India needs to engage with Myanmar: Former army chief Gen M. M. Naravane
New Delhi/UNI: India must engage with Myanmar irrespective of who is in power in that country said former Chief of the Army Staff Gen. M. M. Naravane. The engagement must be multi pronged- with the government, people and the regional armed groups as well, he stressed.
Gen. M. M. Naravane was speaking at a panel discussion titled 'Myanmar Today two Years After the Military Coup' organised at the India International Centre (IIC) here in the city on Friday.
He explained why engagement with Myanmar is important for India's Geo strategic interests.
“We must be prepared to deal with government of the day rather than waiting for an elected government coming to power, elections may or may not take place. To say that once an elected government assumes power and then we would start discussions or developmental projects– the horse would have bolted by then. Many times people in very aggrieved tones say that Myanmar has gone into the Chinese embrace, they did so because we didn’t engage them, the fault is ours,” he said.
India must engage with the Myanmar government, carry out developmental projects- renewable energy, and wind turbines etc to counterbalance China’s growing influence there.
“China is putting up wind turbines why can’t we do that? Why can’t we electrify their border villages through our grid that would be pro people, aid of a non military nature can be given i.e. developmental aid. We have to ramp up our efforts to engage with the government and the people– so as an when the transition takes place the people are with us, we must not shut the doors to this country,” he said.
He underlined the importance of also engaging with ethnic armed groups of Myanmar. “A special envoy from China has twice visited Myanmar and spoke to seven ethnic armed groups and is trying to act as a moderator, a peacemaker and asking them to tone down the operations and join ceasefire. We should also take part in this whether we do it through diplomatic channels or through track 2 channels or other means at our disposal whichever way we want to do it, but we need to engage with the ethnic armed groups.”
Speaking about North East India the General observed that insurgency has reduced significantly. “The Indian Army has drastically scaled down its involvement in the region. The entire 21 division that used to be in Assam and the 7th Division have been pulled out. There are only 2-3 districts of Arunachal where active ops against the NSCN(IM) is going on, most of the NE is in ceasefire. Armed Forces Special Powers Act(AFSPA) remains only in Manipur, portions of Nagaland and Arunachal.”
Gen. Naravane felt that Myanmar does not have the capacity or will to control militants that may be hiding inside their country.
“Even at the best of times the writ of the central government does not really extend to many of the border regions, when I visited the Kachin Independence Army(KIA) controlled region, beyond a point the KAI took over my security, the Myanmar Army officer got off, surrendered his weapon then the KIA took me further. Even in those times when we asked them, do something against the insurgent groups?” he said.
“They did not have the will or the wherewithal to take some action. Also the militant groups along the Thai border are a greater challenge for them; they would rather tackle them rather than open a second front in the Indian border. To expect that they would take action against Indian insurgent groups in Myanmar was unrealistic then and it is totally impossible now especially as they have taken their assistance to quell their internal issues,” he added.