The Burmese people have been living under brutal military regimes for several decades now. Most of the democratic rights of the people have been denied to them. The military juntas have the tacit support of imperialist powers as well as of the government of India as well. Multinationals such as Daewoo are involved in oil and gas exploration in Burma , and in 2002, Indian public sector undertakings GAIL and ONGC agreed to purchase a part of the stake of Daewoo in an offshore block extending over a 3,885 sq km area.
Two previous pipeline projects – Yadana and Yetagun – have brought more miseries for the Burmese people in the form of forced relocation of villagers, forced labour, and human rights abuses. For this region, many Burmese people are opposed to the Shwe gas project, in which India is involved.
Lok Raj Sangathan participated in a seminar on the “Shwe Gas Pipeline Project – Implications on India and Burma ” organised by Shwe Gas Pipeline Campaign Committee ( India ) & The Other Media, on April 17, 2006 . Other participants in the seminar included Ms Aye Win of the Women’s’ League of Burma, Dr Tint Swe, MP, National Government of the Union of Burma in exile, Carol Ransley of Earth Rights International, Prof Mohanty, and many other activists.
Making the presentation on “Alternative Sources of Energy and Geo – Politics; Dr Venkatesh Sundaram pointed out that the Burmese people were not the only ones to be disappointed at the lack of support to the struggle for democracy in their country, millions of people from Nepal were also similarly disappointed and in fact appalled when the Indian government sold sophisticated weapons and sent helicopter gunships to the Royal Nepal Army. While South Asia is poised to grow in economic terms over the next few decades leading to increasing energy needs, the whole region has been bountifully endowed by nature and has the possibility to prosper.
The main reason why Indian ruling circles do not support popular movements in the region is that they themselves have ambitions of becoming a big power with the support of the most hated force i.e. US imperialism. They are dealing with the US within this framework, and George Bush had made definite demands on the Indian government during his visit last month. He spelt out a military role in bringing in Western style democracy in several countries, including Cuba , Iran and Burma . It is in fact the sovereign right of the people of every country to decide the kind of economic and political system they wish to follow.
The US is threatening Iran , a country with a proud history, for developing nuclear power, and India has acted along with the US in censuring Iran at the IAEA meeting in September 2005. Though India in fact stood to gain from the proposed Iran – Pakistan – India gas pipeline, the Indian ruling circles have clearly shown that they value their relationship with US imperialism much more. Indian government has in the recent past taken many other unprincipled stands, such as on Palestine , though Indian people have traditionally supported the just struggle of the Palestinian people. Indian involvement in Afghanistan is also in pursuit of its own interests. It is very clear that the US invaded Iraq in pursuit of its own strategic aims and for oil, and three years after, the sufferings of the Iraqi people have only increased several – fold. The US also wants to use India as a check on the growing influence of China in world affairs. It is thus clear that the Burmese people cannot expect support from the Indian ruling circles unless it fits in their scheme and vision of becoming a big power.
However, the Indian people have historic ties with the fraternal Burmese people. Indian people have shown their stern opposition to the dangerous course pursued by the Indian ruling circles by the massive demonstrations they organised last months during the visit of George Bush. Indian people have been successful in forcing the government not to send troops to Iraq , though the then government was inclined to do so in 2003. It is up to the people of India to force the ruling circles to adopt policies which are in the interests of the peoples of the region. While wishing the movement for democracy in Burma all success, LRS is open to participating in activities designed to build popular support in India for the historic struggle of the Burmese people.
The seminar was followed by a discussion in which several members took part vigorously.