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Sunday, September 30

Why, New Delhi! How terribly kind of you to squeak out a few words of concern over Burma's situation!

I sent the following writing for comment to someone with connections in India's government. He urged me not to publish it, saying that the government was doing everything possible behind the scenes and that the situation in Burma is very complex.

I understand: Face is everything; better people starve en masse and be massacred, rather than for their government to lose face, for if the government loses face all is lost. Pundita has had it drilled into her for many, many years. So truly I understand.

However, Burmese under the gun of their government did not ask India to come invade them; they asked America. The Liberians made the same plea during the worst of their suffering, as have many other peoples around the world under tyranny.

Would that America could play rescuer for every population suffering under tyranny! But America's efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us that it's not enough to topple a regime and set up a democratic government. We are up against the past, up against tribalism and ancient prejudices, against peoples conditioned to ways of life that cannot support freedom even when they want it.

The democracy project requires tremendous assistance from peoples all around the world who have found freedom. The first step is learning to speak out -- not necessarily rudely, but bluntly and with clarity. This changes the climate of the world's acceptance of tyranny. Dictators have been able to get away with so much in the past century partly because they've been called out so little. That must change.

In the case of Burma, it is the country's neighbors and other Asian nations that must take the lead in criticizing Burma's rulers. This gives help to Burmese inside the government who want to open a dialogue with the protestors. ASEAN stepped up to the plate, and even China made (what was for them) a strong statement. India can do more.

Now, to the post:

"People are saying, `The Whites were bad, the Indians were worse, but the Chinese are worst of all.’" -- Zambian opposition MP Guy Scott on exploitation of Africa by foreigners

India and China are Burma's major trade partners. But New Delhi waited to see how Beijing and the rest of the world would respond before making a statement related to the Burma protests. So I preface this post with a few words of advice to India's government:

Human progress does not mean perpetually recreating the wheel. You wouldn't rely on the telegraph because that's the way the Americans did their long-distance communications at one time. In the same manner, there is no need to repeat every wrong policy conjured by the developed nations while you exploit resources in nations less developed than India's.

America has learned in the hardest ways that cutting deals with tyrants while remaining mute about their worst actions eventually boomerangs. You might wish to learn from our errors instead of copying them:
India lured criticism from international communities very recently while its Petroleum Minister Murli Deora paid a visit to Burma on September 23, the day world media witnessed massive protests against the junta in the country. The Indian minister certainly witnessed hundred thousand agitating people in the streets of Rangoon, but he did not make a single statement or observation.

During his visit, three bilateral agreements for deep exploration in oil blocks were signed. Indian state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Videsh pledged to invest nearly US$150 million for gas exploration in the Rakhaine coast of Burma.

Earlier India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, while in a three-day visit to Thailand in the second week of September, found himself in awkward position. Mr Mukherjee, during an interactive session with the diplomats and intellectuals in Bangkok, faced hard criticism for India's continued military engagement with the Burmese junta. Answering a question, 'what India was doing to restore democracy in Burma', Mukherjee reiterated New Delhi's foreign policy of 'non-interference in internal matters of any country'.(1)
But finally, after watching to see what Beijing and everybody else outside Burma said about the protests, New Delhi screwed up their courage:
"The government of India is concerned at and is closely monitoring the situation in Myanmar ( Burma). It is our hope that all sides will resolve their issues peacefully through dialogue," said India's External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna. Addressing the media in New Delhi on September 26, he also added: "India has always believed that Myanmar's process of political reform and national reconciliation should be more inclusive and broad-based."(1)
This was not enough for India's human rights activists:
The civil societies and rights activists in India remained critical of New Delhi's junta appeasing policies. "We cannot have democracy at home and support military tyrants in the neighbourhood. India must do all it can for the restoration of democracy in Burma," argued Nandita Haksar, a prominent Indian human rights lawyer.

Meanwhile Asian Centre for Human Rights, a New Delhi-based rights body, came out with official statement that Burmese junta deserved more denigration and UN must not remain as a mute spectator to the recent developments in Burma.(1)
That's the ticket!

1) From Narinjara, September 29 report.
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