India issues strongest condemnation yet of Myanmar violence

India on Friday issued its strongest condemnation yet of the Myanmar junta’s escalating crackdown against protesters, calling for the restoration of democracy and an end to violence across its eastern border.

India — which rivals China for regional influence — had so far not followed other international powers’ outright rejection of the February 1 coup in Myanmar that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But New Delhi’s foreign ministry Friday appeared to take a stronger line, condemning “any use of violence” and urging Myanmar to release the hundreds of political prisoners now languishing in the country’s jails.

“We believe that the rule of law should prevail. We stand for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar,” Arindam Bagchi, the foreign ministry spokesman, told a media briefing.

India is ready to play a “balanced and constructive role” to resolve the crisis, he added.

“We have urged the release of political prisoners and support any attempts at resolving the current situation including through the efforts of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).”

Delhi is “engaged” in international efforts on Myanmar, Bagchi said, including at the UN Security Council, where India is a non-permanent member.

India has long sought to build closer ties with Myanmar in a bid to counter China’s influence and has invested in projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. 

But that stand has been tested as violence has ramped-up and scores of Myanmar police and their families have fled into two northeastern border states.

One of the states involved, Mizoram, this week withdrew an order to refuse food and shelter to the refugees amid fierce public criticism of the move.

The government also came under criticism after an Indian defence attache attended a Myanmar Armed Forces Day military parade in Naypyitaw last week — the same day that at least 107 people — including seven children — were killed as security forces opened fire on anti-coup protesters.

The spokesman said it was part of the “regular diplomatic responsibilities” of the Indian embassy in Myanmar.