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Foreign Policy of the Union of Myanmar:

A Brief Overview
Introduction
Myanmar, on gaining its independence on 4 January 1948, declared
that it would pursue a policy of positive neutrality. It is a policy based on the
objective analysis of internal situation, domestic priorities, international situation as
well as its geographical consideration. It is a policy which is founded on the belief
that Myanmar's national interests as well as the interests of world peace and
security would be best served by standing on the side of justice in international
issues, and by refusing to be aligned with any group or power bloc. Myanmar views
each issue according to its merits and in keeping with its own national interests. It
then takes a just and independent stand based on the objective evaluation of the
issue in question.
The foreign policy of a country does not develop on its own or in a
vacuum. Both internal and external factors, internal and external considerations play
a part in the formulation of foreign policy and the development of Myanmar's foreign
policy is no exception. Independent sovereign states adopt foreign policy to protect
and promote the national interest in their relations with other independent countries.
Myanmar's diplomacy is therefore designed to further its national interests in the
international arena.

It is therefore aimed at ensuring its national policy of Three Main


National Causes of Non-disintegration of the Union, Non-disintegration of the
National solidarity and Perpetuation of Sovereignty. Myanmar's foreign activities are
also intended for the successful fulfillment of the 12 National Objectives in the
political, economic and social spheres. It seeks to create an international
environment that would contribute to the fulfillment of its aim of transforming the
nation into a peaceful, modern and developed State.
Myanmar Foreign Policy: Basic Principles
The foreign policy of Myanmar since the time of its independence in
1948, shows both continuity and change. While Myanmar's foreign policy remains
steadfastly consistent with regard to its fundamental principles and beliefs, it has
also successfully adapted to changing time and circumstances.
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What are the major fundamental principles and beliefs of Myanmar's


foreign policy?
Myanmar strives to maintain friendly ties with all the countries of the
world, particularly with our immediate neighbours and with countries in our region,
based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, the principles which
Myanmar together with India and the People's Republic of China, in 1954
expounded.
Myanmar firmly believes in these Five Principles of Peaceful Co-
existence and has consistently abided by them. These principles are:
- Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and
sovereignty;
- Non-aggression;
- Non-interference in each other's internal affairs;
- Equality and mutual benefit; and
- Peaceful settlement of disputes.
These principles form one of the main pillars of Myanmar's foreign
policy. It is a source of satisfaction that although it is now nearly 50 years since the
promulgation of these principles, they remain valid today even as they were when
first promulgated. It may be recalled that they were incorporated into the Ten
Principles laid down at the 1955 Bandung Conference of Afro-Asian States, which in
turn led to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement. Although these principles
have found universal acceptance as the fundamental principles of the code of
conduct among nations of the world, regrettably some nations, particularly the big
powers continue to flaunt them, time and again.
We also believe firmly in the principles enshrined in the Charter of the
United Nations especially, the provisions in the Charter which guarantee the
deterrence of aggression among nations. Myanmar, therefore, became a member of
the United Nations on 19 April 1948 and since then, we have tried to play our part to
promote world peace and security and for the progress and development of nations.
The UN system may have flaws and weaknesses but it still remains the only
international organization that can contribute to world peace and security as well as
economic and social development of its members. It is all the more regrettable that
in recent years, some big nations have undermined the UN system for their own
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interests. Indeed, when it serves their purpose, they have either ignored the UN or
abuse of the UN system for their own ends.
Myanmar today practices an independent and active foreign policy.
The basic principles of Myanmar's independent and active foreign policy are:
- respect for equality among peoples and among nations and the
upholding of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence;
- taking a non-aligned, independent and just stand in international
issues;
- maintaining friendly relations with all nations, and good neighbourly
relations with neighbouring states;
- the continued support of , and active participation in the United
Nations and its subsidiary organizations;
- the pursuance of mutually beneficial bilateral and multilateral
cooperation programmes;
- regional consultation and beneficial cooperation in regional economic
and social affairs;
- active participation in the maintenance of world peace and security,
opposition to imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, interference,
aggression and domination of one state by another and the creation of
equitable economic conditions;
- acceptance of foreign aid which is of beneficial to national
development with no strings attached.
Historical Perspective
If one looks at the development in Myanmar, one would see that
Myanmar has since independence passed through internal political changes but
successive governments have found the wisdom to maintain the policy of positive
neutrality.
The Revolutionary Council, which assumed the state's responsibilities
in 1962, continued to follow the policy of positive neutrality.
In 1970s Myanmar's foreign policy of positive neutrality became to be
known as an independent foreign policy. The change in terminology was only to
reflect the way Myanmar's foreign policy was being implemented in accordance with
the changing conditions in the world. It did not mean abandonment of the basic
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principles of foreign policy nor it meant forsaking the firm belief in the principles of
peaceful co-existence.
The Burma Socialist Programme Party government which succeeded
the Revolutionary Council also continued to abide by these basic principles. In
August 1981, it proclaimed Myanmar's foreign policy as an independent and active
foreign policy reflecting the intention and determination to actively pursue the
principles and objectives of the independent foreign policy we had pursued.
The State Law and Order Restoration Council in assuming the
responsibilities of the State on 18 September 1988 declared that Myanmar would
continue to practice an independent and active foreign policy. On 11 November
1988 a further announcement was made stating that there would be no change in
the country's foreign policy and that in accordance with the Five Principles of
Peaceful Co-existence, friendly ties would be maintained with all countries.
Today, the State Peace and Development Council continues to pursue
the independent and active policy.
Recent Developments
Both the world and Myanmar has undergone fundamental changes
since 1988. Following the assumption of responsibilities in 1988, the State Law and
Order Restoration Council had introduced and implemented fundamental reforms in
political, economic, social and administrative spheres. As mentioned above, the
change of direction in the country has also led to new emphasis and priorities in
Myanmar's external relations.
On the other hand, the world has also undergone basic
transformations with the end of the Cold War. The underlying concept of
international relations since the end of the second World War changed dramatically,
bringing with it new challenges and new prospects. The time of ideological conflict
between two opposing blocs have given way to the emergence of new issues
relating not only to politics but also to socio-economic fields. The bipolar world has
given way to the emergence of a unipolar world with a dominating superpower. The
new international order based on universal acceptance of the value of justice,
equality and rule of international law is still to be realized. Attempts are being made
by a group of nations to impose their ideology, system and values on other countries
without giving due attention to their specific conditions. In place of ideology, new
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issues such as human rights, environment, narcotics as well as economic


imbalances have risen to the fore.
While maintaining the basic principles that have withstood the test of
time, the foreign policy of Myanmar must adapt to the changing domestic and
international situation and priorities.
Myanmar's foreign policy must serve to further its national interests.
The changed international environment means that Myanmar must be more pro-
active in international scene in order to protect and preserve its peace, security,
economic progress and social coherence. The introduction of market-oriented
policies entails enhanced inter-action with the rest of the world for economic growth.
In this age of Information and rapid technological advancement, the projection of
actual situation in the country as well as the policies and endeavours of the
Government assumes ever greater importance.
It has been the consistent policy of Myanmar to develop friendly ties
with all countries in the world, particularly with the neighbouring countries. In recent
years, some western countries has applied political, economic and diplomatic
pressures against Myanmar for their own political ends. Myanmar does not harbour
any hostility against these countries. It is our hope that these countries will realize
that such actions will only hinder Myanmar's efforts for democratization and
progress. Myanmar will never bow to these pressures and will not be frightened by
efforts to intimidate. It is our hope that the relations with these countries will improve
with the realization of the endeavours of the Government for peace and
development.
One of the new trends of international relations is the increasing
cooperation among the nations of the different regions in the world. The new trend
can also be seen in Myanmar's relation with ASEAN. Although Myanmar was invited
to become a member of the Association when it was first founded in 1967, it was not
able to do so because of the prevailing circumstances both internationally as well as
internally. However, recent changes in the state of the world affairs as well as the
introduction of changes in the country itself have provided an impetus for closer
cooperation between Myanmar and ASEAN. At the 28th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting
in Brunei Darussalam in 1995, Myanmar acceded to the Treaty of Amity and
Cooperation signifying a step towards Myanmar's integration into this regional
cooperation forum. At the 29th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting held in Jakarta in July of
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1997, Myanmar was admitted to the Observer status in ASEAN and also became a
member of ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum). During the State Visit of His Excellency
Senior General Than Shwe, Chairman of the State Law and Order Restoration
Council to Malaysia, the Myanmar Foreign Minister handed over to his Malaysian
counterpart the formal letter of application for full membership. Subsequently,
Myanmar became a full member of ASEAN on July 23, 1997 at the ASEAN
Ministerial Meeting held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In the endeavours to strengthen the regional cooperations, Myanmar
has also become a member of BIMST-EC, a new regional grouping uniting
Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, since August 1997. The membership in
the organization also means that Myanmar will be linked not only with Southeast
Asia but also with South Asia countries in the west with respect to regional
cooperation. In other words, Myanmar can serve as a bridge between South and
Southeast Asia.
In keeping with the endeavours for regional and sub-regional
cooperation, Myanmar recently hosted the Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand
4-nation Economic Cooperation Strategy Summit in Bagan in November 2003. The
Summit was able to adopt the Bagan Declaration as well as the Plan of Action which
will surely result in enhanced cooperation between the four countries for mutual
benefit.
Due to its geographical location, Myanmar acts as a land bridge
between South and Southeast Asia. It also shares common borders with the most
populous nation in the world, China. Myanmar is therefore undertaking bilateral as
well as regional and sub-regional measures so that Myanmar may serve as a
gateway for connecting Southeast Asia with South Asia and with China.
Conclusion
On 30th August 2003, Prime Minster General Khin Nyunt announced
the 7-step road map for democratization. Indeed, the roadmap also represents the
way forward the entire people of Myanmar to achieve a lasting peace, progress and
prosperity of the nation. Today, Myanmar is working diligently for the realization of
the roadmap.
In foreign relations, Myanmar will try to build an international
environment that will assist the implementation of national goals. Myanmar is fully
cognizant of the challenges but is fully confident that it will able to fulfill its
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international obligations. It will endeavour to play a more pro-active role in


international and regional forums. Myanmar will continue to emphasize its relations
with the neighbouring countries and countries in the region. It will also actively
participate in ASEAN, BIMST-EC and 4-nation Economic Cooperation. It will also
continue to maintain cooperation with the United Nations. By strictly adhering to the
basic principles and at the same time showing flexible and adaptability to the
changing international scene, Myanmar looks forward to the enhancement of its
international activities for the benefit of the country and its peoples.
Towards this end, Myanmar maintains diplomatic relations with 85
countries all over the world and has opened 30 embassies, 2 Permanent Missions
and 3 Consulate Generals in various part of the globe. In this regard, it may be
mentioned that Myanmar recently opened new embassies in South Africa and Brazil,
the first ever Myanmar diplomatic missions in Sub-Sahara Africa and Latin America.
It is hoped that more missions could be opened in various parts of the globe in the
future.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Dated: 12 January 2004.