Archive for March 2007

India Honours’ Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Deshprem Award 2007!

March 31, 2007

More than seven decades ago, India’s celebrated Asian hero of freedom movement – Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, while reflecting on her prison days at Mandalay from January 1925 to May 1927; wrote in his famous memoir – ‘The Indian Struggle’, that, “I remember distinctly that it was the place where Lokamanya Tilak had been imprisoned for nearly six years and later on Lala Lajpat Rai for about a year. It gave us therefore some consolidation and pride to feel that we were following in their footsteps…from the station we drove inside the fort to the prison and we passed on our way the houses in which Lalaji and Sardar Ajit Singh had lived during their internment (Tilak, Ajit Singh and Lajpat Rai were great leaders of independence movement of India). Outlined against the morning sky, we were told, were the Palace and State-buildings of the old kingdoms. The memory of the good old days that were no more produced a pang in our hearts and we began to wonder when Burma would once more be able to fly her flag of independence.” Although later on Burma achieved its glorious freedom from Colonialism first on 01 August 1943 with Japanese support then on 4th of January 1948, when Bose wasn’t alive to see it. But once again country of Netaji Bose through Netaji Subhas Foundation in India fulfilled their great historical role by giving Netaji Bose International Deshprem Award 2007 to Daw Suu Kyi on 19th March 2007 at Mahajati Sadan, Kolkata, when Burma once again struggling hard to fly her flag of democratic freedom.

Apart from Suu Kyi, who is suffering continued imprisonment under the military dictatorship, many democracy loving people are today languishing in Mandalay and other jails of Burma like Subhas Bose, Lokamanya Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai etc. in different historical context with same aspirations for establishment of freedom from fear in Burma. It is interesting to note that recently United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro’s has once again appealed (latest one on 16th February & 27th March 2007) to release Tin Oo, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Tin (poet & editor) from prison and deeply regrets for the slow progress of democratic reforms in Burma.

The Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Deshprem award 2007 consisting of a citation and a cash prize of Rs One Lakh was received by the representative delegates of National League for Democracy (Western Region) group leader – U Ramjit Verma representing Daw Suu Kyi. While giving award to Daw Suu Kyi, the President of Netaji Subhas Foundation, Kolkata, Mr. Ashok Ghosh on behalf of the freedom loving people of India said that, “We are honoured to present you this award, for no Burmese has done more to achieve honour, freedom and pride for all Burmese…the shackles of oppression has not dimmed the fire that burns in you. You represent a light of hope in the gloom of despair. An exemplification of courage, dignity and determination, we are sure you will in your life time be able to redeem the pledge you have made to your motherland.” Secretary General of the Netaji Subhas Foundation, Mr. Debabrata Biswas and Lok Sabha member from Barasat constituency of All India Forward Bloc party, Mr. Subrata Bose (also nephew of Subhas Bose) spoke of close relations between people of Burma and India. Mr. Debabrata Biswas and other speakers on this auspicious occasion stressed that, the main purpose of this award is to give a strong message to the world community especially China & Russia as well as Government of India to review its Burma policy of constructive engagement with military junta and to express solidarity of the Indian people with the struggle of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for the restoration of democracy in Burma.

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Pakistan – Burma connection: the Courting of General’s and Security Implications for India (Part: II)

March 18, 2007

Pakistan and Burma established their diplomatic relations before their independence on 01st of August 1947. (8) And interestingly Islamabad was second country after United Kingdom to recognize Burma’s existence foreseeing their geographically and culturally impractical plan of creation of East Pakistan or present Bangladesh in new Pakistan & its proximity with emerging Burma. Even during early years of independence, Pakistan’s father of the nation and creator of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah tried hard to come closer with Burma.(9) However Burma’s new democratic leader U Nu’s close relations with India’s then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru didn’t allow Pakistan to find space in Burma’s politics against India’s national interest. When Burma’s great assassinated leader, Aung San’s wife – Daw Khin Kyi (Mother of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) took the ambassadorial position of Burma in India, it saw more closeness with the land of Pagodas. So during democratic era of Burma, from 4th January 1948 to March 1962, the golden land enjoyed further strengthening of relations between India and Burma. And Democratic Burma’s closeness with India was natural reflection of the past cultural-historical-political relations existing between two countries since time immemorial.

General’s effort to establish Cultural Connection:

However things went on another track after the military takeover in Burma in 1962 and fledgling condition of democracy in Pakistan. Now for the new military rulers under General Ne Win & then General Than Shwe, it was more important for the regime to find reliable political friends to stay in power to suppress internal discontent for the restoration of democracy in Burma rather than promoting & strengthening historical-cultural ties with any nation including India and even inside Burma. In this tricky situation to gain diplomatic support with armaments, China and its military arm in South Asia – Pakistan (Although, US policy think tanks are blundering to considers Pakistan as their trustworthy partner in South Asia) provided more homogeneity with Burma’s military General’s than any nations in the first act of diplomacy. However, Pakistan, which is officially declared Islamic State didn’t left any stone un-turn to attract Burma’s General’s even on archaeological reminisce to establish cultural connection with Burma. In August 2000, Pakistani Charge d’ Affairs to Burma, Mr. Zaigham Uddin Azam in an exclusive interview with the Myanmar Times, said that, “Pakistan wants closer cultural and religious ties with Myanmar / Burma, inviting local Buddhists to make the pilgrimage to Gandhara, the religion’s second most holy land (However in fact, it is not second most important, if it is second most important then, where one would place, Sarnath , Vaishali, Nalanda, and Bodh-Gaya of India, which is directly linked with Buddha’s Life) and offered that, Pakistan embassy at Yangon would provide all help to Burmese Buddhists who wanted to visit Gandhara and other sites including Taxila & Swat. Pakistan embassy also offered the introduction of a subsidized package to cut pilgrims travel cost. He further said, that, Theravada Buddhism, which is widely practiced in Myanmar has so many similarities with the stupas and monasteries in my home province and nearby Punjab province of Pakistan.” (10) However Pakistani General’s, which had been trying to develop cultural connection with Burma on the archaeological remains of Gandhar, Taxila & Swat didn’t take any serious initiative to protect the demolition of world famous Bamyan Buddha in Afghanistan in next year 2001 by Taliban government, which came into power by their support.

India’s Misguided Trust:

During cold-war era, India’s earlier natural diplomatic endeavour to give political asylum to Burma’s former Prime Minister- U Nu in 1973 by Mrs. Indira Gandhi and later open support to democratic revolution of 1988 in Burma under Rajiv Gandhi era further distanced the General’s from the world’s largest democratic nation. However with new looks east policy since 1992, India started its new constructive engagement policy honeymoon with military junta to exploit available economic opportunity & to minimize its internal problem of Northeast insurgency, smuggling, illicit drug trade etc. considering military Burma falsely as a trustworthy partner & springboard for Southeast Asian nations. It was misguided more faith towards a regime for economic opportunity, which has been struggling to play with their economic data to prove to the world about its economic achievements and promoting more of interest of Pakistan in ASEAN and serving Chinese foreign policy interest in Asia. India which could have played the role of peace broker in Burma for democratic groups & Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and avoided providing legitimacy to the military has become victim of trusting more to her unnatural political system like – USA trusting more to Pakistan in South Asia to eliminate Islamic terrorism and Al-Qaeda network. India couldn’t realize at that time in 1992, that, her initiative to provide legitimacy to an unpopular military regime would soon make it easier for Burma’s General’s to find a place in ASEAN in 1997 without perusal of any significant reforms at democratic fronts and make the prospect of realization of democracy more difficult in Burma. In July 2004, Government of India’s Border Security Force in Tripura seized a huge consignment of drugs smuggled from Burma borders into India (11)and in August 2004, India’s Assam state Chief Minister – Tarun Gogoi had openly accused Burma of fueling insurgency in northeast India. (12) The misguided trust became more apparent, when India’s leading Newspaper – The Times of India reported on 21st December 2006 about POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) based Islamic terrorist organization – Lashkar-e-Taiba’s bases in Manipur having connections inside Burma borders.

Intensified Visits of General’s:

It is important to note, that after the visit of then Secretary-1 of the Burma’s ruling SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) General Khin Nyunt to Pakistan in July 2000, the official newspaper of Burma – The Myanmar Times & Business Review reported in glorifying terms about the ‘cementing of ties and promotion of cooperation between the two armed forces’. (13) As it was expected, General Khin Nyunt’s visit to Pakistan not only cemented ties in the areas of economic and defense spheres, but it also provided renewal of the commitment to define & suppress ‘democracy’ in both the countries agreeing to see it as a US & western propaganda in Asia. The relationship between General’s got further strengthened next year in May 2001 with the visit of Pakistan’s Chief Executive and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee – General Pervez Musharraf to Rangoon on the invitation of General Than Shwe. Among Musharraf’s high level team, which signed different agreements of cooperation between Burma & Pakistan, from Science & technology to trade, the one person – Mr. Javed Hassan, who visited Burma again in May 2005 as a Principal of Pakistan Administrative Staff College was earlier in-charge of Pakistan’s weapons & equipments in Musharraf’s government. Again in August 2002, an eleven member high level trade delegation of Pakistan visited Burma under – Mr. Mohammed Yahya, then Director of Pakistan’s Export Promotion Bureau and hosted Pak Product exhibition at the Sofiatel Plaza Hotel in Rangoon on 7th August. Although, the main objective of the visit was to increase Pakistan’s presence in Burma’s medicine market, which registered US $ 300,000 export growth in the year 2001 to Burma. (14) Even in March 2004, an invitation to Pakistan’s – Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) was extended by Burma’s Ambassador to Pakistan – U Maung Nyo to promote trade and investment between two countries. (15) One of the interesting aspects of the military rule in any nation is that, those who heads the economic, trade or other portfolios of ministry could also negotiate and secretly take initiative for defence-military-intelligence cooperation and the case of Pakistan and Burma nexus are not exception to this. Apart from trade maneuverings, Pakistan’s High Level thirty-three member delegation from Pakistan’s- National Defence College, Civil Servants, Parliamentarians under the leadership of Lieutenant-General Tariq Waseem Ghazi visited Rangoon, Burma on 15th August 2004 in the name of two nation study tour, which met Burma’s top military officers including Commandant of Yangon’s National Defence College Major-General Moe Hein and Deputy Foreign Minister – U Khin Maung Win. Most interesting part of the visit was that after their three day study tour, the said team left for China on 18 August. (16)

Nuclear Connection between General’s:

There have been various media reports & strong allegations on Pakistan and Burma after September 11 unfortunate cowardice terrorist act on America that, Pakistani General’s has been secretly helping Burma’s military junta to develop nuclear weapons together with Russia, North Korea and China. However Burmese General’s has time and again vociferously denied these reports. Moreover, in December 2001, the New York Times reported that, when US authorities were investigating Pakistan’s two top nuclear scientists – Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majid for their links with al-Qaeda, the other two senior nuclear scientists – Suleiman Asad and Muhammed Ali Mukhtar capable of developing nuclear weapons had been sent by Pakistan to Burma on an unspecified research project. Later in January 2002, the Wall Street Journal reported that Asad and Mukhtar are still in Burma helping military junta to build 10-MW nuclear research reactor. (17)

Defence Cooperation through Sports Diplomacy vs. Car Diplomacy*:

Even to enhance defence cooperation through car diplomacy of 5th December 2006 with Burma’s military junta, India has been late by one month to Pakistani Generals tactics of sports diplomacy in the concerned area. One month before the car diplomacy of India, on 5th of November 2006, Pakistani General’s had sent a Defence Services Soccer team under Brigadier General Muhammad Naseem Khan to play a friendly soccer matches against their Burmese counterparts, which was received & attended by Burma’s top military brass of Army, Navy and Air Force under Lt-General Myint Swe together with Commander of Ayeyawady Naval Region Command Commodore Win Shein, Commander of Mingaladon Air Base Brig-Gen Zin Yaw, Principal of Defence Services Martial Arts and Sports Institute Col Htein Lin and other defence services staffs. (18) However the said goodwill match had been played on two days but the senior level defence team of Pakistan stayed from 5th of November to 12th of November afternoon in Burma. The visit was well timed and interesting for three more reasons, first, as it coincided with the Prime Minister of Burma, General Soe Win’s high level successful visit & arrival from China and secondly, with the Annual General meeting of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA – a quasi socio-political organization supported by the military in Burma) at Nay Pyi Taw and the visit of the Prime Minister of Lao People’s Democratic Republic – Mr. Bouasone Bouphavanh, attracting all media attention rather than the focus on growing Pakistan-Burma connection of defence cooperation through sports diplomacy.

Lesson’s to be learned:

It is high time for India to review its Burma policy considering past historical experiences of evaluating and trusting transparent systems of governments and leaders accountable to their people’s like – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi rather than providing legitimacy to military junta as the nexus that exists between China and Pakistan-Burma has been not new. And China has been using both Pakistan and Burma as surrogates to contain India from two different flanks. Moreover, since long during military rule Burma has emerged as an important strategic flank of China to contain India from the eastern side. If India has to tackle its Northeast insurgency & other problems, then it has to be solved internally through dialogues & own military might and frequent visits of mainstream political leaders to Northeast Area rather than flying over capital cities of Northeast region to deliver political speech? It is hard truth to understand that insurgency problem in the Northeast region is a post-1962 development in Burma and constant growing of her relationship with Pakistan, which is a natural outcome of a political system having lack of participative democratic rule. Burmese General’s attempt to cooperate India in capturing northeast separatist base in February 2007 is not new. And it is more important to see in future the real intention of the existing political system in Burma rather than few half-hearted military actions, which lacks faith towards very new commitments.
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Endnotes:

8. List of Countries having diplomatic relations with the Union of Myanmar, office of Permanent Missions of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, Switzerland. (From: mission.itu.ch/MISSIONS/Myanmar/basicfacts/DipRelations.htm)
9. Jinnah’s Speech delivered to the Burmese Ambassador in Pakistan at the time
of presenting Credentials to the Quaid-i-Azam on 21st January, 1948, Govt. of Pakistan.
10. Pakistan urges closer religious and cultural ties for Buddhists, The Myanmar Times & Business Review, Volume 2, No. 22, July 31-August 6, 2000.
11. Burma’s Drug Flow Increase in Northeast, Mizzima News, 8 July 2004.
12. Surajit Khaund, Assam CM Demand Sealing of Indo-Burmese Border, Mizzima News, 27 August 2004.
13. Historic Pakistan Visit Seals New Relationship, The Myanmar Times & Business Review, Volume 1, No. 20, July 17-23, 2000.
14. Nang San Noom, Pakistani delegation targets medicine market, The Myanmar Times & Business Review, 27 August 2002.
15. ICCI Trade Delegation to Visit Myanmar, March 13, 2004. Muharram 21, 1425 Hijri, Islamabad, Pakistan from Paknews.com, Accessed on 13-3-2004.
16. Pakistan Team on Study Visit, The Myanmar Times & Business Review, Volume 12, No. 230, 23-29 August 2004.
17. Kaushik Kapisthalam, Pakistan’s forgotten al-Qaeda Nuclear Link, 4 June 2004. From Asia Times Online: atimes.com.
18. Football Team of Pakistani Armed Forces Arrived, The New Light of Myanmar, 06 November 2006, Volume XIV, No. 124, p.6 And, Lt-Gen Myint Swe receives leader of defence services soccer team of Pakistan, The New Light of Myanmar, 07 November 2006, Volume XIV, No. 205, p.16

* Car Diplomacy: Earlier organizing car rally was part of the sporting events and sports authority used to organize the events. But strengthening defence cooperation through Car Rally certainly signifies the beginning of Car Diplomacy in bilateral cooperation between a democratically elected government and the military forces in post-cold war era denying the rights to rule to the elected representative of May 1990 elections in Burma. India’s car diplomacy with Burma has started two years back in November 22, 2004, when the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, flagged off the first India-ASEAN Car Rally from the Nehru Stadium, Guwahati in India. Manmohan Singh wanted at that time that Car Rally would capture the imagination of people of India & ASEAN, in demonstrating the essential oneness of integrated region including Burma. Although the original idea of ASEAN motor rally that would traverse roads linking the ASEAN countries was first mooted and thought by former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in October 2003 at the ASEAN summit at Laos

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Pakistan – Burma connection: the Courting of General’s and Security Implications for India (Part: I)

March 3, 2007

Pakistan and Burmese General’s trusted ‘silent strategic friendship’ has entered a new phase with the visit of Burma’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. U. Kyaw Thu to Islamabad in December 2006. The visit was silent, because it was not much hyped in Burmese official media and not even a word in – “The New Light of Myanmar”, as well as it didn’t figure in the list of news section of ministry of foreign affairs of military junta. Although, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was kind enough to give space to the news regarding U Kyaw Thu’s visit of 21st December 2006.

However, Burmese General’s has been smart enough to understand the implications of giving media space to their honeymoon with Pakistan and its ramifications to India’s new constructive engagement relationship, through which they are enjoying legitimacy of working hard towards seven-step restoration of democracy in Burma as a peaceful stable neighbour of world’s largest democratic nation. In this visit, Mr. U Kyaw Thu’s Pakistani counterpart, Mr. Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, emphasized excellent existing political relations & deepening of economic relations together with proposal to sign an early harvest programme to be followed by the Free Trade Agreement with Burma. It is important to note that, presently Pakistan enjoys and has interest in Burma’s telecommunication, pharmaceutical, cement industry, sugar industry, pesticides, fertilizer, paper industry, tourism and cultural sectors as announced policy and military-defense cooperation as unannounced strategic policy. In return, Mr. U Kyaw Thu was upbeat in saying that, Burma had always good relations with Pakistan and assured about Burmese businessmen’s, who have been participating in Expo-Pakistan every year in Karachi. And further assured Pakistan, for working seriously towards enhancing their cooperation with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). (1) Burmese Generals interest in promoting Pakistan’s case in ASEAN forum is not new undermining Indian interest in ASEAN or ASEAN+1 agenda. Even during the inaugural meeting on the establishment of ASEAN-Pakistan Sectoral Dialogue Relations on 5-7 November 1997 held at Islamabad, then Burmese Charge d’ Affairs, Embassy of the Union of Myanmar in Islamabad, Mr. Khin Maung Lynn was very supportive of Pakistan’s case in ASEAN.

The above visit was well timed after the inauguration of Burma-China trade fair opened at Muse (105 mile trade zone) in Shan State (North) on 18th of December 2006 to enhance Burma-China cooperation friendship of “Paukphaw”. (2) And interestingly this visit also coincided with the conclusion of “Pakistan-China joint anti-terror military exercise 2006” on 20th December headed by China’s Chief of Staff of the Chengdu military region of People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Lieutenant General Lu Dengmin. (3) It is important to note that, the Chengdu Military Region of PLA is an inland military force of China and its forces are deployed along the borders with Vietnam, Burma and Tibetan regions, among which it enjoys more close proximity with Burma.

Burmese General’s had always tried to utilize every available opportunity to strengthen ties with Pakistani counterparts, which is more trustworthy and reliable system of governance for them than India and serving Chinese foreign policy interest in South Asian region as well as in Asia. For Burmese General’s, China and Pakistan provides more opportunity than India, at one side to court with regimented one communist party rule of China without the ideology of communism. And at the other side, it provides General’s the opportunity to go with officers like them in Pakistan, denying rights of democracy and accountability of the governance to the people. Burmese General’s are shrewd enough to calculate that, both Pakistan & China provides more stable political homogeneity of courtship than India, which has multi party democracy. Moreover constructive engagement policy could change in future with the change of government or key policy makers at New Delhi. So when, Pakistan was struck with unfortunate earthquake on 8th of October 2005, Burmese Generals were quick to respond with donating syringes and medicines valuing US dollars 200,000, (4) although Burma’s health care system had been always in need for other’s donations under military junta. In the same year in August 2005, Pakistan’s Excise and Taxation Minister, Dr. Muhammad Shafique Chaudhary of Punjab visited Yangon or Rangoon and met Vice-President of the Union of Burma Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry – Mr. U Aung Lwin and General Secretary- U Sein Win Hlaing and CEC Member- U Tun Aung to enhance economic cooperation. (5) And in May 2005, Pakistani goodwill delegation led by Lt-Gen (Retd.) Mr. Javed Hassan, Principal of Pakistan Administrative Staff College visited Burma’s General’s and had a meeting with U Hla Kyi, Director-General of Civil Service Selection and Training Department, Burma to enhance cooperation in Civil Services management, which was more of military intelligence cooperation. (6)

However for India’s present External Affairs Minister and seasoned congress politician, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, policy of constructive engagement with Burma’s General’s is a part of Look East policy initiated since 1992 and serving national security interest. He trusts General’s like many other experts at South Block and went even beyond Congress & Indian history during his visit to Burma in January 2007 that, “India is not interested in exporting our own ideology. We are democracy and we would like democracy to flourish everywhere. But this is for every country to decide for itself.” (7) Mr. Mukherjee has forgotten that supplying arms and ammunition to military junta would not flourish democracy everywhere including Burma and if he thinks that, he can compete with China and Pakistan in supplying arms to General’s then he is making a big-big mistake concerning India’s Security interests. Probably Mr. Mukherjee has also forgotten India’s role in Nepal’s democratic history and Indonesian independence struggle as well as linkages of Aung San, Ba Maw, U Ottama, U Nu and more importantly Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with India and other examples. India has rich history of trusting people’s leaders than Government servant’s or employees. The past records of rising Northeast insurgency, small arms trade through Northeastern Burma borders, increase in illicit drug trade and smuggling has different story to tell about reposing more faiths on employees than leader’s, whom people of Burma elected & chosen in 1990 election. It is also for present Indian leadership to understand that, India is not a banana republic, which can succumb to terror politics of any group and any nation in pursuing their cherished ideals. It is also important for the policy makers & corporate houses of Australia, UK, Japan, South Korea etc. to find coherence with their national traditions rather than running for some dollar benefits in Burma. The world is large enough to satiate economic hunger.

(Continued…)

Endnotes:

1. Deputy Foreign Minister of Myanmar’s Visit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan, Islamabad, Pakistan, 21 December 2006, (PR. No. 372/2006).
2. Enhancing Economic Cooperation through Promotion of Border Trade, The New Light of Myanmar, Thursday, 21 December 2006, Volume XIV, Number 249, p.2
3. Pakistan, China joint anti-terror mily exercise, The New Light of Myanmar, Thursday, 21 December 2006, Volume XIV, Number 249, p.11
4. Pakistan: Myanmar donates syringes, medicines for quake victims, 14 December 2005, from reliefweb.int
5. UMFCCI Vice President meets Pakistani Minister, Myanmar Information Committee, Yangon, Information Sheet, No. D-3411(1), August 21, 2005, Section-3.
6. Pakistani delegation concludes visit, Myanmar Information Committee, Yangon, Information Sheet, No. D-3338(1), May 26, 2005, Section-5.
7. Siddharth Varadarajan, India not interested in exporting ideology: Pranab, The Hindu, 20 January 2007.

(Continued….)

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