The unfolding tragedy in Myanmar, occasioned by the military (the Tatmadaw) overturning the election results last month, portends a new cycle of political repression, humanitarian disaster and geopolitical instability. India, because of its proximity to Myanmar, its geopolitical role, and its interests, will inevitably be drawn into the train of events. ‘
The most immediate challenge is, of course, dealing with the refugee crisis that this coup occasions. The Chief Minister of Mizoram, Zoramthanga, was correct in writing to the Centre that India cannot ignore the humanitarian crisis unfolding in our backyard, and remain “indifferent” to the suffering of those crossing the border. The Manipur government has, thankfully, withdrawn a shameful circular that would have prohibited providing meaningful assistance to victims of political persecution. This circular, if enacted, would have been terrible for India’s image. But how we deal with the victims of this crisis should not be just driven by an exercise in image management, but take the larger humanitarian and political view.
To state that the rich and powerful nations have not pulled their weight in crafting an adequate multilateral response to the global refugee crisis is to state the obvious. Myanmar’s other neighbours, and especially ASEAN countries, are also unlikely to do the minimal decent thing. Helping refugees is also not costless, and the burden has to be shouldered by the nation, not just a few states.