Myanmar’s relations with China have recently been challenged by few issues. Since the early 1990s, the military rulers of Myanmar were largely dependent on China for economy, defence and security partnerships. Things took a little dramatic turn when former President Thein Sein decided to suspend the Chinese sponsored Myitsone Dam in 2011. Another hiccup came in 2015 when China warned Myanmar for killing five of its citizens during a cross-fire with some rebels along the Sino-Myanmar border. China also staged live drilling near the borders with Myanmar. The problem of illegal flows of refugees, human trafficking, arms smuggling and illicit drug trading remain serious matters of concern in the bilateral relations between China and Myanmar. In late March 2017, China again conducted military drilling near the China-Myanmar border. In between, leaders from both the countries met each other on multiple occasions. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Myanmar and met his counter-part and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi just days after the National League for Democracy (NLD) formed the government. The Chinese representative reminded her of the Pauk Phaw relationship between the two countries. In fact, Myanmar’s economic dependence on China is still a reality. Followed by Singapore, China is Myanmar’s second largest investor and biggest trading partner. Yet, the fact is, after opening up to the world, Myanmar now has several options in the foreign policy and denies being a vassal state of China. In this given scenario, this piece is an attempt to understand the recent challenges arising in China-Myanmar relations as Myanmar is gradually transforming itself towards democracy and implications for the region, especially, India.
About the Speaker
Dr. Sampa Kundu works as a researcher at the Southeast Asia and Oceania Centre, IDSA, New Delhi. Her research interests include geo-politics of Southeast Asia, India-Myanmar bilateral relations, India’s Act East Policy, and regional cooperation in Southeast Asia. She has completed her PhD from the Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi on India and Myanmar in BIMSTEC: Implications for Northeast India in 2015. In the last few years, she has published several papers in peer-reviewed journals including India Quarterly and chapters in edited volumes including the Asian Strategic Review, an annual publication of IDSA. She has also contributed several articles to online gateways and magazines including The Diplomat, East Asia Forum, The Diplomatist and so on. Her profile can be visited here: http://www.idsa.in/profile/
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