Monday, September 14, 2009

China and West need coordinated approach on Burma: ICG

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - With Beijing having limited influence over Burma’s military rulers, the West needs to find a way to work together with China to push for changes in the Southeast Asian nation, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a new report.

The ICG, a non-profit group working in conflict areas around the world, in a new report “China’s Myanmar Dilemma” said Beijing’s influence over Burma is often overstated while it is limited, and may not be able to deter the junta from attacking ethnic armed rebels along its border with China.

“The insular and nationalistic generals do not take orders from anyone, including Beijing,” said Robert Templer, ICG’s Asia Program Director, in a statement on Monday.

“By continuing to simply expect China to take the lead in solving the problem, a workable international approach to Myanmar will remain elusive,” Templer added.

The ICG also warned that China, which is known to have influence over Burmese generals, might not be able to deter the junta from launching yet another attack on ethnic armed rebels long its border with China.

The late August offensive against the Kokang rebels in Burma’s North-eastern Shan State, which resulted in the influx of about 30,000 refugees into China, according to the ICG, is an indication of the limited influence of China on the Burmese junta.

“Beijing was not even forewarned about the late August raid against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Kokang ceasefire group,” the ICG said.

Should the junta launch attacks against the Wa and the Kachin rebels, China would have to deal with another humanitarian crisis on its border, and “yet it is unclear whether Beijing will be able to dissuade the generals from undertaking further offensive,’ the ICG said.

“Both Chinese and international policies towards Myanmar [Burma] deserve careful reassessment,” said Donald Steinberg, ICG’s Deputy President for Policy in the statement.

“An effective international approach also requires a united front by regional actors as well as multilateral institutions such as ASEAN and the UN,” he added.

Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt, North East Asia Project Director of the ICG, in an email interview with Mizzima said, the Burmese junta balances the influence of China as well as other countries with its non-alignment foreign policy and multilateralism.

“It is not a matter of simply using one country to check the influence of another. The [Burmese] government uses this relationship just as it uses its ties with other Asian countries - to prevent any one country from gaining too much influence,” Kleine-Ahlbrandt said.

But in the absence of coordinated regional or UN response, Kleine-Ahlbrandt said, the stalemate will continue and “from China's perspective, not only is instability on the border a serious concern, but if this situation continues, it will certainly negatively impact Yunnan’s trade and economic development.”

While China shares the aspiration for a stable and prosperous Burma, it differs from the West on how to achieve these goals. The ICG said, in order to bring Beijing on board, the international community will need to pursue a plausible strategy that takes advantage of areas of common interest as well as China’s actual level of influence.

“The West should emphasise to China the unsustainable nature of its current policies and continue to apply pressure in the Security Council and other fora,” the group said, adding that at the same time, international pressure should not exclude other regional states pursuing their own narrowly defined self interests in Burma.

Burma Newscasts - China and West need coordinated approach on Burma: ICG
Monday, 14 September 2009 20:20

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