China has been an influential player in Myanmar's internal affairs since Burma's independence in 1948, initially exercising its influence through the Burmese Communist Party and Chinese community in Burma, and later from the 1980s, through the Tatmadaw, various Ethnic Armed Organizations, and provincial government and traders in Yunnan. However, it was the reaction to the 1988 student-led agitation for democracy in Burma and ensuing international sanctions that really pushed Burma into Chinese hands in the 1990s. Indeed, China's hold on Myanmar was arguably one of the main reasons for former Sr. Gen. Thaw Shwe to respond to Indian overtures for improving relations, his 7-step Road Map for reforms, and the civilianised USDP government's initiatives to open Myanmar politically and diplomatically to the West after the 2010 elections. China was quick to detect an opening in the November 2015 elections to court Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi even before her victory, followed by support for the 21st Century Panglong Conference to find a solution to the ethnic armed insurgencies raging along Myanmar's hill peripheries. China also took aggressive measures to revive stalled projects like the Myitsone Dam, and push its strategic Belt and Road Initiative in Myanmar through a long planned 'China-Myanmar Economic Corridor' to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, building on earlier oil and gas projects. China further consolidated its influence in the country with the Rohingya crisis and resulting international repercussions, supporting Myanmar at the UN Security Council. By and large, despite some concessions, Myanmar has been able to hold these pressures under check. More recently, there have been signs of reaction within the government and Armed Forces against China's suspected covert support for the Arakan Army in Rakhine and other intransigent EAOs on the China-Myanmar border. The webinar will discuss these developments, as well as India's response to the same.
About the Chair
Amb. Shyam Saran is a former Foreign Secretary of India and has served as Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Nuclear Affairs and Climate Change. After leaving government service in 2010, he has headed the Research and Information System for Developing Countries, a prestigious think tank focusing on economic issues (2011-2017) and was Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board under the National Security Council (2013-15). He is currently Life Trustee of India International Centre, Member of the Governing Council/Board of the Institute of Chinese Studies and Centre for Policy Research, a Trustee at the World Wildlife Fund (India) and Member of the Executive Council of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).He has recently published a book, How India Sees the World. Shyam Saran was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award, in 2011 for his contributions to civil service. In May 2019, he was conferred the Spring Order Gold and Silver Star by the Emperor of Japan for promoting India-Japan relations.
About the Panelists
Amb. Gautam Mukhopadhaya retired from the Indian Foreign Service in 2016 after 36 years of service in varied assignments that included short stints at the NDC, the UN Secretariat in New York, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC, and ending as Ambassador of India to Syria, Afghanistan and Myanmar. He is currently Senior Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research where he is focussed on Afghanistan, the North East of India and India's approach to South East Asia.
Dr. Avinash Paliwal is Associate Professor in International Relations and Deputy Director of the SOAS South Asia Institute. He is the author of My Enemy's Enemy: India in Afghanistan from the Soviet Invasion to the US Withdrawal (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) and is currently authoring a strategic history of India in Myanmar.
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