Reflection on India supporting Burma’s democratic movement

Published on October 6, 2004

By Nehginpao Kipgen


E-Pao – October 7, 2004


In a democratic society, it is often times convenient to sit in the opposition to voice one’s concerns and grievances. Putting words into action is much harder when one sits in the government. Looking back at the recent Indian political developments, one could have a glimpse of what the country’s politicians have gone through with respect to Burma.


Before the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power five years ago, George Fernandes was a staunch advocator for bringing democratic changes in Burma. Upon assuming the post of Defense Minister, he was silenced by the larger folks in his political circle.

Similarly, few leaders of the Congress Party, which was in the opposition by that time, were publicly voicing its support for Burmese pro-democracy movement by putting the blame on the government’s indifference or inertness. However, the bottom line here is that when it comes to one’s national security, no matter what had been uttered before; both major parties have undeterred agenda behind.


It is obvious that the insurgency problems in the northeast India and the rapid expansion of China’s influence on Burma obligate India to ignore the outcry of Burmese pro-democracy activists across the globe. The response of the incumbent government, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), is “fresh water in the old bottle.”

Considering the pros and cons of its strategies, the Burmese government in exile (NCGUB) and other pro democracy organizations need to turn over a new leaf. When exertion of one strategy is found inactive, the effectiveness of others should be strategized.


It would be instrumental if grass-root level advocacy – enlightening and winning the support of students and the younger generation is focused. The validity of such action is materialized in South Korea where the younger generation has far more impact than the senior citizens, who are veterans of the 1950s Korean War (referring to current US-Korean public relationship).

Although with unreliable estimate, Burma’s population has approximately 50 million about 5% of the Indian population, which has crossed 1 billion.  According to Human Rights Year Book 2002-2003 there are approximately 332, 0000 refugees from Burma and another two million people internally displaced.


With this exodus, tens if not hundred organizations have been formed in exile. Among others, proposed constitutions have been drafted by NCGUB, DAB, NDF, BLC, etc. Whatsoever the contents of the drafts are, the final verdict lies with the mandate of Burmese people both inside and outside the country.

Accusations and counter accusations among compatriots would have no much impact on the outlook of the entire Burmese people. Understanding the necessity of democratic societal changes, more questions needed to be addressed than it was in the 1947 Panglong Conference. Believe it or not, future leaders of Burma have to prepare to answer vexed issues ranging from territorial to ethnic issues.

Finally, doubts have sparked surprise on the removal of few SPDC cabinet ministers including its Foreign and Deputy Foreign Ministers on September 18, 2004 just before the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Hanoi, Vietnam. Changes in the regime’s top brass would have little or no impact on Burma’s relationship with the international community, including India.

Nehginpao Kipgen is the General Secretary of US-based Kuki International Forum and a researcher on the rise of political conflicts in modern Burma (1947-2004).