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3rd February 2021 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Content

  1. Setback in Myanmar
  2. Booting out partial democracy
  3. On the alert, always

Editorial: Setback in Myanmar, Booting out partial democracy

Context:

  • On February 1, the Myanmar army seized power, turning a partial democracy into a full-fledged military rule, yet again. This creates a perception of déjà vu as one recalls 1962, 1988 and 1990, the milestone years when the generals took similar drastic actions to overthrow a democratic government or derail people’s expressed preferences.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 2: India and its neighborhood

Mains Questions:

  1. Myanmar is key in linking South Asia to Southeast Asia and the eastern periphery becomes the focal point for New Delhi’s regional outreach. Elaborate. 15 marks
  2. The Army’s coup in Myanmar seriously undermines the gradual return to democracy. Discuss, how it will impact India Myanmar relations. 15 Marks

Dimensions:

  • What triggered the coup?
  • Historical perspective of India Myanmar relations.
  • Importance of Myanmar to India.
  • Convergence between India and Myanmar.
  • Divergence between India and Myanmar
  • Way forward

What triggered the coup?

  • The military has alleged that the general elections held in November 2020 were full of “irregularities” and that therefore, the results — a sweep for NLD — are not valid. It has questioned the veracity of some 9 million votes cast in the election.
  • The military had demanded that the United Elections Commission (UEC) of Myanmar which oversees elections, or the government, or outgoing parliamentarians prove at a special session before the new parliament convenes on February 1, that the elections were free and fair. The demand had been rejected.

Causes of military coup:

  • First, ideologically the two segments of the political elite have been at war with each other.
    • The army has a sense of entitlement to power on the grounds that it secured independence, defended the country against secession, and ensured stability and development. It views itself as the guardian of the state.
    • NLD leader Ms. Suu Kyi, the other protagonist, has always expressed admiration for the army (especially because it was established and nurtured by her father), but she has been a staunch advocate of democracy, a system in which the army should be completely apolitical.
    • Specifically, the two sides have had modest to serious differences over ethnic reconciliation, constitutional reform, the Rohingya issue, and the China policy.
  • Second, in political terms the fight is for power. The army has been used to exercising power for long, which yields it immense economic dividends too. Playing second fiddle to democratically elected leaders was a difficult role for it.
  • Third, presidential ambitions and the future of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s career constitute a relevant issue. Back in 2016, and even now, argue well-informed sources, he nurtured the dream to be Myanmar’s President. Ms. Suu Kyi was opposed to it. Besides, she was perhaps unwilling even to extend his tenure. He is due to retire from the army in July. Presumably the coup guarantees an indefinite extension.

Historical perspective of India Myanmar relations:

India-Myanmar relations are rooted in shared historical, ethnic, cultural and religious ties. As the land of Lord Buddha, India is a country of pilgrimage for the people of Myanmar. India and Myanmar relations have stood the test of time. The geographical proximity of the two countries has helped develop and sustain cordial relations and facilitated people-to-people contact. India and Myanmar share a long land border of over 1600 km and a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.

Importance of Myanmar to India:

  • Myanmar is at the heart of Indian government’s Act East policy with the India-Myanmar-Thailand Asian Trilateral Highway, the Kaladan multimodal project, a road-river-port cargo transport project, and BIMSTEC.
  • India is also working closely with the security forces of Myanmar to target the insurgents operating in the country’s northeast.
  • Myanmar is expected to act as the bridge between India and ASEAN, has risen in much significance in the context of India’s Act East Policy, and good neighbourhood policy.
  • Better relations with Myanmar have become crucial for India with China gradually gaining confidence of countries in the region. Further India’s completion of the projects with Myanmar would also prove India to be a responsible regional player, thus improving its reliability.
  • In terms of security and strategic partnership, several deep sea ports of Myanmar, including Yangon and Dawei, can be crucial for India like Chabahar port in the west.
  • Myanmar is on India’s energy security radar on account of its “abundant oil and natural gas” reserves. Oil and gas companies ONGC Videsh and GAIL are aggressively scouting for more exploratory blocks in Myanmar.
  • Myanmar like the other CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) — represents a rapidly growing economy with rising consumption, strategic location and access, rich natural resources (oil, gas, teak, copper and gemstones), biodiversity and an industrious workforce with low wages. And it offers significant opportunities for trade in goods and services, investment and project exports.

Convergence between India and Myanmar:

Developmental cooperation:

India has committed highest grant-in-aid to Myanmar and is developing four major connectivity projects in Myanmar namely:

  • Kaladan multi-modal corridor,
  • Repair of 69 bridges on the Tamu-Kalewa road.
  • The construction of the 120-km KalewaYargyi corridor (both of which are part of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway).
  • The Rhi-Tiddim road in the Chin state bordering Mizoram.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India has also recently restored the Ananda temple, a jewel among all Bagan pagodas.

Capacity building in Myanmar:

  • India has been actively involved in capacity building in Myanmar. Six centres imparting training in diverse subjects, from English language to industrial skills, are running successfully in Myanmar.
  • The Myanmar Institute of Information Technology set up in Mandalay with the collaboration of IIIT Bangalore has been a success with all its graduates finding ready employment.
  • The Advanced Centre for Agriculture Research and Education set up in collaboration with India’s ICAR is a fine example of pooling research efforts on pulses and oilseeds.
  • With Myanmar’s government emphasizing higher education and vocational training, more Indian assisted institutions can come up in the country.

Greater cooperation between Northeast India and Western Myanmar:

  • Four states in the Northeast (viz. Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram) share common borders with Myanmar’s Sagaing and Chin provinces. The Kaladan corridor also passes through the Rakhine state till it arrives at the Sittwe port developed by India.

Regional/ Sub-regional cooperation:

  • Myanmar’s membership of ASEAN, BIMSTEC and Mekong Ganga Cooperation has introduced a regional/sub-regional dimension to bilateral relations and imparted an additional significance in the context of our “Act East” policy.

Commercial Cooperation-

  • India is the fifth largest trading partner of Myanmar and is presently the tenth largest investor with major investments in oil & gas sector.

Defence & Security Cooperation-

  • Various MoUs on Border Cooperation, training, Army, Air Force and Naval Staff Talks have been signed between the two countries.

Disaster Relief:

  • India has responded promptly and effectively to assist Myanmar in humanitarian relief operations following natural calamities along with financial assistance for relief and reconstruction work.

Land Crossing Agreement:

Recently agreement between India and Myanmar on Land Border Crossing has also been agreed which will

  • Facilitate regulation and harmonization of already existing free movement rights for people ordinarily residing in the border areas of both countries increasing connectivity and social and economic interaction among the people.
  • It would allow India to leverage its geographical connections with Myanmar to boost trade and economy of the North-East.
  • The Agreement will safeguard the traditional rights of the largely tribal communities residing along the border which are accustomed to free movement across the land border.

Divergence between India and Myanmar:

  • The Rohingya crisis: India does not directly engage with the issue of Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority. But India condemned the recent terrorist attacks in northern Rakhine State in a measure of support to Myanmar. Further both sides agreed that there will be no glorification of terrorists as martyrs.
  • China factor: As China’s profile continues to rise in India’s vicinity, New Delhi would like to enhance India’s presence by developing infrastructure and connectivity projects in the country. India has found it difficult to counter Chinese influence in Myanmar.
  • Project Delays: India is losing friends because of widespread discontent over continuing delay in completion of flagship projects — Kaladan and the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway. Conceived over a decade back, they are scheduled to be completed by 2019.
  • Inadequate public awareness about the recent projects on IT and agriculture that our government completed on time. Officials need to develop an effective communication strategy, and a new management mechanism that fast-tracks the flagship projects.
  • Despite mutual consensus on the value of people-to-people exchanges, actual progress is negligible due to the absence of an enabling instrument.

Way forward:

  • The various projects undertaken by India have not been completed in time. As a result, India has not got due credit. It is crucial for India to focus on timely delivery of projects to improve its legitimacy.
  • It is essential that the two countries immediately start negotiating transit and other agreements for the smooth movement of goods and vehicles for optimal use of the infrastructure — even though such traffic may not flow before 2020.

Editorial: On the alert, always

Context:

  • The sad incident of an Assistant Commandant of the elite and highly trained CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) unit, Nikhil P. Bhalerao, dying in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in November 2020 has once again highlighted the need for us to enhance our intelligence system. The IED went off while an anti-Maoist operation was under way and also injured eight others.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 3: Linkages between Development & spread of Extremism;

Mains Questions:

  1. Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is showing a downward trend, but still affects many parts of the country. Briefly explain the Government of India’s approach to counter the challenges posed by LWE. 15 Marks
  2. The persisting drives of the government for development of large industries in backward areas have resulted in isolating the tribal population and the farmers who face multiple displacements with Malkangiri and Naxalbari foci, discuss the corrective strategies needed to win the left wing extremism (LWE) doctrine affected citizens back into the mainstream of social and economic growth. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is Naxalism in India?
  • Causes of Naxalism in India:
  • Measures taken by the government:
  • Issues related to present strategy:
  • Way Forward:

What is Naxalism in India?

A Naxal or Naxalite is a member of any political organisation that claims the legacy of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist), founded in Calcutta in 1969. The term Naxal derives from the name of the village Naxalbari in West Bengal, where the Naxalite peasant revolt took place in 1967.

  • It creates conditions for non-functioning of the government and actively seeks disruption of development activities as a means to achieve its objective of ‘wresting control’. It spreads fear among the law-abiding citizens.
  • Naxalism is considered to be one of the biggest internal security threats India faces.
  • The conflict is concentrated the Eastern part of the country, particularly an area known as the Red Corridor spread across the states of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. o Some districts of Kerala, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh etc are impacted by Naxalism.
  • Naxal violence is related to the intensity of the feeling of people of their deprivation and their commitment to take revenge against those who are believed to be responsible for such denial.
  • Currently, the main supporters of the movement are marginalized groups of India including Dalits and Adivasis, who believe they have been neglected by the government.
  • Further, Naxals support Maoist political sentiments and ideology.

Causes of Naxalism in India:

  • Mismanagement of Forests: It is one of the main reasons for the spread of Naxalism. It started with the British government. The monopolization of the forest started with the enactment of various forest laws. The integration with the wider world led to an influx of a new class like moneylenders. The administrative machinery became more exploitative and extortionate at functional level.
  • Tribal policies not implemented well: Even during the post-Independence era, the government was not able to stop the process of the tribal alienation and their displacement caused by large projects. Even the issues of food security were not fully sorted out. Consequently, Naxalism made inroads in Orissa and other states.
  • The Growing inter and intra-regional disparities: Naxalism attract people who have poor livelihood like fishermen, farmers, daily labourers and bamboo cutters. The government policies have failed to stem the growing inter and intra-regional disparities. The poor people think that Naxalism can provide solutions to their problems.
  • Absence of proper Industrialization and lack of land reforms: The half-hearted implementation of land reforms by the government has yielded negative results. The agrarian set up has not been defined in the absence of proper implementation of survey and settlement. This further damaged the agriculture production and the rural economy. Absence of proper industrialization has failed to generate employment for rural people leading to dissatisfaction with the government. It is also one of the causes behind Naxalism.
  • Geographical Terrain: Naxalism thrives in areas covered with forests. It helps them fight against the police and the army by waging Guerrilla warfare.
  • Middle Class Youth: The educated youths have been the largest supporters of the Naxalist movement as the maximum of the youths involved in the movement are medical and engineering graduates. Universities have turned up to be a pitch for the creation of radical ideologies.

Measures taken by the government:

  • Police Modernization Scheme plus fortification of police station in areas affected by Naxal movements. Assistance in training of State Police through the Ministry of Defence.
  • Operation Green Hunt, 2010 – Massive deployment of security forces was done in the Naxal-affected areas. It decreased Naxal affected areas from 223 to 90 districts in 9 years.
  • National Policy and Action Plan 2015 is a multi-pronged strategy in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights & entitlement of local communities etc
  • Special Infrastructure Scheme for funds to the States of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha to raise Special Task Force to combat LWE.
  • Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme: Under this the central Govt. reimburses security related expenditure to the LWE affected state Governments.
  • Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 has been amended to strengthen the punitive measures.

Issues related to present strategy:

  • Inefficient Delivery of Governance: Naxal affected areas still remain elusive of basic and essential services, justice delivery and community participation among others.
  • Lack of a common plan across the states – States restrict their efforts to defined political boundaries instead of joining hands for better synergy and coordination.
  • Lack of coordination between state police and Central forces – This results in the development of security voids which is exploited by the Naxals. State police often plays a passive role despite they being well acquainted with the terrain, local community etc.
  • Inadequate training and combat capability of forces in Maoism affected states.
  • Lack of institutionalized intelligence sharing between states and regions – Timely collection of intelligence and its efficient dissemination has led to strategy failures.
  • Naxalites are well versed with terrain which gives them a substantial upper hand in armed struggle.
  • Inability to Maintain Created Assets – This weakens the position of both the government and the security forces as it hampers the trust of locals and disrupts channels of communication.
  • Inability to Curb Terror Financing – Even though demonetisation happened, it could not prove much useful in this regard.
  • Inadequate Technological Interventions – Use of drones, mini UAVs, ground sensors, smart guns and artificial intelligence have not been aggressively deployed in Naxal areas.

Way Forward:

  • Good governance – Analyzing the loopholes in the present strategy and developing a coherent national strategy to end the menace.
  • Dialogue – Between the Naxal leaders, and the government officials can be a way to work out a solution.
  • Generate more employment and increase wages – insecure livelihood and unemployment in the areas have left the people with little option but to join the Naxals.
  • Ending the political marginalization of weaker sections – Weaker sections of the society, the schedule castes and schedule tribes still face discrimination from the upper class making them a soft target for the Naxals.
  • Remove disparity – Economic disparity and the growing distance between rich and the poor is one of the main problems that has contributed to the growth of Naxalism.
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