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America’s Myanmar Policy Is All Wrong

China’s rapidly growing footprint in Myanmar is America’s strategic loss, and it is the direct result of America's own policies. Rather than closing the door on dialogue by imposing stringent sanctions, the United States should be co-opting Myanmar's military leaders for its own strategic benefit.

NEW DELHI – A recent joint statement by US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “expressed deep concern about the deteriorating situation in Myanmar,” and called for a constructive dialogue to aid the country’s transition toward an inclusive federal democratic system. Unfortunately, the US-led sanctions policy has undercut this goal and made a bad situation worse.

While inflicting misery on Myanmar’s ordinary citizens, Western sanctions have left the ruling military elites relatively unscathed, giving the junta little incentive to loosen its political grip. The primary beneficiary has been China, which has been allowed to expand its foothold in a country that it values as a strategic gateway to the Indian Ocean and an important source of natural resources.

This development has amplified regional security challenges. For example, Chinese military personnel are now helping to build a listening post on Myanmar’s Great Coco Island, which lies just north of India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the home to the Indian military’s only tri-service command. Once operational, this new spy station will likely assist China’s maritime surveillance of India, including by monitoring nuclear submarine movements and tracking tests of missiles that often splash down in the Bay of Bengal.

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