Thursday, April 07, 2005

ASSESSMENT: Burma visit highlights India’s “Look East" strategy

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New Delhi’s attempts to woo the Burmese generals are based on several considerations. Not only is India keen to gain access to Burma’s oil and gas, but a land route through the country to South East Asia is an essential component of its broader “Look East” policy. India’s demand for oil and gas is expanding rapidly and Burma is a potential source. In January, India signed an agreement in principle with Burma and Bangladesh to build a pipeline from Burmese offshore gas fields via Bangladesh to India. The deal is yet to be sealed as Bangladesh is seeking transit rights across Indian territory to Nepal and Bhutan, on top of annual pipeline fees of $125 million. India has also gained Burmese assistance in cracking down on various armed separatist movements based in northeastern India. A number of these groups shelter in Burma, which shares a common 1,640 km border with India. Last November the Indian military launched a major operation involving 6,000 troops to hunt down rebels in the northeastern state of Manipur. The Burmese military sealed the border to block off any escape...........More