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MIZZIMA: Indo-Burma Trade, Part Fou

Subject: MIZZIMA: Indo-Burma Trade, Part Four

Indo-Burma Trade

Part Four: Some of the views on the Trade
By MIZZIMA News Group

"Burma is a rich-poor nation. It is rich in natural resources but
because of its inability to utilize it in the most beneficial way, its
people remain poor. The opening of trade relations between India and
Burma at Moreh-Tamu has brought to light many things. As for instance,
from preliminary survey of the Burmese market, it is learnt that the
country needs practically any and every kind of finished product- from
needles and nails to motor parts. In return it can give only raw
materials and agricultural products. The opening of an ancient trade
route, which has for long been disused, has come as a fresh opportunity
for business prospectors in Manipur as well as in Burma. On the Indian
side it is a people that needed badly a market and on the Burmese side
it is a people that equally badly needed the finished products. If
intentions are good on either side, there are a lot of good that can
come off the new trade opportunities.

?..Burmese students, however, oppose the opening of the trade. Their
reason is that it is morally wrong to have any kind of relations with
the military regime in their country. All this is very true, but the
question is by imposing trade embargoes on the country, who are we
squeezing, the people or the government? In any case, subjecting a
people to prolonged and continuous oppression can lull them into
submission and mediocrity rather than excite them into angry uprisings.
On the other hand, a glimpse of what they are missing can lead to
revolts. The story of the fall of USSR after the Glasnost policy is a
big lesson."

(Mr. Pradip Phanjoubam, a freelance journalist in Manipur State of

"The legal trade between the two countries are likely to generate a lot
of facilities to the people of both sides and will benefit the traders.
But illegal part of it will also continue without any hindrance. For
both Myanmar and Indian security forces, it is almost impossible to
guard the entire border. Above and all, the terrain along the
Indo-Myanmar border makes it impossible to check the smuggling
activities. Possibility of the involvement of government agencies and
security forces, in particular, in the smuggling activities in the
border area is not ruled out. Though no proofs are available, the
possibility runs very high. On the other hand, there is also possibility

of some of insurgent groups in the region involving in the trade to
procure more arms, but no clues are available so far. On the Myanmar
side, some of the ranks in their army are suspected to have indulged in
the trafficking if not directly but indirectly by giving a safe passage.

 ...However, there is always a strong apprehension of increasing volume
of heroin smuggled through Manipur once the legal trade takes its full
shape. Possibility of heroin trafficking through truckloads legal
consignments is very high. Chances of heroin trafficking increasing in
the near future is on the cards."

(Mr. Oinam Sunil, a journalist in August 1995)

"They (Indian businessmen) were very exited about it. Strategically
important for India, especially for the North East States because anyone
increased of trade with Myanmar will not only benefit Myanmar but also
it will also benefit Indian States of North East. I mean, so, it is for
mutual benefit. And we are not being able to go beyond a point. Those
who are able to manage dollar trade are going ahead with it but again
repatriation of fund,..... And then your tie hands down.... You know,
business men want to be free. I think if they were to ease out, the
(Burmese) Government has really to ease out and say.. O.K, go
ahead...border trade... investment flow. I mean that country could have
real boom.

 ....The trade is slightly slow during the last six months. We need
definitely to do more of getting people together or may be exchanging
more information, which means like a marketing blitz of telling Indian
Companies what they can do more in Myanmar. Similarly Myanmar Business,
saying what can you get more from India. So, I think we need to come up
with a business plan. .... We are going to put together in little
agenda, a kind of an action point of specific five, six actions that we
will take for promoting this business. And we hope that our partner,
Union of Myanmar, Chamber of Commerce will give us full-support in this
case. Because it is got to be a partnership. Otherwise it won't work.

 ...Inadequate banking facilities...traders need high security....We are
talking about border-trade. But where is the environment for
border-trade? You know, there has to be a frame-work around it, for it
to work. The will is there on both sides. But I think it's a matter of
implementation with a little more gusto. Financial services, I mean, the
banking facilities has to be available. This dollar business needs to be
stopped. The time of credit that is extended to a couple of months from
two months. Ok, that is great. But still no big-deal compared to other
countries if you really look at it. And something needs to be done about
security. Because even the United Bank of India (UBI) in Moreh, those
guys need high security when they move their money around. It's like a
fortress around them. So, in that kind of environment, only those who
really want to risk it or have no other option is going ahead with

(Ms. Rama Naidu, Director-International, Confederation of Indian
Industry in June 1999)

"For any country, it has to keep relationship with the neighbours
cordial. I think India is not unaware of the nature of each of the
countries. Also the nature of the governments. Some are military
governments, some are dominated by military governments, some are not
democracy and some are democracy. So, in this kind of the situation, it
is quite difficult for any government and particularly India, to have a
common kind of approach. And yet we have to have one to deal even with
all our neighbours. And in this, we may or may not like that a certain
government is the military government or certain governments are not
democracies. But the fact is which you have to do business with your
neighbour. And you have to keep peace with your neighbour. So, to that
extent, I think, relationship with the government in Burma would be one
of trying to develop links which every country has to do because
tomorrow, some other governments may be in power, you need to still have
those links in place. You need to have mutually beneficial trade
agreements or any other kind of thing where it is not from the judgement
of what is the kind of government but what is the economic potential of
both countries. And how will that economic potential benefit mutually
the people. And it is sometime difficult to make value judgement about
the nature of that government before you do business with them.

 ...And in the new era after the cold war, of this sort of capitalist
globalisation, market-led growth policy, this whole idea of constructive
engagement came about. And whether we all like it or not, that seems to
be the only way that people have now to build relationships with the
governments. And to some extent, in a limited way, this is what India is
doing. I don't believe that we are evenly matched in many fields. Even
in economic issues. As far as we know there is far more naturally we can
export than we can import. There is a lot of imbalance and yet if you
look at it at one level, the government which we may or may not like,
may benefit. But at some level, that economic development has to still
filter down to some sections of the people. I am not bringing politics
into this at all at the moment. I am only talking about how our
government accesses its economic relationship."

(Jaya Jaitely, General Secretary, Samata Party which is a partner in the
ruling coalition Indian government.)

"Drugs and smuggling of arms, why should they come through this
particular point, where there is custom checks and others. It will come
through other clandestine means of methods. I don't think opening of
border trade has anything to do with it. In fact, we are hoping that
more and more trades legalised, less and less of illegal trade will take
place. Because people can generally make money doing legal trade. Then
more people will do legal trade and less illegal trade.

 .....We have no difficulties. We are having good relationship with
Myanmar government. We have a working group. The Home Secretary and
national level meetings are held. The Commerce Secretary had gone there
and had the meetings at the highest level. So, we don't have any

difficulties at all."

(Mr. G.K. Pillai, Joint Secretary (North East), Home Ministry,
Government of India in April 1999)

"The legalization of Indo-Myanmar border trade through the Moreh outlet
in Manipur from January 1995 needs to be re-evaluated in the light of
two major aspects: Firstly, the universal and non-negotiable principles
of diplomatic ethics; and secondly, India's Burma policy as reflected in
its support for restoration of democracy and the conferment of Nehru
Award for Peace and International Understanding, 1993, to Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi. There is also a need to make a distinction between trade and
political morality, principles and national interests. Here it is
necessary to point out that minor and major gains from bilateral or
multilateral trade may have to be sacrificed for the sake of democracy,
human rights and political morality, But under no circumstances can it
be other way round. Lastly, it must be remembered that, relation with
Burma is not only a bilateral matter as the issues pertain to regional
security. Burma will loom large and critical areas of Indian foreign
policy. It is time the two countries resumed a dialogue on larger issues
of peace and security in the region. After the restoration of democracy
and human rights in Burma, it will be in the best of interests between
the two governments and two peoples to embark on appropriate trade,
technological, cultural and other short and long-term engagements."

(Mr. Jimmy Keishing, Assistance Professor in Political Science, Manipur
University in 1995)

"The border trade with Burma is that the Government of India and my
previous Congress government, they do it not in the spirit of our peace
accord with the Government of India. Then in the peace accord, the
border trade goes in the way that the locally-produced commodities to be
sold to other neighbouring countries. It is for the border trade meant
for. But, now, it is the previous smuggled goods become legalised and
that is all. The manufactured goods from Delhi, it is sent to Burma. And
the foreign goods coming and smuggled from Burma to enter India that it
has been legalized. And that's all. Practically, Mizoram does not get
any benefit from this, except the roads, which have built for this

(Mr. Zorangthanga, present Chief Minister of Mizoram State of India, in
April, 1999)

"Such bilateral trade should be meant not only exchange of goods but
such exchange must bring about friendship between the two peoples. And
this can happen, only if there is democracy. As we know, there is no
democracy at all in Burma and hence we cannot expect anything positive
from this treaty (trade). Therefore, it is our duty, for us who are in
the surrounding states and country of Burma to see that democracy
returns to Burma."

(M.K. Priyabarta Singh, the First Chief Minister of Manipur State of

End of Part Four.

By MIZZIMA News Group
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