Against the backdrop of the Myanmar military's continuing crackdown on civilian protestors opposing the February 1 coup, India on Friday condemned any use of violence and demanded the restoration of democracy in the neighbouring country.
More than 500 civilians have been killed in the crackdown by Myanmar's security forces, many of them when troops fired on crowds, according to the Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). The military removed the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and assumed power after claiming that the election held last November was rigged.
"Let me be very clear. We condemn any use of violence. We believe that the rule of law should prevail. We stand for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar," external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a regular news briefing.
India has sought the release of political prisoners and supported any attempts at resolving the current situation, including through the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), he said.
"We remain engaged on this issue with our international interlocutors and at the UN Security Council in an effort to play a balanced and constructive role," Bagchi added.
India has forged close ties with both Myanmar's elected government and the military, especially because of security concerns linked to the northeastern states and efforts to counter China's influence in the region. As part of its efforts aimed at a balanced approach, India had so far refrained from condemning the Myanmar military's violence against pro-democracy protestors.
At a closed meeting on Myanmar at the UN Security Council on Thursday, India's permanent representative to the UN, TS Tirumurti, condemned the violence and urged maximum restraint. He also spoke of India's steadfast commitment to democratic transition in Myanmar and sought the release of detained leaders.
While welcoming ASEAN's efforts to find a solution in Myanmar, Tirumurti said the situation needs to be resolved peacefully through "greater engagement", while simultaneously ensuring that the hopes and aspirations of the people of Myanmar are met.
Asked about India's presence at the Myanmar Armed Forces Day celebration on March 28, a day when security forces killed more than 110 protestors across the country, Bagchi said: "We have a functioning embassy in Myanmar. Our ambassador, defence attaché and other diplomatic officers continue to discharge their regular diplomatic responsibilities. Nothing more should be read into this event [attended] by our defence attaché."
Bagchi said the issue of Myanmar citizens entering India while fleeing violence in their country is dealt with "as per our laws and humanitarian considerations". He didn't give details.