Footsteps of China and India on Arakan in Post-Coup Myanmar

Executive Summary

Rakhine State, historically known as Arakan has been a center of international and regional attention due to its strategic location with abundant natural resources in addition to the images of well-noticed armed and communal violence in recent years. The two regional powers with the world’s first and second largest populations, namely China and India, have focused on the area for their strategic keynotes regarding regional and international trade, transportation, and communication. Since before the military seizure of power in a coup in Myanmar, China has invested heavily in the area, such as the implementation of oil and gas pipelines and, currently, the construction of the Kyaukpyu deep-sea ports to provide a vital link between China's Yunnan Province and the Indian Ocean and the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) which consists of industrial and residential parks along with other modern facilities. China has therefore been protecting its investments and strategic interests in the region by maintaining its relations with multiple stakeholders, including the Myanmar government, the Arakan Army (AA), and other ethnic armed groups.

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It has been involved in mediation efforts between the Myanmar government and the ethnic armed groups to maintain stability and secure its interests in post- coup Myanmar. India's approach to Rakhine State has otherwise been primarily focused on the construction of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project for strengthening its transportation and communication between mainland India and its northeast states and countering China's influence in the region. India's Kaladan Project aims to connect India's northeast region to Myanmar's coast and beyond, reducing India's dependence on the vulnerable Siliguri Corridor. The focus of India's policy toward the region was based mainly on building good relations with the government of the country, and now with the regime. It didn’t have good ties with local stakeholders, including AA, in the first place. There are nevertheless some visible changes in the approach of the Delhi government after the coup by diversifying its relations between both regime and local stakeholders as this could help the pragmatic movement of its mega-project.

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The CAS is an independent, non-partisan and research-oriented group conducting research and analyzing issues related to Arakan/Rakhine affairs.

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