Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 11 August 2023
- India’s Complex Myanmar Policy: Balancing Act
- Empowering the Electoral Commission
India’s Complex Myanmar Policy: Balancing Act
The ’emergency’ was prolonged by Acting President Myint Swe for a further six months, in violation of the 2008 Constitution, at a crucial juncture in Myanmar’s protracted turmoil.The military government concurrently lowered Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s and former President Win Myint’s sentences and freed political detainees. Even while these changes have taken place, they don’t necessarily herald the start of Myanmar’s journey to democracy and peace.
GS Paper 2 – Bilateral Relations
How can India effectively strike a compromise between its policies towards Myanmar and worries over the supply of armaments to the military junta given its conflicting goals in advancing democracy and preserving regional security? (250 Words)
Democratic Elections and the Protracted Emergency
- The schedule for the elections that the military has proposed is thrown off by the ’emergency’ being extended. The coup’s mastermind, Min Aung Hlaing, supported the extension by pointing to that many areas lacked “normalcy.” Contrarily, this search for “normalcy” has resulted in a great deal of pain. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), there is 2.5 times as much violence against civilians in Myanmar as there is in Afghanistan.
- In 2023, the military’s persistent effort will encompass a frightening 30 airstrikes on average each month. Surprisingly, the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) and the Burmese military both admitted that the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military) only truly controls 30%–40% of the country. Credibility would be further damaged by an election held in such circumstances, especially if it only involved a small portion of the population.
- The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is supported by the military, has undergone internal changes, which raise questions about the junta’s commitment to democracy. The National League for Democracy’s decision to boycott the forthcoming elections, combined with the disqualification of smaller parties due to new party registration restrictions, leaves the USDP with almost no opposition. The military is also given a de facto veto in the parliamentary process according to Myanmar’s constitutional framework.
The Problem with Ms. Suu Kyi’s Position
- Observers are baffled by the junta’s decision to commute Aung San Suu Kyi’s term and remove her from prison. This action does not necessarily represent a step towards democracy, though. Suu Kyi has shown a readiness to work with the military despite being the Tatmadaw’s main foe.
- Even in the face of worldwide condemnation for her stance on the persecution of the Rohingya, she continues to be a key player in Myanmar’s political transformation. Her reappearance would destabilise the National Unity Government (NUG)-led resistance, which has been working with ethnic armed groups and attempting to reach out to the Rohingya.
Symbolic Acts and India’s Struggle for Balance
- The military may be able to claim progress as a result of the junta’s symbolic actions, which could result in the easing of sanctions and new economic prospects. As witnessed in India’s situation, these gestures also serve as a political front for interaction with the junta.
- During the earlier stages of the pandemic and the coup, India showed proactive engagement by donating food and vaccines. However, India’s position changed as a result of worries about the unrest in Manipur and problems with trafficking and drug smuggling. India’s stance is paradoxical because it supports the “Five-Point Consensus” of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations while also prioritising border stability with Myanmar.
Democracy, security, and regional dynamics in India: A Balancing Act
- India’s public support for democracy in Myanmar is in contrast to its foreign policy, which is shaped by worries about security in northeastern India and its strategic alliance with China. Projects like the Sairang-Hmawngbuchhuah railway, a component of India’s Act East Policy, are meant to compete with China’s influence on the railway system in Myanmar via the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.
- Unsettlingly, reports claim that after the coup, India has increased its arms shipments to the Tatmadaw. This not only runs counter to India’s position on reestablishing democracy but also intensifies border disputes.
India’s Potential Approach to Navigating Complexity
- The recent events of the extension, releases, and changes within the military government highlight the complex web of difficulties the country has on its way to democracy and stability as the tragedy in Myanmar plays out. While delaying democratic elections, the ongoing emergency also prolongs suffering and violence, undermining any chance for real advancement. Aung San Suu Kyi’s complex role continues to be a crucial element that has the potential to influence both the military junta’s actions and the resistance movement.
- In this complicated environment, India’s approach to Myanmar appears to be a precarious balance between its professed dedication to democracy, concerns about regional security, and economic interests. While India’s initial assistance during the pandemic and coup demonstrated constructive engagement, worries over internal unrest caused it to adjust its priorities, as is shown in its border policy and decisions regarding the delivery of armaments. This contradictory approach underlines how difficult it is to balance democratic ideals with realistic security concerns and regional dynamics.
- As India struggles with this complex conundrum, a possible course of action appears: one that takes advantage of the recent reduction in Suu Kyi’s sentence to engage with pro-democracy forces and develop relationships that support Myanmar’s long-term stability. Furthermore, it is essential for minimising escalation and maintaining a compassionate approach for India to be able to handle refugee issues with empathy and patience.
The Strategic Importance of Myanmar for India
India benefits significantly from Myanmar’s geographic location, which promotes regional collaboration, physical connectivity, and economic participation. This location strengthens India’s regional influence and outreach, particularly for the Northeastern states, by acting as a vital connection connecting South Asia with Southeast Asia.
Indian interests in Myanmar are mostly
- Economic and Security Cooperation: India wants to forge a strong economic and security alliance with Myanmar in order to stop the country from slipping under the control of China.
- Counterterrorism and Insurgency Management: Working with the Myanmar military is essential to prevent Northeastern insurgent groups, including the Naga insurgency, from using Myanmar’s territory for their own purposes.
- Supporting the Transition to Democracy: India is devoted to helping Myanmar make the transition to a fully fledged federal democracy.
- Humanitarian Concerns: India wants to ease tensions between Bangladesh and Myanmar and address the condition of the Rohingya people.
Trade and Economic Relations
China, Singapore, Japan, and Korea are just a few of the major international companies that have actively sought out economic prospects in Myanmar, despite the fact that bilateral trade between the two countries has historically been around $2 billion. Notably, a sizable component of Myanmar’s exports are pulses. Power, steel, cars, and textile industries all provide significant investment opportunities for Indian companies.
Over the years, the defence ties between India and Myanmar have become stronger, with India training more than 200 Myanmar military officers. Defence relations have been strengthened by the exchange of military hardware worth $37.9 million, including rocket launchers, night vision devices, radar, and torpedoes.
People-to-people connections and cultural ties
Cultural preservation is another area in which India is actively involved, as evidenced by the restoration of Myanmar’s Ananda Temple. The foundation of relations between India and Myanmar is people-to-people contact, which also supports India’s significant grant-in-aid payments to Myanmar.
Initiatives for socioeconomic change and capacity building
Through the establishment of institutes for agricultural education, information technology, and industrial training in Myanmar, India has demonstrated its commitment to capacity building. India’s commitment to information exchange and skill improvement is evident in the country’s collaborative research initiatives, which may be observed in the Advanced Centre for Agriculture Research and Education.
Issues and the Prognosis
Despite advancements, there are still problems, such as unfinished projects, border disputes, and inadequate trade infrastructure. Both countries must prioritise formalised cross-border trade, reduced customs procedures, and improved people-to-people connectivity in order to overcome these obstacles. Improving socioeconomic circumstances, strengthening trade in services, and putting the Kofi Annan Advisory Commission’s recommendations on the Rohingya refugee situation into action are critical next measures.
Together, we may navigate to mutual prosperity.
A firmer base for bilateral relations is being established as India and Myanmar work together on numerous fronts, from economic development to cultural preservation. Both nations can establish a path of mutual prosperity and growth by addressing issues, advancing economic cooperation, and strengthening people-to-people ties, helping to realise India’s Act East agenda.
In the end, India’s policy decisions on Myanmar have implications for the greater regional and global context in addition to bilateral relations. A cohesive and effective strategy will be formed by finding a delicate balance between India’s democratic values, security needs, and economic interests. This will highlight India’s role in determining Myanmar’s future course and contribute to the stability and advancement of the region.
Empowering the Electoral Commission
On the penultimate day of the Monsoon Session, the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointments, Conditions of Service, Term of Office) Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha.This development comes in response to the Supreme Court’s March ruling, which changed the way election officials are appointed. While the proposed Bill makes adjustments that depart from the Supreme Court’s orders, it also has advantageous components that may strengthen the election commission’s legitimacy and objectivity.
GS Paper 2- Election – Appointment of Election commissioner
How does the proposed Bill address the Supreme Court’s ruling’s criticisms of partisanship and institutional autonomy in the selection of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners? (150 Words)
A Deviation from the Supreme Court’s Decision
- In March, a constitution bench headed by Justice KM Joseph issued a unanimity ruling that emphasised the importance of a collegium composed of the Chief Justice of India, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Prime Minister for selecting the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs). The goal was to guarantee the Election Commission’s independence. The Chief Justice’s presence is essential to upholding impartiality and shielding appointments from executive interference, the bench emphasised.
- By replacing the Chief Justice with a Cabinet Minister of the Prime Minister’s choosing, the new Bill put out by the Union government deviates from the Supreme Court’s recommendation. But it also adds a nice new feature: a search committee led by the Cabinet Secretary and assisted by two other high-ranking government officials to compile a list of potential candidates for the Selection Committee to evaluate.
fostering openness and integrity
- The Bill’s requirement that the CEC and other ECs be chosen from those who currently hold or have previously held positions equivalent to the level of secretary is encouraging. They should also be honest and knowledgeable in conducting and managing elections. The risk of appointments from irrelevant domains is a key worry that was previously unresolved by a clear provision.
- The importance of the March verdict might be attributed to its emphasis on battling partisanship and defending institutional autonomy. There was space for perceptions of prejudice in the traditional selection procedure, which was led by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The creation of a collegium was intended to strengthen the impartiality and independence of the Election Commission, which are essential for preserving public faith in electoral processes.
Critical Needs and the Global Environment
- It is crucial to maintain the institutional autonomy of the Election Commission in light of worldwide trends that show a decline in faith in electoral institutions. Gallup World Poll results show declining trust in electoral integrity, even in nations like the USA and India.Recent instances, along with accusations of prejudice and irregularities, have raised doubts about the EC’s credibility in India. In order to allay these worries and improve the commission’s reputation, adjustments are being recommended.
- The V-Dem Institute’s most recent publications on democracy shed light on the decreasing democratic indices in India, particularly the independence of the Election Commission. In the middle of these debates, it’s critical to recognise that even the collegium model has flaws. For instance, the collegium has been used to appoint CBI directors, and some of those nominations have been marked by controversy. There have been questions concerning the Chief Justice of India’s (CJI) membership in the collegium. The CJI is unquestionably an expert in the law, but they might not be very familiar with the candidates. In addition, when challenged in the Supreme Court, concerns are raised concerning their capacity to evaluate appointees impartially.
- The proposed Bill makes significant changes, but the collegium model’s success, whether it was inspired by the Supreme Court’s recommendations or the new Bill, depends on its credibility.A unanimous decision within the collegium could support this by ensuring that it is legitimate. A condition like this might improve how people view government and further shield appointments from improper influence.
The proposed Bill exemplifies a challenging interaction between preserving institutional autonomy and weighing many viewpoints. The government wants to strengthen the Election Commission’s status as a beacon of democracy by taking the good points from the Supreme Court’s ruling and implementing new reforms. Optimising these provisions to safeguard the integrity of the commission and maintain public trust is a crucial problem.