Daily News- October 10- 2002- Thursday

  • Burmese dissidents predict military regime might soon negotiate reforms
  • Strategic significance of the Andamans
  • Wa's Bad Influence Felt in Manipur

  • Burmese dissidents predict military regime might soon negotiate reforms

    OTTAWA, Oct 9 (AFP) - Burmese dissidents meeting here Wednesday suggested the military regime running their country might be ready to negotiate reforms with the international community, a move which could lead to the installation of a democratic government.

    Sein Win, the "prime minister in exile" of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, said he felt the military regime in Burma, also known as Myanmar, was now ready to negotiate with the opposition for the installation of a democratic government.

    What the international community needs to do now is exert extra pressure on the military regime, Win told reporters as Burmese non-governmental organizers were here for a one-day meeting with officials and activists.

    "The Burma problem has to be solved by dialogue -- there is no other way," Win said, rejecting the idea of an armed rebellion against the military junta.Since the release in May from 19 months of house arrest of democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi, the attitude of the junta toward political opponents has started to shift, with the "freeing of political prisoners, but at a very slow pace," he added.

    By contrast, the economic situation in the country, punished with heavy economic sanctions for refusing political reforms, is deteriorating rapidly.With the economy collapsing, the military regime is being fully stretched, Harn Yawnghwe, director of the "Euro- Burma office" in Brussels, said here.

    Workers are looting government warehouses for rice, refugees continue to flood into China and Thailand and some one million Burmese remain "internally displaced" within Burma, he added."The time is now ripe to pressure the military government," Yawnghwe suggested.

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    Strategic significance of the Andamans

    Source : Prakash Nanda
    The Independent(Bangladesh)

    India's first "Joint Service Command" (Unified command) of the three services and the Coast Guard that was created in the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands completed one year of its formation on October 8, 2002. Named as Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), it is intended to ensure "impregnable surveillance and security of land, water and air space "of the Andaman and Nicobar "region" as a whole. It is under the direct control of the Chairman of the Committee of the Chiefs of Staff. In fact, the ANC is supposed to be "the laboratory" for the eventual unified command of the three services at the national level.

    Why of all the places the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were chosen to be providing the base for Indian's first unified command? A recent visit those islands by the present writer revealed that they are strategically too significant. The Northern most point of the Andaman group of islands is barely 190 Nautical Miles, or approximately 300 Kilometers from the Myanmar mainland. From the Coco Islands, which house, today, the Chinese maintenance and berthing facilities, it is just 18 kilometers. Similarly, the southernmost point of the Nicobar group of islands, called the "Indira Point" is just 150 or so kilometers from Sumatra. Phuket in Thailand is only 273 nautical miles away from Indira point. These aspects of the geographical location of the Andaman and Nicobar islands are all the more significant when one realises that their distance from any part of the Indian mainland is about 1200 kilometers (1255km from Calcutta, 1190 km from Chennai and 1200 km from Vishakhapatanam). Significantly, these islands create a series of choke points which not only help them dominate western entry to the Straits of Malacca (hence the whole of Southeast Asia, China, two Koreas and Australia) from Europe and West Asia but also any movement between the Far East and Calcutta, Cox's Bazaar(Bangladesh), or Yangon (Rangoon.) In addition, these islands also control any movement between Trincomolee (Sri Lanka) or Visakhapatnam and Yangon.

    The Andamans provide the key to the eventual success of the much talked about "Look East Policy" of India (policy towards the Asia-Pacific reason). It is the close proximity of Andaman and Nicobar Islands with the Southeast Asia that make India as much a part of that region as that of South Asia. As it is, the region has already been marked by the emergence of some regional economic orgainisations like the ASEAN, of which India is a dialogue partner, the APEC, which India is aspiring to join, BIMSTEC (consisting of Bangladesh, India , Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand), and Mekong Gaga Cooperation Project(involving India , Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam).

    What is noteworthy in this context is that all these organisations have member countries, which, with the notable exception of landlocked Laos, are all maritime countries. In this sense, the Andamans provide the most ideal logistics base from where sea power could extend its reach. In fact, India has been conducting regular joint naval exercises and joint-military training with the Southeast Asian countries, both bilaterally and multilaterally. Since 1995, the Indian Navy has been hosting regular gathering of warships from these countries at Port Blair. Every two year bilateral gatherings of this nature are held and these are called "Milan" of warships. Countries that have participated include Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and the United States. Significantly, as per the latest Indo-US accord, Indian naval ships based in Port Blair are escorting these days all the American vessels from Singapore to Diego Garcia.

    However, India's cooperative naval diplomacy in the region has not been reciprocated by China and Myanmar. In fact, China has always resented the growing Indian naval activity in the region. In early 1993, Zhao Nanqi, director of the General Staff Logistics Department of the Chinese Navy, issued a top-secret memorandum that explained in great detail the PLA's strategic plans to consolidate control over the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean under the new doctrine of "high-sea defense." Zhao stated that "We can no longer accept the Indian Ocean as only an ocean of the Indians". Accordingly, the most urgent task identified by the Chinese navy has been to consolidate control over the Strait of Malacca so that no other power is capable of blocking its surge the moment it was capable of surging into the Indian Ocean. If Yossef Bodansky, Director of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the U.S. Congress is to be believed, in 1995, Beijing resolved to markedly expedite its surge, at the least parts of it, so that it would be impossible for its "enemies" to forestall its rise to global power. It decided to "to encircle the Strait of Malacca and, through covert operations, create intolerable conditions for potential enemies and opponents in the region".

    Bodansky writes that "it has become imperative for the PRC to consolidate direct control over both approaches to the Strait of Malacca while neutralizing the states in between through covert action. The two approaches to the Strait of Malacca can be dominated from the Spratly islands and Burma's coastline on the Bay of Bengal. The key to the covert action is having Beijing's close allies-Iran and Pakistan-either win over the Muslim governments of the key regional states or subvert the Muslim population of other key states in the region so that the internal crisis and instability will prevent them from resisting the Chinese strategic surge and rise to hegemonic position".

    Bodansky's point is that the Islamist subversion of several countries in Asia is intensified because of the strategic interests of a third party-

    China-and, to a lesser extent, of its close allies like Pakistan who bear the brunt of the sponsorship of, and support for the terrorist escalation has been shared by many analysts the world over. This aspect is all the more important in the post- September 11, 2001 phase of fight against international terrorism. Indeed, Islamist forces sponsored by Pakistan are destabilising the local states overlooking the Strait of Malacca. The Islamists have gained more influence in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines (courtesy the ISI-trained Abu Sayyaf forces). They have been subverting Thailand-using both the local Patans in the countryside and spectacular operations by expert terrorists arriving from the sponsoring states-while also maintaining subversive infrastructure in Indonesia as deterrence for Jakarta, as well as taking over the struggle of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar to exercise additional pressure on Yangon to cooperate with Beijing.

    The case of Myanmar assumes special significance for India. China has installed a major maritime reconnaissance and electronic intelligence station on Great Coco Island. Along with the Small Coco Island where the Chinese Army is also building bases, these two islands provide a great opportunity to China to be based at a crucial point in traffic routes between the Bay of Bengal and the Strait of Malacca. The Coco Islands are also an ideal place for monitoring the major Indian naval facilities in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and missile launches in the Chandipur of Balasore in Orissa and the satellites' launching at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

    Chinese strategists see Myanmar occupying the same place in the Chinese calculus of deterrence vis--vis India in South-Southeast Asia that Pakistan does in South-Southwest Asia. In fact, triangular relations among China, Myanmar and Pakistan are particularly disturbing to India. Pakistan has invited China for development and construction of her strategic naval base at Gwadar on the Makran coast. This Pakistan-China defence project has far wider strategic significance; for it gives China access and basing facilities in the Indian Ocean and in close proximity to the Straits of Hormuz. It also amounts to maritime encirclement of India in the sense that with the presence at Gwadar at one end and at Cocos at the other, the Chinese Navy can pose few problems to India.

    What all this underscores is that India has to continuously and methodically monitor and contain the growing triangular relationship among China, Myanmar and Pakistan. And in task, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are destined to play a vital role.

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    Wa's Bad Influence Felt in Manipur

    Source : Far Eastern Economic Review

    The drug-running United Wa State Army has long angered Thai authorities, but now the Burma-based ethnic minority force could be causing instability in the remote northeast Indian state of Manipur.

    Non-governmental organizations and social workers in Manipur say drugs and guns have become easily available in the state ever since the Wa established a base on the Burma-India border at Tamu in 1999. The small town faces Moreh in Manipur. NGO workers say that in the past two years they have noted a dramatic increase in the quantities of heroin and methamphetamines and Chinese-made small arms that are available in Manipur, where separatists are battling with the central government.

    They claim that the narcotics and weapons are coming from Tamu, where some 300 ethnic Wa soldiers and businessmen run drug-smuggling and gun-running operations and also operate karaoke parlours, bars and a water-bottling plant. The Wa's main base area is along eastern Burma's border with China.

    They have been able to move freely around the area since forging a cease-fire with Rangoon in 1989. The Thai government accuses them of smuggling huge amounts of methamphetamines and heroin across the border from Burma.

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