Preet Malik, the former Indian ambassador to Myanmar, says the country presents a 'strategic opportunity' for India and China.
In his recently published memoirs “My Myanmar years - A Diplomat’s Account of India’s Relations with the Region”, Malik says, “the external relations of Myanmar shall continue to rest on the poles of China and India as its great and immediate neighbouring powers hold the significant capacity to contribute to its economy and institutional development.”
Malik says the US, Japan and ASEAN will be the three other 'poles' for Myanmar's foreign relations.
He said that by trying to develop Myanmar, both India and China can improve the lot of its people in frontier regions, some of them in ferment.
“For India, the development of infrastructure and economic links for its north-eastern region with Myanmar and through Myanmar are of great strategic importance,” Malik says in his 200-page memoirs.
He says the development of Sittwe port and the Kaladan Multi-modal project was hugely significant to the development of the Northeast, especially because Rakhine state and its coast were rich in hydrocarbons.
Malik says China has similar interests in developing Myanmar because the country could help connect its populous south-west especially its 'bridgehead' Yunnan province to the sea.
Myanmar could help China reduce its dependence on the Malacca straits for its exports and imports, especially oil imports, he says.
Malik says that after decades of doing business and supporting the military junta, Chinese diplomacy in Myanmar faced the challenge of having to deal with a much broader range of stakeholders.
“But this does not mean Myanmar has reduced its overall dependence on China or that it could afford to ignore China's strategic interests,” said Malik.
But he believes that Myanmar's open-door engagement with the world provides it with a wider range of options to avoid over-dependence on China.
The Indian diplomat is trying to drive home that some kind of a competition is inevitable, India and China could pursue a pragmatic agenda of developing the country together.
Regional groupings like the BCIM that includes both India and China, Myanmar and its neighbour Bangladesh, may hold the key to such a pragmatic agenda.