A week after India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed the Burmese dictator Than Shwe on an official state visit, the world’s largest democracy has come under fire at home and abroad for its controversial foreign policy toward the military-ruled country.
Now you can add to the list of detractors one of the world’s most respected economists. At a high profile symposium on education in New Delhi yesterday, the Nobel prize-winning Indian economist Amartya Sen publicly opposed his country’s Burma strategy. “I do not agree with your policy on Burma,” Sen said, directing his criticism at the Prime Minister himself, who was in attendance. “In a democratic country like India, I can say this to the Prime Minister,” he added.
Indian officials argue that their policy of active engagement in Burma’s controversial oil and gas sector will improve India’s energy security while also contribute to Burma’s fledgling economy. The problem is that’s simply not true.
Last week, I posted an article on the Huffington Post arguing that India’s Burma policy is misnamed, misguided, and ineffective. The policy, called “pragmatic,” is instead an extension of “political realism.” It harkens back to a colder era, if you will, and ironically works against India’s own interests while contributing to authoritarianism in Burma. This is compounded by its near complete silence on human rights.
I argue that India should engage Burma more pragmatically, and in my HuffPo article I proposed some recommendations for how New Delhi might go about doing that.