China’s influence declining, India can do a lot: Myanmarese writer

January 22nd, 2012 - 9:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Jaipur, Jan 22 (IANS) Is there a Myanmarese spring in the air? Thant Myint-U, a well-known historian, says if there was ever a chance of a real democratic transition in Myanmar, it is now and India can do a lot in spurring democratic transformation as China’s influence lessens in that country.

“In the economic arena, China has invested massively, around $30-35 billion in Myanmar. But the Chinese influence is very small in decision-making process,” said Thant Sunday at a session on the future of Mynamar on day three of the Jaipur Literary Festival.

He is the author of much-acclaimed histories of Burma, including “The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma”.

“Myanmar’s rulers are now reaching out to the European Union, Russia and India. They don’t want to be overly dependent on China,” said Thant, also a former UN diplomat and the granddaughter of former UN Secretary General U. Thant.

There has been a lot of anti-China sentiment, said Thant, also the author of “Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia”, a seminal study of how Burma, wedged between the two aspiring superpowers, is negotiating its way to modernity and national renewal.

Alluding to India’s evolving ties with Myanmar, the author recalled that India supported elements of democratic uprising in 1988 and strong links remain which need to be revived.

“There is much India can do in sharing democratic practices,” he said on a day Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin began a five-day visit to India.

Amid scepticism in some quarters about the authenticity of reforms and the West’s thaw with the gas-rich southeast Asian country after credible elections last year, Thant said that this time round the reforms were for real.

“Burma is no longer isolated. More Burmese are having access to internet. Thousands of Burmese are travelling to other countries,” he said.

“Burma is genuinely trying to move to a democratic system. It’s experiencing a degree of political change, freedom of the media and liberal values,” he stressed.

Speaking about Myanmar’s democratically-elected president Thein Sein, Thant said: “He is also the senior general who has no allegations of corruption against him. He is thinking about his legacy as the man who presided over the democratic transformation of Burma.”

India has welcomed the reforms process initiated by the Thein Shein government over the last few months and intensified its diplomatic and economic initiatives with the country. Marking a new high in its relations, India announced $500 million for a host of development projects in Myanmar during the state visit by Thein Sein to New Delhi in October.

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