Indian Prime Minister Modi will visit Myanmar next week after the BRICS Summit, with some wondering whether this is really about his country's "Act East" policy of ASEAN engagement or a sly move to "contain China". In all reality, it could actually be both, since these two imperatives weigh heavily on India's foreign policy. About the first one, Premier Modi is known for rebranding his country's former policy of "Look East" to "Act East" in order to emphasize New Delhi's newfound assertiveness in reconnecting with its ancient civilizational domain in Southeast Asia. The flagship project of this initiative is the Trilateral Highway that India is building between its Northeastern States, Myanmar, and Thailand, which in turn could then connect to a series of East-West transport projects in the Greater Mekong Subregion spearheaded by Japan. Altogether, the Indo-Japanese infrastructure plans might end up forming a crucial component of their joint "Asia-Africa Growth Corridor", also known as the "Freedom Corridor".
About the second foreign policy driver, "containing China", this is also very important for India nowadays, notwithstanding the recent de-escalation in the Donglang Plateau, also known as Doklam, and the two Asian Great Powers' shared interests in reforming the global economic and financial systems through BRICS. On the geopolitical front, India and China appear to many observers, and even their own countrymen themselves, as being serious competitors with one another, whether in their shared border region or even further abroad across the greater Indo-Pacific region as a whole. With this in mind, Premier Modi's upcoming moves in Myanmar take on an added significance, since it could be that India wants to wrestle influence away from China in this crucial coastal state between them. China recently opened up two oil and gas pipelines which connect its landlocked southwestern region of Yunnan with the Indian Ocean via Myanmar and its port of Kyaukphyu, so there are certainly dueling interests involved here.
Having explained all of this, if India and China reach a "New Détente" with one another during the upcoming BRICS Summit in Xiamen, then there's a chance that they could revive the moribund Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar, or BRICM, economic corridor between them and replace their rivalry with the ultimate win-win solution.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Roger Wee, Singaporean businessman who has been living in China for the past 20+ years, and Feroze Mithiborwala, international peace activist and an expert on West Asia.
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