QUAD regional bloc could hold key to Myanmar crisis


QUAD leaders at the White House ahead of their September summit. / President Joe Biden Facebook

Through Jayanta kalita 25 October 2021

The decision of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) not to invite the architect of the Myanmar coup, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to its next summit is likely the result of pressure from Western countries.

The United States (US) and the European Union (EU) have so far supported the ASEAN five-point consensus for a possible mediation between the Myanmar junta and the parallel national unity government. But this idea did not translate into action due to a lack of cooperation from the coup plotters, which prompted ASEAN foreign ministers “to invite an apolitical representative of Myanmar to upcoming summits” ASEAN President Brunei said in a statement on Oct. 16. .

This decision is important because it preceded the visit of a US delegation to countries in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia, for discussions on topics such as the Myanmar crisis.

Last month, the first in-person summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), a group of four countries including the United States, Japan, India and Australia, called for an end to the violence in Myanmar , which is about to fall into the civil war. The four-country alliance, which China has dubbed Asian NATO, is expected to play a more active role in the Asia-Pacific region in the months and years to come.

However, foreign policy experts believe that the QUAD should be clearer about its position on Myanmar. Despite the policies of each country, the four-nation bloc should pressure the junta to end violence and coercion and create an atmosphere conducive to dialogue with the detained civilian leaders of the ousted government of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

Amnesty movement

Meanwhile, in a surprise move, Myanmar’s military regime freed more than 1,300 people jailed for participating in anti-coup protests and more than 4,300 detainees awaiting trial for incitement to murder. violence for their anti-regime activism.

However, several NLD leaders, including State Councilor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint, remain in detention.

The significance of the release of the prisoners is that it comes in the wake of ASEAN’s decision to exclude Senator General Min Aung Hlaing from the bloc’s next summit.

More than 9,000 people have been arrested since the February 1 coup, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, which identifies alleged excesses committed by junta forces. He claims that at least 1,181 people were killed by junta forces as of October 18 and 131 were tortured to death.

What QUAD can do

At the first QUAD summit, held virtually in March, it became clear that the Four Nations Alliance has an inclusive agenda. He decided to launch an ambitious COVID-19 vaccine supply program and formed working groups to explore cooperation in the areas of emerging technologies and climate change. The leaders also made it clear that finding an early solution to Myanmar’s crisis was a top priority.

But within Quad, reactions to the continued violence in Myanmar have been different. While the United States, along with the EU, have imposed sanctions on the military regime, India and Japan are moving more cautiously. Tokyo and New Delhi have good relations with the Burmese army and the NLD, and invest in various economic projects in the country.

Another big reason Tokyo and New Delhi are moving cautiously is that they don’t want to alienate Myanmar and push it towards China, according to foreign policy analyst Dr Sriparna Pathak.

As for India, pushing Myanmar further towards China will ensure the reappearance of non-traditional security threats. Several rebel groups in northeast India continue to operate from bases in the western border regions of Myanmar.

Although Beijing has officially denied supporting these Indian insurgent groups, last year, amid the border standoff with the Indian military in eastern Ladakh, the World time warned that Beijing could help and support rebels in northeast India.

That the World time was confident enough to say that China could fuel the insurgency in India is only possible when real control over the groups exists, according to Dr Pathak, associate professor and director of the Center for Northeast Asian Studies at the Indian school OP Jindal Global University. of International Affairs.

Among the QUAD nations, India and Japan both have a deep understanding of the complex dynamics at play in Myanmar. Along with their relatively good relationship with the Burmese military, this idea could certainly be used to bring peace to the country.

“As responsible actors of the international system, the members of QUAD must engage and find a peaceful solution to the crisis, lest China foment new crises as it has done in the past in several others. regions and countries. While the goal should be to restore peace and quiet, what should not be forgotten is that China can and will use any opportunity, even if it comes at the cost of regional and world peace. , to satisfy its narrow and selfish national interests which are mainly based on reducing the stability and security of other actors in the international system, ”said Dr Pathak.

Seasoned journalist and foreign affairs expert Dr Prakash Nanda echoed these views.

“As QUAD’s statement said, India wants a quick fix [to the Myanmar crisis]. But the real question is how far it can go. It is the only QUAD country that shares a border with Myanmar. A working relationship with the elements controlling the country, whatever their political affiliations or nature, is absolutely vital to combat the insurgents in northeast India, ”said Dr Nanda, author of several books on India’s foreign policy, including Rediscovery of Asia: the evolution of the policy of looking towards the east of India.

“Then there is the China factor, whose containment is the main, albeit unreported, goal of QUAD,” added Dr Nanda. “It is completely against the national interests of India that Naypyitaw falls under the sphere of influence of China. India’s role will therefore not go beyond exerting a kind of moral pressure. [on the junta]. She wants other QUAD members to be more proactive.

Jayanta Kalita is a senior journalist and author based in New Delhi. He writes on issues relating to North East India and its immediate neighborhood. The opinions expressed are his own.


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