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Myanmar and India

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Regimes of Citizenship and the Limits of Geo-economic Engagement

image of European Journal of East Asian Studies

Since the 1990s, India and Myanmar have sought rapprochement through geo-economic strategies and discourses. The results, however, have been largely underwhelming. This paper offers an explanation for why this has been the case. We argue that the two geo-economic strategies deployed—sub-regionalism and diaspora-driven trade and investment—require the emergence of particular types of deterritorialised and denationalised citizenship regimes which facilitate the mobilisation of provincial capital and diasporic capital. The development of such social forces in India and Myanmar have been stifled by the persistence of older ‘regimes of citizenship’ associated with geopolitical strategies based on territoriality and pre-existing social hierarchies. In Myanmar, the emphasis on ‘Bamar’ identity has led to a hierarchical citizenship regime which marginalises people of Indian origin. While deterritorialised forms of citizenship have emerged in India as the government seeks to harness the economic power of the Indian diaspora, the target of its policies has been the more socially privileged diaspora settled in the West. Moreover, India’s Northeast has long been constructed as being culturally distinct and prone to ‘disloyalty’ which hinders sub-regionalism. Hence, transforming the relationship requires not just greater political will or technocratic policy changes, but addressing the long-held national anxieties and social hierarchies which underpin India and Myanmar’s regimes of citizenship.

Affiliations: 1: University of Adelaide ; 2: University of Adelaide


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