India

Security efforts likely to influence relationship

India will be keeping a close eye on how security cooperation with Myanmar evolves after the country's new regime is installed next year.

Myanmar's junta over the years has helped India crack down on north-eastern insurgent groups that attack from Myanmar's borders. Early this year, Indian troops went into Myanmar to hunt down insurgents who had killed 18 soldiers in an ambush in the Manipur state, which borders Myanmar. The Indian government played down hot pursuit claims, saying it was a joint operation with Myanmar.

Analysts said that it remains to be seen how Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, who has promised transparency in governance, would handle the security relationship and if she would allow such invasive operations.

"The security relationship has already improved with Myanmar. The only question is of sustaining and expanding... much will depend on her equation with the military and if they work together, India would be happy," said South Asian expert, Professor S. D. Muni from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. "I am sure she would not create any problems."

India's relationship with the pro-democracy icon has been through some rough patches. India was once a vocal supporter of Ms Suu Kyi but reversed its opposition to the ruling junta in the nineties due to security and energy considerations amid China's growing influence in the neighbourhood.

Some four years ago, India once again started reaching out to her, culminating in a 2012 visit to India.

Ms Suu Kyi in a recent interview said she had a "special affection for India". She had spent her formative years as a student there.

But she also noted she was "saddened ... that India, the largest democracy in the world, was turning its back on democracy in order to maintain good relations with the military government".

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Nov 12 called up the Nobel Peace Prize winner to congratulate her and invite her to India.

But concerns also remain about how Myanmar's ties with China will develop. "There will be no change in the relationship with India but she might be closer and more friendly to China than (Myanmar President) Thein Sein," said Mr Rajiv Bhatia, former Indian ambassador to Myanmar.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2015, with the headline 'Security efforts likely to influence relationship'. Print Edition | Subscribe