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India and Burma (Myanmar) are seen – especially by many in India – as civilizational neighbors and people-to-people ties are, indeed, one of the corner stone of their relationship. On the business viewpoint – in the past years and decades, India’s bureaucratic hurdles repeatedly put many sporadic speed breakers on the prevailing lethargic public investments and Myanmar’s long military junta rule which made private entrepreneurs shy away from the limited opportunities, if at all feasible to do business. To revive the ties with realization of its fullest potential, private partnership and their investments are vital. In order to achieve that, Myanmar’s quasi-democratic setup and participation of their uniformed men inside in the law making forums makes it difficult to move on with full-fledged strategic negotiations which probably would transform the current model of investments by state-run public enterprises to private businesses. Moreover, lack of connectivity – mostly importantly land roads and rail links – between two countries in the border areas poses a laborious challenge to establish a land based transportation corridor between India and South East Asia.

India engaged with Myanmar extensively since President Thein visit to India back in December 2012. Security and Internal Affairs high level group meeting held in New Delhi on the last week of December 2012, to discuss the eliminating insurgency elements, drug smuggling and illegal arms trade activities along with extremism and terrorism in border areas. Border Liaison Offices were opened on the border lines to strengthen the existing cooperation between security forces. Subsequently, India’s Defense Minister AK Anthony traveled to Myanmar on January 2013 and met with top political and military brass of the country. Another vital series of events, which went largely unnoticed, is that the unprecedented visits of all three Service Chiefs of Indian Military to Myanmar within the time period of 18 months, prior to defense minister’s visit, reflected the desire of the Indian government to strengthen the depth of existing ties and framework of defense cooperation. First coordinated patrol of Indian-Myanmar Navies in March 2013 with the aim of flushing out extremists operating from Myanmar soil and Navy-to-Navy understanding has been established. It was, indeed, an eventful year which one may wish to continue and move in the right direction in the future.

While having these recurring political, diplomatic and military contacts is, indeed, focal to deepen the existing ties but it would be equally vital, is to revive the people to people contacts and especially from the trade perspective on the border areas. In the past couple years, Myanmar is moving ahead with their political and economic reforms, India must take a closer look on expanding its strategic interest’s spectrum. Traditionally, India government pushed the public enterprises or state-run firms to invest in Myanmar which didn’t yield the results as expected because of sustained bureaucratic hurdles. Actually, private partnership and their investments are the ones which required for Myanmar’s infrastructure development and building capacity in various fields but they hesitate to proceed further because of the current quasi-democratic setup and the participation of uniformed men in the law making forums.

Meanwhile, India must take the issues like Rakhine violence (Rakhine state has been the site of inter-communal violence since June 2012, with clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, which eventually led the Government to declare a state of emergency there) and Kachin separate issues (in January 2013, Government announced a unilateral ceasefire following a three-week offensive against ethnic Kachin rebels. Then in May 2013, the Government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) concluded a seven-point agreement by which they agreed to, among others, establish a political dialogue) into it’s consideration and must watch them closely on how they unfold before the 2015 general elections.