Myanmar Coup d'état: Australian "Wolfpack" Lobby Groups vs. Adani
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Myanmar Coup d'état: Australian "Wolfpack" Lobby Groups vs. Adani

By Rose McReid


Myanmar Coup d'état: Australian "Wolfpack" Lobby Groups vs. Adani

A couple of months ago, an article was written by an Indian geopolitical professor Dr. Sitakanta Mishra, titled - "The difficulty of being a rising power"; where he discussed "Status Immobility" in international politics in context to India's rise as a global economic powerhouse. In any developed or any developing country, the economic clout is depicted by industrial houses and big corporations. Often, we can find these different types of big corporations do influence the industrial development of the whole country and a region surrounding that country. As long as the geopolitical matters are pointing towards the north, nobody will have any kind of problems. But, one single chaotic event such as the Myanmar coup d'état - a powder keg of geopolitical, and macroeconomic instability (which, taken together, we can call it a basket of geostrategic risks) - can directly affect the regional partners, global investors, and those companies who are involved in doing business in the country.

 

So, we all do accept the above-mentioned "plain-in-sight" narrative i.e., there is a problem and we desperately need a solution. But, this particular narrative starts getting distorted when certain vested interests start twisting the facts to target one particular country and its companies. And, in Myanmar's current turmoil, the target is India and the Adani Group. 

 

Since 2011, Myanmar is always in a transition mode when reforms began and the junta stepped aside to make way for a quasi-civilian regime dominated by former generals. Since coming to power in 2011, the civilian government led by President Thein Sein (a retired general) has improved relations with the West while reducing its dependence on long-time backer China. Just over a year after Thein Sein became president the European Union suspended sanctions, and the US agreed to lift some of its restrictions.

 

Later, the 2015 Myanmar general elections were seen as a crucial test of the credibility of those reforms. Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the election which they have fought since they swept the 1990 polls. The then-junta ignored the result. However, the current constitution bars Suu Kyi from running for presidential office, due to the foreign nationality of immediate members of her family. 

 

With Myanmar's opening for global business, many foreign entities lined up to participate to take the risk and to reap the potential rewards which they assumed to be quite substantial. And, why not? Myanmar possesses an abundant supply of natural resources. According to Myanmar government officials, the country has the world’s 10th largest natural gas reserves, estimated at over 90 trillion cubic feet, and whilst many commentators dispute the accuracy of these figures, the presence of Australian (Woodside Energy), French (TotalCCI France Myanmar), Anglo-Dutch (Shell) and US (Chevron, Schlumberger) energy companies, despite the continuing sanctions in place, clearly indicates the seriousness with which Myanmar’s oil and gas reserves are being taken. Myanmar is also endowed with other significant resources, including timber, minerals, precious stones, fisheries, and agricultural products.

 

Last week, India drew flak from pro-democracy and anti-junta groups in Myanmar for being the only real democratic country to send a representative to the Armed Forces Day parade. And, just after this development, a compromised group of media representatives (in Australia) shifted their target towards the Adani Group by raising questions related to its business dealings with the current Myanmarese government. The group is involved in the under-construction Carmichael coal project, situated in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland, which has been approved by the Queensland and federal governments. If that's the case, then the same group should also question Myanmar Metals, Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto developed the Monywa complex (which is now operated by Wanbao, a subsidiary of Chinese weapons maker Norinco), BlueScope Steel, and many other Australian firms which have also invested through holding companies in Singapore. Just because corporations are operating in Myanmar does not mean they are having direct ties to having military-owned businesses or funding military operations against democratic protestors.  

 

The further allegations (Myanmar coup) against Adani Group are raised by the Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ), known for environmental and human rights activism down under. It is a part of a wolfpack lobby group which single-outs Adani businesses (most of the time) in the guise of any local or international environmental events and tries to polarize the outcome. But, do note, Adani’s current investment in Myanmar bolsters India's Look East Policy. Besides Adani Group, about 100 other Indian companies are operating in Myanmar with investments of over $1.2 billion which includes India's state-owned energy company ONGC, Jubilant Oil and Gas, Century Ply, Tata Motors, Essar Energy, RITES, Escorts, Sonalika Tractors, Zydus Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Sun Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Ranbaxy, Cadila Healthcare Ltd, Shree Balaji Enterprises, Shree Cements, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, CIPLA, Gati Shipping Ltd, TCI Seaways, Apollo and AMRI. According to the former Indian ambassador to Myanmar, Rajiv Bhatia, "India understands the distribution of power in Myanmar,"  India is likely to re-adopt the policy which was formulated in the 1990s to deal with Myanmar which extends moral support for democracy while dealing respectfully with the Myanmar military.

 

Now, as far as, Sr. General Min Aung Hlaing's 2019 India visit is concerned. Despite the American sanctions imposed at that time, he was officially hosted by the Government of India under the existing bilateral relations between these two countries. The visit included a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a visit to Eastern Naval Command headquarters in Vishakhapatnam, National Defence Academy in Maharashtra, and Adani's Mundra port in Gujarat. Now, singling out one particular pitstop out of the overall itinerary is nothing but a full-fledged smear campaign to malign the corporate image of Adani Group. 

 

It's high time for India's global partners (including the Quad members) to acknowledge the accelerating shift from ever-expanding globalization toward rising regionalization of the global economic and political systems. For India, Myanmar is just not part of its internal security apparatus but also a major player in its Look East Policy, which is an effort to cultivate extensive economic and strategic relations with the nations of Southeast Asia. On the other hand, India's investment in Australia are primarily driven by the former's energy needs. Despite the cancellation of Australia-India Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), the trade between these two countries has seen positive growth. But, such growth needs a conducive environment that the Australian administration needs to understand and accept in the first place. 

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