Myanmar’s transition to democracy: New opportunities or obstacles for India?

Lavina Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


In the mid-1990s, India faced considerable criticism for abandoning its strong support for pro-democracy forces in Myanmar. Instead, New Delhi chose to pragmatically engage the ruling military junta in order to pursue a number of key security, energy, economic and geostrategic interests that could not be achieved without its cooperation. The results of this change of approach have been modest, and as Myanmar transitions to democracy New Delhi hopes that new opportunities to progress these interests will emerge, rather than new obstacles. This article assesses whether a prospective National League for Democracy (NLD) led government will have the capacity to eradicate Indian insurgent groups (IIGs) operating in Myanmar’s territory, be responsive to initiatives to expand trade between the two countries — particularly with India’s northeastern states — and be more open to Indian investment. It argues that while the NLD is committed to greater economic liberalization and a closer economic relationship with India, Myanmar will not be an attractive market for Indian firms for some time (outside of the resource sector) until liberal institutions and open competitive practices are more firmly established. This article also argues that the NLD lacks a credible plan to bring an end to the country’s long running ethnic insurgencies, and will not have the capacity to comprehensively crack down on IIGs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-316
Number of pages27
JournalContemporary Southeast Asia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2014


  • Burma/Myanmar
  • Democratization
  • India-Myanmar relations
  • National League of Democracy
  • Northeast India


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