India Puts All Arms Sales to Burma on Hold
covering burma and southeast asia
Tuesday, August 20, 2019

India Puts All Arms Sales to Burma on Hold

By Wai Moe Tuesday, November 27, 2007


India has put on hold the sale and transfer of all arms to the Burmese government, a decision following the junta's brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in September.

The arms transfers will be put on hold for two months, the BBC reported on Monday.

The Hindustan Times, the second largest newspaper in India, reported on Monday that the South Block office (India’s prime minister's office, the ministry of defense and ministry of external affairs) told the newspaper that India “believes contact with the junta is in its strategic interest, but also wants to send out a message that it is not quite business as usual any longer.”
Since the late 1990s, India has shown a greater willingness to engage Burma’s military rulers in trade and weapons sales. Recent negotiations have seen the sale of two British-made “Islander” aircraft, light artillery and T-55 tanks to Burma.

Soe Myint, the editor of the India-based The Mizzima News, said India’s witholding arms exports to Burma seems to be a result of increased pressure from Western countries, particularly the US.

“It is a good step," said Soe Myint. "India is the biggest democracy in the world. So it must show its commitment for democracy.”

However, Tint Swe, the head of the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area-India), told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that India's foreign policy response on Burma after the pro-democracy demonstrations was slow.

“India responded to the crackdowns in Burma 19 days later than China’s response,” said Tint Swe. “But India did call for national reconciliation in Burma that includes Daw Aung San Suu Kyi." However, he said India joined the "friends of Burma" team on the United Nations Security Council when a non-binding resolution was discussed following the crackdown.

During the Asean Summit in Singapore last week, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told his counterpart Burmese Premier Gen Thein Sein not to exclude pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the national reconciliation process.

Navtej Sarna, a spokesperson for the Indian government, said on November 20, “The Indian PM conveyed that the reform process in Burma should be broad-based and should include the involvement of key opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders and representatives of various ethnic nationalities. Dr. Singh also said that it should be carried expeditiously towards a satisfactory conclusion.”

India strongly backed the Burmese pro-democracy movement in Burma after the 1988 uprising. But India’s foreign policy on Burma took a U-turn when the Indian government created a new policy, “Look East,” in 1992. 

The “Look East” policy is based on economic ties with Southeast Asian nations. In the aftermath of India’s liberalization, it was more than just a foreign policy alternative as it provided a development alternative, according to the SAAG (South Asia Analysis Group).

SAAG noted that Burma is the only Asean country with which India shares both land and maritime boundaries. Hence Burma has to be accorded a special position in its foreign policy, especially in view of India's strategic and security concerns. 

India has become one of the US's most important alliances after the Indian government singed a nuclear cooperation deal with the Bush administration on July 25.

Overturning more than 30 years of US nuclear policy, the agreement is widely expected to form the foundation for a new strategic alliance between the world's two largest democracies, according to The Economist’s Intelligence Unit.

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