Quad ‘concerned’ over Myanmar, but India opposes sanctions

India Friday pushed back against putting fresh pressure on Myanmar, telling other Quad foreign ministers that it doesn’t believe in imposing sanctions on its eastern neighbor to force the military junta to restore democracy.

The fourth Quad foreign ministers’ meeting was held in Melbourne, Australia, Friday. It was attended by US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.

The foreign ministers said they remained “gravely concerned” and jointly called for a “swift return” to democracy in Myanmar, asking the military junta to put an end to the ongoing violence there. However, New Delhi refused to get drawn into the conversation about imposing sanctions on the regime.

The military regime has been in power for a year now. On 1 February last year, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military) commander-in-chief, General Min Aung Hlaing, led the coup overthrowing the democratic government under Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).

In December 2021, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had made an outreach to the junta by travelling to Myanmar, and New Delhi has now chalked out a twin-track approach to deal with Naypyidaw, engaging with both the junta and pro-democracy factions.

We are all agreed on the importance of the democratic transition which was underway in Myanmar, and clearly the fact that the country has moved in a different direction is something which troubles all of us. We all also strongly back the ASEAN position on Myanmar and their efforts to engage,” Jaishankar said at a press conference in Melbourne after the meeting.

However, he said as far as India is concerned, as an “immediate land-border neighbour”, New Delhi has “some specific” concerns on Myanmar.

“Concerns about insurgents operating there who some months ago killed a very senior military officer and his family, concerns about Covid and about the lack of vaccination on our common border, concerns about a humanitarian situation which is arising from food shortages,” said Jaishankar, adding, “where we are concerned, we don’t follow a policy of national sanctions”.

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