The news coming out of Myanmar is not reassuring, either for Naypyidaw or for New Delhi. A counter-offensive launched by the anti-junta forces is reported to have met with significant military success. The operation began with the resistance making inroads into areas along the border with China in the Shan region but since then new fronts have also been opened up in Rakhine and Chin. That Naypyidaw has been forced to resort to air power is suggestive of the intensity of the campaign. There is another important development that must not escape attention. On this occasion, the resisting groups seem to have set aside their ethnic differences and political affiliations and are concentrating on disrupting Myanmar’s trade routes with India and China. Chinshwehaw, one of the trade routes with China, has fallen. The United Nations has predicted significant damages in terms of loss of lives, livelihood and displacement.
The unrest that is spreading in Myanmar will add to New Delhi’s concerns for a number of reasons. One consequence that is already unfolding is the influx of refugees into Mizoram from Myanmar. The trickle could turn into a flood if the situation in the neighbouring nation does not stabilise. India’s security establishment would also be worried because the drug trade — the notorious Golden Triangle has Myanmar as one of its axes — could blossom given the political instability in Myanmar, adversely affecting India’s northeastern states. After all, the nexus between the drug cartels and northeastern insurgent groups is well-known. With Manipur on the boil — the Narendra Modi government’s handling of that crisis has been abysmal — New Delhi could do without further threats to its borders in that region. This perhaps would be an opportunity for New Delhi to take a relook at its policy with Myanmar. India has been wary of displeasing the Tatmadaw because of its reliance on the junta to rein in insurgent groups and the fear that an adversarial attitude might push Myanmar towards China. But it is now evident that the crushing of democracy — the February 2021 coup being the latest example — is having deleterious impact for Myanmar and its neighbours. Resuscitating Myanmar’s democracy project lies in the interests of not only India but also China.