Tuesday, May 1, 2012

29-4-2012 Press conference at Manipur Press Club

Yumnam Rupachandra
Imphal April 29, 2012-India’s Look East Policy formulated during the Military Junta regime in Myanmar needs to be amended in the light of the changing political scenario in the country, Dr. Tint Swe, Member or parliament of the Burmese government in exile told senior editors of Manipur in an interaction at Manipur Press club Saturday. Dr. Swe was here in the Manipur capital Imphal along with Editor of the Gauhati based regional English daily Seven Sisters Post Subir Bhowmick to present papers at a 4 Day National Seminar on India, Myanmar, China Relation organized by the Centre for Myanmar Studies, Manipur University.

At the interaction organized by the All Manipur Working Journalist Union, Senior editors of Manipur media along with AMWJU President A Mobi interacted with the guests on issues related to Manipur as Myanmar goes through the much awaited change.

Manipur nestling against the north western border of Myanmar bordering Sagaing division is directly impacted by developments in Myanmar as it shares a very porous border and active cross border interaction of its people.

Government of India after years of “indifference” has been formulating a “Look East Policy” in an effort to engage the Military Junta with an eye to solve its internal border area ethnic unrest and increase its presence to counter the Chinese influence.

“I have watched India’s so called Look East Policy, for fifteen years and I feel it is counterproductive, “Dr Swe told the Editors. This, I say at the risk of sounding undiplomatic but that is a fact, he added. “India needs to look North East first before looking beyond,” he continued. However, now it- India, needs to upgrade, amend the policy as Myanmar is going through a change. When it started –the LEP, it was with a Military Junta fully in control and it had a military tilt. Now there is a shift in Myanmar politics and a more people to people policy is needed, Dr Swe added.

On the perception of the Myanmar people to both ts influential neigbours-India and China, he said average people in Myanmar see both the country in the same light. “This also is not correct,” he argued. Both the country are important to Myanmar but they must be seen in different light as they have different political system, he said.

Subir Bhowmick, on the hand called for more inclusive approach and have asked policy makers to include stake holders in framing policies. “If Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have been taken into confidence while framing foreign policies of Srilanka and Bangladesh, why should Manipur and other NE states should not be taken into confidence while shaping foreign policy on Myanmar,” Subir said. Manipur politicians, more particularly Okram Ibobi who has come for third time should assert Manipur’s interest, he suggested. Tripura Chief minister Manisankar has been able to parley with the Bangladeshi government successfully to have access to Chittagong port to ferry in huge machinery for setting up Palta thermal power project. Why can’t Manipur CM take the similar steps to engage the Myanmar government. “Manipur must play a leading role in the LEP,” he said.

Batting for hundreds of Myanmar pro-democracy refugees in India, Subir said Indian government in its effort to engage with the Military Junta should not discriminate against the refugees whom we have given shelter since 1988. Just as we continue to allow the Tibetans to stay, so must they be.

As things improve, they will go back but forcing them back to please the Military Junta would be disastrous, he added. “I am sure all of them must be wanting to go back home-and I know some who have. They must feel comfortable with the changes taking place before they go back voluntarily. At any cost, they must not be pushed back,” he said.

Echoing Dr. Swe Subir said a track 2 diplomacy of people to people to engagement should be pursued and the Manipur Media must take a lead. It should be Media, Manipur and Myanmar for a better future in the region, Subir said.