin group of the Tibeto-Burman of the Sino-Tibetan family. Under the jurisdiction of Kokibhumi, Buddhist monk Taranath brought Pukham (pagan), Rakhan (Arakan) and Hamsavati (Pegu). This fascinating linguistic and cultural world, stretching from Bengal to Thailand on the one hand and from Assam to China on the other has to be revealed and investigated. Myanmar, as always, stands in the middle.
An attempt has been made to go into the complexities and at the same time the uniqueness of India-Myanmar relations. What might appear as striking to any observer is the continuity of India-Myanmar relations in spite of difficult challenges. The post-1990 scenario is clear. Whereas in the earlier days Myanmar-born Indians and repatriates, in general, were not even allowed to visit the country, now a days they can freely go to Myanmar. They can even engage in business. All such developments are welcome because these changes might be instrumental in harnessing peace and prosperity not only to India and Myanmar but also to the neighbouring countries. It is pertinent to mention that interference of any outside force in the internal matters and domestic affairs of any country is not desirable. It is against the ethos of India’s foreign policy. India and its people believe in peaceful coexistence with other countries let alone closest neighbour. In this globalized age every country is committed to compete with other countries from economic point of view, but not at the cost of sovereignty and integrity. Myanmar and India have overcome most difficult times in their relationship. A new phase of partnership in many aspects, like business, sports, service sectors, cultural field, etc., has been initiated between the two good old friends. The bond is deepening and strengthening. Let us help the process.
As I see, tourism has a very bright prospect. The Indian middle class is now well to do and are fond of travelling not only in India but also abroad. Thailand and Singapore for example have become favourite destinations for Indian tourists. New direction for tourism can be encouraged. Development of various industries, taking environment and needs of the people, in general, into consideration is the call of the day. India’s four northeastern states, all of which want to be connected with Myanmar and beyond, can really play constructive role in this process. The existing trade points in Manipur and Mizoram should be made more active. Also, new trade points should be explored along the border of the four northeast states of India.
Academic institutions, government, semi-government and non-government organisations should intensify the cultural exchanges. Art, archaeology, culture, history, linguistic linkages should be introduced and studied along protection of environment, combating terrorism and fundamentalism etc. cross-fertilisation of intellectual exchanges can perhaps lead to politico-strategic understanding some initiative has already been latter by MAKAIAS Kolkata and MISIS of Yangon by fount seminars in Yangon (2006) and Kolkata (2007). It has to be carried forward and deepened.
In fine, successful implementation of the various ongoing plans and projects is bound to undo the validity of the nomenclature like “South Asia” or “Southeast Asia”. After all such nomenclatures were created quite artificially as late as during the days of the last World War.
Notes and References:
1. For Thaton see Aung Thaw, Historical Sites in Burma, published by the Ministry of Union Culture, Govt. of Union of Burma. 1978 (printed 1972), pp. 34-40. For History of Myanmar (Burma) a recently published book is worth mentioning Michael Charney, A History of Modern Burma, Cambridge: Cambridge university Press, 2009
2. Swapna Bhattacharya (Chakraborti), ‘Indians in Myanmar’, in Jayanta Kumar Ray (in association with Binod Kumar Sharma) ed. Interpreting the Indian Diaspora. Lessons from History and Contemporary Politics, in the Series: History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization. General Editor D. P. Chattopadhyay, PHISPC Centre for Studies in Civilization, Delhi, 2009, Vol. X, Pt. 10, pp. 165-188.
3. Robert H. Taylor, the State in Myanmar. Delhi, Foundation Books (first pub. By HURST, London), 2009, pp. 487-506. For recent developments see also: Tevor Wilson ed. Myanmar’s Long Road to National Reconciliation. Singapore: ISEAS, 2006 and Robert H. Taylor ed. Burma: Political Economy under military Rule. London: Hurst & Company2001.
4. Thant Myint U, the River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma. London, Faber & Faber, 2007. See also my review of Thant Myint U’s book published in the Pioneer, 16 Dec., 2007.
5. Fundamental Principles and Detailed Basic Principles adopted by the National Convention in drafting the State Constitution, pub. By Printing and Publishing Enterprise, Ministry of Information, Govt. of Myanmar.
6. In the Non-Ceasefire Group we read the names of the following groups: Arakan Liberation Party, Arakan Rohingya National Organ, Chin National Front, Karen National Front, National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang faction), and Shan State Army (South), Wa National Organisation, National United Party of Arakan, Lahu Democratic Front, Karen National Union, Rohingya Solidarity organisation and some other small groups. The list in complete can be found in Robert H. Taylor, op. cit., p. 441.
7. Earlier the word socialist carried a lot of implication, as Ne Win followed the path of ‘Burmese Way to Socialism’
8. For further details see Taylor, Robert H. op. cit.
9. Large number of people in Myanmar set their hope for a better future in this Road Map towards achievement of Democracy and Peace.
10. There exists plethora of literature on Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi and her struggle. One of the books often referred by the Indian scholars is: Burma and India: Some Aspects of Intellectual Life under Colonialism. Shimla and N. Delhi: Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, in association with Allied publishers, 1990. Besides, the Indian Press and electronic media regularly give information on her present condition.
11. Sudhir Devare, India and Southeast Asia Towards Security Convergence. ISEAS, Singapore, 2006. Also important is Devare’s (ed) A New Energy Frontier : The Bay of Bengal Region , Singapore: ISEAS
12. A large number of scholars from India and Western countries argue along this line. See Renend Egretean, ‘India’s Ambitions in Burma: More Frustration than Success?, Asian Survey, Vol. XLVIII, No. 6, 2008, pp. 936-957; Report on the International Convention for the Restoration of Democracy in Burma. Constitutional Club. May, New Delhi, 1956, published by Jaya Jaitly. K Yhome’s Myanmar: Can the Generals Resist the Change? (Delhi: Rupa and Co. in association with Observer Research Foundation, 2008) is a balanced and well-thought study.
13. Swapna Bhattacharya (Chakraborti), India-Myanmar Relations 1886-1948. Kolkata: K. P. Bagchi & Co., 2007.
14. Stephen Mc Carthey, Prospect, ‘Justice and Stability in Burma’, Asian Survey, Vol. XLVI, No. 3, May/June, 2006, p. 423.
15. This delegation consisted of four Fellows, including me, of MAKAIAS and was led by Professor J. K. Ray, Chairman of MAKAIAS. The team went to Myanmar in December 2006, in order to participate in a seminar, jointly organised by the MAKAIAS, Kolkata and the MISIS, Yangon. The team members were treated as Guests of MISIS. Besides visit to UMFCCI, we also paid a visit to the International Relations Department of the University of Yangon.
16. The Meeting with UMFCCI was organised by MISIS.
17. See the three works of Professor Niharranjam Ray: Introduction to the
Theravada Buddhism in Burma: a Study in Indo-Burma Historical and Cultural relation from the earliest Times to the British Conquest, Brahmanical Gods in Burma, Sanskrit Buddhism in Burma. All three have been reprinted again in recent time by Orchid Press, Bangkok. Important works on Myanmar culture, history and Civilization have been done by Elisabeth Moore, Pamela Gutman, Bob Hudson, Michael Charney, Jacques Leider, Tilman Frasch, only to name a very few. The name of Professor than Tun should always be remembered when it comes to Myanmar archaeology, Buddhism and civilization as a whole. In the forthcoming journal Asia Annual of MAKAIAS enthusiasts can read my observations of Myanmar Culture in form of an article.
18. Dr. U Khin Maung Nyunt, one of the most eminent historians of Myanmar in his numerous writings gives evidences of how Hinduism and animism also have found places in the world of Myanmar Theravada Buddhism. One of his recent books Myanmar Traditional Monthly Festival (Yangon) may appear interesting for general Indian readers. He has written a large number of scholarly articles, monographs and books.
19. During my last trip to Yangon, I have visited Paragu’s House and Library and was deeply amazed by his love for Indian literature. The naming of his library and research centre as ‘Santiniketan’ symbolises his great admiration for Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore visited British Burma three times and had a number of followers. For details see my article on Tagore and Myanmar as found in the bibliography of India-Myanmar Relations 1886-1948
20. China’s strategic objective is closely linked with China’s economic interest in Myanmar. China’s Yunnan province in particular benefits immensely from the trade with bordering areas as well as with whole of Myanmar.
21. YMCA, Yangon is actively involved in various workshops and seminars aiming at promotion of national integration, peace and welfare in various parts of the country.
22. I would recommend all visitors from Myanmar to undertake a trip to Pagan Archaeological site by the bank of the river Irrawaddy.
23. Sudhir Devare, op. cit, p. 191
24. Swapna Bhattacharya (Chakraborti), India-Myanmar relations, Ch. II. See also Sean Turnell, ‘Fiery Dragons? The Chettiars of Burma’, in: Urbanisation and Multi-ethnic Society eds. Buddhadeb Chaudhuri and sumita Chaudhuri. Proceedings of IUAES Inter Congress, vol. II. Kolkata. Delhi: Inter India Publications 2007, 202-259
25. Moshe Yegar’s The Muslims of Burma (Wiesbaden: Otto Harasowitz, 1972) remains the most referred book on Muslims of Myanmar.
26. I. P. Khosla, ‘India & Myanmar’ in: Atish Sinha & Madhup Mohta eds. India’s Foreign Policy: Challenges and Opportunities. Delhi: Foreign Service Institute, p. 603.
27. Maung Maung , Burmese Constitution. The Hague: Martinus Nijhofff. 1961.
28. Robert Taylor, p. 358
29. Swapna Bhattachraya (Chakraborti), Rohingyas of Myanmar. The Identity Crisis and its implications for Myanmar, Bangladesh and India, in: Kousar J. Azam ed. Ethnicity, Identity and the State in South Asia. N. Delhi: south Asia Publishers, p 111.
30. Rounaq Jahan ed. Bangladesh: Promise and Performance Zed Book (London), UPL ( Dhaka). Undated.
31. Majority of the population in two townships called Buthidaung and Maungdaw of Northern Rakhine State (Arakan) are Muslims. They are known by the name “Rohingya”, though this name is not accepted by all, especially by Myanmar Govt. and also by a large section of the Myanmar people.
32. Uma Shankar Singh, Burma and India 1948-1962. N. Delhi: Oxford & IBH Pub. Co. 1979, p. 78. see also Lt. General J.R. Mukherjee PVSM,AVSM,VSM (Rtd), An Insider’s Experience of Insurgency in India’s North East. London: anthem Press, 2005. For India-Myanmar relation, see also Rajshekhar’s Myanmar’s Nationalist Movement (1906-1948) and India, Delhi: Southasian Publishers, 2006
33. To know more about Dr. Ambedkar’s contact with Myanmar, his views about Buddhist Tibet and Buddhism in South Asia etc. see: Swapna Bhattacharya (Chakraborti), ‘Political Implications of Resurgent Buddhism in India with special Reference to Eastern Region’ in J.K Ray and Arpita Basu Roy eds. Political Roles of religious Communities in India. Stockholm: Institute for security and Development Policy, 2008, pp. 83-106
34. Martin Smith, Burma: Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity. London: Zed Books, 1991. See also his recent work, the dynamics of ethnic Conflict in Burma. Washington: East west Centre 2007. A recent study on the subject of ethnicity by the eminent Myanmar scholar Tin Maung Maung Than entitled ‘Dreams and Nightmares: State Building and Ethnic Conflict in Myanmar (Burma) appeared in Kusuma Snitwongse & W. Scott Thompson Eds. Ethnic Conflicts in southeast Asia, Bangkok: Institute of security and international studies, Chulalongkorn University & Institute of southeast Asian studies, Singapore 2005, pp. 65-108
35. One such institution was Ramakrishna Mission in Yangon (Rangoon). I may be allowed to mention in this connection that on 16 Oct, 1956, on his way to China, Prime Minister Nehru stopped over in Yangon. In between his busy schedule he opened a new nurse’s quarter at Ramakrishna Hospital. This piece of news was published in Burma Weekly Bulletin
36. The Union of Myanmar has now (since 2002) a office of the Consulate General in Kolkata.
37. President Dr. Kalam was very cordially received by the Myanmar people from all sections. In Indian as well as Myanmar media this visit was highlighted and very positively presented. For the full text of President Dr. Kalam’s address before the UMFCCI see India’s foreign relations 2006. Documents Part I Ed. By Avtar Singh Bhasin, published by Geetika Publishers in cooperation with Public diplomacy division of the Ministry of external Affairs MEA), Govt. of India, N. Delhi 2007, pp, 1086-1091
38. Indo-Myanmar Business, vol. VII., 2006. p. 27. The volume gives important information on trade and business between India and Myanmar. The journal’s editor Mr. G.L Goenka.is also the President of Indo-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Mumbai). I had an opportunity to interact with Mr. G.L Goenka during a workshop to which I mentioned. His father’s (Satya Narayan Goenka) name is well-known in India and throughout the world as one of those who made Vipassana Meditation so popular. He learnt it from his teacher in Myanmar U Ba Khin.
39. During my last visit to Mizoram (Aizawl University) in 2007 I observed a lot of changes in the day-to-day life in Aizawl. I could compare with my previous experiences made in 1989, in the same city.
40. To know more about the struggle of the Mizos and the Peace with the Government see: Brigadier C.G Verghese VSM (Rtd). A History of the Mizos, 2 volumes. Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1997
41. India exports medicine, medical equipments, machinery, spare parts, construction materials, Machine and Equipments for agriculture and heavy industries. Myanmar exports teak, crude oil, gas, pulses and beans, corn, sesame, etc. Being a basically agro-based economy Myanmar is interested to send those agro-based products to neighbouring states in India’s northeast. According to information Booklet (UMFCCI The Role of the Union of Myanmar federation of chambers of commerce and Industry in Myanmar Business, July 2008, Yangon, p. 8) given to me by UMFCCI, between 18.06.1999 to 03.04.2008 India (Bengal Chamber of Commerce, CII, FICCI) signed 7 MOUs. China, within shorter time, between the dates 18.11.2003-01.02.2007, signed also 7 MOUs. India is one of the most important partners for Myanmar as India’s position as takers/importers of Myanmar goods quite at upper level. China exports more to Myanmar than it imports. It is expected that with more openings a happier balance in trade between the two countries, India and Myanmar, will be reached.
42. Swapna bhattacharya(Chakraborti). Migration, Acculturation and Integration of Myanmar tribes in India: Khamtis and Singphos of Arunachal Pradesh, in Mahavir Singh ed. Home away from Home: Inland Movement of people in India. Delhi: Anamika Publishers for Maulana Abul kalam Azad Institute of Asian studies, Kolkata. 145-187
43. G. A. Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India first published in 1928, (Reprint: Delhi: Low Price Publication 1990) is still the most referred work for the study of languages of India and neighbouring countries. See for Khamti and other languages vol II & III, Valuable study makes the work by Paul Benedict’s Sino-Tibetan: A Conspectus. Cambridge University Press 1972
44. Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay. Kirata Janakirti: Indo Mongoloid: Their Contributions to the History and Culture of India: Calcutta: Asiatic Society 1974
45. Swapna Bhattacharya(Chakraborti), ‘ Religion and colonial Politics: Assam, Myanmar and Buddhism’ in Jayanta Kumar Ray and Rakhee Bhattacharya eds. Development Dynamics in North East India, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Delhi: published by Anshah Publishers2008, pp. 309-339
I sincerely thank the following institutions for their valuable help in providing me necessary materials and spending valuable time for my understanding of the dynamics of India-Myanmar relations: Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yangon, Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Yangon, Consulate General of the Union of Myanmar, Kolkata, Embassy of the Union of Myanmar, N. Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs, Govt. of India ( Delhi), Embassy of the Republic of India in Myanmar ( Yangon), Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies/MAKAIAS, Kolkata, National Library, Kolkata, Indian Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, Delhi, Sapru House Library of the Indian Council of World Affairs, Nehru Memorial Library at Teenmurti Bhavan. I had the privilege to share platform and interact with a number of, indeed, all most all the eminent western scholars as well as scholars from Myanmar, Japan, Thailand, Australia etc. be it in Yangon, Singapore, Myanmar or anywhere else in Europe. I must particularly acknowledge the inspiration from Dr. Michael Charney, Senior Lecturer, Department of History, School of Oriental and African Studies/SOAS, University of London. To Professor Jayanta Kumar Ray, Chairman of the Executive Council of MAKAIAS, who inspired me to take up Myanmar Studies back in early 1980s.