The Platform

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In India’s eyes, propping up Myanmar’s junta is worth the blowback.

India’s decision to provide military support to Myanmar’s junta is deeply rooted in its broader geopolitical strategy. The primary motivation behind this action is to counterbalance China’s growing influence in Myanmar and the wider Southeast Asian region. This strategic objective is closely linked to India’s aspirations to strengthen bilateral relations with Myanmar, secure access to regional energy resources, and foster regional stability.

China’s increasing presence in Myanmar, particularly through economic and military investments, poses a significant threat to India’s regional security. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has led to the establishment of numerous infrastructure projects in Myanmar, such as ports, roads, and railways, potentially granting China a strategic advantage in the region. To counterbalance this influence, India is working to bolster its connections with Myanmar and promote regional connectivity through initiatives like the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway Project.

India’s decision to provide military support to the junta is also driven by its strategic interest in securing access to Myanmar’s abundant natural resources, such as oil, gas, and minerals, which are crucial for India’s energy security. Strengthening its relationship with the junta aims to ensure a steady supply of these resources and reduce reliance on foreign energy suppliers.

Moreover, India’s decision to arm the Myanmar junta is influenced by its goal of promoting regional stability. The junta’s reemergence in power in 2021 has significantly deteriorated the political and human rights situation in Myanmar. India views engaging with the junta as a means to foster stability and security in the region, especially amidst ongoing conflicts between the junta and various ethnic armed groups.

India’s weapons assistance to the Myanmar junta has sparked concerns about the trade-offs between immediate geopolitical advantages and long-term regional peace. The junta’s history of human rights violations is widely known, and its resurgence has resulted in a surge of oppression and brutality towards civilians. Through its interaction with the junta, India might be perceived as endorsing or supporting these human rights violations, potentially leading to adverse repercussions on its standing and alliances with other nations in the area.

The ongoing political instability, violence, and humanitarian crises in Myanmar have created a dire situation. Since the military coup in February 2021, the country has been plagued by widespread human rights abuses, including mass killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, sexual violence, and other forms of repression. These actions by the junta have significantly deteriorated the political and economic landscape, leading to severe food insecurity, currency devaluation, and a crisis in the banking and supply chain sectors.

The conflict has also caused massive displacement, with nearly 2 million internally displaced people and 94,000 refugees seeking safety in neighboring countries. The junta’s restrictions on humanitarian aid have worsened the crisis, leaving millions in conflict areas without access to sufficient food, medicine, and other essential supplies.

The situation has had profound economic and social impacts. The agricultural sector, a vital source of livelihood for many, has been severely affected, with crops and livestock destroyed due to the conflict and heat waves caused by climate change. The heat wave has also led to a significant increase in health concerns, overwhelming hospitals and healthcare facilities struggling to cope with the influx of patients.

The international community has strongly condemned the junta’s actions, with the United Nations and other organizations calling for an end to the violence and the restoration of democracy. In response, the United States, the European Union, and other countries have imposed sanctions on individuals and entities associated with the junta. Efforts are underway to support the National Unity Government (NUG) as the legitimate governing body of Myanmar.

India’s decision to arm Myanmar’s military junta has elicited diverse reactions from neighboring countries. China, a longstanding ally of the junta, has consistently supported the regime despite international condemnation. This backing from China is perceived as a calculated maneuver to counterbalance India’s influence in the region. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has taken a critical stance against the junta’s actions, advocating for a peaceful resolution to the crisis as a manifestation of its dedication to democracy and human rights.

In contrast, the United States has imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s military leaders and called for a transition towards democracy. Additionally, the U.S. has extended humanitarian aid to the people of Myanmar and recognized the NUG as the legitimate governing body. Similarly, Japan has criticized the junta’s actions, urged for a peaceful resolution, provided humanitarian assistance, and shown support for the NUG.

Thailand has adopted a cautious approach, maintaining diplomatic relations with both the junta and the NUG while offering humanitarian aid and supporting ASEAN-led initiatives aimed at resolving the crisis. Bangladesh has criticized the junta’s actions, called for a peaceful resolution, extended humanitarian aid, and shown support for the NUG.

On the other hand, Russia has emerged as a key supporter of the junta, providing military aid and training to the Myanmar military. Russia’s support is perceived as a strategic move to counterbalance China’s influence in the region. The European Union has also imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s military leaders, called for a democratic transition, provided humanitarian aid, and expressed support for the NUG. India’s neighboring countries, including Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka, have shown prudence in their reactions to India’s choice to supply weapons to the military regime, upholding diplomatic ties with both India and Myanmar while advocating for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

India’s choice to provide weapons to the junta could result in global disapproval and alienation. Various entities such as the United Nations, the European Union, and numerous countries have already enforced sanctions against Myanmar’s military leaders. India’s decision to arm them might escalate the country’s isolation from the international community.

This conflict has also resulted in a large displacement of people, prompting international criticism and calls for the restoration of democracy. India’s decision to arm Myanmar’s junta has sparked mixed responses in the region, with some countries supporting peaceful resolution and recognizing the NUG as the legitimate authority. Others have not taken a clear stance. India’s choice to supply weapons is driven by geopolitical factors like countering Chinese influence, securing regional energy resources, and promoting stability. However, concerns about compromising long-term regional stability arise from this decision.

Zubair Mumtaz a Conflict/Security Analyst and M.Phil. Scholar. Currently, he is a Research Associate at Radiant Journal Foundation. Zubair explores the complexities of regional/Global dynamics, offering insightful perspectives on security issues and conflict.