Thursday, September 27, 2007

When Realism Must Deny Reality

I've wondered why India has been so quiet in regard to the Burma protests.

India surely has an interest in prying Burma away from Peking, I thought. With the Burmese military in the pocket of China, siding with the people would surely be a good idea, I thought.

But there has been silence. I finally decided to look for something after not seeing anything reported.

But yesterday, India did react:

INDIA'S call Wednesday for national reconciliation and political reform in Burma has been rather late in coming. That India was thoroughly isolated from Western and Asian opinion on Burma, where the repressive military junta has begun a crackdown on a non-violent popular protest, was an undeniable fact. Equally significant is the reality that for more than a decade and a half, India has chosen to elevate its interests above values in Burma.

The author notes that foreign policy realism isn't going to work:

Two, New Delhi's passive policy has ceded the high ground to Beijing, which has positioned itself as the agent of influence as well as the principal interlocutor between the international community and Burma. By simply tailing China on engaging the dictators in Burma, India has abandoned its own strong and unique leverages. If India is serious about its regional role and wants to stay in competition with China for influence in Burma, New Delhi must differentiate itself from Beijing, and reestablish itself as an empathetic supporter of the Burmese aspirations for political change.

Indeed. China is establishing bases in Burma and building a road to make Chinese access to Burma more reliable. India really doesn't want a Chinese military presence capable of projecting power into the Bay of Bengal and possibly providing a land front away from the Himalayan Mountains.

The BBC explains India's basis for a policy of realism:

"India is desperate to counter Chinese influence in Burma. This, more than anything else, explains India's complete reversal of its Burma policy in the 1990s," says Rene Egreteau, author of an acclaimed book on India's Burma policy, Wooing the Generals.

India is now developing ports, building roads and railways and is competing with China for Burma's oil and gas reserves as part of its "Look East Policy".

What is it with oil and realism?

The Indians need to get over this. Burmese generals will not choose India over China. China, a communist thug state, is willing to slaughter protesters to maintain order. India, a real democracy, is not.

Why would the Burmese junta, who might want to slaughter civilians to keep control, ally with India over China?

In the 1980s, India supported democracy in Burma. India should do so again. Should the people overthrow the regime, a grateful people might ally with india and expel the Chinese military from Burma.

Surely, that is a goal India should desire, right?