Trade Options: India or China!

N.B Chyoi / April 12, 2021

Pangsau Pass at Burma-India border

Introspect of China-Burma trade or investments during the last decade, it gives a fair idea what we have gained or lost in business or otherwise. Burma has lost more in comparison to the gains made at the other end. The losses are not much felt as gains were over projected by China Burma Friendship groups (Phauk Phaw) due to vested interest.

This Loss is not only in terms of money but in terms of loss of our ancestral land, natural resources and culture values which can’t be reversed. There is old saying if you offer a seat to a Chinese, within no time he will demand for bed. It’s their expansion instinct.

Ethnic people dancing at Pang Sau Winter Festival

Today our northern part (Kachin & Shan) is under their grip and they are twisting them as per their convenience. Wa self-administered region with largest Army, uses Chinese mobile services, currency and even entry or exit into this region entry is regulated by China. Wa never condemned the recent coup, so complete solidarity with Chinese, so black sheep’s are there within our home.

Similarly, if we compare our trade with western and eastern neighbours, India or Thailand things are all together different. Bulk of trade passes through western borderland routes via Pangsau, Tamu-Moreh and Rikhawdar-Zokhawthar and this primarily supports marginal and medium or small traders of both the countries. The locals on either side of the border never felt of being exploited by other partner. The religious and cultural values are almost same and it has glued the bond further with India.

Ethnic people dancing at Pang Sau Winter Festival

Similarly, Kachins (Singphos) and Nagas kept their trading ties intact despite boundaries. Despite so much of cohesiveness, India never expanded as China do nor overlooked the interests of Burmese. Indians are compassionate and tolerant towards all religions and races whereas China’s focus remains business only. Thais too are liberal and know the limits. Moreover, Thailand has been kind to Burmese and it is the preferable destination for Burmese workers.

Namphalong Market in Tamu is dominated by Gorkhas of Burma and Gorkhas have excelled in business as well as hold respectful image in Burma Army, and there are Gorkha battalions. Late Burma’s dictator Gen. Ne Win commanded Gorkha soldiers in Burma Army. Retired Gorkhas had joined Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and their kids are serving to their best till now. They have participated actively in Civil Disobedient Movement (CDM) especially in Rampur ward of the Kachin State capital Myitkyina recently and some of them succumbed to injuries.

Ethnic people dancing at Pang Sau Winter Festival

This is a reflection how people of “Indian sub continent” assimilate with others while respecting their identity and culture. Similarly, Tamils in Sagaing, Mandalay and Karen whereas Punjabis in Mandalay, Taungyi and Myitkyina engaged in their motor parts or vehicle tire business, and feel proud of Burmese. Their harmony with local Bamars or Ethnics people have been praiseworthy.

There is need to look into the complexities of the trade with China ultimately, if we want to get out of China’s shadow and must attain bargaining position. It is agreed that we got poor infrastructure but that can be managed by exploring other international players rather submitting everything to China completely.

The introduction of international bidding process called “Swiss Challenge” in 2020 has helped us to put a check over the monopoly of China in infrastructure projects On the other side, India is well ahead in gas & oil exploration (RIL, ONGC or Indian Oil) infrastructure, education and digital technology (Infosys, TCS or HCL), so options remains but we need will.

Burma is a developing country and its economy needs foreign investments The country’s nascent stage economy may not pay good dividends, but it has prospects in future. Health & Pharmaceutical sector has large scope and it can generate employment for locals. Labour intensive industries can play a major role in transforming Burma. Food processing can be helpful as lot of natural fruits, vegetables, pulses and cereals are in abundance and India is a big market.

N.B Chyoi is a Kachin lawyer and geopolitical analyst focusing especially on Burma, India and China.

The opinion expressed here is the author’s own, and does not represent the editorial policy of The Kachin Post.