A disheartening press briefing on December 3rd from Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
The discussion was called “U.S. Foreign Policy Priorities
in South and Central Asia.”
Below is everything that she had to say about Myanmar. No one from
the audience had questions on this topic. The word “Rohingya” was not mentioned. My highlights are in yellow.
We’d like to
see a region that is much more interconnected, and I think we have a historic
opportunity with two key transitions that are underway in the region – the one
in Afghanistan and the one
in Myanmar. Myanmar is not under my area of responsibility, but it
affects greatly the opportunities that the countries of South Asia have in
terms of, for the first time, being able to see a South Asia and a Southeast
Asia join together in trade and commerce. And similarly, as we see the
political security and economic transition ahead for Afghanistan, there’s a
tremendous opportunity to see the countries of Central Asia connect in trade
and commerce to the countries of South Asia.
When President Obama talks about the rebalance to Asia, this is fundamentally the
vision that he’s talking about – the vision of an Asian landscape that is bound together in trade and
commerce, a vision of an integrated trade landscape. And I often talk
about the fact that the Asian Development Bank has put out this study – and
other studies corroborate – that Asian economies have the potential in the
coming decades to comprise 50 percent of global GDP. Now, that’s not a
probability, but that is definitely a possibility.
And to make
that possibility become a reality, the countries of the region need to address
challenges of inclusive
growth, of improved governance, of combating corruption, of diversifying their
economies, and engaging in investing in the citizens of their countries.
These are all areas that the United States stands ready to work
shoulder-to-shoulder with the countries of Asia to ensure that that vision of
Asian prosperity and Asia’s role in creating a shared prosperity around the
globe is realized.
Already, we’re working with our partners in the
region on major energy trade customs and people-to-people projects that support
that connectivity . . ..
Similarly, as I had noted, the political
transition in Myanmar creates an enormous opportunity to connect India,
Bangladesh, the countries of South Asia, to the countries of Southeast Asia.
So the message from this
address is that the US supports increased trade with Myanmar, so it hopes
Myanmar gets stronger economically. And
it so happens that economic strength is more attainable when all groups are
involved, and governments treat their citizens fairly. But addressing serious human
rights abuses solely because persecution
is inherently wrong does not appear to be part of this agenda . . .