Mekong – Lancang Cooperation

GS Paper – 2,3 India and its Neighbourhood, Groupings & Agreements Involving India.

Why in the news?

  • Myanmar’s military government just conducted the first high-level regional gathering since the Army seized power in 2021.

What Information Do We Have About the Meeting?

  • The meeting was attended by China’s Foreign Minister and equivalents from Mekong Delta countries.
  • China’s Foreign Minister, along with counterparts from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, attended the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Group meeting.
  • It was hosted in Bagan, Myanmar’s principal city and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • The meeting’s topic was “Solidarity for Peace and Prosperity.”

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Mekong-Lancang Cooperation?


  • The grouping is a Chinese-led initiative that includes the countries in the Mekong Delta, which might be a source of regional tensions due to an increasing number of hydroelectric projects that disrupt the flow and raise worries about environmental harm.


  • China has constructed ten dams along the upper Mekong, known as the Lancang.
  • China has been chastised for the dams built upstream on the Mekong River, which impact water levels and downstream fisheries vital to the economies of several Southeast Asian countries.

What Do We Know About Myanmar’s Military Takeover?


  • Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won the majority of seats in the November 2020 legislative election.
  • According to the 2008 military-drafted constitution, the military holds 25% of the total seats in Myanmar’s Parliament, and some key ministry positions are also allocated for military appointees.
  • When freshly elected Myanmar parliamentarians were set to convene their first session of Parliament in 2021, the military declared a one-year rule of emergency, citing widespread electoral fraud in the legislative elections.

The Indian response to the coup:

  • India supports Myanmar’s democratic transition process.
  • Despite India’s great worry about the developments in Myanmar, shutting off access to the Myanmar military is not a viable option because India has important economic and strategic interests in Myanmar and its neighbours.

What are India’s relations with Myanmar like?

Myanmar’s Importance to India:

  • Myanmar is strategically important to India since it is located at the crossroads of India and Southeast Asia.
  • Myanmar is the only Southeast Asian country with a land border with India’s northeast.
  • Myanmar is the only country that sits at the crossroads of India’s “Neighborhood First” and “Act East” policies.
  • India built the Sittwe port in Myanmar’s Rakhine state as part of its SAGAR Vision.
  • The port is intended to be India’s response to the Chinese-backed Kyaukpyu port, which is designed to consolidate China’s geostrategic footprint in Rakhine.

India’s involvement in projects Includes:

  • The 160-kilometer-long Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo route is being upgraded and resurfaced.
  • The completion of an Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) project for high-speed data link in 32 Myanmar cities.
  • Myanmar’s energy sector is dominated by ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL), Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), and ESSAR.

India and Myanmar are members of the following organisations:

  • Mekong Ganga Cooperation

Why Should India Be Concerned About the Meeting?

  • China’s presence in Myanmar and developing ties between China and Myanmar are major concerns for India, which shares a 1600-kilometer border with Myanmar.
  • Since the coup, China’s economic hold on Myanmar has tightened, with a particular emphasis on projects important to the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.
  • Furthermore, the deadly attack on an Assam Rifles convoy near the Myanmar border in November 2021 served as a reminder of China’s predilection for causing problems in the Northeast.

What Should India’s Strategy Be Going Forward?

Diplomatic Cultural Relations:

  • Through the prism of Buddhism, India’s cultural diplomacy can be used to develop connections with Myanmar.
  • The “Buddhist Circuit” plan in India, which aims to quadruple international visitor arrivals by connecting historic Buddhist heritage sites across several Indian states, could resonate with Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
  • This could also help India’s diplomatic goodwill and trust with Buddhist-majority countries like Myanmar.

Resolving the Rohingya Crisis:

  • The sooner the Rohingya issue is settled, the easier it will be for India to manage its relations with Myanmar and Bangladesh, focusing on bilateral and subregional economic cooperation instead.

Other Metrics:

  • India should continue to engage with Myanmar’s current leadership in order to mutually benefit the peoples of both countries.
  • It should encourage the sharing of experiences in constitutionalism and federalism in order to aid Myanmar in resolving the current impasse.


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