Northeast India and Myanmar: Looking East towards a Dead-End?

Conference Paper

Kolås, Åshild; & Buzzi, Camilla 2008 Northeast India and Myanmar: Looking East towards a Dead-End?, presented at Borders and Beyond: The Northeast in India’s Security and Foreign Policy, , 21 February.


India’s policy of ‘opening up’ to Myanmar is a risky business in which Northeast India holds the highest stakes. This paper describes several strategic interests that have guided India’s relations with Myanmar for the past decade. India has sought to further its security agenda in the Northeast through counterinsurgency cooperation with Myanmar in the border regions, in exchange for Indian military aid to Myanmar. India has also promoted overland transportation routes through Myanmar, promising economic development for Northeast India. Despite these regional policy considerations, India’s national strategic interests were the key determinants in its policy shift towards ‘constructive engagement’ with Myanmar. The primary motivations were linked to the evolving relations between India and China, India’s desire to improve economic relations with ASEAN, and increasingly also its growing energy demands. Highlighting the difficulties of India’s ‘constructive engagement’ with the Burmese military regime and the policy of ‘opening up’ to Myanmar, the paper critiques the notion that such an ‘opening up’ will benefit the Northeast. The authors therefore suggest that the time has come for India to rethink its Myanmar policy, giving due attention to the implications of this policy for Northeast India.