Foreign Policy of the Union of Myanmar

Since Myanmar regained her independence from the British in 1948 she chose to pursue an active and independent foreign policy from the very beginning. She left the British Commonwealth and adopted a neutral and later a non-aligned policy throughout the Cold War period. In pursuance of such a policy she has been accorded some pluses mainly enabling her to stay out of the regional conflicts. The minuses are that she has neither developed capitalist nor communist alliances. When Myanmar became a socialist country after the end of its parliamentary era the Western World regarded her as a pro-communist state while the Socialist World upheld her as a sort of a pseudo socialist country. During this period Myanmar more or less stayed away from the regional and international crisis with doors partly closed eventually leading her to a self-imposed seclusion in pursuit of her own ideals.

Emergence of Foreign Policy

A State attains some of its national objectives by adopting and implementing its domestic policies. However as it is interrelated with other states, it becomes necessary to adopt policies that would persuade other states to react favorably. To attain such objectives, a state needs to establish diplomatic relations with other states and work in concert towards joint resolutions and cooperative implementations of common issues. The conduct of such relations in a systematic and consistent manner is said to be the Foreign Policy of a State. Both domestic and Foreign Policies are intended to attain objectives of national interest. They are interrelated and mutually reinforcing.

To study the Foreign Policy of a State it is necessary to observe the basic objectives of its policy or its fundamental strategy. In adopting a Foreign Policy, States usually adopt one of the following principles:-

    (a)    isolationism

    (b)    non-alignment

    (c)    polarization

Myanmar, since achieving independence, and for quite some time thereafter, adopted and practiced an “independent”and “non-aligned” Foreign Policy. Evolution of the objectives of this policy may be observed as follows-

At the time of Myanmar’s independence, the international system has an Eastern and Western bloc, between which a “Cold War” was raging. It was also the time when colonial nations were regaining their independence. These newly independent states were in favour of adopting “independent” Foreign Policies,” “independent”in the sense of being totally free of outside influence.

For Myanmar, which wrested independence with great difficulty, only an “independent” Foreign Policy was congruent with independence.

Concurrently with independence, Myanmar faced an internal insurgency and therefore wished to avoid a disastrous contention on its soil between the Eastern and Western blocs. Hence it wished to be non-aligned between the two great blocs.

At the time of independence, it was essential to prioritize on economic and social reconstruction. It was declared at that time that foreign assistance , without any strings attached from both sides, will be accepted.

As Myanmar is geographically situated between two highly populous nations, India and China, it desired to be independent and non-aligned.

For the above mentioned reasons Myanmar consistently practiced an Independent and non-aligned Foreign Policy.

Independent and Active Foreign Policy

Beginning in 1971 Myanmar transformed its independent and non-aligned Foreign Policy to an independent and active Foreign Policy. The State Law and Order Restoration Council , by its Declaration 3/88 of 18.9.88 promulgated that it would continue to adhere to the independent and active foreign policy. In practicing its Independent and Active Foreign Policy, Myanmar will not align itself with any bloc on international issues except to consistently stand on the side that is right. Myanmar also actively participates in activities for world peace; opposes war, imperialism and colonialism; and maintains friendly relations with all countries.

Myanmar practices the Independent and Active Foreign Policy in accordance with the following principles:

The Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence

In 1954 Myanmar, China and India, during Chinese Premier Chou En Lai’s visit to India and Myanmar expounded the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. Accordingly, on 28.6.1954 China and India signed in New Delhi and on 29.6.1954 Myanmar and China signed in Yangon, agreements to adhere to these Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. The Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence are:

The above Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence still steadfastly remain the main cornerstone of Myanmar Foreign Policy.

In matters of world affairs and international issues, in line with the principles and purposes of the United Nations and on the basis of the principles of Peaceful Co-existence, Myanmar has acted as follows;



Prepared by THAN TUN WIN, Embassy of the Union of Myanmar , Brussels