India uses Diwali celebrations to tighten ties with Myanmar junta

The Myanmar crisis and the world

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing takes part in Diwali celebrations in Yangon. / Information sheet

By The Irrawaddy November 9, 2022

India, the world’s largest democracy, continues to cement its ties with Myanmar’s military regime which has massacred more than 2,400 people since last February’s coup.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing attended celebrations of Diwali or the Festival of Lights, one of the most important Hindu festivals, at a Hindu temple in Yangon on Sunday. Indian Ambassador to Myanmar Vinay Kumar thanked the junta leader for honoring the celebration with his presence and pledged to foster strong relations between the two governments.

Russian Ambassador to Myanmar Listopadov Nikolai Alexandrovich was also present at the festival. Their presence has drawn criticism from Myanmar’s Hindu communities.

Min Aung Hlaing is flanked by Russian Ambassador to Myanmar Listopadov Nikolai Alexandrovich, right, and Indian Ambassador Vinay Kumar during Diwali celebrations in Yangon. / Information sheet

On Tuesday, the Indian ambassador visited the junta’s foreign minister, U Wunna Maung Lwin. The two discussed strengthening bilateral relations and enhancing cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including various sectors in regional and international arenas, according to junta media.

With Min Aung Hlaing’s regime increasingly isolated by the international community, China, Russia and India have strengthened military and economic ties since the coup while helping the junta organize elections. General meetings which it plans to organize next year.

India is the second most visited country by junta ministers and military leaders after Russia.

According to a report by the Russian state-run Tass news agency, the Myanmar regime is interested in buying BrahMos supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles manufactured by BrahMos Aerospace, a Russian-Indian joint venture, with money borrowed from India.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar defended India’s ties to the junta during a speech at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok in August.

Jaishankar said New Delhi’s stance on Myanmar has been consistent for decades since the country’s independence struggle, and the relationship should not be judged by the current political situation in Myanmar. As a direct neighbour, India could not avoid dealing with the military junta regime due to complex border issues, he said.

Less than two months after the coup, the then Indian ambassador attended an event marking Armed Forces Day in Myanmar, defying the boycott of most other diplomatic missions in Myanmar and making India one of the few countries to recognize the junta as a legitimate government.

The Indian ambassador has spoken frequently with senior junta officials since his appointment in February. Recently, he met with the junta’s electoral body to discuss the potential for cooperation in the general elections the regime plans to hold next year.

The deposed National League for Democracy condemned the poll, a position backed by the United States in a statement that said: “We share their belief that the rigged ‘elections’ planned by the regime, which could not be free and fair in the current context. , will only fuel more violence, prolong the crisis and delay the country’s transition to democracy and stability. We urge the international community to deny the credibility of the military and its so-called “elections” and to engage meaningfully with pro-democracy leaders who champion a vision of an inclusive and prosperous Burma.