A “Secular ISIL” Rises In Southeast Asia By Andrew KORYBKO

A triad of Great Power interests intersects in the confined area of the India-Myanmar border, and each actor has differing objectives, motivations, and apprehensions. When one includes Myanmar itself into the foray, a ‘quarrelling quartet’ of contradictory trajectories emerges:


Internal Balancing

Beginning with the country most adversely affected by domestic and foreign militancy (as well as the subject of the three Great Powers’ intrigues), Naypyidaw is in the midst of a very dangerous internal and external balancing act. On the home front, it’s struggling to manage an extraordinarily sensitive truce between the myriad rebel groups fighting against it. General elections are planned for early November, and Myanmar’s new Western partners will be observantly watching to make sure that it goes according to their subjectively determined expectations, and any internal turmoil prior to the vote could ‘discredit’ it or result in its delay. Both of these scenarios would see the West serve harsh rebukes and thinly veiled economic and political threats to Myanmar, which the country’s authorities are keen to avoid at this moment, thus bringing one to the topic of the international tightrope that it’s currently walking.

External Balancing

Myanmar used to be closely aligned with China during its ‘pariah period’ from 1989-2011, during which the West sanctioned the military-led government for its supposedly ‘undemocratic’ nature and sought to isolate it in all possible ways. This inevitably drove it closer to China, which never harbors any reservations about its potential partners’ domestic policies, and led to the development of extremely fruitful relations between the two. However, Myanmar may have moved too close to China in the sense that it entered into a visibly unbalanced material relationship with it that began to draw the locals’ ire. Citizens in the far-flung and rebel-influenced (and at times, rebel-held) territories became enraged that their material wealth was being exported in exchange for scarcely any compensation, thus generating a simmering social conflict that threatened to erupt into larger, perhaps militant, manifestations.

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