Wednesday, December 11, 2013

We knew the US' foreign policy with respect to Myanmar . . . it's just sad to see it spelled out

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 . . .

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