Commentary: Myanmar coup poses first foreign policy test for Biden on Southeast Asia

NEW DELHI: The Myanmar army coup that took the world abruptly has created complications for international locations determining a response that greatest safeguards their nationwide curiosity.

But briefly, we should always count on a repeat of the worldwide neighborhood’s method throughout the years of the junta’s rule, starting from sanctions to constructive engagement.  

The United Nation’s is a working example. After an emergency assembly on Feb 2 failing to agree on a textual content condemning the army coup, the UN Security Council hemmed and hawed till Thursday (Feb 4).

Its eventual assertion expressing a obscure degree of deep concern and calling for the discharge of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, with out mentioning the coup, was a product of compromise, pushed for by China, backed by Russia, which rejected an initially extra aggressive British draft.

Unfortunately, what transpired is more likely to be the norm within the coming weeks and months, for so long as the army regime stays in place.

Most international locations recognise they’ve little sway on what occurs subsequent in Myanmar – although maybe that is true for some greater than others.


Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi had warned the worldwide neighborhood should prioritise Myanmar’s political and social stability, and keep away from escalating the battle or complicating the scenario, previous to the safety council’s Thursday’s assertion.

READ: Commentary – Myanmar military never had any intention of giving up power

Supporting this stance is Chinese media Xinhua information company’s downplaying of the importance of the coup, referring to it as a “major cabinet reshuffle” which has earned the nation rebuke on-line.

But the calculations underpinning the general Chinese response to Myanmar has been extra complicated than a superficial studying suggests.

Most observers would say Beijing’s standing as much as defend the Myanmar army’s motion is in keeping with priority. After all, China had vetoed a UN Security Coucil decision in August 2007 condemning Myanmar within the aftermath of a violent crackdown on anti-government protestors shortly joined by Buddhist monks. But even that transfer got here at a price to China’s worldwide status within the lead-up to the high-stakes Beijing Olympics.

Many say Chinese authorities have a stronger affinity with the army authorities and need for a return to these years when China was Myanmar’s chief patron state.

But for Beijing, it issues much less which social gathering is in energy in Myanmar.

Myanmar China Factor

In this Jan 11, 2021, file photograph, Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a photograph throughout their assembly on the President House in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. (File photograph: AP/Myanmar President Office)

Many initially thought that Aung San Suu Kyi, a long-time human rights and democracy advocate, would forge nearer ties with Western democracies and distance herself from Beijing, which shielded the army leaders who positioned her below home arrest for greater than a decade.

Instead, she signed the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor settlement, below the Belt and Road Initiative framework, demarcating a particular financial zone and deep-water port within the space.

She visited China in 2015, the place she met President Xi Jinping previous to the election.

The NLD additionally continued to domesticate relations with Beijing, notably after coming below worldwide condemnation for the Rohingya disaster.

Indeed, Myanmar’s gaze away from China and in the direction of the US preceded Aung San Suu Kyi’s political ascend to energy after the 2015 election. It was former President Thein Sein in 2012 who hosted Barack Obama’s go to to Myanmar, the first for a sitting US president, and visited the White House in 2013.  

If something, China’s stance has been constant and principled: That developments inside Myanmar are inner issues, with sanctions exerting undue worldwide strain tantamount to interference in home points.

READ: Commentary: Why a military coup cannot be the solution in Myanmar

This place might have certainly been pushed by China’s longstanding, vested curiosity within the stability of Myanmar. It shares a typical land border and has enormous financial curiosity within the nation, being its prime investor.


The timing of Myanmar’s coup couldn’t be extra unlucky for the US, because the first foreign policy test on Southeast Asia for newly inaugurated Joe Biden.

The US response up to now appear to be overcompensating for one thing. Since Monday, the US has led worldwide condemnation of Myanmar, with G7 international locations calling for the discharge of detained NLD leaders and a return to democracy.

Mr Biden has proclaimed he would “stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack.” His administration has threatened the imposition of additional focused sanctions towards people and entities managed by the army.

President Joe Biden will sign a series of executive orders aimed at reforming the US immigration

President Joe Biden indicators an govt order. (Photo: AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

This stance may have been motivated by home politics concerns. At a time when Biden’s administration should work with Congress on a number of formidable, contentious first 100-days initiatives, a tricky response on Myanmar’s coup has emerged as a policy that enjoys bipartisan help.

Yet what motion may Biden take that might transfer the needle on this subject? Some symbolic US sanctions banning entry into the US for prime Myanmar generals are already in place following the Rohingya disaster.

US help to Myanmar has additionally been curbed below Donald Trump, after the US foreign policy institution needed to take care of accusations that the nation had given too many bargaining chips away below Obama, together with the loosening up of restrictions on US investments.

More importantly, what does Mr Biden hope to attain? And can he achieve this with out this renewed emphasis on democracy and human rights doubtlessly alienating Myanmar and different Asian international locations, pushing them nearer to China?

READ: Commentary: ASEAN can do better on Myanmar this time

The US and its allies might perceive these sanctions to be symbolic of their intention, in sending a message of help for the NLD and Myanmar’s fledgling democracy, moderately than as a instrument to attain a reversion to the established order earlier than the coup, however are these sentiments shared by Asian international locations who focus on the painful results of such sanctions?

Following the US’ demarche of ASEAN ambassadors on Thursday, some suppose the US is now wanting like a less-than-reliable accomplice, the place strategic relations and previous goodwill constructed up appear to have taken a backseat to the promotion of democratic values.


China is aware of its stance is broadly shared by many international locations, notably the Southeast Asian nations inside ASEAN, whose constitution is premised on the precept of non-interference within the inner affairs of nations, and of which Myanmar is a member state.

Malaysia and Indonesia might have known as on the ASEAN foreign ministers to debate Myanmar’s political turmoil at a special session however different ASEAN international locations are much less sanguine that such discussions can result in significant change.

Myanmar will be taking part in US-ASEAN military drills despite Washington's sanctions on its


Even Japan, a Chinese competitor for funding alternatives in Myanmar, which has been largely supportive of democratic beliefs and human rights, has known as for dialogue with the Myanmar army and shunned taking a extra aggressive stance.

India, as soon as vocal about human rights in Myanmar throughout the late Nineteen Eighties and early Nineteen Nineties, has additionally since adopted a calibrated place to take care of whichever leaders are in energy in Myanmar, seeing how vital a strategic and safety accomplice it has change into for India’s Act East and the Neighbourhood First insurance policies.   

The sum of those actions recommend little coordinated method by the worldwide neighborhood in response to the army coup, which works to the Myanmar’s army benefit. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres could also be proper when he mentioned that the UN can’t assure Aung San Suu Kyi’s early launch from home arrest.

Worse, the army might take additional steps, together with amending the structure, to forestall Aung San Suu Kyi from holding workplace once more.

READ: Internet access partially restored in Myanmar as protests grow against military coup

But the larger influence of the coup could also be its imprint on geopolitics.

It has shone the uncomfortable highlight on US credibility, after a lot bluster from the Biden administration in current days with motion nonetheless not forthcoming every week after the coup, and US-China superpower competitors, seeing how any strident foreign policy stick the US may apply to Myanmar might not result in change, at a time when Asian international locations are watching what each international locations will do.

Dr Nehginpao Kipgen is a Political Scientist, Associate Professor and Executive Director on the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Jindal School of International Affairs, O P Jindal Global University. He is the creator of three books on Myanmar, together with Democratization of Myanmar.

Source Link –

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

six − two =

Back to top button