Spurning Big Brother


One of the reasons observers speculate why the Government of India chose to so loudly publicise what it called surgical operations into Myanmar in hot chase of Indian insurgents on June 9 is that probably the government thought this was a good opportunity to send a message to Pakistan. That is, it was not so much Myanmar but Pakistan that India had in mind in making those claims of strikes within Myanmar territory, and then publicising them further claiming clinical and 100 percent successes. As to how far these claims are supported by facts on the ground is a different question altogether. The purpose of those publicity stunts, it does seem now, was not about clarifying facts but of sending out messages of India`™s policy intent, in particular to its arch rivals, Pakistan. It is also not surprising at all that Pakistan was provoked as intended and took no time to responded, saying it is not Myanmar and that it would give befitting responses to such intrusions. Myanmar on its part had shown signs of pique that it was being used thus in the war of attrition between India and Pakistan. Myanmar cannot have been happy with the manner numerous so called expert commentators were also writing it off as a harmless, innocent and defenceless country. There is more hidden in its short denials that its territory was intruded upon by Indian troops, and that it would never allow any such intrusion anytime in the future.

India`™s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, has flown to Nay Pyi Taw, the new spanking clean but rather empty capital city somewhere between Mandalay, the old pre-colonial capital of the Kingdom of Burma, and Yangon the newer colonial period capital so often compared to British Calcutta. Although nothing is revealed of the agenda of the visit, it is anybody`™s guess that it would have to do with these recent developments. It is our guess, the most important of these is to mend fences damaged by New Delhi unwarranted publicity blitzkrieg on its claimed hot chases that put Myanmar in poor light before the world. The other matters to be pursued, as we had noted in an earlier editorial should have to do with a comprehensive joint plan to fight cross border militancy so prevalent along the Indo-Myanmar border. We had also outlined in the same editorial why Myanmar is unlikely to agree to this proposal, and it would not be prudent for India to insist. After all, Myanmar is not a province of India and has its own outlook to what its foreign and domestic policy architectures should look like. India often makes this mistake of treating its smaller neighbours as such, which probably is why there is always a degree of hostility to India amongst all its immediate neighbours, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sir Lanka and Myanmar. There isn`™t even a necessity to mention Pakistan, and China of course is a different ball game altogether.

The Nepal example is most intriguing. How is it this neighbour, which was till recently a theocratic Hindu Kingdom and is still predominantly a Hindu nation, whose national language Nepali is Sanskrit based like most Indian languages, which has a shared history with India dating back eons, which has an open border with India, which is bound securely to India among others by the Gurkha recruits enlisted in the armies of both countries. The answer will only become apparent if India earnestly began addressing these questions to itself and to no one else. No country, however small, wants to be taken for granted, but India has been so often insensitive on these matters, and has been wont to projecting itself as the big brother, seemingly treating Nepal as if it was a district of Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. In the recent publicity blitzkrieg launched from New Delhi, using the New Delhi media, in particular the noisy 24-hour new channels, it was being similarly insensitive to Myanmar.

If any lesson can be drawn from literature, then going by what Amitav Ghosh`™s portrayal of the Burmese psyche in `The Glass Palace`, Ajit Doval is going to return disappointed, and without much to announce to the media. We do hope we are wrong and no damages have been caused, and if there have been damages to sensibilities, it will not result in any permanent shifts in diplomatic outlooks of this newly opened country in a tryst with destiny to transition to democracy. To think a little exercise of discretion on India`™s part could have saved complications in diplomatic relations is indeed tragicomic, and would inspire farcical laughter and tears of remorse amongst all keen observers, but hopefully in the New Delhi`™s corridors of power as well.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam


  1. Spot on Mr Phanjoubam. The whole govt big noise was to tell Pakistan – “you send terrorists, we will send special forces”. Myanmar will now extract a higher price like military aid to get rid of the KIA, something India is not too keen due to China?Guesses?


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