One of Sullivan’s readers wrote

Although I despise Bush, I have to confess admiration for his unequivocal statements against the junta and in support of the protesters.  It’s more than can be said for Russia, China, and India.  One should expect this kind of thing from Russia and China I suppose, but India, the nation which invented modern civil disobedience, should know better [bold mine-DL].

Mr. Bush can afford to be unequivocally opposed to the Burmese government.  There are absolutely no American interests tied up in Burma, no Americans currently residing there, so far as I know, and therefore no real consequences for the United States or American citizens if Mr. Bush takes an “unequivocal” position.  As it happens, and bearing in mind my views about the uselessness of sanctions in general, I think Mr. Bush is taking the right line on this.  Of course, it costs him nothing to take an “unequivocal” line and his wife’s strong personal interest in Burma (which sometimes veers into embarrassing condescension) probably has something to do with it as well.  It is sheer symbolism, but I suppose if you are reduced to symbolism you might as well symbolically oppose the junta. 

For once, we seem to be seeing a spontaneous, non-Sorosian popular uprising.  We can tell the difference between the fake and the genuine article right away–in Burma there is not an officially approved and media-anointed oligarch waiting to take power as “leader of glorious revolution.”  Despite some attempts to dub this the “saffron revolution,” because of the colour of the monks’ robes, it has not become the Saffron Revolution in media reporting in the same way that the non-revolutions elsewhere became endorsed movements complete with capitalised names.  Unlike the generally fraudulent “colour” revolutions (each one of which has been shown to be nothing of the kind), the monks have evidently not developed a media strategy, have not been influenced by meddling NGOs or co-opted by foreign money.  It does not seem to be stage-managed and pre-fabricated for Western media consumption.  The lack of organisation and coordination among Western and other democracies suggests that the events have actually taken them by surprise, rather than being rolled out like a new consumer product.  Unlike in Kyrgyzstan, this uprising does not seem to be an attempt to displace one clan with another.  [Correction: Apparently, I am too gullible about all of this.]             

Then there is this reader’s remark about India, which brings me back to the title of this post.  You will have seen many articles mentioning how China, India and the ASEAN nations have been reaping a windfall from the sanctions imposed on Burma by Western nations, and in opinion pieces this fact is usually glossed with a comment about how “even” people from democratic India have been investing in Burma.  As a matter of economic and political realism, this is to be expected.  Indians are going to do business with their neighbours, including Burma, just as all states almost have to do business with the states that border them.  As a result of having economic ties to neighbouring states, a government cannot easily denounce a neighbouring government with the intensity of those who have nothing at stake.  It is pretty easy to track any given state’s economic and political connections to petty despotates around the world by the intensity of the criticism and punishment meted out to the latter.  The major powers all have connections with regimes that are more or less like this (though SLORC has always been exceptionally awful), and so outrage at a regime’s misconduct is usually inversely proportional to the intensity of ties between the two states.  Nothing surprising there, but it’s worth bearing in mind when judging the official responses of different governments. 

However, many people in India do “know better,” so to speak, and I expect that the opposition parties are making great hay out of the Congress-led government’s general inaction and meek statements about the protests.  As a matter of fact, yes, they are, and they have been joined by some Congress MPs as well.  For convenience, we all use the name of a country when we are referring to its government.  This can sometimes give the impression that a majority of the country is in agreement with the official position of the government, which is almost never the case.  So, the next time you see someone say that “India” is doing this or that in relation to Burma, do remember that a great many people in India are urging their government to take the side of the protesters.  Of course, it is always easy for the party (or parties) out of power to make demands for action to which they, were they in office, would never yield.   

Update: It’s not much, but good for Thailand and ASEAN:

Thailand and the Association Of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have demanded that Burma stop using violence against demonstrators and voiced ‘’revulsion'’ at the killings in Rangoon. The strong position against Burma, also an Asean member country, was delivered by Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.