Manipal, India — Over the past weeks, there has been a rising drumbeat of criticism from both sides of the Atlantic about the generals in Myanmar. After considerable behind-the-scenes U.S.-EU pressure, there have been bleats from the two biggest neighbors of that country, India and China, about the need for the generals to rein themselves in. However, neither they nor ASEAN is likely to adopt the U.S.-EU policy of isolation and sanctions.
While China and ASEAN each have their own special reasons for restraint, they also share several in common with India, including the belief that the Gordon Brown style of moral declamation has more than a trace of hypocrisy in it.
For starters, Myanmar is hardly the only military dictatorship in the vicinity. Both Bangladesh and Pakistan are ruled by generals who have assumed total power through coups against elected governments. Why the people of Myanmar alone should have freedom from military rule and not those of Pakistan and Bangladesh remains a mystery.
Few would fault the oft-expressed wish of Western capitals that the people of Myanmar should be given the government of their choice. Yet why such a preference is not made with equal emphasis -- or indeed any visible emphasis -- in the case of, for example, the 1.3 billion people of China or the Myanmar-sized population of Saudi Arabia, remains obscure, except to foreign policy experts in the NATO capitals.