China Scoffs at PM Manmohan Singh’s Myanmar Visit

IITM CSC Article #27
7 June 2012

China Scoffs at PM Manmohan Singh’s Myanmar Visit

 

When PM Manmohan Singh visited Myanmar recently expectations were high, both in India and abroad, as it was hoped that this visit would result in Myanmar moving away from its overwhelming dependence on China. The Chinese media on the other hand referred to this as ‘deluded thinking;’ confident of its position in Myanmar. There were attempts to dampen speculation, by making the assertion that people in China only notice India because of ‘a few movies, some news reporting and some backpackers anecdotes.’ The PM’s visit, the first of its kind in 25 years, was well timed for there were indications that the Myanmarese leaders, wary of China’s overwhelming embrace, were thinking of lessening their country’s dependence on China. Although other western leaders, including British PM Cameron and US Secretary of State Clinton, had visited Myanmar earlier, PM Manmohan Singh’s visit had an importance all of its own.

 To invest substance to the visit, PM Manmohan Singh took along with him a delegation of senior businessmen. While in Myanmar, the business delegation hoped to sign deals in the banking, oil, gas, paper and telecom industries. Separately, Myanmar President, Thein Sein and PM Manmohan Singh signed 12 agreements designed to strengthen ties between the two countries with the expectation that bilateral trade would reach US $5 billion by 2015. India also extended a credit line of US $500million to Myanmar. At the strategic level, a firm relationship with Myanmar would mean that India would be able to, deal with the restive north-east more effectively, and open the way for greater co-operation with other South-East Asian countries. Both India and China are aware that Myanmar’s rich natural resources provide it with significant economic potential.

Naturally this visit would have been watched very carefully in Beijing, for China’s stake in Myanmar is formidable. Over the past 15 years the Chinese have invested over US $27 billion, much more than any other country. China is Myanmar’s second largest trading partner with bilateral trade at US $4.4 billion this year. Myanmar is also an important transit route to port facilities for south western Chinese provinces. China National Petroleum Co. and Myanmar National Oil and Gas Co. have agreed to build pipelines to supply energy to Yunnan province in China. This network of pipelines can be extended further into the Chinese hinterland. The infrastructural development along this region also included a rail link from the west coast of Myanmar to the Yunnan province. It is expected that these measures will lessen China’s dependence on its energy imports through its sea lanes.

While it is easy enough for China to scoff at PM Manmohan Singh’s visit and ridicule the notion that India presents any kind of competition, it cannot overlook the fact that India with the tacit backing of the western powers would present a formidable challenge. China remains confident that it can meet any challenge and tried its best to dampen speculation by stating that inside China ‘the visit failed to draw any notable attention.’ If that were so, then why mention it even?

 

By: 
R. S. KALHA,
Affiliation: 
Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India
Date: 
Friday, October 16, 2015 - 15:30
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