Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dr. Tint Swe Expresses his views on Suu Kyi's visit to India

Burmese dissident leader Dr. Tint Swe is an elected Member of Parliament from Pale constituency. Is a former Member of Parliament of NLD. He is residing in New Delhi since December 1990. Mithu Choudhury, had an opportunity to interview Dr Swe and find he's views on Aung San Suu Kyi's recent visit to India.

Mithu Choudhury: How do you assess Aung San Suu Kyi's recent visit to India? What would be the political and social benefits that you gather out of this visit?

Dr. Tint Swe: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s India visit was confirmation of India’s second U-turn towards Burma. The first U turn since 1992 was meant for so-called realistic approach which basically stood for exclusive engagement with the military regime by ignoring the pro-democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi. India’s that policy took root on pragmatic assumption that Aung San Suu Kyis’s days were over. When she was ultimately released on 13th November 2010 from house arrest, the Indian policy makers appropriately assumed that it was time to make a change. Then the Prime Minister of India personally handed over the invitation of the chairperson of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. It was a remarkable page in Indo-Burma history.

The message given by Aung San Suu Kyi to Indian and Burmese communities during her stay in India indicated the areas where India and Burma will work together. Burma needs India’s help for infrastructure, education, information and technology and agriculture sectors. So far all India’s business doing are only with government holdings. India must see Burma from more than one angle and engage more than one side. India from now on should do investment, trading and business in a responsible ways because the joint venture projects agreed and constructions are underway are being challenged by public in Burma. After China’s huge Myitson dam in Kachin State, the Copper Mine project near Monywa, a joint-project of China’s Wan Bao Company and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd is under intense pressure by civil societies and Aung San Suu Kyi is making her apprarence among the protesters. It can be precedence for other foreign projects including those from India.

People-to-people relation was highlighted by Aung San Suu Kyi. She should have thanked Indian public and media for supportive role though the governments of India keep silent. But she correctly admitted that the people of Burma have no right to get anybody’s support.

MC: What was your reading to India's posture and the mindset with the kind of reception that it rolled out for Madame Suu Kyi? Do you read any genuine inclination on part of India towards her stance and for what she stands for in Burma today?

TS: India deserves credit for hospitality for which Aung San Suu Kyi emotionally enjoyed. But India’s etiquette of diplomacy prevented the President to grant an audience. Likewise Dr. Mammohan Singh was also unable to visit her home where she was kept for 15 years. It showed the difference among the democracies in the world. The Prime Ministers from all Western and Asian nations as well as the President of the United States are not barred by own protocol to visit the house of not-head-of the state. But India’s special aircraft which sent her home was the Air Force One made in India.

MC: Can her visit be marked as a watershed as far as future Indo-Burmese relations and ties are concerned?

TS: Definitely Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit will push for healthier India-Burma relations in two fronts: government and the peoples of both countries. Though the government to government relation is being diplomatically termed excellent, on ground as well as in peoples’ sentiment it has not been that so. Sadly both countries did not benefit enough out of Look East policy and the promises from Burmese generals did not repeatedly become practical. The people of Burma have negative sentiment towards the big neighbors. They knew both India and China effectively exploited the dictatorial era. Hopefully Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit will help to erase that negative opinion. China should follow suit.

MC: Were Madam Suu Kyi and her close people like you and other party members satisfied with the plan and itinerary set for her visit or do you think that it could have been done and handled in a far better way?

TS: Generally her visit to India is exciting and satisfactory. Indian government did all level best to host Daw Suu who saw it as home coming. Regrettably security arrangement was more than necessary. As a guest she was not only protected but also taken by the Indian authorities whose main concern was security not public relations. The both Burmese and India media persons were not allowed to witness the public meeting of Aung San Suu Kyi on 16th November in West Delhi. Before that she was hastily taken to hotel before she could receive flowers and greetings from Burma young men and women at the Indira Gandhi international airport. Burmese people can understand security is extremely important for their respected leader but they saw American President’s events in Rangoon were not that restricted.

MC: She got a good response from the youth in India, who look up at her as an icon , maybe more than they look up to their present lot of political leaders in their own country. Do you see any positives in this?

TS: Aung San Suu Kyi humbly said she was not a champion or an icon for democracy but the one who tried it hard. Some people have reservation that she is yet to achieve at top level like Nelson Mandela. Yes neither democracy nor the top post is achieved yet. For her, I know she does care for her people rather than the position for her. The key message was that democracy was not yet restored in Burma and she wanted India to stand by with her at that most difficult phase of the struggle. India’s response is what the people of Burma are eager to see.

MC: What is the kind of feedback that you have received from your sources in the aftermath of her visit also how was her lecture on 14th of November received?

TS: If truth be told Aung San Suu Kyi’s lecture at Vigyan Bhawan and her TV interviews are message to India. Generally it was well received. But the most widely publish newspaper noted that she was not fair to express for India’s noncooperation with pro-democracy movement. And the organizers failed to acknowledge the presence of 200 strong Burmese activists in the Plenary Hall.

MC: Lastly, what is your views and comment on the recent brief visit of President Obama to Burma, his meeting with Madame Suu Kyi and the warmth that he showed towards her? Do you sense or anticipate greater goods in store following this visit by Obama?

TS: The American President’s 6-hour visit was significant in terms of Burma’s openness to the world at large and to the West in particular. It also signified that Aung San Suu Kyi’s struggle for democracy is endorsed at maximum level. The remarks by a few NGOs and politicians who said it was premature were overshadowed by the mostly optimistic responses. Being a country where politics began with Left learning and ruled by so-called Socialist regime for 26 years, there are considerable reservations by one quarter.

One practical possibility is that military coup in Burma whether by constitution or not become lesser possible than before. From India’s official angle it looks lukewarm and China keeps quiet on Burma’s visible developments which are happening quickly. Burmese people in general are enthusiastic and praised Obama for good selection of venue at Rangoon University where pre-independence anti-colonial struggle conceived. It is also hopeful that Burma’s systematically destroyed education system might be helped from the West. Neither China nor India which were staunch collaborators of military junta helped Burma education. The MoU between University of Calcutta and Rangoon University was a good shift seen from India. However after Obama’s visit nine American Universities decided to uplift Burma’s higher education. It shows India is too slow though it is good.

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