New Delhi: India has told Myanmar that the border areas have been “seriously disturbed” and to avoid any actions that would “aggravate” the situation.
This was conveyed by external affairs minister S. Jaishankar during a rare bilateral discussion with Myanmar’s foreign minister U Than Swe in Bangkok, where both took part in a Mekong Ganga Cooperation meeting on Sunday.
In a tweet, Jaishankar said that he underlined the importance of ensuring peace and stability in our border areas. “These have been seriously disturbed recently and any actions that aggravate the situation should be avoided,” he wrote.
In January this year, the Ministry of External Affairs had taken up the issue of air strikes by the Myanmar military against rebels after a bomb fell on the Indian side of the border.
The Indian minister also stated that he “flagged concerns about human and drug trafficking” and urged cooperation for the “early return of trafficked victims”.
India has a 1,643 kilometre long border with Myanmar which runs along four states in the north east. Due to its proximity to India’s sensitive northeastern region, there have been concerns about the military junta’s actions which drive refugees across the border, as well as their inconsistent attitude towards insurgent groups. Over 50,000 refugees are estimated to have fled across into India following the junta’s crackdown after the 2021 coup.
Jaishankar also noted that India was “concerned about the humanitarian situation in Myanmar” and proposed “people-centric initiatives aimed to address the pressing challenges”.
Just like other neighbours, India has remained engaged with the military junta after the February 2021 coup, though New Delhi has also raised the issue of democracy at all political encounters.
Jaishankar again stated that India “supports the democratic transition process in Myanmar and highlights the need for return of peace and stability”.
He reiterated that India “closely coordinates our policy with ASEAN in this regard”.
Jaishankar was earlier in Indonesia where ASEAN foreign ministers re-endorsed the five-point consensus. However, the Myanmar foreign minister was barred from attending the conference as the junta had failed to meet its commitments under the consensus.
Thailand deviated from the collective approach of ASEAN when its foreign minister Don Pramudwinai, visited Myanmar and met with the detained ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently held by the military junta.
India seems to be aligning with the Thai initiative to have a separate channel of engagement since the ASEAN method seems to have stalled. In June, India had taken part in a meeting hosted by Thailand of neighbouring countries and Myanmar, which had seen three major ASEAN countries rebuff the Thai invitation.
Meanwhile, Jaishankar said that on the connectivity issue, India conveyed that it was important to expedite projects “that have faced challenges in the recent past, especially the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway”.
Later, during the MGC meeting, Jaishankar again raised the issue implementing the much-delayed trilateral highway and also concluding the motor vehicle agreement between the three countries.