Wednesday, March 4, 2009

4-12-2007 Peace and Democracy in Burma: The interest of the region

Peace and Democracy in Burma: The interest of the region
Dr. Tint Swe, Burmese Member of Parliament (NLD)
Peace Education for All in India
2nd to 4th December 2007
At Gandhi Bhawan, University of Delhi, New Delhi

“Peace” is even fascinated by military junta of Burma as they took the official title of junta as State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) after killing 3 to 10,000 peaceful demonstrators in 1988. We the pro-democracy movement also relies on UN mechanism while UN’s mandate is for world peace.

No Balkanization with Regime Change in Burma
Recently I have gone through a book titled clash of civilization by by Samuel P. Huntington. Civilation means culture, language, custom, religion and etc. Therefore I feel at home whenever I visit the northeast of India. I am very comfortable to deal with the people of the northeast. I am greteful to the organizers of this session.

The struggle for democracy in Burma has passed phases of enthusiasm and exhaustion. The latest September 2007 uprising has dramatically changed world view on Burma. As ground reality has changed I am urging India and all neighbors to modify or change Burma policy. So far I am not happy with Indian government’s Burma policy. But I am pleased with Indian foreign minister’s statement which came out exactly 19 days later than the first Chinese response. H.E. Mr. Pranab Mukherjee’s statement consisted two important points: inclusive solution and national reconciliation as objective.

Burma needs not only democracy but also reconciliation i.e. we have to reconcile among Burmans and non-Burma ethnic nationalities; democrats have to reconcile with Burma Army with has been ruling the country for over 45 years since 1962. However we should not forget how British colonial rule has done some mistakes dealing with minorities of India and Burma. It is delicate and complicated. It needs patience.

My colleagues and I fled Burma and reached the border areas along Thailand and India where ethnic armed groups were operating. Since then we have been living and working together with ethnic nationalities. What we achieved after nearly 2 decades is tremendous understanding among ourselves. We shared grievances and concerns. We established mutual understanding and we are in the process of trust building. Now we have reached an agreement for future structure of the nation: Federal democratic.

Ladies and gentlemen
I have been traveling and meeting with Indian peoples. Where ever I go and whoever I meet I received solidarity and support. We know public opinion is important in India and in all democracies. Unfortunately when it comes to foreign policy public opinion does not prevail. It seems opposite.

The policy of India on Burma is officially part of the look east policy. The look east policy itself is fine. India is right for wanting to develop the northeast through Burma. The same China wants Yunan province to develop via Burma. However I see China is doing well for Yunan and I don’t think India is doing well with the northeast.

It has been 15 years that India adopted new Burma policy. Now it is good to review if India has met her expectations out of this policy.
1. Can India check Chinese influence over Burma?
2. Can India scale down the northeast insurgency?
3. Can the northeast develop?
4. Can India acquire natural gas from Burma?

Not at all! Chinese influence in Burma is immense. Here I’d like to point out that we, Burma, India and China will exist together in this region forever. We need both of the big neighbors. Because the military regime used India and China cards cunningly, China-India rivalry becomes unnecessary regional cold war.

The northeast armed groups who are getting shelter on the soil of Burma were not there before the look east policy. It is the product of that policy. In the 2006 inspector general of the Assam Rifles’ report said in the last 6 years Indian army seized 39,000 AK-47s. So as India is selling weapons to the military regime of Burma, India is fuelling here insurgency indirectly. Moreover India is wrong expecting joint military operation to suppress the NE groups. As a member of NLD and of Aung San Suu Kyi, I believe in political solution rather than military one.

To solve the problem of NE, there must be an accountable popular government in Burma. The regime of Burma did not talk about politics even with its own armed groups who are having ceasefire arrangement. Their demands at the sham national convention have been ignored. So that regime is unreliable at all. I admire India’s extreme patience.

China beat India for the natural gas although ONGC and GAIL have 30% investment. Gas will not deplete till after the collapse of the regime. So India did not profit after 15 years of experience.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
I have been talking to my good Indian friends from various sections, students, academics, media and politicians. I urge them as Aung San Suu Kyi said to use their liberty to promote our cause. India needs a new Burma strategy. I have been telling why and how. The Burma situation has totally changed and it is time for new strategy for new Burma: Otherwise it will be late.

For new strategy, it needs not only intellect but also heart. As of today, the wealth and strength of India is more of moral and ethical values. My feedback to the article, can India afford ethical foreign policy was not published, unfortunately. I said yes, India could afford ethical foreign policy. I know there are a good number of wise and kind hearted people in India. However, their opinion does not prevail in policy formulation.

I earnestly urge you to press on your government to be proactive when it comes to Burma. India has very strong student unions. But they are yet to extend support to Burma students. There are strong women leaders here. But they are yet to call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burmese women prisoners.

Many of you may not know how India has been defending the brutal regime of Burma. On 21st November, there was voting at UN General Assembly for human rights violation and to condemn violence used in the September uprising in Burma. 88 countries voted in favor of the resolution while 66 nations stayed silent. India was one of the 24 countries which voted against the resolution.

At the international arena, India allies with China, Russia and North Korea. So the sentiment of the ordinary people of Burma is negative towards those countries. It must be changed.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
In her statement, Aung San Suu Kyi said democratic Burma will make good contribution in the region and the world. So let’s work together for democracy and peace in Burma, in the region and in the world.

Thank you very much!

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