Understanding India-Myanmar Ties Through Presence Of Indian Community

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing Indian community in Yangon(Myanmar) in 2017

Medha Chaturvedi, Senior Fellow, India Centre for Migration(Ministry of Overseas Affairs) paper assesses the India-Myanmar relationship  through presence of  a strong Indian Community in Myanmar. 

Abstract: People of Indian Origin in Myanmar constitute about 4 per cent
of the total population of the country. In the absence of a credible census in
that country since 1989, this number could be more. The Singhvi Committee
in 2004 had estimated that there are about 2.9 million PIO’s in Myanmar, of
which 2,500,000 are People of Indian Origin (PIO), 2,000 are Indian
citizens, and 400,000 are stateless. The report also elaborated that following
waves of Nationalism, the Indian Diaspora has been left extremely
impoverished and vulnerable.
On March 18, 1946, addressing a predominantly Indian gathering in
Singapore, Jawaharlal Nehru said: “India cannot forget her sons and
daughters overseas. Although India cannot defend her children overseas
today, the time is soon coming when her arm will be long enough to protect
them.”
Unfortunately for the PIO’s in Myanmar, this has not happened. However,
with the BJP government’s reiterated commitment to integrate PIO’s with
their homeland, it appears that there is great scope. Indian Diaspora has
historically been instrumental in facilitating trade and cultural exchanges
between the two countries. Being part of the same British colony, movement
across the border was unrestricted. However, after the colonies underwent
an administrative division in 1937, the situation changed. The Indian
community was disenfranchised and disempowered. Many of them had to
flee back to India leaving all their belongings.
This is predominantly a qualitative research based on primary and
secondary sources. This paper assesses the present condition of the Indian
Community in Myanmar, tracing their origin back from the late 1800’s.
During a field visit, the pockets with high concentration of Indian community
were visited and some personal interviews were conducted which also have
been used as primary research. There were also interactions with the
officials at the Indian Embassy in Myanmar and some data was collected
therein which has been used.
The aim of this research is to fill gaps in the existing understanding of Indian
migration into Myanmar and the circumstances that led to people of Indian
origin to stay back or return to India; to initiate a debate among
policymakers, academics and other stakeholders about possible future trends
in similar migration and address the problems faced by current PIO’s in
Myanmar; to inform policy makers about the implications of existing
Diaspora policies and the potential for transformation of the contextual
environment through the elaboration of long term perspectives. This may
enhance policy coherence and effectiveness for dealing with the PIO’s in
Myanmar in a better fashion, thereby enhancing India’s stake and soft power
potential in that country. Like China, India also must push for reforms and a
more laissez faire treatment of the Indian community by our Eastern
neighbor. This could help in strengthening people-to-people contact and
consequently, deepening of relations between the two countries.

The research paper is available  on www.meagov.in. It can also be downloaded here:- 

Indian-Migrants-Myanmar

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