Friday, October 5, 2007


By Anuj Chopra

We've been inundated with Myanmar for the last few days. As the people of this tiny nation turn out in force to protest their lack of democratic rights
, Myanmar’s Orwellian dictatorship, which has ruled the country for 45 years, has clamped down with an iron fist.

The world is outraged at the use of force on peaceful demonstrators. However, just next door, Indians watch with serene detachment. The MEA has its own prosaic reasons for its insipid response to the “internal matters” of a restive neighbour: India needs to “safeguard its strategic interests”, we’re told. India has a lot to lose if it supports a weak democratic movement that is bound to be crushed — Myanmar can, after all, slake India’s unquenchable thirst for gas. It can also help vanquish ULFA, India’s nemesis in the Northeast. And India needs to mollycoddle Myanmar to create a buffer for China, our rival Asian behemoth.

So India’s okay doing business with an odious regime that wages war on its own people, dragoons them into forced labour, pauperises a once-thriving nation and muzzles all dissent. There is no national outrage as India sells weapons to a brutal regime, rendering toothless a decade-old EU arms embargo meant to pressure the junta to restore democracy.

I found the indifference even more disconcerting after I travelled to Myanmar in August. The recent protests have been glossed over with a patina of democratic yearnings, but they, just like Myanmar’s 1988 uprising for democracy, were triggered by the worsening economic hardships of ordinary Myanmarese...

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