Surpise, Surprise: The Moreh Highway Is an Eye Candy

International borders, or bluntly border disputes, have always been an issue in the politics of India. The Pakistani problems and the Chinese materials easily come to the national consciousness. Recently, in a tiny corner, located in the remote part of Manipur, the Burmese military allegedly encroaches beyond the existing boundary. However, it is not worthy of news front pages or even a sensible debate—not necessarily that it is insignificant, but this omission has been a bitter reality of this part of the world that exists more as a buffer state than a part of the union.

Moreh, a shanty town in Manipur, shares its border with Burma. It is one of the main commercial centers of the province. The tragedy, in the larger picture, is its strategic location which is a region torn and ruined in the fight for the right to self-determination and other such craps for the last six decades. As always, the political conflict between the erstwhile kingdom and the union of India has been ignored for the reasons, known only to the erudite administrators and governments. Today, leaving aside all these hostilities, there has been a call for attention—though unsurprisingly, it is never difficult for the authority to sideline the story over the last couple of weeks.

This is a simple story of the simple land that the union government can simply ignore it. A few days ago, a Burmese cavalry seized a part of the boundary and built a camp in Holenphai, a frontier village in Chandel district, claiming the territory is theirs. This has been preceded by a development regarding border fencing—again which has been an issue because as it is alleged, it implies Manipur will be losing a chunk of its territory for the sake of a meaningless nation-building process.

There has been condemnation surely but for all the wrong reasons. For instance, instead of prompting for action, it is only helping in digging up the past tragedies. When India got independence, the union gifted to the Burmese, the nostalgic Kabow Valley, without the consent of the then authority that was responsible for international boundary. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

We do know the government can clearly see the development, for better or worse. Shashi Tharoor, summed it up in one of his commentaries: “The two countries share a 1,600-kilometre land border and a longer maritime boundary with overlapping economic zones in the strategically crucial Bay of Bengal. Four of India’s politically sensitive north-eastern states have international borders with Myanmar.”

Imagine Burma was China. You can easily predict those men in white, sitting in the comfort of the Parliament, would be adding one more footnote to their definition of patriotism and border intrusion. Imagine Burma was Pakistan. We can easily say the nation would be surviving, by now, on a diet of 24x7 news televisions and what not. As it is none of them but Burma itself, it is just wait-and-watch-you know-it-is- elementary-Mr-Watson kind of stuff.

Suggestion for a solution would amount to jumping to a conclusion. However, this is a given that the ruling class has been banking on the complex and ceaseless conflicts that are synonymous with the province. As long as the authority is looting for their grandchildren and the people is suffering from amnesia, the situation is bound to remain bleak. Treating the Burmese trouble, just in case, would be diagnosing only the symptoms. Don't say this is the age of the Look East Policy. Do say there are finer points we have to read between the lines.

Breaking news:  Manipur Governor Ashwani Kumar will visit Moreh on Tuesday by a helicopter to make an on the spot assessment of the controversies arising out of the reports that Myanmar Army is trying to usurp Manipur's territory. This is in the backdrop of the concern expressed by the Union Government following news reports on the land-grabbing attempts by the Myanmar Army and the stand off between officials of the two countries. The Governor is expected to send a report soon after his return to Imphal the same day. -- The Hindu. Updated: August 26, 2013 19:07 IST

News Clippings

Political Parties Demand Re-survey of Indo-Myanmar Border
Source: Zee News
All major political parties and various social organisations on Saturday demanded immediate halt of the ongoing construction of fencing along the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur until a proper re-survey of the borderline is done. Spokesman of the 'Committee on Protection of Land in Border Fencing' (CPLBF) Brojendra Ningombam said they had submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Okram Ibobi  yesterday demanding immediate intervention of the state government in the present construction of border fencing as it would affect more than forty villages in the state's Chandel and Ukhrul district.

Why India’s Relations with Myanmar May Never be Top Priority for Either
Source: East Asia Forum
In 2010, Indian trade with Myanmar stood at US$1.2 billion, far short of the US$4.4 billion between China and Myanmar. Commercially, a two-way trade target of US$3 billion by 2015 does not look very ambitious, but even this may not be reached.

Myanmar, Bangladesh and India: Prospects for Energy Cooperation
Source: news Watch, National Geographic
As the world turns its eyes on reforms in Myanmar / Burma and investment rushes in, the opportunities and challenges of trade and peace-building with Myanmar’s neighbours to the West, Bangladesh and India deserve further study.

Negotiating Transnational Identities on Indo-Myanmar Border
Source: Sage Journals, India Quarterly
The identity of the people in the Indo-Myanmar border in Northeast India is that they belong to the Indo-Mongoloid racial stock and speak languages belonging to the Tibeto-Burman group. Most of these groups trace their origin to some part of Southeast Asia. The historical routes both constrain and empower movements across borders and cultures.

India’s Strategic Interests in Myanmar
Source: Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies
An interview with Ambassador Shyam Saran, acting Chairman of Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS)

India and Myanmar: Choices for Military Cooperation
A report from the Indian Council of World Affairs
Source: ICWA

Mizzima - New from Myanmar, based in New Delhi



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