Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Shaming China On Burma

The thugs that rule Burma have opened fire on protesting Buddhist monks, who were demanding nothing more than democratic and economic reforms, killing many and injuring scores more. This is nothing new for the military junta, who have ruled through a barrel of a gun for years.

Burma has proven impervious to pressure of any kind to mend its ways, both domestically and internationally; hence they operate with impunity and arrogance and utter disregard for the welfare of its citizens. Burma does so with the tacit support of China, who, according to French journalists André Boucaud and Louis Boucaud,
treat Burma like another province, where human rights plays second fiddle to exploiting Burma’s geography and abundant natural resources.

The main beneficiary of this double game is China, upon whose military and financial support Burma depends. Chinese participation in infrastructure construction has increased the penetration of Chinese products: the construction of major roads from Loije to Bhamo, and from Tengchong to Myitkyina, will improve access to the Irrawaddy river, which will soon be a major waterway for China. This could influence leases in the port of Rangoon. An opposition news agency even suggested that Burma could become China’s 24th province.
Unfortunately, nothing can be done without China’s help (their hold on Burma is that strong). And China’s involvement has been underreported by the media and ignored by much of the world, including the United Nations. The only way to make Burma change its ways, as I see it, is to publicly embarrass China for supporting such a vile regime. Burma recent actions are already making China a little nervous, and given China’s growing profile as an economic and military power, even the tiniest of problems are magnified ten-fold. By merely increasing the volume of protests we should get the desired effect: sending a firm signal to Beijing to do something about Burma.

We can only hope for the desired results.

And what should India’s position be on this issue? Idealistically, India should give support to the protestors and sharply criticize Burma for its undemocratic ways. This would’ve been the Nehurvian way. Realistically, India, with its economy growing at breakneck speed, can do or say little less they want to jeopardize a deal they recently signed with Burma to build a natural gas pipeline.

On the other hand, China is building intelligence and naval bases in Burma, one of a string that will eventually surround India, including the Pakistani port of Gwadar, that are designed to strategically strangle India. So a natural gas pipeline, like the one proposed with Iran (via Pakistan), could, down the road, pose more of a threat than a benefit.

UPDATE: The folks over at Sepia Mutiny have provided the answer: in accordance with its national interests, India will say nothing about Burma except to monitor the situation a little more closely. So realpolitik it is! Nothing morally wrong with protecting one’s national interests, of course, but it’s still a bitter pill to swallow.