India's Border Security Cooperation with Myanmar
The Asean-India Summit of 2023, themed "ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth," provided Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a platform to articulate his vision for strengthening India-Asean cooperation.
While addressing various dimensions of this partnership, including digital transformation, trade, and economic engagement, Prime Minister Modi made it unequivocally clear that his paramount focus was on ensuring peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. Furthermore, he underscored the critical importance of addressing a pressing concern – maintaining peace and security along India's border with Myanmar. This commentary delves into how India can contribute to ensuring peace and security along its Myanmar border, thereby fostering stability in the broader Indo-Pacific region.
Asean as a Central Pillar—India's "Act East Policy" has been central to its foreign policy approach in recent years, with Asean emerging as a pivotal partner in this endeavour. The Act East Policy aims to strengthen India's economic, strategic, and cultural ties with nations in the Asia-Pacific region, recognizing the significance of the Indo-Pacific as a dynamic and vital area for India's growth and influence.
Prime Minister Modi's emphasis on peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region during the Asean-India Summit of 2023 underscores the region's growing strategic importance. The Indo-Pacific is not merely a hub of economic growth but also a theater of evolving geopolitical dynamics, marked by competing interests, territorial disputes, and emerging security challenges. In this context, ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific is of paramount importance to India, with far-reaching implications for its economic interests, strategic objectives, and overall security. India's contribution to regional stability hinges on several key factors.
When considering diplomacy and strategic partnerships, it is suggested to play an active role in promoting peace and security in the Indo-Pacific, India must employ diplomatic means to forge stronger partnerships with Asean countries and other regional actors. Diplomatic engagement is the bedrock of conflict resolution, confidence-building, and creating an environment conducive to peaceful coexistence.
India's diplomatic engagement with Asean nations can serve as a cornerstone for regional stability. By fostering close ties and open lines of communication, India can facilitate dialogues, mediate disputes, and build trust among regional players. As a non-aligned nation with a history of diplomatic finesse, India is well-positioned to act as an impartial intermediary, promoting peaceful resolutions to conflicts in the Indo-Pacific.
In tandem with diplomacy, collaborative security measures are essential for deterring and addressing common security threats in the Indo-Pacific. This includes joint military exercises, intelligence sharing, and the strengthening of defense ties with Asean nations. Building a robust security architecture within the region is critical to addressing emerging challenges effectively.
Engaging in joint military exercises and security drills with Asean countries can foster interoperability among armed forces and enhance the collective capacity to respond to security contingencies. Additionally, sharing intelligence and coordinating efforts can help identify and mitigate emerging threats promptly.
Territorial disputes, particularly in the South China Sea, are significant drivers of instability in the Indo-Pacific. India can play a pivotal role in facilitating dialogue and conflict resolution mechanisms in the region. Given its non-aligned stance, India can serve as an honest broker, advocating for peaceful solutions to these disputes.
India's involvement in regional forums and multilateral organizations like the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) and the East Asia Summit (EAS) provides platforms for constructive dialogue and problem-solving. By actively participating in these forums, India can contribute to shaping a regional environment conducive to conflict resolution and cooperation.
While addressing border security or regional concerns, Prime Minister Modi also highlighted the critical need to ensure peace and security along India's border with Myanmar. This issue holds significant importance not only for bilateral relations but also for broader regional stability. India's approach to addressing this concern involves a multifaceted strategy.
Strengthening border infrastructure, surveillance capabilities, and patrolling along the India-Myanmar border is essential to curbing cross-border illegal activities. These activities, including smuggling and the movement of armed groups, pose security risks and hinder regional stability.
Improved border management can also facilitate better cooperation with Myanmar in addressing shared security challenges. By fortifying the border and enhancing security measures, India can deter potential threats and contribute to the stability of the broader Indo-Pacific region.
Engaging in sustained dialogue with the Myanmar government is crucial to addressing concerns and jointly working toward peace along the border. India's approach should encompass various aspects, including addressing issues related to insurgency, border demarcation, and the movement of refugees and displaced persons. By maintaining open channels of communication and diplomatic engagement with Myanmar, India can collaboratively address security challenges, foster trust, and promote regional stability.
Given the presence of insurgent groups along the India-Myanmar border, robust counterterrorism cooperation is essential. India can collaborate closely with Myanmar in intelligence sharing and coordinated efforts to combat these groups. Additionally, involving Asean countries in such counterterrorism efforts is critical, as some of these insurgent groups have transnational reach. By working collectively, India and Asean nations can effectively address this shared security concern, contributing to overall regional stability.
India can provide diplomatic support for Myanmar's internal peace process. A stable and peaceful Myanmar is not only in India's interest but also contributes to regional stability. By offering diplomatic backing, India can play a constructive role in encouraging Myanmar's efforts toward reconciliation and conflict resolution.
In a nutshell, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's emphasis on ensuring peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region, as highlighted during the Asean-India Summit of 2023, underscores the critical importance of India's role in fostering stability in this dynamic and strategically significant area. India's "Act East Policy" has rightly recognized the Asean nations as central pillars in this endeavour, reflecting the region's pivotal role in India's economic growth, strategic interests, and overall security. To contribute effectively to regional stability, India must employ a multifaceted approach that combines diplomacy, collaborative security measures, and proactive engagement with its neighbours, particularly Myanmar. However, diplomacy remains the cornerstone of conflict resolution and trust-building, and India's history of diplomatic finesse positions it as an impartial intermediary in regional disputes. Collaborative security efforts, such as joint military exercises and intelligence sharing with Asean nations, are essential for addressing common security threats in the Indo-Pacific. Additionally, India can play a pivotal role in facilitating dialogue and conflict resolution mechanisms in territorial disputes, like those in the South China Sea, promoting peaceful solutions.
Furthermore, India's commitment to ensuring peace and security along its border with Myanmar is not just a bilateral concern but also has far-reaching implications for regional stability. Strengthening border infrastructure, sustained dialogue, and counterterrorism cooperation are vital components of India's approach to addressing this concern. By pursuing these strategies and actively engaging with Myanmar, India can contribute to a more secure and stable Indo-Pacific region, aligning with the theme of the Asean-India Summit: "ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth."
Prem Singh Gill is an Adjunct Lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University