India Myanmar Friendship Road

Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to power in India. He looked towards the East with the aim of strengthening India’s foreign relations. Unfortunately, he eventually lost his political throne. After ten years of Manmohan Singh’s reign, India’s East policy remains the same as it was before. MMS was not even invited as Prime Minister to the Beijing Olympics, but the President of his party and her son were invited. India’s East policy has seen some minor successes, such as improved relations with Singapore, South Korea and Japan.

I am not taking any political sides here; I’m looking at it from the country’s performance. In the past, India went to Vietnam for oil exploration, but someone from the North reminded us of Nehru’s failed war experience, so we had to come back. That person then followed us and provoked our armed forces at the Ladakh border, which has posed a long-term challenge to India’s East Asia policy.

India shares its borders with Pakistan on the west and Myanmar on the east. Both countries are unstable, which can have a negative effect on India. It is important for India to ensure that Myanmar remains stable in order to maintain a stable geo political situation.

Oh we need power for the sake of making change. Let us not be pusillanimous about it. If we want to bring about the kind of changes we want, we need power, not power for the sake of power, but power for the opportunity of bringing about the changes we would like to bring about.

Suu Kyi’s 2012 interview with The Hindu

India’s foreign policy has changed significantly. We have been working hard to build strong relations with ASEAN countries, although there is still progress to be made. As I write this, India’s UPI and Singapore’s PayNow have agreed to collaborate on inter-border-cash transfers. Other ASEAN countries view us as a basic defence partner and military exercises have been conducted. This shows that India wants to have both trade and military cooperation with ASEAN. A road is needed to connect ASEAN to India, and Myanmar is the gateway. It is located in between ASEAN in the south, India in the west and China in the north, making it a crucial point, like a Pillaiyar temple in tri-junction!

In 2016, I wrote a post in my Tamil blog expressing my happiness about the planning of a passenger and goods corridor between India, Myanmar and Thailand. However, the following years proved to be challenging. Wuhan, China, had bad news for the entire world when the COVID-19 pandemic began there, and this was followed by the fall of the democratic Government in Myanmar. Thus, the road ahead is no longer smooth.

And I think, sometimes I think rather than disappointment, sad is the word I would use because I have a personal attachment to India through my friends as well as because of the friendship that existed between my father and Jawaharlal Nehru, because of the closeness that existed between the countries. So rather than disappointed, I was sad that it had to be like that.

Suu Kyi’s 2012 interview with The Hindu

To what extent can India help Myanmar?

There is very little hope at the moment as the military regime is refusing to respond to even its closest allies following the downfall of Suu Kyi’s government.

In 2015, news circulated about the road connectivity of North Eastern states, and many people believed that progress was made in this area. If successful, this could be India’s gateway to South East Asia via Myanmar. Additionally, there was talk of connecting China, Kolkata and Bangladesh, but it appears this is still just a dream.

I’d like to see a closer relationship between our two peoples, because I’ve always felt we had a special relationship — India and Burma — because of our colonial history, and because of the fact that the leaders of our independence movement were so close to one another.

Suu Kyi’s 2012 interview with The Hindu

The development of the north eastern states is essential in order to bring an end to the conflicts occurring in the region. Burma may assist India’s north eastern states in connecting to a port in order to facilitate the smooth movement of goods.


There are many camps in Myanmar that are hostile towards India, and everybody knows who is sponsoring them. Additionally, there are smugglers operating in the area. In 2016, the Burmese Government arrested a military officer for helping these anti-social elements. For India to successfully prevent this, economic development in this region is essential.

China’s plans for Myanmar have caused a lot of controversy due to being seen as exploitative and an environmental hazard. China needs Myanmar’s help in order to gain access to the Indian Ocean and has already built ports in Hambantota and Gwadar. It also wants Myanmar’s route and the Iranian port of Chah Bahar. China is working hard to develop good relations with Myanmar, as it would be more comfortable with a military regime than with Suu Kii’s democratic government. India cannot spend as much as China, but it can act as a reliable ally to Myanmar, both politically and commercially.

Indians can travel to Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia by car if they wish. You and I could also go if it is possible. People from Myanmar can come to Budh Gaya, and affordable medical tourism is an option.

From Myanmar’s perspective, India has already begun investing there, resulting in increased imports from India. Therefore, the trade relationship between India and Myanmar does not result in a loss for Myanmar. I’m talking about 2016. The present situation is hazy.

I was thinking earlier that India should try its best to support Myanmar’s democratic reforms. Modern day situation makes everything difficult.

Kali temple, Myanmar

India’s lack of support for democratic efforts in Myanmar during “amrit kaal” (a term used to describe a period of positive change) disappointed Suu Kyi. India maintained ties with the military regime as if there was no other option, making it difficult for democrats to succeed. Suu Kyi had wanted India and the world to recognize and encourage the ongoing democratic developments, but nothing was done and those developments were thwarted. Suu Kyi is now in jail, a “Rahu kaal” for Myanmar’s democracy. Even Western countries, who consider themselves to be fathers or uncles of democracy, were unable to do anything as Myanmar was not a priority for them.

And we have to do all that building ourselves, and I think this needs to be recognised by India and by the rest of the world — that we are not on the smooth road to democracy. We still have to be given the chance to build the road to democracy.

Suu Kyi’s 2012 interview with The Hindu

Myanmar has a commercial relationship with both ASEAN and China. India is the only one who can help Myanmar develop its democracy further. We did some exercises in the past. For example Nepal! Is it good or bad from Indian context, I do not know!

Coming back to Myamar, how many democracies are in East Asia? You can count on your fingers. By the time I’m writing this post, if the count increases, you can use your fingers in toe! You would not get a better number. Myanmar, which is yearning for democracy – but with Nandi on the way – should not be left out alone.

You may divorce a spouse, but you can’t move away from your neighboring country. So it’s very important that you maintain good relations. And again, I think, it’s people to people relationships which are most important. It’s not government to government. Governments come and governments go. But the peoples of the countries, they remain. And if we manage to establish genuine friendship between our peoples, then the future will be good for us. That’s not impossible.

-‘Let’s not be over-optimistic about Burma’

Myanmar is important to many people. If there is a blockage in the tri-junction of our street, there will be stagnation on all sides.

This post is part of Blogchatter’s WRITE A PAGE A DAY 2023 campaign. Originally written in 2016 in Tamil. Modified and translated now.

2 thoughts on “India Myanmar Friendship Road

  1. Yes! It’s really sad how quickly people have normalised what happened in Myanmar and Suukyi. Maybe if India had remained firm in its stand for democracy then the outcome would have been different. As it stands we’ve gained nothing. Because Myanmar still favors China…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Can’t do much in this case. Myanmar’s chair is empty in every ASEAN meeting. Requests to free Suu Kyi is rebutted. Her supporters are suppressed. The regime controls UN visits too. But our policy is heavily influenced by our northern neighbour. So It seems, we try taking a balanced approach. We India engages military regime also. Myanmar’s commander in chief visited India and Budh Gaya in 2017. Hope Myanmar turns back to democracy path and join the growth story. Thanks Careena ji for your visit and valuable comment.


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