International Conferences
India-Vietnam Ties: Retrospect and Prospect
India-Myanmar Relations: Strengthening Ties and Deepening Engagements
India International Centre, New Delhi, 14-15 February, 2012

Acknowledgements and Collaboration
The Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies was set up at the joint initiative of the Government of India, Department of culture, Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Government of West Bengal. It is a centre for research and learning with focus on social cultural, economic and political / administrative developments in Asia from the middle of the 19th Century onwards with special emphasis on their links with India, and the life and works of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. It is funded by the Department of culture, Government of India. Presently, His Excellency, Governor of West Bengal, is the President of the Society.

Institute of foreign policy studies promotes research and training programmes in foreign policy issues with particular focus on the South Asian, East Asian, Southeast Asian and the West Asian regions with special emphasis on the international border zones of India. The programme consists of policy oriented and region specific research projects along with a general M.Phil course and short-term certificate/diploma course for fresh and mid-career level personnel in the MEA as well as other government services.

With more than 18 years of experience, Gamesa is a global technological leader in the wind industry. Its comprehensive response includes the design, manufacturing, installation and maintenance of wind turbines, with more than 24,000 MW installed and 16,300 MW under maintenance . Gamesa is also a world leader in the development, construction and sale of wind farms, having installed over 5,000 MW and having a portfolio of 24,000 MW in Europe, America and Asia. It maintains a strong commitment to the offshore wind energy segment, through technological and industrial development, which will evolve in the next few years parallel to the market's needs.


Global India Foundation (GIF) is a not-for-profit academic institution premised on promoting national resilience and international interdependence within the broad spectrum of economic prosperity, liberal values and social commitment. Since its inception in January 2007, the Foundation has directed its research initiatives towards an assortment of subjects, ranging from issues of global importance to aspects associated with contemporary socio-political and economic change. The comprehensive agenda finds articulation in the Foundation’s research initiatives in areas like public health, energy security, environmental management, education, and skill development. GIF aspires to play a meaningful role in researching and disseminating issues of public importance to the country.

In consonance with its mandate of information dissemination and cooperative research, Global India Foundation, in collaboration with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS), Kolkata, Institute of Foreign Policy Studies, University of Calcutta and Gamesa, India organized International Conferences on India-Vietnam Ties: Retrospect and Prospect and India Myanmar Relations: Strengthening Ties and Deepening Engagements at India International Centre Annex, New Delhi on the 14th and 15th of February 2012. It marked the beginning of a conference series to be hosted by Global India Foundation for articulating the components of India’s bilateral ties with countries identified as being crucial to her national interest. Specific realities of India’s foreign policy matrix have helped identify these two countries as important areas of concern with which to commence this series of Seminars. As India completes six decades of her formal ties with Vietnam in 2012, the relation continues to bear tremendous potential for India’s engagement with South East Asia. Similarly, as an immediate neighbor with considerable strategic opportunities and significant bearing on India’s northeast, political developments and economic growth in Myanmar remain critical to India’s own interests in the region.

Global India Foundation was able to bring together the viewpoints of members of the academia, policy practitioners and media from India, Vietnam and Myanmar. The presentations made by the speakers were enriched by the observations of the Chairpersons and interactions with an informed audience. The variables steering India-Vietnam and India-Myanmar relations were reviewed and avenues to infuse a fresh spirit of cooperation were explored. This Conference Report is an outcome of these exchanges and provides a comprehensive account of the paper presentations, deliberations and recommendations.


Conference Schedule

India Vietnam Ties: Retrospect and Prospect
India International Centre (Annexe), New Delhi, India
Tuesday, 14th February 2012.

Inaugural and Welcome: 10:30am-11:15am

Welcome: Ms.Sayantani Sen, Fellow, GIF
Brief Remarks: Prof.Omprakash Mishra, Member Secretary, GIF and Dr.Sreeradha Datta, Director, MAKAIAS
Special Address: Mr.Pinak R.Chakravarty, Special Secretary, Public Diplomacy Division, GOI
Chair: Vice Admiral P.J.Jacob, Chairman, GIF
Vote of Thanks

Tea – 11:15 am -11:30am
Session I – 11:30am- 1:00pm
Vietnam and India in the Asian Balance of Power: Security Perspectives

Chair: Amb.Arundhati Ghose (Former Permanent Representative to the UN and Member, Executive Council, GIF)
1.Dr. S.D Pradhan, Former Dy.National Security Advisor
2.Dr. Binoda Mishra, Fellow, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Kolkata
3.Mr. Rahul Mishra, Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses, New Delhi
4.Ms. Cauvery Ganapathy, Fellow, GIF

Lunch: 1:00pm-2:00pm
Session II - 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Economic relations between India and Vietnam: Exploring Realities and Potential
Chair: Mr.D.C.Pathak (Former IB Chief, GOI and Member, Executive Council, GIF)
1.Prof. Ngo Xuan Binh, Director-General, Vietnam Institute of South and Southwest Asian Studies, Ha Noi
2.Dr. Nguyen Huy Hoang, Deputy Director, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Ha Noi
3.Ms. Panchali Saikia, IPCS, New Delhi

Tea – 3:30pm-3:45pm
Session III – 3:45pm – 4:45pm
India-Vietnam Ties: Retrospect and Prospect
Chair: Mr.K.Santhanam (President, India-Central Asia Foundation)
1.Prof. Dr. Vo Van Sen, President (Vice-Chancellor) University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ho Chi Minh City
2.Mr.Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, Diplomatic Correspondent, Mail Today, New Delhi

Vote of Thanks

Dinner Reception at IIC (Annexe) 7:30pm onwards

India Vietnam Ties: Retrospect and Prospect
14th February 2012

Conference Picture

(A) (B)



(A) From L to R: Prof. Omprakash Mishra, Prof. Vo Van Sen, Admiral P J Jacob, Mr. Pinak R Chakravarty, Dr. Sreeradha Datta and Prof. Suranjan Das
(B) From L to R: Admiral P J Jacob, Mr. Pinak R Chakravarty
(C) A cross-section of the participating audience
(D) From L to R: Dr. Nguyen Hui Hoang, Prof. Vo Van Sen, Prof. Ngo Xuan Binh and Ms. Panchali Saikia
(E) From L to R: Ms. Cauvery Ganapathy, Mr. Dipanjan Roy Choudhuri, Prof. Omprakash Mishra, Dr. S D Pradhan and Prof. Ngo Xuan Binh

Global India Foundation, in collaboration with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS), Kolkata, Institute of Foreign Policy Studies, University of Kolkata and Gamesa, India organized the International Conference on India-Vietnam Ties: Retrospect and Prospect at India International Centre Annex, New Delhi on the 14th February 2012.

Ms. Sayantani Sen, Academic Coordinator, Global India Foundation introduced the International Conference in the inaugural session. Vice Admiral P.J Jacob, Chairman, Global India Foundation, formally initiated the proceedings. He introduced Global India Foundation’s endeavor to host a “Conference series” to examine India’s critical bilateral relations with neighbouring countries, beginning with Vietnam. He outlined the objective of the Conference to be an assessment of the evolution of India-Vietnam ties over the decades with special emphasis on trade and economic interactions, security perspectives on India-Vietnam in the Asian balance of power and emerging areas of cooperation. Dr. Sreeradha Datta, Director, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS) assured of renewed institutional focus on Southeast Asia and deeper collaboration with Global India Foundation and The Foreign Policy Institute, University of Calcutta along these lines. Prof. Dr. Vo Van Sen, President (Vice Chancellor), University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ho Chi Minh City expressed his belief that the deliberations of the Conference would help in reviewing lessons and experiences of history to recognize possibilities for the stronger development of relations between India and Vietnam in the 21st century. He also mentioned the establishment of an India Studies Centre in his esteemed University, as a part of their endeavour to build closer understanding and ties between the two countries. Dr. Suranjan Das, Vice Chancellor, University of Calcutta and Director, Institute of Foreign Policy Studies, Kolkata, expressed his solidarity with Global India Foundation in conducting academic deliberations which focus on constructive bilateralism, beyond the problem-centric approach of analyzing inter-state ties. Prof. Omprakash Mishra, Member Secretary, Global India Foundation, delivered the concluding remarks and asserted that India and Vietnam must align in the new world order on the basis on the balance of interest and opportunities, and sustain the symmetry they historically share with each other. He pointed out that the international relations of today is not about seeking ascriptions of power or authority but fulfilling roles with responsibility and asserted that Global India Foundation tries to champion the consolidation of India as a responsible global player.

Shri Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, Special Secretary, Public Diplomacy Division, Government of India delivered a special address in the inaugural session. He lauded the initiatives currently underway in India and Vietnam but also emphasized the need for injecting greater economic content in the relations, articulating and speeding up modalities of cooperation and exploring new areas of building partnerships. He identified education, science, technology and innovation through systematic Research and Development to be key areas where India and Vietnam can undertake leadership to develop brand equities, beyond the existing models of the West, recognized for their competence globally. This in fact, would surge trade relations ahead. He also stressed on the need for promoting deeper understanding between the countries through higher linguistic training. He observed that there is a distinct multipolar fluidity in Asia, which must be carefully nurtured. The rigidities of the past must not impede the new cobweb of vectors from gaining their own unique balance in strategic affairs. He expressed hope that the Conference would be able to identify virgin areas of cooperation and collaboration for India and Vietnam and provide policy prescription to the Governments. This would help charter the course for apportioning finite resources and investments by the two countries, guided by the impulses of development of markets and strategic cooperation.

The inaugural session was concluded by a vote of thanks proposed by Ms. Sreya Maitra Roychoudhury, Honorary Fellow, Global India Foundation.

Ambassador Arundhati Ghose chaired the first working session on India and Vietnam in the Asian Balance of Power: Security Perspectives and presided over a panel which included Dr. S.D Pradhan (Former Deputy National Security Advisor), Dr. Binoda Mishra (Fellow, MAKAIAS) and Ms. Cauvery Ganapathy (Fellow, GIF). Ambassador Ghosh pointed out that as a non-Delhi centric organization GIF provides a unique platform for voicing opinions from the rest of India. And in this context, she welcomed the insights and opinion of the Vietnamese delegates. She observed that much of India and Vietnam’s population are young, who do not carry the baggage of history with them and are willing to look forward. The strategic ties of India and Vietnam are conditioned by the fact that both are growing economies; their needs as well as vulnerabilities are increasing. The strategic objective, under the circumstances veers towards securing resources and technologies. It important to ask, “what drives a strategic relationship?” She expressed the belief that it is important to bring out policy recommendations for the academic community, so that the matter gains a critical mass and in turn assumes the capacity to influence government policy.

Dr. Pradhan explored the problems and prospects of India and Vietnam’s relation in the current security environment. Dr. Mishra assessed India’s relationship with Vietnam in the Indo-Pacific security architecture. Ms. Ganapathy highlighted Vietnam as a common factor in the popular perceptions and strategic imperatives of India and China and juxtaposed the two.

The need for strengthening India-Vietnam ties in the current security environment

Dr S. D. Pradhan, Former Deputy National Security Advisor; Honorary Director, International Cooperation, GIF

India and Vietnam established diplomatic relationship in 1972. While it is true that cultural, historical, ideological and economic factors as also security needs have been responsible for developing close ties between the two countries, the changing security environment demanded closer relations between the two countries. In 2007, the relations were upgraded to the “strategic partners” based on complementarity of interests in critical areas like political-diplomatic coordination on critical bilateral, regional and international issues; economic cooperation for mutual benefit that includes trade, infrastructure development, assistance in agriculture and industrial sectors, cooperation in oil exploration and civil nuclear programmes and S&T cooperation; and defence cooperation that includes supply of defence equipment, assistance in training of defence personnel, joint military exercises and in defence R&D projects.

Vietnam is significant for India for the promotion of India’s political, economic and security interests in South East Asia which are the essential element of India’s “Look East Policy”. India realizes that Vietnam is a potential regional power in the South East Asia with its strategic location, great political stability, substantial economic growth (7% annual economic growth), demonstrated military prowess, market for India’s economic investment and its deposits of offshore oil and gas. Vietnam also holds similar views on several global issues. Like India, Vietnam also supports reforms in the United Nations and India’s bid for permanent membership in the UNSC.

China factor in fact weighs heavily in the respective strategic calculus of India and Vietnam. Both had fought wars with China and both have border problems with that country. Both had noted that despite the Chinese claim that what we are witnessing is the peaceful rise of China, its activities reflect a different picture. China had, as part of its strategic plan, created pressure points for both India and Vietnam. For India it developed a very close relationship with Pakistan and for Vietnam it tried to create a proxy in Kampuchea.

However, of late the security environment for both India and Vietnam has significantly changed and demands a much closer relationship than what is in existence today. First, Chinese aggressive policy towards its neighbours has made not only India and Vietnam worried but also other ASEAN nations without a direct stake in the islands which are claimed by China take notice. China has recently not only strengthened the military infrastructure along the Sino-Indian borders particularly in the Tibet Autonomous Region but has been aggressively crossing the Line of Actual Control. In a recent case (July 2011), a portion of wall was destroyed in Yangtze in Arunachal Pradesh by the Chinese troops. Similarly, the Chinese troops also destroyed in mid-2011 several bunkers in the Chumar division of Ladakh. China also has been refusing to grant visas to the Indians from J&K and Arunachal Pradesh. Besides such activities, China has positioned its troops in the Pakitan Occupied Kashmir and in the month of July 2011, the Chinese troops and Pakistan Army jointly carried out a military exercise opposite India’s Rajasthan province. Alongside the China continues to provide assistance to Pakistan in nuclear and missile fields.

For Vietnam, China has been increasing its aggressive activities in Paracels and Spratly groups of islands. Besides a brief war fought in 1979 and a short naval battle in Spratly, there had been several tension generating incidents in the recent period. This year saw two incidents reflecting growing aggressiveness of the Chinese. On 26th May and again on 9th June, 2011 Chinese patrol boats cut the cables on Vietnamese exploration ships, which were conducting seismic research about 120 nautical miles off Vietnam’s central coast. China also objected to the visit of an Indian ship INS Airavat to the Vietnamese port of Nha Trang and oil exploration activities of ONGC Videsh Ltd in the Vietnamese EEZ in the South China Sea. These actions were clearly in violation of the 2002 Declaration of the Conduct of Parties between China and ASEAN and these led the international security community to assess that China’s assertive policy in this region has transformed into an aggressive attitude towards Vietnam. From the above, it appears that China is in the process of implementing a well-crafted, sophisticated and long term strategy not only to secure its positions at land and at sea but establish its hegemony in Asia.

The second feature is the decision of the Chinese authorities to use tactical nuclear weapons to recover its territory without adversary’s use of nuclear weapons. In the last few years, it has become clear that China has no intention to follow the doctrine of “No First Use” (NFU) of nuclear weapons at least in the neighbouring regions, which are claimed by it. While there are remote chances of China using tactical nuclear weapons, such a threat perception exists among the neighbouring countries of China. It has been noted that China has increased the number of units of short range missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons by seven times in the last ten years reflecting the Chinese intentions of using tactical nuclear weapons. The Chinese deployment pattern of nuclear weapons as well as missile bases along the bordering regions does not augur well both for India and Vietnam.

While the strategic relations have improved in the last five years, current developments in the security environment demand that they should be further upgraded. In this context, the following steps are suggested-

1) Mechanism for strategic partnership through a group of eminent persons from both the countries representing various fields, to provide objective and timely guidance in view of fast changing security environment. Such a group should be established to advise the Joint Commission and the Strategic Dialogue mechanism for taking necessary and timely steps.

2) Further, strengthening of coordination at various international and ASEAN mechanisms on critical issues for the maintenance of stability and peace and development of the region is required. For this purpose, there should be an effective system to share strategic intelligence to assess the emerging threats both in regional and international context. The significance for trade and hydrocarbons calls for close cooperation with countries which have interest in the maintenance of peace in the South China Sea. Vietnam needs mid-sized warships and speed boats. India should provide necessary assistance in this regard at concessional, rates keeping in view the strategic interests of both the countries. India should help Vietnam to have a strong defence production infrastructure and enhance military training facilities for Vietnamese troops in India for submarine operations and air warfare. Chinese growing capabilities for attacking computer networks, close cooperation to deal with the Chinese cyber-attacks should be given priority by both the countries. Enhancing capabilities of the armed forces through positioning of sophisticated radars, sensors along the border and UAV based surveillance systems to provide early warning and development of anti- missile systems.

3) India should step up efforts in maritime security to assist Vietnam in capacity building including training assistance, refit of ships, joint exercises, coordinated patrols, supply of hardware and product support, and modernization of ports. In civil nuclear energy projects, the cooperation needs to be enhanced for mutual benefits. Business groups in the countries are yet to realize full potentials available. Lack of information on this crucial aspect was noted by President Sang during his visit to India in October, 2011. For the development of the South East Asia, there is a need to broaden the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation. In this context constructing a transport corridor (comprising railways and road networks) connecting India and Vietnam via Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia merits attention.

In essence, there is a need for security experts in both the countries to sensitize their respective governments on the need for closer cooperation between the two countries on diplomatic, economic, security fields. Vietnamese experts need to put their arguments forcefully before the Indian side and develop leverages in India to ensure that India pays heed to the requirements of the Vietnam. The need for a strong lobby for Vietnam in India can hardly be under-estimated. India too has to realize that it should clearly spell out its strategic priorities in terms of countries in South East Asia and East Asia, whose partnership is essential for India’s national security interests. India too has to shed its hesitation to provide greater assistance to build capabilities of Vietnam. It has been rightly said by late Sri K. Subrahmanyam, a noted security expert in February, 2011, “The crux of non-alignment is that this country does not get involved in some other power’s antagonism and it does not mean that we sacrifice our national security interest by keeping away from other powers when our national security interest necessitates our dealing with them.” The convergence of interests of India and Vietnam in the present security environment demands a very close relationship to check the Chinese aggressiveness, which has potentials to destabilize the region, as well as to protect our legitimate interests.

Assessing India’s Relationship with Vietnam in the Indo-Pacific Security Architecture

Dr. Binoda Kumar Mishra, Fellow, MAKAIAS

To describe the Asian power structure as a “Balance of Power” structure would be more of an obfuscation of the reality. In Balance of Power there need to be two or more powers overtly claiming to balance each other / one another. It would be difficult to identify such powers in Asia who acknowledge of indulging in the act of balancing. This is not to say that features of Balance of Power are completely absent in Asia. Vertical proliferation of conventional and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), a distinct feature of Balance of Power is the dominant characteristic of Asian security at present. But it is not as simple as Balance of Power. A complex of security complexes overlap in Asia juxtaposing the major Asian powers in different orders from time to time and region to region within Asia. Secondly, the Asian security scenario is not independent of the global scenario resulting in broader security complexes. In this complex security environment, India and Vietnam seemingly find reasons to intensify mutual security interaction. The convergence of security interest occurs on China. China’s position in Asia and its relationships with most of its neighbours has remained uneasy for most part of the PRC history. The nature of Chinese aggressive foreign policy towards her neighbours has not declined rather can be argued to have increased in accordance with its economic rise. But there has been a change in the approach of other countries (neighbouring adversaries) in dealing with China’s aggressive posturing. Vietnam is one such country in China’s neighbourhood. The country that gave a tough time to the Americans and importantly humiliated the Chinese now seems to have put its foreign policy, particularly its dealings with the Chinese on a pragmatic course.

India’s relationship with Vietnam had remained warmer during the Cold War and is further warming up in the post-Cold War era. During the Cold War times, India opposed US military intervention in Vietnam risking Indo-US relations. India also supported Vietnam’s Cambodia adventure against the wishes of China and the US. With this background, in the post-Cold War period, Vietnam treats India with strategic importance. The single point where both India and Vietnam see a strategic convergence is the China factor. Both India and Vietnam have disputed territories with China and both have been subjected to Chinese aggressiveness in the past and thus both distrust China. Thus, the convergence is clear that both India and Vietnam do not wish China to emerge more influential in the region. Despite this convergence India and Vietnam did not develop their defence relations substantially during the 1990. Only at the turn of the century serious attempts were made by India and Vietnam to come closed in defence matters. In 2000 both countries agreed to an institutionalised framework for regular discussions between Indian and Vietnamese Defence Ministers to share strategic threat perceptions and intelligence. They further agreed to conduct naval exercises. The strategic relationship was furthered in 2003 where both committed to assist each other in protecting their interests in international arena; and agreed to take gradual steps to expand cooperation in the security and defence fields. In 2007 both agreed to expand their cooperation into civil nuclear cooperation and joint working on developing Vietnam’s uranium ore. This comes long with India’s military hardware support to make Vietnam’s aging naval ships operational. This year, both have identified training of military personnel and dialogue on strategic affairs on both sides, as immediate areas of cooperation.

These increased defence interaction between the two countries is emitting allusions that India and Vietnam are on the path of becoming substantial strategic partners in coming times. The real prospects of such defence cooperation resulting in substantial strategic partnership would depend on two major factors, viz. the preference of ASEAN nations and Vietnam in particular as to how do they wish to manage their traditional security affairs among themselves and vis-à-vis China; and how willing India is to commit herself to the cause of ASEAN nations and particularly of Vietnam. On the first issue, it seems that ASEAN as a unit is more inclined to manage intra-regional conflicts in non-military way showing signs of a security community. Regarding the China threat, given the economic prospects of emerging China to all the ASEAN nations, direct confrontation is almost eliminated as an option. Multi-dimensional engagement of China, and involving regional and extra-regional powers is clearly the preferred way. The involvement of powers like Japan, South Korea, China, India and the US has resulted in a super-complex of security regimes of South Asia, Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia. In this super complex, if the presumed objective is to contain emerging China from becoming more assertive then countries having the power and will to openly stand against China are going to emerge as key players for ASEAN countries and particularly for Vietnam. In this context India and the US are the natural choices.

The US is forthcoming in her intention to interfere in Asia Pacific matters as evident from the statement by Secretary of States, Hillary Clinton strongly advocating US interests and US rights to protect its interests in the region, referring particularly to South China Sea, in July 2010 ARF meeting at Hanoi. This sudden move must not be seen as a statement without reason or purpose. It came in response to two very important Chinese actions in the South China Sea in 2009. In June 2009, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) advised the Chinese Central Military Commission to build an airport and a seaport on the Mischief Reef in the Spratly island. Secondly, “around the same time, PLA navy conducted a large scale naval exercise in the South China Sea to demonstrate Chinese sovereignty over the islands.” These events suggest that “China would never waive its right to protect its core interests with military means.” These events called for strong counter posture which the US displayed to assuage the fear of ASEAN countries and particularly of Vietnam against China.

India on the other hand, seems reluctant to commit herself to any contentious issues in the region that involves China. India’s power is perceived to be limited as India, being the sole power in South Asia has not been able to establish peace and stability in the region. Secondly, India’s ‘no stand’ on contentious issues such as Taiwan and South China Sea is seen as lacking in will to play a bigger role in the emerging strategic scenario in the Asia Pacific. Two factors limit India’s ambition to play a bigger role in the region: Engaging China; and inhibition to get too close to the US. This century is witnessing an increased economic engagement between India and China with China emerging as India’s largest trading partner. India does not intend to antagonise China on issues that do not directly bother India. Secondly, committing a too close defence relationship amounting to an alliance with Vietnam would effectively draw India into the strategic alliance headed by the US. This is an uncomfortable situation for India considering India’s image as a big power in her own rights. This possibility becomes all the more probable considering the recent articulation of the term Indo-pacific by the United States taking a cue from Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd’s articulation during his Asia Foundation speech at San Francisco in 2009. It is too early to experience the Indo-Pacific security architecture but drawing India into a security structure that India does not feel to be in her immediate interest may be reason enough to feel being drawn into the US sphere of influence. Unless India decides her strategic course of action for the Asia Pacific and the recently articulated Indo-pacific region, Vietnam will see India as of moderate utility for her strategic interests and would rather depend on the US for protecting her interests vis-à-vis China. The defence cooperation between India and Vietnam promises prospects only if India shows clear commitment to Vietnamese strategic interests and reconciles to the fact of working with the US may bring her in direct confrontation with China.

India and China in Vietnam: Of Popular Perceptions and Strategic Imperatives

Cauvery Ganapathy, Coordinator (Programme and Outreach) Global India Foundation

International relations can rarely afford to be a parley of zero-sum games. The principle of exclusivity is eschewed by the very basic diktats of structural realism and it is in this context that the India-China-Vietnam dynamic needs to be appreciated. The national personality and demographics of India and China naturally posit them against each other and magnify the variance. The prevailing economic complementarities between the two countries will be exhausted eventually and the competition for scarce energy resources will only exacerbate the rivalry. A desire to impact the immediate neighbourhood also is an inherent feature of both nations and this tendency pitches one against the other commonly. Sino-Indian competition therefore plays out at several points of contact. One such issue on which India and China find themselves in a discomforting consternation over is the growing proximity of Hanoi to New Delhi, or the perception thereof. Just as Beijing has strategic realties determining the level of importance it accords to Vietnam, India too has specific compulsions to contend with in wanting to consolidate her links with Hanoi. The purpose of the paper is to locate the value of the India-Vietnam dynamic without an exclusive allusion to the ‘China Factor’ and to suggest that while strategic competition between India and China is a given in most contexts, India’s ties with Vietnam needs to stand on its own strength and not be a harbinger or determinant of that particular competition. The paper also attempts to make a case for Sino-Indian cooperation in multifaceted areas of mutual concern, mitigating the obvious points of difference.

The South China Sea has been declared by Beijing to be an issue of Core National Interest. In addition to its substantial size and resources, Vietnam bears a natural strategic relevance to the Indo-China Peninsula as whole, and Beijing in particular, with its coastline along China’s disputed and undisputed territorial waters. Additionally, Vietnam has a rich legacy of resistance against larger powers and it is realistic for Beijing to be concerned about a spillover effect emanating from Vietnam’s broader positioning vis-à-vis China. China’s interests in Vietnam therefore are singularly significant and would have a bearing on any other partnerships in the region.

Juxtaposed with Chinese interest in Vietnam, is India’s relation with Hanoi. Much before India articulated her formal ‘Look East Policy’, Vietnam featured on her strategic radar. There is a rich legacy of camaraderie in international affairs between the two countries. Post the decolonization era, New Delhi proved a worthy partner in several instances such as aiding the cause of reconstruction after the Vietnam War and the support during the Kampuchean crisis even at the cost of alienating the ASEAN members. The legacy of defense cooperation between the two countries stems from the coinciding legacy of a Soviet arms supply tandem. However, India’s Vietnam dynamic has been the story of a series of confabulations in policy changes. While the two found themselves negotiating a similar mien of the international environment in their struggle against colonization, in time, the differing and very contextual trajectories of growth and impulses saw India and Vietnam drift apart. The customary proclamations were interspersed with periodic visits of governmental and non-governmental delegations, odes were sung to an old and valued partnership, but not much was forthcoming by way of tangible and significant strategic or economic benefits. While the intent to harness the full potential of an important relationship is the moot cause of the efforts to re-invigorate this old partnership, it is also a fact that the Chinese presence in the region qualifies as a compelling factor. The recent spurt in interaction and attempts at reconfiguring the old ties is necessarily determined by the India’s energy security concerns and the fact that a substantive portion of India’s trade passes through the South China Sea. In addition to this, the South China Sea also qualifies as a natural firmament in India’s ambitions of creating a Blue Water Navy.

China and India are locked in a classic security dilemma scenario where any action taken by one side is immediately viewed as being in direct opposition to the welfare of the other’s interest. In several matters of national interest and regional configurations, this competition becomes unavoidable. The border issues between the two countries, the port build-ups in Chittagong and the Hambantota ports, the activity in Myanmar’s Coco Islands and the Indian Ocean, qualify as issues on which Sino-Indian competition is direct and critical. The paper uses a comparative scenario building model to show why the dictum of zero-sum rivalry may not hold true in the case of Sino-Indian interactions with and over Vietnam. The calculus of a zero sum affair may also be proved redundant by establishing that in the case of the South China Sea issue, the entry of a non-claimant will only complicate an already complicated issue. India needs also to appreciate that the maintenance of peace and avoidance of conflict in a point of transit as crucial as the South China Sea is a non-negotiable compulsion. Furthermore, it is in Vietnam’s geo-strategic and geo-economic interests to actively engage with both China and India on a case by case basis and positioning one against the other may not prove prudent, if that were at all the intent.

The paper is based in the backdrop of the recent trend in the Indian media that traces any change or development in India’s regional environment to Chinese actions or reactions. The execution of Operation Milap, an exercise in Naval Diplomacy and the ONGC Videsh’s successful procurement of exploration rights in the South China Sea, triggered a series of comments and reactions in the Indian and Chinese media. Vietnam’s proximity to India was being questioned by the Chinese media and analytic suggestions ranged from India’s attempts at trying to cultivate Beijing’s sphere of influence to New Delhi acting out its own reaction to the purported encirclement by China’s ‘String of Pearls’. While it is natural to connect dots in a fragile strategic environment, it is also necessary to guard against a largess of public opinion being articulated on delicate matters of crucial national security and concerns. Antagonizing a neighbor is not always the result of a direct strategic or tangible use of force or threat; oftentimes, it also results from an irresponsible outlay of public articulations that create a threat perception. The verbal duels that the Indian and Chinese media have been engaging in since the allocation of the exploration rights to the OVL, is a classic example of inadequate prudence in the management of popular perceptions within and between the two Asian giants.

Furthermore, the paper makes a case for generic benefits that may accrue from Sino-Indian cooperation on issues such as Asian multilateralism, global trade negotiations/reforms, reforms within the United Nations and restructuring of the international financial institutions in view of the global economy’s decentralizing point of focus.

While enumerating the tremendous benefits that can accrue from a cooperative approach in the Sino-Indian dynamic, the paper concludes with the observation that although Vietnam’s relevance in the Asian security matrix is crucial, yet the South China Sea should not serve as the stage for a Sino-Indian rivalry to play out. There are more urgently vexing bilateral issues that India needs to contend with when faced with Chinese competition. However, just as India’s Vietnam story should not form the critical theme of her dealings with China, neither should Vietnam’s significance in India’s strategic calculus as a traditional ally be undermined in a bid to cultivate an understanding with Beijing.


Ambassador Ghosh observed at the end of the session that the definition of strategic relations, compromising of economic, political-diplomatic, military and defence provided by Dr. S.D Pradhan can be useful for steering forward India-Vietnam ties. He viewed India, the United States and China as the determinants of power-play in India Vietnam relations. Ambassador Ghosh added that maritime security and terrorism would also be important concerns for the two countries. Also, since there is now a high degree of multipolarity in the Asian region, ASEAN would also play a significant role in shaping the ties. The focal point of ties would remain economic as both of them are growing economies and this is closely linked to their strategic interests. Recommendations must be built for more commonalities of interest between India and Vietnam. Building language institutions to facilitate the understanding of the Vietnamese perspective would be important. Dr. Hoang asked whether India’s role would be more proactive in the Asia-Pacific region in the future, to which Dr. Pradhan responded by stating that India would support endeavours by countries like Vietnam, but has its limitations and difference in priority compared to China and the US. Regarding India’s position on finding an international solution to the South China Sea problem asked by Dr. Hoang, Ambassador Ghosh replied that India would solicit the Vietnamese stand on the matter as the Indian government has expressed interest in resolving the dispute as per international laws. Dr. Ishani Naskar suggested that the two countries should collaborate to develop models of economic growth without harming the ecology. The panel agreed that field trips to Vietnam in order to understand commonalities of interest to increase cooperation on issues such as disaster management. Recommendations for further areas of research were suggested.

Before the beginning of the second session, an MOU was signed between the MAKAIAS (Dr. Sreeradha Datta) and Institute

of Southwest Asian Studies (Prof. Binh) for further research.

Prof. Ngo Xuan Binh chaired the second working session on Economic relations between India and Vietnam: Exploring Realities and Potential. At the beginning of the session, the Chair, Prof. Ngo Xuan Binh stated that the Mekong Ganga Cooperation is one definite way to promote India-Vietnam relations. Prof. Dr. Vo Van Sen delineated forty years of multi-faceted relationship between India and Vietnam and suggested avenues for the development of richer ties. Dr. Nguyen Huy Hoang elaborated on the economic relations between the two countries and explored new opportunities to flourish and tighten bilateral cooperation in the near future. Ms. Panchali Saikia pointed out that India and Vietnam should utilize the potential of the Mekong-Ganga cooperation to boost their trade.

Forty years of Vietnam-India multi-faceted Relationship: To the development of richer ties

Prof. Dr. Vo Van Sen, President, University of Social Sciences and Humanities

Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam and India hold a traditional friendly long-standing relationship which thrives in every page of history. These relations are said to have been formulated about 2,000 years ago with the arrival of Buddhism brought in by the Chinese people, and of Hinduism by the Indian people [Greeresh Sharma, 2006]. At that time, Indians from the South also came to Vietnam for commercial purpose. These events are still engraved in Vietnamese stories, folk tales and historical records. In addition, Cham people in My Son, the central of Vietnam claim to be descendants of Indian ancestors. They migrated to the central of Vietnam to settle down and built government mechanism for their kingdom of Champa from the 2nd to 15th centuries. As early as the 1st century BC, Vietnam and India began their commercial activities. A lot of Indian merchants came to Vietnam to settle down and foster trade between the two nations.

India’s influence today can still be clearly seen in literature, religion, philosophy, art and architecture in Vietnam, in which Cham Tower is one of the most typical examples. From 111 BC to 938 AD, over 10 centuries, Vietnam was dominated by US Chinese feudalism. This period saw the process of strong Sinicization and De-Sinicization in the history of Vietnam. To successfully escape from the assimilation plot of Han Hegemonism, the Vietnamese people cleverly based themselves on two factors: preservation and strengthening of their Van Lang – Au Lac cultural identities; simultaneously, reception of the good in Indian culture.

Indianization process took place in peace as normal cultural exchange. Representing the profound penetration of Indian culture was the deep taking-on of Buddhism (including by way of communication through China and direct from India to Northern Vietnam, taking India as firm foundation for the realization of “Tam giao dong quy” - the combination of the three religions Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism in Vietnamese culture. The process of Indianization De-Indianization in Vietnam can be said to be one of the decisive bases for Vietnam to fully get rid of Chinese assimilation!

The appearance of Western Colonialism in Asia interrupted the eco-cultural exchanges between Vietnam and India. The national liberation movement against colonial power in India and Vietnam promoted the development of bilateral relations. Such leaders as Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi), Jawaharlal Nehru and Ho Chi Minh actively built a solid foundation for today’s development in both breadth and depth.

In the two wars against France, America, the Vietnamese people always get whole-hearted support from India. India always views Vietnam’s struggle as for national independence against the imperialist aggressive forces, and as typical image for national liberation movements in Asia and the world. Shortly after the Vietnam war, India always stood for Vietnam, strongly condemning invasion of Vietnamese borders from expansionist power; supporting Vietnam army troupes into Cambodia, declaring the recognition of Vietnam’s sovereignty over Paracel islands and Spratly islands, backing Vietnam’s ASEAN membership, etc. For Vietnam, we consistently support India’s stance.

The period from early 1990s up to now, after the socialist regime in the Soviet Union collapsed, the Cold War ended, and the new world order is forming, India has implemented the Look-East Policy (from New Zealand to Southeast Asia up to Northern Asia). From geostrategic perspective, Vietnam in Southeast Asia plays the role of an extremely critical “chain link” in this Policy. Vietnam is ready to act as a solid bridge for India to firmly step into Southeast Asia, which is beneficial to both countries.

The full diplomatic relations between Vietnam and India, established on January 7th, 1972, have covered many major strategic areas, basing on a mutual trust and confidence. India is committed to promote mutually beneficial cooperation in varied areas from military training, military medicine to English training, from cultural activities to senior officer exchanges, etc. Now moving forward from ideological linkages, both countries are endeavoring to refurbish their relations according to the requirements of economic globalization. India and Vietnam are members of the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation. The scope can be expanded industrial and commercial and economic cooperation. The importance of Vietnam in Southeast Asia dramatically increases in terms of strategy as well as economy. Vietnam seems well poised to emerge as the new economic hub of Asia-Pacific region to attract investors from other nations. Therefore, India needs to exploit traditional relationship with Vietnam to further increase trade not only between Vietnam and India. To this end, Vietnam backs the important relationship and role between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its negotiation of an Indo-ASEAN free trade agreement. Vietnam also supports India in its peaceful use of nuclear energy, and backs India’s bid for a permanent candidature in an expanded United Nations Security Council. In return, Vietnam received India’s support for entry into the World Trade Organization. Vietnam and India have always enjoyed good political relations and exchanged lots of high-level visits. Most recently, in the meeting between Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Sir E. Ahamed, Indian Minister of State for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and Human Resources Development during his visit to Vietnam on January 6, 2012, Sir E. Ahamed confirmed that

“India stands committed to forging closer relations with Vietnam both bilaterally and within the framework of ASEAN as part of the ‘Look East Policy’ of Indian Government. Indeed, Vietnam is a critical pillar of this strategy. Vietnam’s membership of ASEAN has added a new and important dimension to the two sides’ relationship. The two countries enjoy a strategic understanding at regional and multilateral forums, including ASEAN, East Asia Summit, ASEM, ARF and international organisations like WTO and UN. As two developing countries with a young dynamic population’s stake in the future, Vietnam and India should take advantage of the bilateral synergies to jointly face emerging challenges and also to exploit new opportunities.”

So far, the two countries have signed various important bilateral treaties and agreements such as Trade Agreement, Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection, Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, Consular Agreement, Culture Agreement, Tourism, Air Service, Agreement on Cooperation in Science & Technology. In addition, two sides have also concluded many other MOUs in specialized sectors. In a globalised and integrated world, these bilateral relations guide the way toward economic growth and prosperity for both countries, and are therefore elevated to the level of a strategic partnership through closer engagement and stronger commitment.

The followings are some of the typical successful cooperative activities between the two nations.

The two countries established the India-Vietnam Joint Commission for Economic, Scientific & Technical Cooperation on 18th December, 1982. This is a very important mechanism for the two sides to review and promote cooperation in all fields, including the formulation of an Action Plan for every 3 years. So far 13 meetings of the Joint Commission have taken place, alternatively in Hanoi and New Delhi. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem paid an official visit to India from February 26-28, 2007 and co-chaired the 13th meeting of the Joint Commission. In the economic linkages, bbilateral trade has increased rapidly since the liberalization of the economies of both Vietnam and India. India is the 13th-largest exporter to Vietnam, with exports have grown steadily from USD 11.5 million in 1985-86 to USD 395.68 million by 2003. Vietnam's exports to India rose to USD 180 million, including agricultural products, handicrafts, textiles, electronics and other goods. The list of major Indian export basket to Vietnam includes animal feed, pharmaceuticals, medicinal materials, plastic, iron and steel, seafood chemicals, chemical products, machinery and equipment, leather and leather garments, motorcycle parts, fertilizers, and automobile parts. Between 2001 and 2006, the volume of bilateral trade expanded at 20-30% per annum to reach USD 1 billion by 2006. Continuing the rapid pace of growth, bilateral trade is expected to rise to USD 2 billion by 2008, 2 years ahead of the official target. In 2010, bilateral trade exceeded US$2.7 billion, reaching US$2.38 billion for the period of January-August 2011, an increase of 43 percent over the corresponding period in 2010. The two countries have set a bilateral trade target of US$7 billion by 2015. With concerted efforts by all sides, the two nations will surely surpass this target. In the recent 10 years, two-way trade turnover has increased by 14 times. India has been a very important economic partner of Vietnam as it is among the countries having the biggest direct investment in Vietnam. Actually, Vietnam offers myriad opportunities for investments in various sectors. Indian companies have invested in oil and gas, steel, spices, pharmaceuticals, edible oil, steel furniture, sugar, plastics, coffee, consumer products and other sectors. In his paper “India-Vietnam Strategic Partnership: The Convergence of Interests”, Dr. Subhash Kapila clearly stated that

“India and Vietnam are both geostrategically important countries, vital to all major nations […..] Vietnam is strongly placed to help India in the energy sector both in terms of oil supplies and further joint prospecting for oil and gas. India has adequate experience in oil and gas prospecting, especially in offshore deposits.”

There are about 35 representative offices of Indian pharmaceutical companies here, and about 50 other representative offices in many areas in Vietnam in various sectors, including agriculture, rubber, coffee, cashew nut, carbon black and tea. Particularly, India is undertaking a US$5 billion steel plant project by Tata Steel in the northern province of Ha Tinh.

As far as defense is concerned, the cooperation is one of the key points of the strategic partnership and has significantly developed in a multilateral manner. In the security arena, India and Vietnam cooperate under the mechanism of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). Being maritime nations, there is enormous potential for maritime security cooperation between the two countries such as in ensuring sea lanes security, prevention of sea piracy, and so on.

In the sectors of science, technology and space science, the Government of India is working towards the gifting of a supercomputer to Vietnam, and also collaboration of national space programmes. In terms of education and training, India has also established an English language training centre VICELT, in Da Nang and an Entrepreneurship Development Centre in Hanoi and plans to establish a vocational training centre in Ho Chi Minh City. On the cultural front, India has recently taken a decision to open an Indian Cultural Centre in Hanoi to bring the Indian cultural traditions closer to local. Besides, the Archeological Survey of India has decided to carry out a restoration of the Cham monuments at My Son.

Vietnam-India relations can justify that in a complicated changing world, two countries can for sure build an all-round thriving strategic relationship. An all-sided relationship based on a long-standing traditional interrelation stemming from both countries’ strategic concern for mutual interest is of special importance for co-existence, peaceful development in the world and in each region! As Vietnam-India relations result from historical current of times and course of events, there is no power with potential to reverse their development.

Vietnam-India relations are of strategic value. Therefore, both Vietnam and India must always be aware of elevating these relations to be on a par with strategic relationship. This is a great challenge posed to be solved once both countries implement multilateral foreign policy, diversify cooperative relationship, and establish strategic relations with other countries. This can reduce the interest and investment resources for Vietnam-India relations when Vietnam and India are developing countries, badly in need of capitals and markets. In certain conditions, both countries can compete in attracting investment and expanding markets.

Currently, Vietnam and India need to develop trade and economic exchange to keep pace with their good relationship. In recent year, trade and economic relations have experienced dramatic growth, but still is not commensurate with the potential. In this relationship, Vietnam basically stands at the high trade deficit. Moreover, India’s investment into Vietnam and Vietnam’s investment into India haven’t walked abreast with the good diplomatic political relationship. The potential are beyond imagination; how to exploit this potential is an imperative matter.

Experiences have shown that frequent visits of high-level delegation, dissemination of information about each other to improve mutual understanding of the countries are critical requirements. Currently, the knowledge of Vietnamese people on the potential development of Indian economy, culture, literature, education is still humble. Vice versa, India’s knowledge on Vietnamese aspects is limited to some extent.

In the new historical setting, deriving from strategic interests of both countries, Vietnam-India relations will surely undergo all-round and powerful development in the 21st century to become Nam-Nam model – a typical strategic partnership.

Vietnam - Indian Economic Relations and Opportunities for Future Expansion


Nguyen Huy Hoang, Deputy Director, Institute for Southeast Asian Studies of Vietnam

Despite sharing the close bilateral relation since their independence, the trade and investment interactions between Vietnam and India has not been much significant as the countries have achieved in the political relation till the mid 1990s. This slow pace of development in economic relations was due to the differences in domestic institution, growth paradigm, foreign policy preference in both countries, and regional and global circumstances.

With the processes of the economic reforms in both the countries in association with the India’s Look East Policy, the bilateral economic relation between the two has been fostered since the late 1990s. Two-way trade has been boosted up significantly with above 20% increase per annum in average and investment has also taken its momentum during this period. The achievements in the bilateral economic relation heralds the new stage of the cooperation in the context of India and East Asian Integration and the connectivities set up in Asia, especially after India and ASEAN signed the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in August 2009 in Bangkok, which came into effect in January 2010 that could open up new dimensions and aspects for the bilateral economic relation between the two countries. This paper aims to elaborate the two countries’ economic relations and explore the new opportunities for Vietnam-India economic cooperation that could tighten and flourish the bilateral relations between the two countries in the near future.

The Mekong-Ganga Cooperation: Economic Integration between India and Vietnam


Panchali Saikia, Research Officer, Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies

India and Vietnam are both among the fastest growing economy in Asia. The government of both the countries has made conscious efforts to expand the areas of economic cooperation and increase the volume of trade and investments. Under the thrust of the regional arrangements such as ASEAN-India FTA, BIMSTEC and Mekong-Ganga Cooperation the bilateral economic engagements and cooperation is poised to grow fast. Vietnam being a core member of ASEAN and its signing of the ASEAN-India FTA will broaden the framework for the economic growth of both the countries. In the last few years the bilateral trade between the two countries has reached from USD 2.75 billion in 2010 to USD 3.9 billion. However, the mutual trade is far below its potentials and if compared to other countries when compared with their trade with other countries such as China and USA. Despite enforcing trade frameworks, there has been less than potential expansion in economic integration between these economies. Now, both the countries have targeted to double the trade to USD 7 billion by 2015.To give a boost to economic ties and to receive that target both India and Vietnam must explore all the possible avenues. There are enormous opportunities which remain unexplored and can be encouraged and coordinated through the regional mechanisms such as Mekong-Ganga Cooperation and BIMSTEC. On one hand where in Southeast Asia, through ASEAN and Greater Mekong Sub-region economic cooperation the region has seen a steady economic growth, on the other hand India has not explored the potentials restored under the sub-regional cooperation. The actual trade turnover may probably be more if Indian foreign policy renders the scope restored in this initiative. This economic imperative will provide further avenues for mutual cooperation. There is a need for more cooperation between both countries in the area of trade and tourism and also establishing people to people contact. This is possible through overcoming the infrastructure deficit such as establishing air connectivity, highways and railway networks. Furthermore it is important to emphasize on frequent meetings, monitoring and implementing the projects within a time frame. The paper highlights these issues in three sub-sections, ‘Unexplored Opportunities’, ‘Trade and Tourism’, ‘Infrastructure and Economic corridors’.


During the brief session of questions and comments it was pointed out by a guest in the audience that coordination and monitoring is required at the institutional level for the implementation of policies. Decision-makers and representation from industries must be involved in deliberations. Prof. Binh pointed out that a major hurdle is the lack of information between India-Vietnam. It is important to recognize that economic cooperation requires a specialized discussion. Dr. Hoang pointed out that it is not easy to have discussions on these lines because China is there in two provinces of Greater-Mekong sub-region. Prof. Dr. Vo Van Sen stated that there is increasing efficiency of investment in Ganga-Mekong cooperation with China, and such should be the case with India-Vietnam. Ms. Panchali Saikia argued that economic zones along the borders must be emphasised along with border ports. Sunil Chacko, in the capacity of being a part of the World Bank, stated that there is no natural constituency building for India-Vietnam relations. An ethnic grouping may need to be built. It was also asked how the Vietnamese delegates would want to invigorate the MGC. Dr. Hoang responded that there was consensus among Vietnamese observers that India’s political, diplomatic and economic cooperation is solicited. To that effect, interest groups can be built. Ms. Panchali suggested more summits and more meetings in India at the Ministerial level, to build a strict action plan.

The final session on India-Vietnam ties: Retrospect and Prospect was chaired by Dr. S.D Pradhan. Dr. Ngo Xuan Binh spoke on India-Vietnam traditional and strategic relationship in the light of the challenges and opportunities offered by the new global context. Mr. Dipanjan Ray Chaudhury presented fresh perspectives on strengthening connectivity and information dissemination between Vietnam and India to improve ties in the future.

Promoting Vietnam – India strategic partnership: In the new world context

Dr. Ngo Xuan Binh, General-Director, Institute of Indian & Southwest Asian Studies, Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnam and India share a long-standing traditional and friendly relation. A new chapter of Vietnam – India relation was opened with the official visit to India of Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in July, 2007 when leaders of the two countries decided to elevate bilateral relation to strategic partnership. This strategic relationship was re-affirmed during the visit of Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang to India in October, 2011 recently.

In the changing international context, starting from the end of the Cold War at the beginning of 1990s, the disintegration of Soviet Union and the vigorous trends of commercial liberalization and globalization of economy, Vietnam – India relations have undergone remarkable progress. Various advantageous factors such as India’s Look East Policy, Vietnam’s policies of renovation and global integration, the increasing East Asian links, the political concerns of the leaders of the two countries, help Vietnam and India in implementing its strategic partnership. Beside opportunities, the new global context also poses various challenges to Vietnam – India relation. The paper also emphasizes the necessity to develop various research programs, to strengthen the interaction among business enterprises of the two countries, people to people contact, academic exchanges…to provide information and promote mutual understanding.

Vietnam – India relation: from traditional friendship to strategic partnership: Recent researches have shown that from the centuries before Christian Era, Vietnam and India have had cultural and religious exchanges. This is vividly evidenced at various cultural sites of Oc Eo and Champa in the South and Central Vietnam. Apart from this, in the North of Vietnam, the most important outcome of this cultural exchange is that Budhism, originating in India, was imported to Vietnam and later became the official religion of this country.

Before 1990s, Vietnam – India relation was mostly focused on political relations. After 1990s, bilateral relation was expanded to include other spheres such as politics, economy, culture, education, technology and security and defence. Important factors for the promotion of Vietnam – India relation during this period are Innovation Policy (Ð?i M?i) of Vietnam from 1986, India’s economic reforms in 1991 and especially India’s Look East Policy also in 1991.

Regarding political relation, in the post Cold War era, the governments of the two countries have made efforts at maintaining good political relation and determined to uplift Vietnam – India political relation to higher levels, in order to promote effectively the cause of economic development and international integration of both countries. This is reflected in various state visits of leaders of the two countries. In 2000, in order to create a framework for the relation between the two countries in the 21st century, with Vientiane Declaration, India and Vietnam entered Mekong – Ganga cooperation, combining bilateral cooperation with regional cooperation in order to bring about greater benefits for both countries.

Coming to the 21st century, Vietnam – India political relation continues to be promoted. In January 2001, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee paid an official visit to Vietnam. In May 2003, Secretary General Nong Duc Manh visited India. This visit was an important landmark in the history of bilateral relation because during this visit, India and Vietnam signed Joint Declaration regarding the Framework for Comprehensive Cooperation between the two countries entering the 21st century. This is the first joint declaration of comprehensive cooperation that Vietnam signed with another country in the 21st century. After that, in July 2007, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made an official visit to India. During this visit, leaders of the two countries signed Joint Declaration of Vietnam – India strategic partnership, uplifting Vietnam – India relation to the highest level between two countries.

Subsequent visits of high level government leaders from Vietnam to India include the visit to India of Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan in 2009, Chairman of the National Assembly Nguyen Phu Trong in 2010 and most recently the visit of President Truong Tan Sang on 12th October, 2011. From Indian side, Speaker of Lower House Somnath Chatterjee visited Vietnam in March 2007, President Pratibha Patil visited Vietnam in November 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came to Hanoi in October 2010 and Speaker of the Lower House, Madam Meira Kumar visited Vietnam from 14th – 17th May 2011.

Regarding trade cooperation, although bilateral trade cooperation has not matched the depth of political relation and potentials of the two countries, yet in recent years, there have been very positive developments. In 2010, Vietnam – India bilateral trade cooperation attained the figure of 2.75 billion USD, increasing 34.3% compared to the previous year. In the first 4 months of 2011, bilateral trade turn-over between Vietnam and India was 1.262 billion USD, increasing 42% compared to previous year. Both Vietnam and India have put the target of 7 billion USD for bilateral trade turn-over in 2015. However, it is noticeable that in Vietnam – India trade relation, the balance of trade has continuously been in favor of India. While it is advantageous for India, it is very disadvantageous for Vietnam. Regarding investment, India is among the first countries to invest in Vietnam. The year 2007 marked a turning point in the field of India’s investment into Vietnam, with projects of Essar and Tata Groups in the sphere of steel production, India became one of the 10 largest investors in Vietnam. Up to September 2011, India’s investment into Vietnam got the figure of 500 million USD. At present, India has 52 investment projects into Vietnam with total registered capital of over 220 million USD. Regarding security cooperation, this is a rather new area of cooperation, both from Vietnam and Indian sides. This originates from the non-aligned standpoint of India in the Cold War era. However, since “The Protocol on Security Cooperation” was signed in 1994 up to now, security cooperation between the two countries has been promoted through various high level visits of Ministries of National Defence of the two countries, exchanges of military delegation, Indian war ships visited Vietnam and India helps Vietnam in training military officers. In October 2011, Minister of the Ministry of National Defence of India, Mr. A. K. Atony, in his visit to Vietnam, affirmed to continue to support Vietnam in training human resources and modernizing national military forces, expecially naval and aviational forces of Vietnam. Besides, both Vietnam and India are increasing cooperation to effectively cope with non-traditional security disasters such as climate change, environment pollution, natural calamities, energy security, HIV/AIDs and epidemics. The level of extensive bilateral security cooperation between India and Vietnam in recent years has been considered “to excess the standard of normal relation between two countries”.

Regarding cultural, educational and technological cooperation, India and Vietnam are actively promoting various programs of cooperation. India has attracted various scientists from all over the world to come to study and do research. In the 1990s, cooperation in the sphere of engineering training was given priority.

Annually, Indian government provides 110 scholarships for Vietnam during this period. Recently, India has announced to increase the number of ITEC scholarships for Vietnam from 75 up to 150 from the year 2012. Vietnam receives largest number of ITEC scholarship among the developing countries which benefit from program of technical cooperation of India. Regarding cultural cooperation, annually, on India’s Independent Day (15/8) and Vietnam’s National Day (2/9) and on occasions of anniversary of diplomatic establishment between the two countries, we organize exhibitions of arts, introducing the beauty of the land and the people of Vietnam, India to the people of the two countries. Simultaneously, Indian and Vietnamese art troupes have come to perform in the capitals and big cities of the two countries which also contribute to the propagation of art achievements of the two countries in the new age. Besides, Vietnam and India also actively participate in various Film Festivals of each other.

Cultural cooperation between Vietnam and India has also been carried out in the field of education. For the first time in Vietnam, the Department of Indian Studies was set up at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City in 2000 with the first batch of 26 students. In 2002, the Department of Indian Studies was established at Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanities. Up to now, many students have graduated from the departments of Indian studies in the South and the North of Vietnam and actively contributing to the promotion of Vietnam – India relation.

Recently, on 5th July 2011, the Government of Vietnam decided to establish the Institute of Indian and Southwest Asian Studies, belonging to Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences. This proves that Vietnam realizes the important role of India and Indian studies in this period.

During the visit of Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang to India on 12th October 2011, the two countries have agreed to celebrate the year 2012 as Vietnam – India Friendship Year to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relation between the two countries (1972-2012) and 5 year of the establishment of strategic partnership (2007-2012). India also organizes “Year of India in Vietnam” in 2012 with various cultural events such as art performances, film festivals, food festivals, art exhibitions in many cities in Vietnam.

We can say that Vietnam – India relation in all spheres as mentioned above is extremely good. There are hardly any two countries in the world which have not had to go through conflict and tension in the past such as the case of Vietnam and India. The thing is that, in the new international context, what are the advantages and disadvantages for the promotion of Vietnam- India relation?

New international context: New international context can be identified by the following main dimensions:

In terms of economic dimension, it is the acceleration of globalization and regionalization. This is an objective tendency which has impact on all spheres of social life and on the foreign relations of all countries, including Vietnam and India. Therefore, the question put forward is that how the promotion of Vietnam – India relation help the two countries to solve their own problems better. Liberalization of trade, transfer of technology, expansion of market…are the advantages which give India and Vietnam opportunities to grasp new information and knowledge, enhancing the competitive capacity of the economies and promoting bilateral economic cooperation. In terms of security and political dimension, it is the increasing tendency of dialogue in bilateral and multilateral forums; the change in the face of the relations among big countries. The promotion of strategic partnership with Vietnam will certainly helps India assert its position of a big power.

In terms of cultural dimension, new international context facilitates new conditions for the absorption of cultural values of other countries while remaining our own traditional cultural values. Thus, every country can feel secure to integrate internationally without losing its own cultural identity. However, new international context also poses great challenges. It is the emergence of terrorism at global level, the danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, threatening international security. Besides, other non-traditional security issues such as drug traffics, money laundering, cross-national boundary crimes, women and children trafficking, epidemics, disparity between the rich and the poor also require great efforts in bilateral and multilateral cooperation. In addition, issues of energy security and environment and climate changes are also challenges the world has to face with in the coming decades. But even the challenges of new international context can also be seen as opportunities for Vietnam and India to come closer to each other.

Prospects of Vietnam – India relation: A retrospect of Vietnam – India relation in all spheres of economy, politics, culture, education, technology and national security and defence strengthens our belief in the prospects of bilateral relation in the future. The evolution in bilateral relation, from traditional and trusting friendship to a strategic partnership, reflects the changes in a more globalized and integrated world. Prospects of Vietnam – India relations in every sphere are great. In the words of Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae, Vietnam continues to be an attractive destination for Indian companies in the field of oil and gas, steel, mineral, tea, sugar, food processing and information technology training.

The traditional foundation of Vietnam – India relation, India’s Look East policy, economic liberalization and India’s potentials in information technology as well as Vietnam’s innovation policy are advantages which help create opportunities for the promotion of bilateral relation. Besides, the development of East Asian link and the issue of the Eastern Sea are also considered good opportunities to promote India – Vietnam relation and help India achieve its strategic goals. However, Vietnam – India relation is still facing with many difficulties and challenges. Some of the main difficulties are as follows:

Lack of information about each other: although Vietnam and India are proud of their traditional friendship, yet what we know about each other is mainly in the fields of politics and culture. Our mutual understanding of other necessary and useful information in the field of economy, market and science and technology is very limited.

Difficulty in transport: although the agreement on civil aviation between India and Vietnam was signed long ago, up to now, we have not had direct flight between the two countries. It is a regret that Vietnam and India are quite close in terms of geography in Asia, but it takes from 10 to 24 hours to travel from New Delhi to Hanoi, mainly because we have to stop in Thailand or Malaysia to change flights. We hope that with the event of Vietnam Airlines and Indian Jet Airways signed a framed agreement during the visit of President Truong Tan Sang to India on 12/10/2011, direct flight between Vietnam and India will be established very soon. Differences in terms of culture, religion, psychology and habits also pose certain obstacles for bilateral cooperation.
Issue of Eastern Sea is both an opportunity and a challenge for both sides.

It is our contention that, for a more effective and substantial strategic partnership between Vietnam and India, regular political concern of the leaders of the two countries is essential. Besides, both Vietnam and India have to develop various research programs, increasing exchanges among business enterprises of the two countries, people-to-people contact, and academic exchanges… to provide information and promote mutual understanding. In this context, role of institutions such as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Kolkata, India and Institute of Indian and Southwest Asian Studies, Hanoi, Vietnam is extremely important.

Despite many difficulties, we can see that, Vietnam – India relation continues to grow steadily and has achieved great successes. With these achievements, we believe that Vietnam – India strategic partnership will develop strongly in the future, meeting the expectation of the governments and peoples of the two countries in the years to come.

India-Vietnam Ties: Retrospect and Prospect

Dipanjan Ray Chaudhury, Diplomatic Correspondent, Mail Today, New Delhi

Direct flights to Vietnam have been lacking. And this impedes the implementation of India’s Look east Policy; direct flight between the two capitals of the world is the most important area of cooperation in building people to people contact. The other area of people to people contact which can only grow in future is a Buddhist circuit in India which not many people have focused on or dealt with because it was unnoticed that in the last couple of years, particularly in the last two years lot of followers from Vietnam have been travelling to India in large batches particularly to Bodh Gaya and Sarnath. Why don’t we institutionalize this circuit of Buddhism between India and Vietnam like India has been focusing on Cambodia or Thailand – lot of Thai tourists come to India on this Buddhist circuit.

When it comes to another aspect of people to people contact, the Vietnamese side has been requesting India for English Language training, like we have been doing in Central Asia and Africa. But the Government of India has been emphasizing much on English Language training in Vietnam. Vietnam also wants to develop along the lines of Philippines and Sri Lanka as an outsourcing hub. Why not encourage the training trend – have APTECH or NIIT set up stops where there will be students. They can be provided with appropriate IT training that they have been looking for.

Institutionalizing the naval exercises can be a key area of cooperation. There have been on and of naval exercises between the two countries, which could be expanded to have some of the ASEAN member countries in the region, including South Korea and Japan. We could think of a trilateral defense exercise with Vietnam, S. Korea and Japan and probably later include Philippines also because these countries in South East Asia and East Asia with whom India’s defense cooperation has expanded. Largely unnoticed in media is Indo-S. Korean defense ties. When defense minister A. K. Anthony went last year there were two key agreements that were signed between S. Korea and India.

The India-Japan defense ties have been expanding and not much focus is given on that and Indo-Vietnam defense tires have been very steadily growing, so why not expand it to first make it a bilateral annual exercise and then make it a trilateral naval defense exercise. Obviously this is going to draw some attention and ire from the larger Northern neighbor –but it can always be done in the spirit of East Asia security architecture where China is also a member and it can also send the message wherever it wants in terms of the balance of power in the region.

We can also think of inviting Vietnamese defense personnel to our war colleges to expand the defense cooperation, the understanding among the members of the defense community in the two countries. Vietnam has been demanding Brahmos missile from India in terms of military hardware. There has been some dithering on India’s part and the requisite nod from Russia has not been coming and this area should be also looked in when we try to develop defense partnership.

One area which makes Indo-Vietnamese ties natural is India and Vietnam both use Soviet platform of defense which automatically makes way for defense cooperation, particularly hardware cooperation and training, exchange between the two countries. This often does not and need not always be discussed in the public domain. It is easier for defense cooperation between the two countries After the signing of the claimed NSG waiver in September 2008 India had signed nuclear cooperation agreement with almost 10 countries. One of the countries here is Japan. Japan even after the Fukushima tragedy declares that it is cooperating. It made its nuclear discussions with four countries public and one of the countries is Vietnam, besides Russia and Jordan, they are cooperating within the nuclear field.

India has been keen to export medium level nuclear reactors to various countries and Vietnam has a history of peaceful nuclear research. India and Vietnam can look into the future of India nuclear cooperation, science and technology cooperation and probably acquire Russia’s help in building nuclear research and nuclear power plants in Vietnam.

One of the key areas of cooperation is ASEAN as a multilateral forum. India has mentioned that Vietnam is India’s closest ASEAN partner, but that has not been translated into a stronger bilateral relationship. India is hosting the ASEAN Delhi Dialogue IV currently in Delhi. Vietnam’s Ambassador is also participating in it. Why can’t we look at transforming this multilateral forum into a bilateral initiative? This should remain in the thought process of the South Block.

Geographically, Vietnam is in the Indian Ocean region, where India is slowly expanding its footprints. One could refer about China containing India’s role in the Indian Ocean region. If Indian Ocean region is not India’s ocean, South China Sea cannot be China’s sea. If China can be present in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, by the same logic India can be present in the South China Sea. If that be business then why can’t India have business in the South China Sea? It makes India’s presence in the South China Sea strong and the agreements that were signed during the Vietnam President’s visit here to expand cooperation makes India’s presence more legitimate in the region, particularly in the Exclusive Economic Zones of Vietnam.

Barack Obama, while announcing the last defense cut in budget mentioned that India should be a player in the region. In terms of the East Asian security architecture, India can play a role in that area. India is the only country in the region which besides China wants to develop blue water navy. India is the only country in the region which has an aircraft carrier. It is developing an aircraft carrier and it is getting one from Russia. It is the only country with three aircraft carriers in the region. Vietnam can play a role in developing India’s blue water navy, in expanding India’s naval reach in particularly S.E Asia, leading up to East Asia.

Another key area in terms of information exchange and people to people exchange between the two countries could be the visits by media and Vietnam has a presence here of the news agency, but unfortunately there is hardly any presence of Indian media in Vietnam, or visits by Indian media to Vietnam. So there can be a role in promoting this, given the nature of the Indian polity. If the Indian media organizations can think of posting somewhere in Vietnam and having a kind of arrangement where their news agencies can send their correspondents and he or she can cover the entire region from there. This would help more exchange of information between the two countries and given that India is keen to expand its footprints in S.E Asia it can further enhance the process.


At the end of the third session, it was pointed out that cyber-warfare needs attention as information exchange is imperiled by it. Substantial ground work through strategies must be made to create a deterrence effect to our adversaries. It was asked what kind of role can be envisaged for India-Vietnam in the wake of US’s return in the Asia-Pacific. Prof. Binh stated that India can promote defence and security cooperation with Vietnam. It was suggested that US’s return maybe a positive thing as India’s relations with the US are good in terms of strategic ties. In fact, China’s negative impact can be offset by India-Vietnam ties. Mr. Dipanjan Ray Chaudhury offered that it is the age of multi-vector foreign policy and Vietnam’s relation with Russia, the US, Israel and India-all is growing. Dr. Pradhan summed up that independent foreign policy will be carved out by interests. It is imperative for India and Vietnam to rationally juxtapose the inter-play of contested geo-strategic interests in the region with the need to pursue continuities in foreign relations and engage in fresh avenues of engagement for the optimal cultivation of bilateral ties. As the countries celebrate forty years of their diplomatic ties and friendship in 2012, Global India Foundation was able to bring together the viewpoints of India and Vietnam and substantially review the variables steering India-Vietnam relations and avenues to infuse a fresh spirit of cooperation. The Conference was concluded with a vote of thanks proposed by Ms. Cauvery Ganapathy.

Conference Schedule

India-Myanmar Relations: Strengthening Ties and Deepening Engagements

India International Centre (Annexe), New Delhi, India
Wednesday, 15th February 2012

Inaugural: 10:30am-11:15am

Welcome: Ms.Cauvery Ganapathy, Fellow, GIF
Brief Remarks: Prof.Omprakash Mishra, Member Secretary, GIF and Dr.Sreeradha Datta, Director, MAKAIAS
Inaugural Address: Amb.Ranjan Mathai, Foreign Secretary, Government of India
Chair: Vice Admiral P.J.Jacob, Chairman, GIF
Vote of Thanks

Tea – 11:15 am -11:30am
Session I – 11:30am- 1:00pm
Myanmar’s Geo-Strategic Location: India’s Gateway to ASEAN – Challenges and Opportunities
Chair: Daw Yin Yin Myint (Director General, Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MSIS), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yangon, Myanmar)
Amb.Rajiv Bhatia, Former Indian Ambassador to Myanmar
Dr.Tin Htoo Naing, National Consultant, ASEAN 2030 Study, Asian Development Bank Institute, Yangon, Myanmar: ‘India-Myanmar Relations: Myanmar Perspective’
Dr.Ishani Naskar, Faculty, Rabindra Bharati University: ‘Relooking India’s Myanmar Policy: Consider Myanmar within South Asia?’
Mr. Pradeep Phanjoubam, Editor, Imphal Free Press, Imphal, Manipur

Lunch- 1:00pm-2:00pm
Session II- 2:00pm – 3:15pm
North-East Region of India and Myanmar
Chair: Amb.Salman Haidar (Former Foreign Secretary, GOI and Member, Executive Council, GIF)
1. Dr.Gurudas Das, Faculty, National Institute of Technology, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Silchar – ‘Implications of Engaging Myanmar for India’s North East: Trade, Transit and Security’
2. Dr. Rakhee Bhattacharya, Fellow, Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, Delhi– ‘Stilwell Road- the Road to Hope for North-East India’
3. Dr.Prabir De, Fellow, Research and Information System for Developing Countries –‘India-Myanmar Connectivity: Projects and Implications for India’s Northeast’
4. Ms.Sayantani Sen Mazumdar, Fellow, GIF – ‘Moreh to Myanmar: Look East and its Promising Engagements’

Session III - 4:30pm-5:30pm
Political and Economic Partnership between India and Myanmar
Chair: Prof. Samir Kumar Das (Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Calcutta and Member, Executive Council, GIF)
1. Dr. Amita Batra, Faculty, South Asian Study, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi: ‘India Myanmar: Evolving Economic Relationship’
2. Dr. C.J.Thomas, Acting Director, ICSSR- North-East Regional Council, Shillong – ‘Trade and Cooperation across the border: Need for a bold and balanced policy towards India-Myanmar Border Trade’
3. Dr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Fellow, Institute of South East Asian Studies, Singapore – ‘ASEAN’s Ambivalent Views of India Myanmar Relations’

Vote of Thanks

Conference Picture

(A) (B)


(D) (E)

(A) Amb. Ranjan Mathai, Foreign Secretary, Govt. of India
(B) From L to R: Dr. Tin Htoo Naing, Amb. Rajiv Bhatia, Ms. Daw Yin Yin Myint, Dr. Ishani Naskar and Mr. Pradeep Phanjoubam
(C) A cross-section of the participating audience
(D) From L to R: Dr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Dr. Amita Batra, Prof. Samir K Das and Dr. C J Thomas
(E) From L to R: Ms. Sayantani Sen, Prof. Omprakash Mishra, Admiral P J Jacob and Ms. Cauvery Ganapathy

Global India Foundation, in collaboration with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS), Kolkata, Institute of Foreign Policy Studies, University of Kolkata and Gamesa, India organized an International Conference on India Myanmar Relations: Strengthening Ties and Deepening Engagements on February 15, 2012. The theme of the Conference encompassed a wide array of pertinent issues ranging from ‘Myanmar’s Geo-Strategic Location: India’s Gateway to ASEAN – Challenges and Opportunities to North-East Region of India and Myanmar and Political and Economic Partnership between India and Myanmar.

The inaugural session was presided over by Vice Admiral P.J Jacob, Chairman, Global India Foundation (GIF), Dr. Sreeradha Dutta, Director , Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies,(MAKAIAS), Daw Yin Yin Myint (Director General, Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MSIS), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yangon, Myanmar, Prof.Omprakash Mishra, Member Secretary, GIF. Ambassador Ranjan Mathai, Foreign Secretary, Government of India delivered a special address.

Admiral Jacob reiterated the efficacy of the Foundation in organizing a series of conferences focusing on India’s critical bilateral ties with a host of countries. Prof. Mishra commenced his speech by commenting on the role of academicians and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Government of India in highlighting the strategic significance of cooperative engagements between India and Myanmar. He stated that the entire discourse on renewed engagement with Myanmar, which is steered by the MEA, is indeed very commendable. India shares a crucial relationship with Myanmar and the essence of the robust engagements between the two countries is the relevant way of translating the substance of the Look East Policy (LEP) into reality. LEP which was re-launched in 2007 with a new vigour by the then External Affairs Minister, Shri Pranab Mukherjee’s speech in Shillong on “Geography as an Opportunity” emphasized the strategic importance of Myanmar in translating our LEP. The magnitude of India’s engagements with Myanmar and the zeal in implementing initiatives and policies, portray India’s profound interest in enhancing cooperative endeavours with Myanmar. Myanmar is the focal-point by which the LEP can be translated into actuality. Indo-Myanmar cooperation can be cited as an example of successful stories of India’s engagements with its neighbour. He emphasized that South Asia is being conceptualized within a limited perspective. Global India Foundation thus conducts research on the wider scope of the South Asian region. Notwithstanding the conceptual construct of South Asia, significance lies in the impact of each country beyond the regional sphere, in places like Afghanistan, China and Myanmar. The South Asian region can definitely benefit if we take into account the interdependent effects of the sum of all the constructive efforts currently underway.

In his keynote speech, Ambassador Mathai characterized the relationship between the two countries as deep-rooted and multifaceted. He stated that our “close, friendly and good neighbourly relations” have been further strengthened through exchanges in recent times, including the State Visit of the Honorable President of Myanmar to India in October 2010. Our bilateral relations, always cordial, have acquired new range, depth and vitality over the past decade or so. The historic, cultural and societal connections are obvious: Our shared Buddhist heritage is one of many unique and abiding bonds. Our peoples living across the border share ties of language, culture and history so much so that some of our Laws refer to the “Kingdom of Ava”. Myanmar is our only, land bridge to South East Asia and the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It is therefore a crucial player in the implementation of India’s Look East Policy, a policy which was aimed at strengthening India’s relations with all ASEAN member states in particular. Today, as Myanmar makes a transition to a democratic system, our relations are set to move to a higher plane, with political, commercial and people-to-people cooperation assuming greater prominence in the relationship. The recent developments in Myanmar have evoked great interest amongst the international community. The government has set itself an ambitious agenda of achieving good governance and clean government, rule of law, securing the fundamental rights of citizens, reducing income disparity, creating a harmonious society, and bringing about economic reform and environmental conservation.

Ambassador Mathai observed that in the realm of foreign policy, Myanmar is keeping good relations with all its neighbours and partners. India views improvement of relations as a win-win proposition. Domestically a dialogue has been offered with the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as well as the leaders of ethnic armed groups and this dialogue started showing results. The community of PIOs – more than a million strong – is symbolic of our organic links as nations. As Myanmar enters a new economic era – there are hopes for their economic progress as an integral part of the Myanmar nation. India has been in dialogue with Myanmar for fifteen years on the concept of an inclusive process of national reconciliation. We, therefore, find the nature and extent of debate in the newly convened Parliament heartening, with legislators working to amend existing legislation and also to seek answers to questions of public interest. We believe these steps could lead to a more democratic government. For our part, the Indian Government stands ready to offer such support as is useful and relevant for the Myanmar Government in its transition to a democratic system. We have stepped up our political engagement - President U Thein Sein visited India in October 2011, the Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin in January 2012, our own External Affairs Minister Shri S.M. Krishna, in June 2011. We are ready to share our experience and help in capacity building - The Lower House Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann led a parliamentary delegation on a study visit in December 2011 and we discussed sharing of our experience on parliamentary procedures and practice. We are expecting a delegation from the National Human Rights Commission of Myanmar in March this year. We are considering ways and means of assisting Myanmar as it prepares to take on ASEAN Chairmanship in 2014.

The Government of India is ready to work together with the Myanmar Government to accelerate the process of development in the areas bordering India. This has traditionally been viewed as an area of common security concern but it is also a new economic frontier. We have cooperated against armed insurgency; however, it is the planned connectivity and development projects in the Rakhine and Chin States and Sagaing Region which are today of especial importance. The Tamu-Kale-Kalewa Road project has been most beneficial to the people in the Tamu area. We hope that it can be expanded and become part of the Asian Highway.The range of areas covered by India-Myanmar development cooperation projects is diverse and carefully chosen — apart from roads, we have active projects in railways, telecom, health, agriculture, energy, IT and education. In order to enhance capacity amongst the Myanmar youth, we have set up the Myanmar-India Centre for English Language Training, Yangon, Myanmar-India Entrepreneurship Development Centre, Yangon, India-Myanmar Centre for Enhancement of IT Skills, Yangon and the Industrial Training Centre in Pakokku. Another Industrial Training Centre is being set up at Myingyan. We are also working on setting up IT Institute in Mandalay. All these institutes have been conceptualized keeping the needs of the Myanmar student and industrial community in mind and we are very happy to learn that their work is being appreciated and that the graduates from these Centres are finding jobs easily.

The current state of Indo-Myanmar commercial relations is healthy - but way below its potential. Annual bilateral trade amounts to USD 1.4 billion at present and we have mutually agreed to set a target of doubling bilateral trade to $3 billion by 2015. The balance of trade has always been in favor of Myanmar. As per Myanmar statistics, India is Myanmar’s fifth largest trade partner – its 4th largest export destination and 7th largest source of imports. India’s main exports, which amounted to USD 195 million in 2010-11, are pharmaceuticals, meat and meat products, electrical machinery, etc. India’s imports, which amounted to USD 876 million in the same year, are dominated by pulses, (the dal which is the common man’s diet in India) and beans and timber including teak. Greater investment in necessary – currently, as per Myanmar official statistics, Indian investment is just USD 189 million. This however does not reflect an investment of USD 1.33 billion by ONGC and GAIL. The prospects are good, especially as India has just entered into an FTA with the ASEAN. Overall, India–ASEAN trade has been increasing rapidly in recent years and amounted to US$ 57.9 billion in 2010–11, constituting about 10 % of India’s global trade. This positive trend should also reflect on India-Myanmar trade. Indian companies are actively assessing opportunities in Myanmar. The response to the Enterprise India Show held in Yangon in November 2011 was excellent and many Indian companies are engaged in follow-up activity.

Ambassador Mathai stated that the Government of India is conscious of the need for better land, air and sea connectivity between the two countries in order to facilitate trade and are working with the Myanmar authorities to this end. People-to-people contacts is another area of focus – India has been extending courtesies to Buddhist pilgrims from Myanmar and also tried to encourage more tourist visits by extending our tourist visa-on-arrival scheme to Myanmar nationals. We are looking at requests for Myanmar monasteries which could serve as pilgrims rest. At the other end, we are happy to be undertaking the Conservation and Renovation of the historic Ananda Temple in Bagan with technical support from the Archaeological Survey of India. We hope to soon sign a Cultural Exchange Programme which will systematize the cultural interaction between our countries. Ambassador Mathai expressed his belief that as Myanmar continues on the new path charted out by its leaders, the strong ties between our two countries will only deepen and strengthen further. Our destinies are closely linked on land and on the sea. As our relations grow a new identity will be created. Myanmar will increasingly rediscover part of its South Asian heritage, just as India will discover that just as in historical times we are part of South East Asia itself.

Ms. Daw Yin Yin Mint pointed out that Myanmar as the only ASEAN country sharing land and maritime boundary with India. She enumerated the importance of dialogues on critical bilateral ties and its impact on vital relations. The thrust of the think-tanks in different parts of the region is to critically gauge the future course of India-Myanmar relations. Drawing inferences from the Foreign Secretary’s special address, she focused on the relevance of high-level official visits. In this context she cited the visits made by the new President of Myanmar to India in October 2010 and the Foreign Minister in January 2012. These dual visits, according to her, built essentially important ground for cooperation, mutual benefits for India and Myanmar. Moreover, she made references to the preparations being made by Myanmar for a visit of Indian Prime Minister which would take place for BIMSTEC Summit in Napidyaw. She observed that the upcoming high level visits in an indicative of an upward swing in Indo-Myanmar cooperation. She expressed her belief that with these visits new avenues of cooperation would be identified, new vistas would be opened up. Myanmar bridges the North East states of Manipur, Mizoram, Assam with the ASEAN countries.

Drawing inferences from Ambassador Mathai’s speech, Prof. Mishra highlighted the increasing relevance of Indo-Myanmar cooperation and made a special mention of India’s North-East in the context of India’s LEP.

The first session was on Myanmar’s Geo-Strategic location- India’s gateway to ASEAN: Opportunities and Challenges.

India-Myanmar Cooperation

Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Former Indian Ambassador to Myanmar

This presentation tries to outline the tenets of critical bilateral cooperation between India and Myanmar. From the geo-strategic significance of the location of Myanmar it is pertinent to mention that it is the intersection for South East Asia and South Asia, for ASEAN and SAARC, for the one of the most underdeveloped member-states (Myanmar) with one of the more prosperous member-states (Thailand) of ASEAN. Myanmar is the land where the Asian landmass touches the Indian Ocean, providing alternative routes to eastern India and southern China. Myanmar is vital for security and development of North East Region of India and has inevitable impact on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands area. Thus Myanmar’s geographic location bears immense geo-strategic significance. By emphasizing on Indo-Myanmar deep historical bonding he enumerated the relevance of the cooperation in the backdrop of India’s Look East Policy and Indo-ASEAN collaboration. Thus come into fore the essentiality of the deepening and the expansion of connectivity, which pertains to four areas: physical (i.e. infrastructure – rail, road, sea, air, energy etc.); IT and HRD; institutions; and mind space, especially with reference to a long-term strategic perspective that requires the deployment of India's industrial prowess, technological resources and various attributes of soft power.

Challenges inherent in this course of cooperation are also being dealt with in detail by the expert on Indo-Myanmar relations. He focused on certain core issues like: G-to G links are marred by two imbalances: more stress on security than economic development; more reliance on officialdom than on political class, B-to-B exchanges: India Inc still seems to be still holding back, complaining of uncertainty and operational problems in Myanmar and unmindful of approaching competition. P-to-P equation is characterized by a huge asymmetry: India's Myanmar experts and scholars are engaged in conversations among themselves (with very few exceptions); instead, they should be talking to their counterparts in Myanmar on a sustained basis. Walls erected that bar such conversations should be brought down fast before Myanmar gets fully engaged talking to others – the Chinese, the Americans, the Europeans, the Japanese and the Australians. More tourism, more cultural linkages, more educational cooperation is needed. A composite holistic approach welding together bilateral, sub-regional and regional dimensions of India’s Myanmar policy is recommended. A special emphasis to the North-East Region is the ardent need of the cooperative endeavour. This crucial bilateral cooperation should be well-structured to address to the constraints and challenges of the day.

India-Myanmar Relations from Myanmar’s Perspective

Dr. Tin Htoo Naing, National Consultant, ASEAN 2030 Study, Asian Development Bank Institute, Yangon, Myanmar

This paper studies the disparate paradigms of Indo-Myanmar relations from an economic perspective. South East Asia and India, two of the fastest growing and most dynamic regions, should capitalize on their partnership through enhanced connectivity to reap the optimum benefits. Myanmar is the only land bridge between South East Asia and India and is the largest country of South East Asia covering about 678000 square kilometers. On 30th March 2011 with the formation of the new government reforms in economic policies and procedures were formulated which were largely the off shoots of past experiences. New constitution in 2008 enumerates the formation of market economy in Myanmar. India is thus assuming a vital role in changing political, economic, strategic future of Myanmar. Myanmar has undergone the following development phases: Parliamentary democracy with mixed economy (1948-1962; socialist military rule with extreme state control (1962-1988); military supremacy with market orientation (1988-1997); military with market orientation and strong state intervention (1997-2011); progressively democratic market economy (2011- present). For the future development of the country there has to be a proactive role of the government. The government needs to take measures to improve the standard of living of rural economy and agricultural sector. In 2008-2009 share of agricultural sector was 41.7%, industrial sector was 21.2% and services sector 37.1%. Economy still depends on resource based industries like oil, gas mining and forestry. Growth rate is slow in service sector, which is about 31%. The incompetence in promoting economy is responsible for the slow growth of the economy though foreign investment of Permitted Enterprises till 30/11/11 has considerably increased in terms of US$ in million (about 2.5% increase in 11/2 years). In 2010-2011 there was considerable increase in FDI sources. China, Thailand, Hong Kong account for nearly 74 % of investments followed by Republic of Korea ie 7.3%, UK -6.6%, Singapore-4.5%. FDI from India is very marginal – only 2.5% of total FDI. About 90% of FDI in Myanmar comes from Asia and ASEAN which accounts for 32%. 80% of investments are done in power and oil gas industries. In manufacturing sector there is only 4.3% of total FDI.

Myanmar is still considered to be risky destination due to poor infrastructure and transport facilities. Though highway projects have been initiated which have helped neighbouring countries to access roads from Myanmar But share of benefits of Myanmar is quite negligible. Myanmar cannot only be treated as food basket, energy hub, other spheres of opportunities should also need to be focused. The connectivity projects bear the potentialities of enhancing the strategic importance of Myanmar as a regional logistics and trading hub and thus would be definitely beneficial for Myanmar, India, and ASEAN and for the entire region. To realize the positive outcomes Myanmar needs to respond to the opportunities offered by its geographical and natural advantages and must avail the competitive advantages brought about by regional and global market chain.

Re-Looking India’s Myanmar Policy: Consider Myanmar within South Asia?

Dr. Ishani Naskar, Faculty, Rabindra Bharati University

Indo-Myanmar relations can be critically examined by evoking certain cardinal queries like-is the concept of South Asia complete or infallible? Why Myanmar is excluded from South Asia? Why does it seem that India is lacking an active neighbourly relationship with Myanmar based on determined bilateralism? Myanmar is India’s eastern neighbour and the other is China. Geographically Myanmar is a part of South Asia and institutionally is a member of South East Asian family. It is in a way queer that while all of India’s neighbours are a part of South Asia, Myanmar stands apart as an exception.

South Asia can be conceptualized from different perspectives- geographical, cultural, historical and politico-strategic. Geographically, it is coterminous with the landmass called Indian subcontinent has a marine sphere covering the Indian Ocean. Culturally, we can trace the trajectory from the concept of Greater Indian system based on cultural similarities spread across the entire area. Historically, apart from the obvious linkage in the ancient and medieval period, basic focus is on pre-independence British India as an immediate context for contemporary references to South Asia. Strategically, in international politics, South Asia emerged as one of the theatres of Cold War competition propelled on India-Pakistan rivalry. Politically, the indigenous concept of South Asia based on the functional definition of what constitutes SAARC. However, the contemporary contours of South Asia is not infallible and could be subjected to modifications according to strategic considerations and emerging political scenario like the induction of Afghanistan in 2005. There is a need to bring Myanmar within the purview of South Asia so that the possibility of a durable neighbourhood policy towards this country can be enhanced. Taking recourse to history, such a modification can be justified. If South Asia is expanding its family by bringing Afghanistan within its ambit, then why is Burma not being included, when there is clear mention of South Asian Registrar in 1827 (that mentions Burma and also Australia). In pre independence period Burma found a place within South Asia. Administrative policies in British India-Inclusion of Burma in India and its separation was a purely British decision for administrative purposes. Included both Lower (1858) and Upper Burma (1886) within British India. Burma was converted into a separate British domain in 1937 and hence, separated from India. But it remained India’s neighbour even before her independence and even before the birth of Pakistan.

India’s role as a prominent global player that had launched from the NAM failed to provide enough dividends at the regional level and NAM thus failed to prove its credibility. The concept of South Asia was institutionalized by countries of the region in the 1980s following the establishment of SAARC. Two questions that come to one’s mind in this respect- the idea was conceived by India’s neighbours but not by India, the reason why all the border states of India found place in South Asia excepting Myanmar. India never thought of regional entity seriously. SAARC determined the contours of what constitutes South Asia based on a functional definition. In not pursuing for Myanmar’s membership in SAARC, India was losing out in bilateral relations. Myanmar’s inclusion could have ensured a better way to engage Myanmar’s rigid regime.

In the re-launch of India-Myanmar relations, there were certain key drivers like economic and strategic compulsions, connectivity and communication acting as a gateway to Southeast Asia, and finally, India’s Look East prism reaching out to the neighbouring countries and conceiving Myanmar as a part of South East Asia. In charting the future trajectory of India-Myanmar relations, it would be important to re-conceive South Asia as inclusive of Myanmar. If all of India’s bordering neighbours are members of SAARC, then Myanmar as the eastern neighbour should be a member of SAARC, and represent South Asia. India largely needs a set of strong and proactive neighbourhood policies of which Myanmar must be an inseparable part. India should prioritize the bilateral approach to an instrumental orientation, encourage competition instrumental in enhancing engagement, must be oriented towards consistent bilateralism and successful multilateralism. As a neighbour Myanmar is important not only for Look East Policy, other priorities are also there. Competition with China is there but it should not only be the guiding spirit of healthy engagement. Myanmar’s advantageous geostrategic location adds a boom to the cooperation as that the country is India’s gateway to South East Asia. There should be a strong mutual urge to build upon this reality, thereby bringing Myanmar within the purview of SA in order to ensure strong neighbourly relations with India.

Look East Policy: Beyond Trade and Commerce

Mr. Pradip Phanjoubam, Editor, Imphal Free Press, Imphal, Manipur

The tendency of India’s Look East Policy is to focus on the trade prospects between India and South East Asia and this has the likelihood of bypassing the North East. Focusing on the significance of Indo-Myanmar bilateral ties there are certain core historical facts. There is a definite dearth of knowledge on Myanmarese history. Though there is much hype about LEP actually we are looking towards West, in East we know a bit about Bangladesh but we lack understanding about Myanmar. If one cites historical inferences from Thant Myint-U’s writings, The Making of Burma then it would be clear that initially Myanmar was a part of British India but afterwards it was separated for political and administrative reasons otherwise it would still have been a part of British India. Then the history of this region would have been entirely different. Practically the significance of political matters over geographic ones and vice versa varies depending upon the relevance of the situation. This happens in NER and many other states due to the varied perspectives of different leaders. The prevailing ethnic problems of Myanmar are the most predominant weakness of Myanmar. Myanmar does not only denote the question of economics, GDP, mineral resources but also ethnic problems whose severity should also be needed to be considered. Social repercussions due to political upheaval should also be taken into account. He took recourse to the historical facts of 1962, world war-2 and 1885 in context of India-Myanmar relations. All the aspects –social, political, economic, ethnic play a pivotal role in the historical context of Myanmar’s transition to democracy. India and Myanmar have experienced rough course in their historical endeavours, nowadays though we speak about cooperation at official level problems still exist in practical context.

LEP of India was initiated in the early 1990s and the importance of the NER was overlooked even after 10 years of the formulation of the Policy. Presently, only two aspects of the LEP are in the limelight- trade aspect gets greater mileage and the other core aspect is the political push. In Thant Myint-U’s writings there was a description of China’s Yunan Policy which was altogether a political move. He made a detailed comparative study of India’s Look East Policy and China’s Look West Policy which is related to the Kunming Initiative and arrived at some relevant findings. Mekong Ganga Cooperation Initiative, which was meant to develop the NER, deserves special mention in this context. On the basis of being an eye-witness to the developments of this region, it can be asserted that China has made huge investments in Mekong River. The entire Mekong River is dominated by Chinese vessels. Chinese knows Mekong River better than anyone else as their vessels ply the river. India boasts about Kalemyo Road but beyond a certain point the investment and construction is extremely poor compared to the Chinese initiative. So in addition to economic perspective the LEP does have political orientation.

The NER can uphold the picture of ascertaining how politics can take precedence over geographical congeniality. For instance, Chicken’s Neck never existed in history. It came into existence only from 1947 after Partition. The riots of Calcutta, Punjab, and Lahore always come to the limelight but the riots of the NER have never attained any academic or media coverage. To prove the authenticity of his statement the linguistic tussle between Assamese and Bengalis before Partition can be referred to. In 1878 Bengali was made the official language which was vehemently protested by the Assamese. During Partition the nature of the friction almost got changed and the religious type of nationalism came to the fore. Linguistic nationalism went below the surface. Province of Sylhet in Bangladesh is actually a Hindu dominated province and the people wanted to be a part of Assam, but the Hindu dominated province became a part of East Pakistan. The dialogues and discussions on the LEP never pay heed to the Yandapu line, the implications of the line on the NER. Truly speaking, LEP has always been a euphoria in NER and very little has been studied on NER. Trade between India and ASEAN rose exponentially to about 1.5 billion under the LEP but the outcome has unfortunately not been experienced in the NER. The question of integration nowadays has gained momentum leaving far behind the importance of nationalism. NER is a natural region and the World War-2, and Stilwell Road are historical instances to prove that the Region is a natural region. Though there is visible friction between the ASEAN countries and the GMS countries, the region can become a pivotal area of economic importance. The campaign from the point of view of the North East must be to call for a two-pronged approach or to put it another way, have two different but related components of the same Policy. One can be to promote and facilitate trade between India and ASEAN, which is heavily weighted towards the sea routes and the beneficiaries on the Indian side would be the Indian states on the rim of Bay of Bengal and the land route via the North East has remained secondary due to poor infrastructural facilities. He surmised that there must be a “Look East Policy” in general and “ Look North East and Beyond Policy”. The first is a trade policy and the second is as much a political measure with a trade policy as a facilitator and a catalyst.


The end of the first session was followed by an interactive and stimulating discussion on the crux of Indo-Myanmar relations. The Chair Ms. Daw Yin Yin Myint pointed out that there are ample avenues of cooperation between India and Myanmar. Myanmar and India are linked by geography, history, culture, religion and people to people ties for centuries. She highlighted the importance of geo-strategic location of Myanmar as India’s gateway to ASEAN. She also stated that it is imperative to understand the development trajectory in Myanmar for a fruitful India-Myanmar cooperation. For India to implement it LEP completely, Myanmar needs to play a significant role as it bridges India with the rest of ASEAN. Myanmar is provides the base for physical connectivity between India and ASEAN because as Myanmar has opened up to outside investments and embarked upon a path of democracy and market economy. Many avenues of cooperation thus lie for the stake-holders. Delegations are rushing to Myanmar to seek opportunities and find out potential areas of cooperation. India is assisting Myanmar in its reform projects and has kindly offered assistance in a wide range of areas such as telecommunications, education, trade and commerce, agriculture, IT sectors. She points out that there are primarily three potential areas for cooperation wherein Myanmar stakeholders can seek for. In case of agriculture, Myanmar is second after Canada in exporting beans, pulses and thus has a huge market in India. Population of Indian middle class in Myanmar would be more than1 million in next year-thus huge potential for cooperation. Most of the temples in Myanmar are being built by King Ashoke. Cultural and religious affinities largely exist between India and Myanmar. Cultural and religious affinities are the avenues to tap into the cultural and religious tourism. Another area of cooperation is that of physical connectivity- cooperation in terms of infrastructure, direct gateway to ASEAN. Since it is the direct route to ASEAN the North East Region of India can avail the opportunities for its overall development and Myanmar will also enjoy the benefits of having more developed infrastructure The Kaladan Multimodal Transport Project is of considerable importance . It will transport goods to and from Mizoram to Myanmar vis-à-vis ASEAN. It has to be admitted that we know very little about each other and there are many parts of India which are foreign to Myanmar, specially this NER. Destinies of India and Myanmar are linked and it will be deepened if we could tap into all these potentials and the business sector needs to be involved in this enterprising venture. She had been skeptical about the pace of interaction between Myanmar business people and the Indian counterparts but she stated that the Indian Embassy in Yangon and the Ambassadors, Staff are working hard to involve Indian business sectors largely in Myanmar. There is an ardent need to pursue all the competent tasks successfully for the enriching of mutual prosperity as Myanmar is of immense significance to India and ASEAN.

Some pressing questions were raised like is there any specific Myanmar’s policy to attract foreign investment from India? What are the security interests in Indo-Myanmar relations? What are the expectations of India from Kunming Initiative since already 9 meetings have been held and 10th meeting is due to take place in India? It was agreed that there is the need to scrutinize the problems inherent in steering projects forward like the Kaladan and Tamanthi Projects and promote proactive cooperative endeavours to eradicate the problems. The China factor is important in case of Indo-Myanmar relations. Myanmar reaction is quite fluctuating in respect to China but at the same time it is dependant on China. India’s perceptions are influenced by China factor to a great extent. Myanmar is getting too close to China out of compulsion as mentioned by Bertin Lintner. There is apprehension of Indian domination of Myanmar as well as Chinese domination of Myanmar. Natural linkages between India and Myanmar should be revived in order to appraise the depth of their mutual cooperation.The theme of the second session was North-East Region of India and Myanmar. The session was chaired by Ambassador Salman Haidar and paper presentations were made by Dr. Gurudas Das, Dr. Rakhee Bhattacharjee, Dr. Prabir De and Ms Sayantani Sen Mazumdar.

Stilwell Road- the Road to Hope for North East India

Dr. Rakhee Bhattacharya, Fellow, Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, New Delhi

The objective of this paper is to think beyond security and look for economic gains of North East Region through such open route policy. NER has been a trouble –spot for India due to historical reasons and due to the occurrence of insurgencies, violent activities. Only recently it is regarded as an important region and a ray of hope and optimism of people can be visible. In states of Tripura and Assam political leadership has been successful in transforming into hopes of future from pains of past ushering into an era of competence and expectation. Two leaders Mr Tarun Gogoi and Mr. Manik Sarkar deserve a special applause for their abilities to bring back rule of law through their efforts and governance, development and counter insurgency movement. Mizoram can also be included in the list where militancy is a story of past. But ages of disconnect has forced the region to remain far from limelight-connectivity occupies the core area of concern. Disconnect has kept it in isolation from mainland India and with the close neighbours which share almost 98% of boundaries with NER. India made a paradigm shift in its domestic and foreign policies way back in 1991 with its economic liberalization and the strategic shift from West to East by initiating LEP, which wishfully thought of a) rebuilding the lost relations with the fast growing SEA nations. b) revival of land locked and conflict prone borderland of NER’s connectivity with SEA nations with Myanmar as a gateway so that it can be conceptualized as a trans-regional economic and cultural space to counter this long standing issues of insurgency , human poverty and economic backwardness.

Arunachal Pradesh is the most isolated state in North East India which awaits an opening and the historic route like Stilwell can provide it with this opportunity. Debates and dialogues are on the surface on the pros and cons of reopening of the Stilwell Road and several efforts have been undertaken as well in respect of both economic and security paradigms. A fresh thought is now being given to this Road as potential passage for socio economic development of the future generation of this contiguous region. The border region of Patkai range is still inhabited by a dozen of ethnic communities and opening of this Road will help to connect themselves and restore lost links ethnically, culturally across the border. She personally interacted with the people from academia, political figures, business sector and administrative circle and common people. To them the reopening of Stilwell Road is like a dream come true. All the Chief Ministers of the NER have come to a consensus and requested the Prime Minister to reopen the road. The central government should open the Road to translate dream into actuality and to boost trade and commerce. Among the 3 nations with which the Road runs – China has already pursued the idea of reopening and has repelled the idea of the constructive stretch of the Road with 6 Link Express Highway. But on the contrary Myanmar was extremely indecisive as it passes through its jungle-covered mountainous and swampy valley of Kachin state-the most insurgency prone area. India was also in an uncomfortable position and there was a ray of hope as Myanmar agreed to honour the long-standing need of the region by reopening Stilwell Road to facilitate trade with India, China and Myanmar. In Indian Chamber of Commerce 5th NE Business Summit at Kolkata in January 2010 Myanmar Foreign Minister, Nyan Win, gave the assurance of reopening the Stilwell Road. He said that China has already constructed the Road upto Ta Nai of Kachin district and there is a balanced portion from Ta Nai to Indian border upto Ledo from Pangsu Pass a stretch of 230 kilometers which can now be completed with the support from the government of India. With this assurance it was expected that the last obstacle was removed and there should be restoration of trans-border linkages. But two years have passed without any concrete result. It seems that the MEA is not very still very keen on reopening it for the same age old security reasons though Home Ministry stated there should be trade across the borders. It is expected that the reopening of the Road would be a win-win relation in terms of trade and economic aspects.

For the NER, Mr. Gogoi thinks that the Road makes it possible to use Myanmar for channelizing its goods to ASEAN countries. It will also make the distance between India and China shorter from about 6000 kilometers to 750 kilometers as well as it would cut 30% transport cost between India and China thereby boosting Sino-India overland trade. Cargo reaching to Yunan would be done in about 2 days in place of 2 weeks. Most importantly the otherwise isolated state Arunachal Pradesh would be connected to Myanmar. Arunachal Pradesh therefore has submitted proposal to the Centre beginning border trade with China, Myanmar from various locations. Apart from trade it would also be used to tap the untapped resources like horticulture, floriculture, tourism. It is meant for reviving closed cultural, spiritual, ethnic ties but the NER should not be used as dumping ground for Chinese products. There should be very good intraregional understanding for reopening of the Road through intra regional connectivity and there should be appropriate law, rules, customs regulations and security forces. State, market and civil society are the 3 pillars of development and are expected to feel less threatened by the vulnerability of insurgencies. Congenial negotiations and understanding are required for making the Road workable.

Implications of Engaging Mynamar for India’s north east: Trade, Transit and Security,

Dr. Gurudas Das, Faculty, National Institute of Technology, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Silchar

India’s Myanmar policy is often explained in strategic studies in terms of reactions against Chinese penetration in Myanmar. Myanmar is often seen as a contesting ground for the strategic interests of China and India. This kind of formulation tries to explain interstate behavior in terms of the interplay of interests of the larger power, the tendency partly rooted in political reality during the cold-war bipolarity. The basic flaw in such analysis is that it overlooks the independent nature of decision making by the nation state and the balance of power politics played by the nation states in order to secure their national interests is often underestimated. Much of the strategic studies literature dealing with Indo-Myanmar relations suffer from such limitations. India’s Myanmar policy was labeled as “idealistic” till early 1990s (1992), and then shifted towards a “pragmatic” one since mid-1990s. While the critics of realist school often accuse that adoption of an “idealistic” approach by India towards Myanmar in a way helped China to ingress in Myanmar that has now posed a strategic security challenge to India in general and her maritime security in particular. Conversely, the critics of the liberal school often accused Indian government for engaging the military backed Myanmar regime who does not value democracy and human rights.

However, neither the realist approach nor the liberal approach can adequately capture the interstate relationship in its entirety. A state can fuse both the approaches while dealing with its relation with other countries. There is no incongruity when India awarded Jawaharlal Nehru Peace prize to Aung Sang Suu Kyi and simultaneously engaged the military rulers of Myanmar in order to protect national interest. In fact, engagement should not be taken as a blank cheque of support for whatever the activities undertaken by the partner country. Praising the good efforts and extending support for their actualization should go hand in hand condemning the bad. Looking from this perspective, India’s Myanmar policy is far more balanced compared to China’s Myanmar policy.

Why is it that India’s engagement with Myanmar could cut little ice compared to China? India’s goals in Myanmar range from geo-economic interests to geo-strategic interest, maritime security and security and development of NER. But India’s engagement in Myanmar, as compared to that of China’s, is not yet very significant. One of the reasons for this poor success is perhaps due to the fact that India’s strategy has not been adequately focused on the north eastern region. Although NER is India’s gateway to Myanmar, development interest of NER has not been synchronized with India’s strategy for engaging Myanmar.

The much cited incident of India losing to reap the benefit of new found natural gas reserve in Shwe Project in Myanmar to China is a case in pointer. Moreover, it may be noted that in spite of tremendous increase in Indo-Myanmar two way trade, the border trade between NER and Myanmar has remained insignificant. While the share of NER-Myanmar border trade through Moreh-Tamu sector was 1.53 per cent of the total volume of Indo-Myanmar trade in 2006-07, it has sharply declined to 0.15 per cent in 2009-10 (table 1). In fact Indo-Myanmar trade almost entirely flows through sea route rather than the land route that passes through NER. The commodity composition of trade also reveals that both India’s import and export baskets comprise of goods demanded and produced in the mainland.

Thus trade through Moreh-Tamu sector is essentially remained as transit trade without any organic link with the local economy. Unlike NER-Bangladesh trade, the growth generating potential of NER-Myanmar trade is extremely limited due to very weak dyadic linkages between trade and local resources. In contrast, perhaps this dyadic linkage--resource and trade--and triadic linkages--resource, industry and trade--explains the reasons for the success of China-Myanmar as well as Thai-Myanmar border trade.

The development interest of India’s North Eastern Region, needs to be put at the centre of India’s Myanmar policy. The way economic interdependence has grown across the Sino-Myanmar border, the same is visibly absent across the Indo-Myanmar border. While China has successfully factored her policy of South-Western Development into her Myanmar policy, India needs to develop a similar strategy to infuse economic growth into her North Eastern Region. While Yunan and Sichuan can offer many cheap Chinese products to Myanmar, neither Imphal, nor Kohima nor Guwahati has anything to offer. As a result, while China can leverage from economics of neighbourhood to address the problems of underdevelopment of her South Western region, it is difficult for India to have the same leverage due to very weak production structure in all the bordering states of NER. Thus, India’s Myanmar policy and development policy of NER should be conjoint objectives which will enable India to use proximate geographical area as the spearhead of our Myanmar Policy (Sen: 2011). Out of the four goals of India’s Myanmar Policy that we have enumerated, except maritime security other three can be achieved if NER is put at the centre of the policy.

Moreh to Myanmar: Look East and its Promising Engagements

Ms Sayantani Sen Mazumdar, Fellow, Global India Foundation, Kolkata

The paper aims to focus on the relevance of Moreh (Manipur) of the North-East Region in India’s cooperative pursuits with Myanmar. The paper, while analyzing the dynamic paradigms of India’s Look East Policy that signify the development of the North East as one of the most decisive prerequisites for the success of the Policy, predominantly aims to underline the significance of Moreh as a gateway to Myanmar, which is in turn, is the land bridge to South-East Asia. In this endeavour, the study will strive to assess the role and potentialities of Moreh of Manipur in deepening India’s engagements with Myanmar. The presentation, in this vein, seeks to critically appraise the implications of political instabilities of the Region for the prospect of trade facilitation and economic cooperation between Moreh and Myanmar. Indian interests in Myanmar are guided by certain considerations like; containment of Chinese economic and strategic influences in South East Asia in general and Myanmar in particular, guiding Myanmar in exploring her vibrant gas fields and thereby exploiting the energy resources, getting Myanmar’s government to come down heavily on the North East’s insurgents and rebel groups that have taken shelter and been pursuing violent activities there, to obtain inter-modal transit facility for the goods and services being traded between India and South East Asian countries. There is a good scope for investment in Moreh for creating infrastructure facilities in the areas of road construction, power generation, developed industrial areas, water facilities, IT services etc in Manipur. Inspite of possessing so many potentialities Manipur is still far behind from earning due recognition. Border trade needs to be highlighted in view of the need to forge closer commercial and economic links with the larger markets in the fast developing South-East Asian economies. The border trade between India and Myanmar has been operational for more than a decade now. It is high time now to assess the benefits accrued from the trade and also to study the lacunae that might hinder the trade. Focus should be on the assessment of trade relations, trade flow, regional development and a framework to facilitate and strengthen the cross-border economic integration should be suggested between the North East Region and Myanmar. Thus cross-border markets may act as vent for the surplus produced in NER as well as source of cheaper imports. The production structure of the border states needs to be reorganized in line with the demand structure of the neighbouring country. As the import basket of Myanmar mainly consists of manufactured goods, NER could benefit from trade with Myanmar only if it could industrialize itself. It is thus important to have a market survey in Myanmar and identify the products which NER can produce at competitive costs preferably using her own resources. India needs to consider “border trade” as a strategy for the development of the border areas. In this light the role of political instabilities in Moreh in impeding the prospect of trade was discussed in considerable detail. The argument is that it is very difficult to comment on the relative degree of prominence of political autonomy and economic development in context of the NER. From her personal experiences in Moreh in September, 2010, she enumerated that the demand for political autonomy by two separatist tribes Nagas and Kukis led to the paucity of economic activities thereby leading to economic disaster in Imphal. North-East Region is considered as a ‘backward Region’, a Region, despite being the possessor of abundant resources and potentials, has failed to develop to its maximum capacity due to the frequency of insurgencies and violent activities. India’s Look East Policy has given a significant dimension to this Region and nowadays much is being talked about the development of the Region. But the pace of economic development suffers a severe jolt by distressing political activities- a menace which is really incomprehensible. That might be an important reason for the failure of the Policy to be a manifestation of improved standard of living in NER. The LEP is committed to develop the NER economically for which it needs to settle political instabilities. The government is proactively involved in the discussions with the insurgent groups with the motive to reduce the intensity of violence through lying down of arms and related violent tactics. Unless this happens, LEP will fail to develop NER. LEP is entrusted with the responsibility of merging economic development and political stability. Since Myanmar served as the connecting link between India and South East Asia, the success of Look East Policy harps largely on India’s friendly and cooperative links with its resource rich neighbour. India’s policy of strengthening ties and deepening engagements with Myanmar, thus, is governed by the crucial factors as boosting bilateral economic ties, democratic government’s cooperation in addressing the plaguing problem of insurgency in the NER, and checkmating China’s overwhelming dominance in Myanmar. It is an undeniable fact that exchange of visits by executives and top ranking officials between the two countries stimulated mutual understandings, facilitated clearing of clouds of misunderstandings and misapprehensions along with the identification of areas of cooperation and of framing strategies for peace and prosperity of both the countries. But there should be real target determination for the purpose of achieving fruitful outcomes and in this light the people of the North-East should involve themselves enthusiastically in the cooperative endeavours with the adequate backup from the state governments.

ASEAN-India Connectivity Projects: Implications for India’s North-East

Dr. Prabir De, Fellow, Research and Information System for Developing Countries

The presentation largely focused on ASEAN as India’s major trading partner. His data project that ASEAN is India’s one of the largest trade partners with bilateral trade in goods crossing US$ 50 billion in 2010. India’s trade with ASEAN is likely to cross US$ 100 billion in 2013. India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, took effect from January, 2010, is likely to be converted into Comprehensive Economic Preferential Agreement. The major challenge thwarting the booming of Indo-ASEAN trade is the infrastructure and the connectivity gap.

The benefits accrued from better connectivity are immense in nature. Better connectivity generates growth, attracts investment, creates employment and reduces poverty. It infuses dynamism in regional production network and reduces trade costs to a great extent. His presentation enumerates in detail a master plan of ASEAN connectivity. At present Asian market is fragmented and is often an obstacle to free flow of goods and services and the administrative or technical barriers in the market result in expensive mobility within Asia. Asia’s aim of single market depends on the existence of seamless, flexible and efficient logistics and transportation system. In 2010, the East Asia Summit leaders adopted a comprehensive strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. At the 17th ASEAN Summit in 2010, ASEAN leaders adopted the Master Plan of ASEAN Connectivity which identifies key strategies and actions to enhance the region’s connectivity in primarily three dimensions- physical, institutional and people to people. It shows the way ahead for Asia in regional integration. East Asian integration is market driven, facilitated by fragmentation of production. There are two major windows-FTA (software) and Connectivity/Service Links (hardware). Connectivity in India shows two structures-national and regional. Regional connectivity with ASEAN has two axis – NER and Southern region.

NER comprising 4% of India’s population and 9% of India’s geographical area presents 3% of India’s gross domestic product. NER is services driven economy-59% of annual average income coming from services sector. India has international borders with Bangladesh (4097km) and Myanmar (1643 km). NER is India’s gateway to South East Asia. Major impediments to ASEAN-India trade are inadequate infrastructure, absence of regional transit trade, mismatch of standards, unfavourable currency in border trade, poor institution and governance. Important regional connectivity projects involving NER are Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project, India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, Delhi-Hanoi Railway Link, Mekong-India Economic Corridor.

The major challenges in this aspect are funding of regional infrastructure projects, stronger institutions for regional cooperation, supporting skill, stronger coordination, land acquisition, environment. His concluding remarks are- trade between India and East Asia is the major development, India-ASEAN connectivity holds the key to deeper Asian integration, an integrated action plan for achieving a common market by 2020 is required, NER states are likely to gain more from connectivity projects, political peace and security are mandatory for trading across border, economic corridors should connect border areas, rural economy, agriculture sector and thrust should be on capacity building, development cooperation.

Substantial discussions followed the end of the second session. The issue of security incumbent upon the prospect of the opening up of the Stilwell Road and the products which Arunachal Pradesh sell and export to Myanmar through this Road, air connectivity, and the production of orchids and bamboos were deliberated upon. It was agreed by all present that relations with Myanmar will always be of strategic significance. We should not underestimate Myanmar’s own interest and choices. In response to a question as to whether China is going to overwhelm Myanmar, the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had stated that Myanmar has its strong notion of a nation. It was also accepted that the role of NER is important in both strategic and economic matters. Lack of adequate demand in NER, local demands should be accounted for. Development is really very slow and compared to China’s proactive initiatives, India should delve more deeply into the pressing issues.

The 3rd session was premised on Political and Economic Partnership between India and Myanmar. This session was chaired by Prof. Samir Kr. Das and the speakers were Dr. Pavin, Dr. Amita Batra and Dr. C.J. Thomas.

India Myanmar: Evolving Economic Relationship

Dr. Amita Batra, Faculty, South Asian Study, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

The literature that focuses on economic integration between India and East Asia or South East Asia makes very little mention of Myanmar. Huge potential lies in terms of connecting India with Myanmar and the NER has immense possibilities to reap benefits out of it. When LEP was launched in 1992 how much momentum was being given to NER is undoubtedly questionable but so far as economic dynamism is concerned it has almost bypassed NER. India’s process of liberalization, developed export oriented outward looking strategy towards SEA neighbours was a more relevant aim with which LEP was formulated. Geographical proximity focuses on important landline and maritime boundary, shortest land and sea access to SEA. In economic perspective what China appears to be doing in an economic garb as strategic policy appears to have led India to its catch up mode in foreign policy and associating itself with Myanmar is one of the foremost orientations of its external policies. From economic perspective the ongoing proximities between the 2 countries in pure economic terms are being looked as bases of potentials to trade with each other. Natural trading partners have high proximities to trade with each other especially when religious, cultural, ethnic similarities prevail between them. Unfortunately the trade figures show that the potentials have not been realized to its optimum level. Policies of both the countries are to be blamed for being inward-looking, what is being talked about in terms of increase in trade policies between India and Myanmar is minimal compared to that of trade with other bordering countries. In terms of development India-Myanmar border trade is not up to the mark. So there should be focus on real economics in addition to real politics.

Significant paradigms of India-Myanmar relations are the years 1948-62, 1962-88, 1988-92, 1992 in context of the LEP, ASEAN membership, the development of India’s NER, Chinese growing engagement, real momentum 1998, high level of official visits 2004, 2008 and 2011. There is immense scope for cooperation between India and Myanmar to deal in agro based products, floriculture, engineering, timber and tobacco and expand business cooperation. India is one of Myanmar’s major trading partners and one of the largest markets for its goods. India-Myanmar bilateral trade has grown more than 80 times in the last 25 years. But the base has been small there is need to grow and expand further. The trade figures from 1980-81, US$ 12.4 million became 995 million US dollar in 2007-2008. Trade would have been larger had it not been through third country like Singapore. India’s import in Myanmar in 1990-00 was US$ 215.35 million and in 2007-08 it was US$ 809.94 million. The balance of trade is heavily in favour of Myanmar. India can provide the technology to improve productivity in Myanmar’s tea industry. India’s expertise in gem cutting and polishing can be harnessed to provide a boost to the semiprecious gems industry in Myanmar. Myanmar contributes to nearly one-fifth of India’s imports of timber second only to Malaysia as timber and wood products accounted for nearly 30% of Myanmar’s exports to India. Myanmar is the second largest supplier of beans, pulses to India, next only to Australia.

Border trades both legal and illegal trade take place. The bilateral border trade agreement of 1994 provides framework facilitates by which trade is carried out between India and Myanmar. The central regions are better off in comparison to border areas. Several factors like limited number of commodities, existence of checkposts make the costs exorbitantly high, excessive regulation and restriction make the matter all the more difficult. Though regulation is needed in case of banking facilities and in exchange of currency rates but infrastructural development is highly required. Her presentation also focused on the developmental projects like Kaladan, Tamanthi, trans-Asian Highway. India and Myanmar have immense potentials for cooperation in the field of natural gas. Myanmar has reportedly one of the world’s biggest gas reserves estimated to be more than 90 trillion cubic feet. ONGC Videsh Limited and Gas Authority of India Limited holds a 30% stake in the exploration and production of gas in Myanmar’s offshore blocks located in the Sittwe area of Arakan state. Alternative mode emphasizes on SEZ to India-Bangladesh –Myanmar gas pipeline which has gone to China. Important facets of Indo-Myanmar cooperation are India-ASEAN FTA, East Asia Summit, BIMSTEC, MGC. She gave a skeptical outlook about the achievement of BIMSTEC since its inception in 1997. Potentials are there but what we see is lot of rhetoric but imperatives as Chinese economic engagement with Myanmar, future growth leaders as Asian triangle-(China, ASEAN and India), geographical advantage of Myanmar and internal development of both the countries are equally significant. Reorientation and reformulation of industrial sectors is important too.

Trade and Cooperation across the border: Need for a bold and balanced policy towards India-Myanmar Border Trade

Dr. C.J.Thomas, Acting Director, ICSSR- North-East Regional Council, Shillong

The presentation broadly focuses on the importance of Myanmar to India, reasons for failure of border trade between India and Myanmar, the way forward for better trade between India and Myanmar, the role of local communities in Moreh-Tamu sector and a policy prescription for a bold and balanced policy towards Myanmar. Apart from other geographical reasons the cardinal issues are both share the strategic water of the Bay of Bengal and as a member of ASEAN Myanmar provides India a geographical contiguity with a politically significant and economically vibrant Asia-Pacific region.

The border trade between Moreh and Tamu which reached its peak in 1998 failed due to the following reasons-the problem of insurgency in the state of Manipur-19 insurgent groups in Moreh, poor infrastructure, sea route is preferred than land, various pressure groups did not allow any trucks to cross the highway to Moreh for nearly 4months during 2011 and frequent bandhs, insecurity among the trading and the non non local community, no proper electricity supply in the entire Moreh town area, poor telephone, internet, banking system in Moreh, and that Tamu trade and commerce officials are not trained in the trade transaction matter. There is only one bank UBI that looks after the entire trade in Moreh. The government should find ways and means for conversion of current border trade into a normal trade between India-Myanmar. Law and order must prevent bandh and blockade, there should be licensed and bonded public or private ware house. Adequate security is needed for the business community. Myanmarese authorities must be persuaded to introduce a stable policy acceptable to traders from both countries. There should be a testing laboratory for importing food items. More focus on infrastructure development, visa for travelling to Myanmar by land route for business and tourist purposes, improvement of banking facilities, need for SBI at Moreh, telecommunication and electricity are required. Security personnel harassment needs to be contained. There is also the need to reduce number of check post along NH 39 from Dimapur-Moreh and improve the Highway into four lanes. Huge revenue to the state government is lost due to corruption and lack of governance. The government of Manipur, particularly its commerce and industries department should take an active interest in developing the Moreh town area, post honest officials there and reward such officials for their honesty.

Significant changes have taken place in Myanmar in the last few years ushering reforms both politically and economically. There have been unprecedented gestures of good will towards democracy movement leader Aung Saw Suu Kyi, unexpected freedom to debate in the Parliament-Pyihaungsu HluHaw (Union Assembly) and Pyithu Hlu Haw (People’s Assembly), crackdown on corruption, and moves to bring competiveness and transparency to the opaque business sector. There is a need for change in our mindset. India’s foreign policy to a large extent is focused on China, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Srilanka. Myanmar is ignored. It is important to engage seriously with the government, opposition party leaders and NGOs there. People to people contacts should be encouraged. Seminars and Conferences on India-Myanmar should be organized in the states bordering with Myanmar. Universities and colleges should be encouraged to organize seminars and undertake research projects related to that country, explore how the Universities, schools and colleges in the NER can attract students from Myanmar by showcasing the opportunities and research facilities available with them. Academic exchange programme as Indo-Myanmar, similar to the one as Indo-French or India-China of ICSSR, New Delhi. Teaching of Myanmarese language should be encouraged. Language schools should be penetrated in both the regions. All the previous MOU s signed between India and Myanmar must be implemented without further delay. Investments should flow from big conglomerates like Tata, Birla, Ambanis. Development of infrastructure is also need. India’s “Myanmar policy” should be an inseparable part of India’s NE policy. There is also a need for a change from conflict resolution approach to utilization of opportunities approach. We should ensure that development does not pass by NER but passes through NER. This was reiterated by Shashi Tharoor in BIMSTEC Seminar. A comprehensive charter of cooperation for economic, technological, educational, anti-terror operations is the urgent need of the day. India should not try and match the influence of China on Myanmar and instead it should focus on malnourished children, rampant malaria and tuberculosis and the specter of HIV/AIDS. India should extend its helping hand in these sectors and win the hearts of the people of Myanmar which will usher a new era of India-Myanmar relations. Myanmar is exporting three deadly things to India-drugs, refugees and diseases.

ASEAN’s Ambivalent Views of India Myanmar Relations

Dr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Fellow, Institute of South East Asian Studies, Singapore

The relation between India and Myanmar is the most controversial and pragmatic one. The essence of this relationship is border security (NER and West Myanmar), energy needs of India, en route to SEA for India as well as balancing China. Since Myanmar is opening up it also looks upon India to reduce the Chinese impact on Myanmar. There would be more actors who want to be involved in economic activities in Myanmar and the Chinese influence is notably immense. Myanmar can reach out to many powers and can diversify its policy actions since it is opening up. India had been diplomatic and was more oriented towards economic cooperation in its pursuits with Myanmar.

In context of ASEAN, the benefits of Indo-Myanmar relations are evident. Better ties between India and Myanmar create peaceful environment, reduce Chinese influence a more balanced power distribution in the region is desirable. Myanmar has established its credibility as a gateway to India and ASEAN in terms of connectivity and shared borders. It would also compliment region’s community building efforts like ASEAN +6 and the EAS. Community building would take place in 2015 which would re -strength India’s LEP. But the negative impact of the relations is that Myanmar has turned to India thus reducing ASEAN’s influence on Myanmar. There is a large scale of economic competition. Oil and gas in Myanmar would be the major exports to India and thus, Singapore would suffer most. It is thus a complex game of geo-politics. ASEAN can lose its role of legitimacy provider; it can no longer be in driver seat. There is also the plausibility of fierce competition between China and India. Peaceful border in NER might become manufacturing hub.

India currently lags behind China, thus good relations with Myanmar could help it to catch up with ASEAN. Good relations with Myanmar encourage India to play a larger economic and geopolitical role. India encouraging US in its policy shift vis-à-vis Myanmar especially with Myanmar opening up. Peaceful border zones would come up at expense of both. India being the largest democracy can be an inspiration for democratic forces in Myanmar. LEP must benefit India but might be at the expense of the NER. India looks West instead of looking East.


At the end of paper presentations, the Chair Prof. Samir Kumar Das commented that India’s foreign policy is squinted. Trade volume between India and ASEAN has increased exponentially but at the expense of NER as the trade bypasses the North East. The NER needs to look to its East and concentrate on border trade which is currently suffering due to insecurities. ASEAN has been supportive of Myanmar consistently and has followed the policy of constructive engagement. Extra-regional actors like the United States, Norway are making inroads in Myanmar, providing additional challenge to regional actors like China and India.

It was discussed during the question and answer session that we should we scrutinize the conditions preventing Indian businessmen to go to Myanmar. A cursory reading of LEP documents issued from different sources of government of India suggest that they think in terms of movement of services and commodities rather than in terms of people as well as in the NER there is expectation that once LEP comes into force, people will meet their ethnic cousins across borders. So there is incompatibility between official imagination on one hand and the popular imagination on the other. Movement of goods and services due to globalization would definitely come with a price tag. The negative impact would be the upcoming challenges we need to address to, (how to pay price) and the best way out is better policing and on the humanitarian ground huge assistance is required. The nature of market needs to be studied thoroughly which will consolidate our growth and our distributive performances.

India cannot afford to ignore this strategically important eastern neighbour and has undertaken substantive endeavours and projects in this connection. Strong political will and determination are required by both the neighbours for implementing initiatives. But the deliberations of the Conference highlighted that Myanmar is resolutely determined to cling to Southeast Asia and restrains itself to a somewhat neutral and equidistant position between India and China. The Conference was brought to a close with the vote of thanks being proposed by Ms. Sayantani Sen, Academic Coordinator, Global India Foundation.