Reply to Shashi Tharoor on his article on Burma

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Recently, Shashi Tharoor wrote an article titled “Burma: India’s Bad Neighbor Policy”. My first reaction after reading the article was, ‘author is so confused’. Probably, Mr. Tharoor is trying to balancing it out between his Government’s views and his own moral values. On one sides, he defends the democratic rights of people and on the other, goes on to justify that India started support military junta for the sake of economic benefits. Mr. Tharoor quotes “India’s government cannot be blamed for deciding that its national interests in Burma are more important than standing up for democracy there”. In my opinion, for a nation that aspires to be a global power, this is a very compromising statement.

Mr. Tharoor also quotes “Any Indian government’s primary obligation is to its own people, and there is little doubt that the economic opportunities provided by Burmese oil and gas are of real benefit to Indians. There is also the strategic imperative of not ceding ground to India’s enemies on its own borders. India confronts an inescapable fact of geopolitics: you can put your ideals on hold, but you cannot change who your neighbors are”.

Basically, it appears that, Mr. Tharoor wants to say, wherever and whenever there are commercial benefits, Indian government should peruse it without caring about nation’s honour, morals and dignity. Let me remind Mr. Tharoor that, economic benefits are often temporary, what stands out in the history are the values of a nation. Often, it’s the values of a nation that determine its relationships with other countries. Also, his justification that Indian government went into business with military junta of Myanmar (Burma) only after Pakistan and China doesn’t make sense. Common, if your enemies do a wrong thing, that doesn’t mean, now you are also eligible to do the wrong thing.

The other day, when president of United States Mr. Barack Obama addressed the Indian Parliament, he rightly pointed out, if India wants to become a global power, it must behave like one. India has been shying away from commenting about human rights violations in Burma and other military ruled regimes, merely for the sake of economic benefits. Isn’t that being selfish? Isn’t that against moral values of India? But then, India has well-educated public representatives like Shashi Tharoor who through the magic of words would justify what India has been doing is the right thing. By the way, at no point I am saying US is actually behaving like a global power, but yes, we can set the right precedence by doing the right thing.

India must not just see itself as a great nation but also as a great civilization. For this to happen, our policy makes should take up challenge of standing to the values of India than merely justifying their acts as commercial ventures.

PS: Given that, Shashi Tharoor is hailed as a hero by majority of audience who follows internet blogs, let me say, I also one among those, who have liked the several works of Mr. Tharoor. But, I am not the kind of person, who would blindly accept what has been told.

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One thought on “Reply to Shashi Tharoor on his article on Burma

  1. ulag

    While taking a principled and moral stand is all fine, i believe that nothing comes above securing the national interests of India. That is the fact of geo-politics followed by countries across the world. We cannot pressurize Burma for a multitude of reasons. Economics is just one of them. Security is the main reason. If India distances itself from the Burmese junta by criticizing them, then the Chinese will move into that space as they have already done. They are building ports and railway links in Burma and this is a grave danger to Indian strategic interests to let the Chinese enter our sphere of influence.

    India for long ignored the Burmese junta in support of Aan San Suu Kyi and we later realised that insurgents in the North East had made safe havens in the Indo-Burma border. We couldnt tackle those insurgent groups without Burma’s help. Hence we realised that with all these issues its best to have cordial relations with the Burmese junta as it is in our national interests.

    If we dont engage Burma, the Chinese will. And having Chinese ports in the Indian ocean is against India’s interests. If we have good relations with the burmese govt then they too will be responsive to our sensitivities regarding China’s influence. Hence we do need to keep the Burmese govt happy. I am not suggesting that we should allow atrocities to occur in Burma. But pressure can be applied on the Burmese through back channels and private meeting to make them democratize. Isolating and sanctioning a regime provides no benefits as the world has learnt with Korea and Iran.

    And it is a bit hypocritical on the part of Obama to criticize our Myanmar policy when the US says nothing about China, refuses to meet the Dalai Lama for fear of angering China, supports autocratic regimes n Saudi Arabia, propped up military dictators in Pakistan and Latin America etc. When it suited US national interests they dint give a hoot about democracy. And that is something countries the world over follow. India shouldn’t be an exception. It is not just a question of trade and economics. Its mainly a question of National Security.

    When South Africa practiced Apartheid, India refused to have diplomatic relations with it. We could do this because there were no immediate dangers to national security by ignoring South Africa. Ofcourse we lost out on commercial interests but we were ok with that. When it comes to national security we cannot compromise. This is why India cannot publicly condemn, pressurize or isolate the burmese regime.

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