Archive for May 2007

Why India is silent over extension of Daw Suu Kyi’s House Arrest?

May 29, 2007

Long years ago in 1952, when India’s illustrious and noted foreign policy expert – Mr. K.P. Karunakaran wrote his insightful marvelous work on Indian Foreign Policy entitled – “India in World Affairs: August 1947- January 1950”, he rightly proposed that, “India’s contribution to the awakening of Asia was significant, India holds a unique position in the continent, and strategically she is so situated that she cannot be ignored in a consideration of any major problem.”[1] Further, while explaining the core ingredients of Indian Foreign Policy direction, he elaborated ethical values of Indian Foreign Policy for future generations of Indians and writes that, “India’s pursuit of peace is determined not only by her self-interest but by the idealism which her present administrators imbibed from Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, during the country’s struggle for freedom,” and he quotes India’s first Prime Minister – Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech given at the Columbia University: 

“Means and ends are thus intimately and inextricably connected and cannot be separated…The great leader of my country, Mahatma Gandhi, under whose inspiration and sheltering care I grew up, always laid stress on moral values and warned us never to subordinate means to ends.”[2] 

Although, from 25th of May 2007 onwards, when world was reacting strongly everyday from Asia to Europe, and from North America to Africa against Burma’s ruling military junta – SPDC’s unfortunate draconian decision of extending the house arrest of people’s queen – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of golden land, India was silent like – China, departing from the path shown by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and very aptly reminded by scholar – K.P. Karunakaran in 1952. Now in a fast changing world on materialistic principles, Indian leadership at centre also succumbed to pursue economic means at the cost of our own moral and ethical democratic values enshrined in our foreign policy objectives.  

Yes, China can afford to support a totalitarian regime in Burma as Chinese communist ideology of Mao supports one party dictatorship in the name of democracy of proletariats and also to those regimes which has very rich record of killing many comrades like – SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) and earlier SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) did with Burma’s communist movement. But whether India can follow the role model of China in establishing new order in Asia has to be critically evaluated? Following China’s path in Asia and Africa of dialectical materialism, we have already lost the leadership role in Asia as well as in
Africa. Now, when Daw Suu Kyi’s house arrest extended, who believes in Nehruvian philosophy and considers Gandhi as her political Guru, India remains silent and interestingly ASEAN founding members – Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines reacts against the Burma’s military dictatorships decision. Earlier India’s leadership role in Afro-Asia was recognized as the founder of Non-Alignment Movement, and her role in the many of United Nations General Assembly sessions based on democratic principles. Now,
Thailand has taken the role of leading Asia through Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) Forum. It seems that, official foreign policy advisors of Government of India sitting at South-Block in New Delhi are working like management professionals of Corporate Houses, advising central leadership in the context of plus and minus of economic benefit of uttering any word against SPDC in Burma; that, if they say even a word against military junta we might lose such number of oil wells exploration rights and certain economic benefits of reaching ASEAN through Burma. However they don’t know, that the strength of India does not lie in acquiring oil wells in Burma, which could be also acquired at Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and in other parts of the globe, but the strength lies in the status of leading Third-world nations on ethical and democratic values enshrined in our constitution to establish a world order based on freedom from fear. It is interesting to note, that, when founding members of ASEAN – Thailand can react strongly against the detention, and when another founding member – Indonesia can come out openly against Myanmar on 28th of May 2007 together with Philippines, that, “By this act, Myanmar has tarnished the image of Southeast Asian neighbours and called on the ruling junta to release the Nobel Peace laureate – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” further, Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman – Kristiarto Legowo said, that, “The extended detention has hurt the democratization process in Myanmar and it has also tarnished the good image of ASEAN,”[3] then, what prevents India to come out openly against SPDC in Burma? 

If Indian leadership is considering Burma under SPDC as only route to ASEAN, then they are doing fatal mistake of giving leadership of Asia to China.India has to realize its own strength, and if they rely on her own principles, ASEAN and ACD would walk with her together with western world, which has been already facing Chinese syndrome of dialectical materialism of dominating every sphere of economic activity as well as of politics. Nehru was knowing this fact, that the Afro-Asian nations knows that, India’s cultural heritage and tradition of non-violence and truth rests on giving and not on taking & controlling everything like – Communism of China, so he went with India’s enshrined principles of democracy and established India’s position as a leader of the Third-world.  

Sardar Patel’s warning of going against Democratic Principles and  Chinese influence on Burma: 

Apart from Nehru, India’s other towering personality and builder of Modern Indian Nation, popularly known as “Iron Man of India” for his contribution of integrating Indian States and former Deputy Prime Minister – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, while writing to all the Chief Ministers of States (Which he used to write regularly on fortnightly basis) about the danger of authoritarian regime on the context of developments of Chinese communist revolution, wrote on 03rd of November 1949 (it is also applicable to military regime in Burma), “Democracy, if it is to survive a clash with totalitarian ideology, must display cohesion, discipline, integrity and political honesty; it must also be eternally vigilant in defence of those basic principles of democracy, without which its foundations cannot be well and truly laid. The developments in China, therefore, are a warning and an example from which we all can profit, if we have the will and the desire to learn.”[4]   So the problem which Indian foreign policy is facing, that, how to react against a newly developed friendly military totalitarian regime (after a hard efforts by foreign policy management professionals work to bring it at the level of constructive engagement ) was  solved long ago by Sardar Patel.  

Moreover on 07th November 1950, Sardar Patel wrote to Jawaharlal Nehru about China’s danger, that, “Recent and bitter history also tells us that communism is no shield against imperialism and that the communists are as good or as bad imperialist as any other. Chinese ambitions in this respect not only cover the Himalayan slopes on our side but also include important parts of Assam. They have their ambitions in Burma also. Burma has the added difficulty that it has no McMahon Line round which to build up even the semblance of an agreement. Chinese irredentism and Communist imperialism are different from the expansionism or imperialism of the western powers. The former has a cloak of ideology which makes it ten times more dangerous. In the guise of ideological expansion lie concealed racial, national or historical claims.[5]  Interestingly, Sardar Patel’s vision about democratic India’s leadership role in Asia could also be found later in America’s greatest leader – John F. Kennedy’s speech of November 1959, in which he says, that,“The real battle between India and China is not the recent flare-up over Chinese troop movements around disputed boundaries. Nor is it the war of words over China’s  annihilation of
Tibet.The real India-China struggle is equally fierce but less obvious –less in the headlines but far more significant in the long run. And that is the struggle between India and China for the economic and political leadership of the East, for the respect of all Asia, for the opportunity to demonstrate whose way of life is the better.[6] And it is for Indian leadership to understand that departing from our own democratic principles by supporting infamous military regime, whose way of life, India is promoting? On June 1963, at the United Nations General Assembly India’s former Scholar President – Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, outlined India’s future task as, “Our task today is to deal with the souls of men; it is there that the changes have to be brought about. Before outer organizations are established, inward changes have to take place. An outer crisis is a reflection of an inward chaos, and if the chaos inside the minds and hearts of men…is not removed, we cannot bring about a more satisfactory world order.”[7] 

Freedom Balloons over Rangoon: 

Apart from the world over protests against the regime, the greatest among all was the courageous protests led by 88 generation student groups together with National League for Democracy party workers at Rangoon on 28th of May 2007, in a Gandhian non-violent manner for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. About 350 people lit candles and chanted “Free Aung San Suu Kyi” and released more than 100 balloons carrying the same slogan of “Free Suu Kyi” into the skies above Rangoon.[8] These balloons could be remembered as Freedom Balloons in Burma in their struggle against freedom from fear. 

Conclusion: 

It is still not too late to say wrong to wrong and right to right. When Australia can afford to join international protests against the decision of extension of house arrest of Daw Suu Kyi by military junta after their significant investment by Danford Equities Corporation signed in November 2006,[9] then why not India can come out openly to say big no to the regime? Apart from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, South African voices, Japan, USA, UK, EU nations; Australian Foreign Minister – Mr. Alexander Downer’s statement is a welcome step, in which he says, that, “I am saddened and disappointed by the decision of the Burmese regime to once again extend the detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for a further year.”[10]  

A week ago, India’s two former Prime Minister, Mr. V.P. Singh and Mr. Chandrashekhar already appealed to the military regime with 59 other head of states to release Daw Suu Kyi.[11] And now it is turn of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister – Mr. Manmohan Singh to act fast on Burmese military regime to regain fast loosing ground of leadership of Asia to China.  

 


ENDNOTES: 

[1] KP Karunakaran, India in World Affairs: August 1947-January 1950, Geoffrey Cumberlege Oxford University Press (Issued under the auspices of The Indian Council of World Affairs),Calcutta, 1952, p33.

[2] Ibid, pp.23-24.

[3] Indonesia calls for Suu Kyi’s Release, The Brunei Times, Brunei, 29th of May 2007.

[4] Sardar Patel’s Correspondence,1945-50: Foreign Policy in Evolution – Constitution-making-Political and Administrative Problems, Volume – 8, Edited by Durga Das, Navajivan Publishing House,Ahmedabad, India, 1973, p.387.

[5] Sardar Patel’s Correspondence,1945-50: Acute Power Struggle-Triumph of Mutual Accommodation – Warning against China, Volume – 10, Edited by Durga Das, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, India, 1974, pp.337-338.

[6] John F. Kennedy, The Strategy of Peace, Edited by Allan Nevins, Popular Library, New York, 1961, pp.177-178.

[7] Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Mahatma Gandhi and One World, Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, New Delhi, 1994, p.9

[8] Burma Pro-democracy activists rally in Rangoon, The Nation, Bangkok, Thailand, 28th of May 2007.

[9] Australia’s Danford Equities signs oil-gas exploration deal with Myanmar, International Herald Tribune, 11 November 2006.

[10] Australia urges Myanmar junta to release Suu Kyi, The Peninsula, Qatar, 29th of May 2007.

 

[11] Thai Media Slams Extension of Suu Kyi’s House Arrest, UNI, New Delhi, 26th of May 2007.

(The End) 

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Revisiting the Extension of Daw Suu Kyi’s House Arrest and its Lessons

May 26, 2007

On 25th May 2007, the expected news of extension of house arrest by another year of Asia’s Symbol of Democracy – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi came up before the world community in Burma. The extension of house arrest was expected because incorrigible ruling military junta known as – SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) has shown in number of articles in their official mouthpiece – “The New Light of Myanmar” in last twenty –five days, that, they don’t have any regard for United Nations third committee resolutions and recent calls made by the world leaders.  The extension was surprising in only one aspect as it contradicts Burma’s Police Chief – Maj. General Khin Yi’s pronouncement at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations National Chief of Police conference held last year in May 2006 at Kualalumpur, in which he said, that, “If Aung San Suu Kyi is released, I can handle every situation and there will not be rallies or riot in Myanmar if she is released.”[i] Although one can understand Mr. Yi’s statement, that, there would be no riot in Burma, if she is released but his statement, that, also there would be no rallies in Burma itself reflects SPDC’s commitment towards democracy and people’s freedom to express their opinion in large numbers, which is reflected in their recent suppression of peaceful “White Prayer Campaign” of non-violent protest led by Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Ko Jimmy, Ko Htay Kywe, Ko Pyone Cho, Ko Mya Aye, Myo Khin, Naw Ohn Hla, Ant Bwe Kyaw and other 88 generation students group in Yangon.  The news is also a message for Russia, India and China, that how far the military regime can go to prove their arrogance towards a call made by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – Louise Arbour on 21st of May 2007, for the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in Burma.[ii] It is important message particularly for Russia and China, which had earlier on 12th January 2007 vetoed the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution on Burma on the pretext of urging other members nations of UNSC to find solution for Burma in the high office of United Nations Human Rights Commission, General Assembly and its third committee, International Organization for Migration, WHO and other relevant organs. The extension of Suu Kyi’s house arrest, who has already spent eleven of the past seventeen years in detention, once again proves, that, how important was the much needed UNSC action on Burma scuttled by Russian and Chinese veto in January 2007? China and Russia, diplomatically might evade the question of the release of Daw Suu Kyi and other political prisoners as an internal affairs of Burma to gain footholds in lucrative energy, trade and nuclear fields, but their roles would be remembered as a black chapters in the future writings of world history.  

China’s Role in the extension of Daw Suu Kyi’s Detention: 

The extension of Daw Suu Kyi’s detention was more of the result of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ms. Jiang Yu’s pronouncement, one day before on 24th of May 2007 evening, that, “the issue of the Nobel Peace Laureate was an internal affair of Myanmar and should be settled by its own government and people”, however interestingly further she stressed, following double talk policy of China on Burma, that, “Independently, we hope international efforts should be constructive and positive to help Myanmar in its political reconciliation. It serves the interest of Myanmar and also the interest of the international community.”[iii] Probably Ms. Jiang Yu or Chinese leadership is not aware or intentionally trying to befool the world community that, Burma’s military leadership doesn’t have any faith in ‘national political reconciliation’ and does not at all in their articles in “The New Light of Myanmar” recognizes political prisoners in Burma. For military leadership in Burma, “Demand for the release of political prisoners is invention of a problem that does not exists”, interestingly Military junta’s intellectual asks that, “Have they made the demand on behalf of the people?” and further concludes that, “There are no political prisoners in Myanmar.”[iv] The article appeared on 26th of May 2007, next day after the extension of Suu Kyi on 25th May 2007 and appeal made by United Nations Secretary – General Ban Ki-moon on 25th of May 2007, in which Mr. moon deeply regrets the decision of the Government of Burma to extend the house arrest and appeals to SPDC, to reconsider the decision to extend the detention and release Suu Kyi immediately with over 1,000 known political prisoners in Burma.[v] So, honourable United Nations General Secretary – Mr. Ban Ki-moon and his high office should also update their information that, “There are no political prisoners in Burma.”  It also shows that, how far SPDC regards the high office of UN Secretary General and its 22nd of May 2007 announcement of appointing his special adviser Ibrahim Gambari to work immediately with Burma to help the regime to restore democracy and protect human rights throughout the country.[vi] A week’s before for SPDC, “Daw Suu Kyi of NLD who can be dubbed as an alien fair lady slammed the Tatmadaw government with harsh words in playing a political game.”[vii] 

Mr. Yebaw Tin Shwe’s Allegation on Daw Suu Kyi and its reality: 

Another SPDC’s version about Suu Kyi recently propounded by – Mr. Yebaw Tin Shwe, who was General Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party during 1990 election, a Pakokku native from eastern Yesagyo Township is that, “Daw Suu Kyi and Min Ko Naing are bubble political leaders.”[viii] Mr. Yebaw Tin Shwe further says in different article speaking the words of military leadership that, “Daw Suu Kyi, a puppet of the neo-colonialists, danced to the tune of the US and its associates, but hers was the ogress dance, not the dance of the female leading dancer.”[ix] However the champion of SPDC cause, Mr. Yebaw Tin Shwe’s party was nowhere in 1990 election results compared with Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which secured 392 seats in the contested 485 constituencies together with 80.82 percent votes (Shan Nationalities League for Democracy won 23 seats, Military supported -National Unity Party won – 10 seats, Mon Democratic Front – 05 seats, and other parties and independents – 55 seats). And the remnants of those political party, which failed to secure peoples mandate in 1990 election together with SPDC’s leadership are asking from Daw Suu Kyi and NLD that, “Have they made the demand on behalf of the people?” About 1990 election, Mr. Yebaw repeats the same old words of SPDC that, “election law did not stipulate any point of handing over power. To make matters worse, the NLD lacked knowledge of political tactics. Due to the situations, the NLD was further away from the opportunity to come to power.”[x] The poor Mr. Yebaw has not understood till now in his long political career in Burma, that, those who truly believes in Gandhian ideology of “Satyagraha” and “non-violence” like – Daw Suu Kyi, doesn’t see politics as an instrument of “tactics” and “opportunity” to capture political power but to serve the people. It might suit to people like – Mr. Yebaw Tin Shwe to side with any rulers who believe in power and to remain in power like –SPDC, avoiding and skirting people’s 1990 mandate, and suppressing Burmese people’s aspiration for parliamentary democracy.  

Contradictory Role of SPDC in ASEAN AMRI Meeting: 

Moreover Burma’s military leadership, while participating in the Ninth Conference of ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI) held at Jakarta from 24 to 25 May 2007, accepts and highlights the proposal put forward by the Vice Minister of Information and Culture of the LAO PDR Bosengkham Vongdara, that, “ASEAN countries should hand in hand cope with regional issues such as bird flu, children and women development, environmental protection, HIV and AIDS prevention and control, climate change, human trafficking and drug abuse among teenagers,”[xi] but the extension of the detention of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in Burma reflects contradictory role of Burma in ASEAN. At one side, military junta of Burma tries to announce commitment towards the promotion of flows of information, encouraging the media to cover more events and activities in the social and cultural areas at AMRI meeting in Jakarta, whereas at other side, Burmese Press Scrutiny Board of SPDC prohibits the publication of the biography of Burma’s late Prime Minister U Nu on his 100th birth anniversary by author – Than Win Hlaing and suppresses press freedom in Burma.[xii]   

The extension of the house arrest of Daw Suu Kyi also reflects the SPDC’s response towards recent statement made by Malaysian Foreign Minister – Datuk Seri Hamid Albar that, “ASEAN member countries must cast aside individual interest and act in concert in dealing with Myanmar on the issue of Suu Kyi in particular,[xiii] apart from former UN Secretary General – Kofi Annan’s earlier demand, present UN Secretary General – Ban Ki-moon’s appeal as well as US, UK, EU and other world leaders appeal. By this act of SPDC in its arrogance of power, it has once again failed to understand to take advantage of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s international stature and intellectual capability for Burma’s much needed economic development. It is also important for Russia, China, India and other leaders of Asia to re-think that following mud-slinging illogical tactics of SPDC towards Daw Suu Kyi and avoiding genuine political leaders of Burma while courting military junta, how far they can create a bridge between Eastern and Western civilization and real political stability in Burma? It is high time to re-think that, whether future of Asia Cooperation Dialogue and “One Asia” rests in conflict with the West or Cooperation with the Western Civilization? It is still time for SPDC, if they love Burma and its people and not power, to come forward to start a journey of dialogues among civilization rather than creating an international climate of conflict.  

 


ENDNOTES: 

[i] Myanmar’s Police Chief Sees No Problem if Suu Kyi Released, Antara News Agency Reports from Kuala Lumpur, 23rd of May 2006, Jakarta, Indonesia.

[ii] Myanmar: UN human rights chief urges release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, UN News Centre, UN News Service, 21st of May 2007.

[iii] Tham Choy Lin, China Will Not Interfere in Myanmar, Bernama News Agency, Kualalumpur, Malaysia, 24th of May 2007.

[iv] Pauk Sa, Holding Placards and Gathering People to Stir Up Unrest Out of Fashion, The New Light of Myanmar, Saturday, Volume- XV, Number-40, 26th of May 2007, p.7

[v]Myanmar: Ban Ki-moon repeats call for release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, UN News Centre, UN News Service, 25th of May 2007

[vi] Judy Aita, Calls Grow for Release of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, USINFO, Bureau of International Information Programs, US Department of State, USA, 23rd of May 2007.

[vii] Going too Far?, The New Light of Myanmar, Volume- XV, Number -32, Friday, 18th of May 2007, p.8.

[viii] Yebaw Tin Shwe, For Successful Completion of National Convention, The New Light of Myanmar, Volume XV, Number-34, Sunday, 20th of  May 2007, p.7.

[ix] Yebaw Tin Shwe, Out-of-date 1990 election results, The New Light of Myanmar, Volume XV, No. 35, Monday, 21st of May 2007, p.7.

[x] Ibid. p.7

[xi] ASEAN Countries told to Share Information, The New Light of Myanmar, Volume-XV, Number-40, Saturday, 26th of May 2007, p.3.

 

[xii] Biography of Burma’s late Prime Minister Banned, Mizzima News, New Delhi, India, 25th of May 2007

.

[xiii] Note-3

(The End) 

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Sonia Gandhi, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Quest for Democracy in Burma (Part: III)

May 12, 2007

Sonia Gandhi’s visit to Burma in December 1987, with her husband Prime Minister – Mr. Rajiv Gandhi was a year of gathering storm in Burma, which soon engulfed the country in forthcoming months with many nationwide protests against unpopular military rule. The country had witnessed large scale demonstrations three months before the visit of Sonia Gandhi to Burma,  after the large scale demonetization of Burmese currency in September 1987.(17) And even before 8.8.88 democratic revolution; in March 1988, the streets of Rangoon turned into a battle field of anti-government protests for democracy after a teahouse brawl between supporters of pro and anti groups of Ne Win regime, with as many as three hundred demonstrators killed and while being carted off to jail, 41 detainees suffocated in a police van. 18  However, whether Sonia Gandhi was aware of the deteriorating political situation of
Burma in late 1987 and 1988 has been not asked to her and not known to the world.  Rajiv Gandhi’s firm belief in democratic aspirations of the people of Burma, and Sonia’s faith in the values of Rajiv Gandhi♣, made her close to Burma’s democratic questions. Although despite similarities towards democratic aspirations of Burmese people, Sonia Gandhi and Daw Suu Kyi have different role models in their life. As it is well known that, Daw Suu Kyi has Gandhi and Nehru as her inspiration apart from Bogyoke Aung San, whereas Sonia Gandhi considers – Mrs. Indira Gandhi (Her Mother-in-Law and Indian Prime Minister from: January 24, 1966 – March 24, 1977 and from: January 14, 1980 to October 31, 1984) as her role model. Sonia Gandhi’s admiration to accept Mrs. Indira Gandhi as a role model rests on – Indira Gandhi’s complete dedication to her people, her tremendous compassion particularly for those who suffered, the poor, children, women and particularly her undying spirit to come out of crisis. (19)

 

In the year 1988, her husband and his representative diplomatic team at Rangoon led by Indian Ambassador –Dr. I.P. Singh, were worried person for the prospect of restoration of Parliamentary democracy in Burma. So, when August 1988 people’s revolution took place in Burma, the Indian government comes out openly for the support of restoration of democracy led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, contrast to the present policy of constructive engagement with military regime. As then Indian ambassador to Burma, Dr. I.P. Singh recollects the events later on, “From the very start of the movement, the Indian Embassy, under instruction from Delhi, took a firm stand in support of Burmese people’s demand for democracy. Perhaps it was for the first time that the silly argument of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries even when vital issues affecting human rights are involved, was not resorted to. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was the first head of government to come out with strong and unqualified support for Burmese people’s demand for democracy. In Rangoon, the Indian Embassy played a leading role in ensuring that all democratic countries took a united stand on this matter.” (20)

Sonia Gandhi’s love towards Burma’s democratic questions like Rajiv Gandhi could be assessed from the fact, that it was Burma issue, which moved her in 1995 to first react on political questions, even before involving herself in Indian Politics and assuming responsibility of Congress President in 1998. In September 1995, while actively participating in the seminar on Burma organized by “Forum of Democratic Leaders in the Asia Pacific” (FDL-AP) at Seoul (Republic of Korea) together with leaders from twenty countries like –Mrs. Corazon Aquino (Former President of the Republic of Philippines), Mr. Oscar Arias Sanchez (Former President of Costa Rica), Dr. Kim Dae-Jung (Republic of Korea), Suthin Nophaket (Thailand), and Chee Soon Juan (Singapore) etc., Sonia Gandhi as a Co-President of FDL-AP signed a resolution to start a comprehensive political dialogue in Burma associating NLD and Daw Suu Kyi as well as an international arms embargo on the military regime in Burma. (21) However interestingly, at that time, Congress was in power under the Prime Ministership of – Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao and Sonia’s involvement in Indian political scene was more related with social work as a President of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

Apart from urging arms embargo on military rulers of Burma, Sonia Gandhi was first among leaders of South Asia to express her deep grief over the death of Dr. Michael Aris, a noted Tibetan scholar and husband of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in 1999 together with reposing faith in her struggle. As Sonia Gandhi expressed her feelings in her condolence message to Suu Kyi, “The passing away of your husband has saddened your admirers and friends all over the world. It has caused particular grief in India, where he spent several years of his life and where our people hold you in the highest esteem.”(22)

Moreover recently in the year 2005, Sonia Gandhi sent a message of felicitation and greetings to Daw Suu Kyi on her 60th birthday congratulating her for following examples of sacrifice and courage of Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of equality, democracy and non-violence and expressed Indian people’s admiration for her struggle as well as wishing her every success in her noble struggle for the people of Burma. (23)

Although, India’s new Burma policy of constructive engagement with military junta initiated by Narasimha Rao unfortunately created hollowness in India’s commitment to democratic aspirations at international institutions and Sonia Gandhi’s faith expressed in FDL-AP resolution adopted in 1995 and her birthday greetings to Daw Suu Kyi in the year 2005. It also indicates nation’s foreign policy direction going against the historical tradition of internationalism and democratic aspirations of Rabindranath Tagore, Nehru and Gandhi, apart from futility of organizing international conference on Satyagraha on the theme of Peace, Non-violence and Empowerment from January 29 to January 30, 2007 at New Delhi, attended by delegates from ninety countries and 122 organizations. However, the speech given by Sonia Gandhi, at Satyagraha Conference,“The question is not whether Mahatma Gandhi is relevant for us, instead, it is whether we are ready to embrace him once again”, shows her renewed commitments towards democracy, freedom and truth like Daw Suu Kyi. (24)

Most unfortunate part of  the constructive engagement policy was the cooperation in defence related issues and supplying of arms and ammunition to the military regime in Burma through ‘Car Diplomacy’ started through Indo-Myanmar Army Car Rally in December 2006, on the pretext of curbing rising North-east insurgency problem and other issues. When Burma’s Quartermaster General, Lt. General- Mr. Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo, incharge of supplies of Burmese defence forces visited New Delhi in late April 2007, he presented a list of additional military hardware to tackle north-east insurgency problem of India. (25) Interesting part of the visit was to accept Quartermaster Lt. General’s view that Burma Army is in need of some conventional weapons to tackle and help India’s northeast insurgency problem, when the whole world knows that, at present day; Burma Army has got second largest standing army in Southeast Asia after Vietnam. And if the rulers of second largest army in Southeast Asia needs some more conventional weapons to cooperate India in its northeast problem, then it itself reflects their seriousness towards cooperation with democratic India? Moreover, the rising insurgency in India’s northeastern region, drug trade and smuggling of Chinese goods, even after Myanmar and India’s MOU signed on January 1994 of Cooperation between the Civilian Border Authorities to organize National Level Meetings (NLMs) and Sectoral Level Meetings (SLMs), in which NLM is led by the Home Secretary and SLM by the concerned Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs to maintain peace and tranquility all along the border, unfolds different face of military junta in Burma.

 

The constructive engagement with military rulers of Burma not only provides legitimacy to the dictatorial regime of Burma at international forums, but it also delays the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest despite number of resolutions at UN General Assembly. In addition, India’s engagement with military junta also provides, a face saving diplomatic leverage to Russia to veto Burma cause at UN Security Council with China. It also symbolizes a conflict between the government and ruling political party structure in Parliamentary democracy in India, which goes against the ruling Congress Party President- Sonia Gandhi’s continued commitment to Daw Suu Kyi’s non-violent struggle for restoration of democracy in Burma vitiating from the task of great historical responsibility. 

 

(The End)

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Endnotes:

17. Susan Tifft, Burma Is It Time to Say Goodbye, Time Magazine, August 01, 1988.

18. Daniel Banjamin, Burma Under Bloody Siege, Time Magazine, August 22, 1988.

     Sonia Gandhi in her long interview with Neerja Chowdhury in The Hindu, English Daily, New Delhi Edition, March 14, 2004, p.14, says that She has faith and firm beliefs in the values of Rajiv Gandhi.

19. Ibid, p.14

20. I.P. Singh, India-Burma Relations, World Focus: Monthly Discussion Journal, South Extension, New Delhi, p.10

21. Burma Seminar Urges Immediate Dialogue, Arms Embargo, Forum of Democratic Leaders in the Asia Pacific, Press Release, September 4, 1995, from the website of ibiblio.org : < ibiblio.org/obl/reg.burma/archives/199509/msg00050.html > accessed on 2 April 2007.

22. Sonia Expresses grief to Suu Kyi, The Asian Age, 1st April 1999. taken from ibiblio.org archives: <ibiblio.org/obl/reg.burma/archives/199904/msg00015.html > Accessed on 22 April 2007.

23. Sonia Gandhi Sent Birthday Greetings to Aung San Suu Kyi, Democratic Voice of
Burma, Oslo, 22 June 2005.

24. Sonia Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s Message to the World: Peace and Non-violence, speech delivered at the Satyagraha Conference held at New Delhi on 29-30 January, 2007, Congress Sandesh, Vol. IX, No. 6, February, 2007, New Delhi, p.7 & 11.

25. Top Myanmar General in Delhi with Military Shopping List, The Indian Express, 24th April 2007.

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