India: Aung San Suu Kyi's lesson in Realpolitik

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi had some backpedaling to do this week during her first visit to India in 40 years. But the world's most famous dissident failed to extricate foot from mouth in recasting her "disappointment" in India for its soft stance on Myanmar's military dictatorship as sadness.

As FirstPost.in's Venky Vembu reports Thursday, both India and Suu Kyi have tumbled off their pedestals. India has discovered Realpolitik as its rising status in world affairs made it so other people actually care what New Delhi thinks and does. And Suu Kyi has discovered the merits of dealing with the devil, rather than simply railing against it, after Myanmar's junta let her out of house arrest to become an opposition politician.

"Suu Kyi has in the past given voice to her sense of 'sadness' that India had in recent years fallen off the pedestal on which she herself – and a lot of other freedom-loving people around the world – had placed it," Vembu writes. "India had, she felt, silenced its moral voice, and begun to strike dirty deals with dictators and military rulers."

"In particular, the fact that the Indian government had openly embraced Myanmar’s military junta, which had robbed her of her election victory in 1990 and jailed her, rankled with her. India, she observed last year, 'is not as concerned' about the fate of the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar 'as we would like them to be.'"

“I think rather than disappointment, sad is the word I would use because I have a personal attachment to India through my friends as well as because of the friendship that existed between my father and Jawaharlal Nehru, because of the closeness that existed between the countries. So rather than disappointed, I was sad that it had to be like that,” the Myanmar opposition leader said in an interview with the Hindu before this week's visit.

As Reuters reports, Suu Kyi urged India on Wednesday to push for full-fledged democracy in Myanmar, on her first trip to India since it dropped its support for her democracy movement two decades ago in order to gain the support of the ruling junta in fighting an insurgency along the India-Myanmar border.

“We have not yet achieved the goal of democracy, we are still trying, and we hope that in this last, I hope, and most difficult phase the people of India will stand by us and walk by us,” the news agency quoted Suu Kyi as saying in a memorial lecture for Nehru.

“I was saddened to feel that we had drawn away from India, or rather that India had drawn away from us, during our very difficult days, but I always had faith in the lasting friendship between our two countries.”

But Suu Kyi has taken her own header off the proverbial high horse.

"Human rights campaigners have been upset by Suu Kyi’s studied silence for months after the violence against Rohingya Muslims, which began in June and continued even into October," Vembu points out. "Her silence was particularly deafening given her iconic image as the voice of Myanmar’s conscience in championing the cause of democracy against formidable odds, and great personal tragedy."

"SOAS University of London research Guy Horton encapsulated the disappointment with Suu Kyi when he said that she had 'lost much of her credibility' because of her silence over these 'appalling events.' Suu Kyi’s 'evasiveness' on what he called 'one of the greatest human rights tragedies in the world today' had 'lost her the commodity she has always had in abundance: her moral authority.'"