Myanmar land-bridge between civilizations of India and China


1. Asia’s New Great Game by BY THANT MYINT-U

2. Migration period of ancient Burma from Wikipedia

China and India are both hungry for Burma‘s vast natural riches. But will Burma’s people pay the price or can this Southeast Asian backwater finally enter the 21st century?

When geography changes — as when the Suez Canal joined Europe to the Indian Ocean, or when the railroads transformed the American West and the Russian East — old patterns of contact disappear and new ones take hold, turning strangers into neighbors and transforming backwaters into zones of new strategic significance. Entire groups decline or vanish; others rise in importance.

Over these next few years, Asia’s geography will see a fundamental reorientation, bringing China and India together as never before across what was once a vast and neglected frontier stretching over a thousand miles from Kolkata to the Yangtze River basin. And Burma, long seen in Western policy circles as little more than an intractable human rights conundrum, may soon sit astride one of the world’s newest and most strategically significant crossroads. Mammoth infrastructure projects are taming a once inhospitable landscape. More importantly, Burma and adjacent areas, which had long acted as a barrier between the two ancient civilizations, are reaching demographic and environmental as well as political watersheds. Ancient barriers are being broken, and the map of Asia is being redone.

For millennia, India and China have been separated by near impenetrable jungle, deadly malaria, and fearsome animals, as well as the Himalayas and the high wastelands of the Tibetan plateau. They have taken shape as entirely distinct civilizations, strikingly dissimilar in race, language, and customs. To reach India from China or vice versa, monks, missionaries, traders, and diplomats had to travel by camel and horse thousands of miles across the oasis towns and deserts of Central Asia and Afghanistan, or by ship over the Bay of Bengal and then through the Strait of Malacca to the South China Sea.

But as global economic power shifts to the East, the configuration of the East is changing, too. The continent’s last great frontier is disappearing, and Asia will soon be woven together as never before.

At the heart of the changes is Burma. Burma is not a small country; it is as big in size as France and Britain combined, but its population of 60 million is tiny compared with the 2.5 billion combined populations of its two massive neighbors. It is the missing link between China and India.

It is an unlikely 21st-century nexus. Burma is one of the world’s poorest countries, wracked by a series of seemingly unending armed conflicts, and ruled for nearly five decades by one military or military-dominated regime after another. In 1988, following the brutal suppression of a pro-democracy uprising, a new junta took power, agreeing to cease fires with former communist and ethnic insurgents and seeking to unwind years of self-imposed isolation. But its repressive policies soon led to Western sanctions and this, together with growing corruption and continued mismanagement, meant that any hope of even economic improvement quickly dimmed.

By the mid-1990s the view of Burma in the West became fairly set — a timeless backwater, brutal and bankrupt, the realm of juntas and drug lords, as well as courageous pro-democracy activists, led by Aung San Suu Kyi. A place worthy of humanitarian attention, but unconnected to the much bigger story of Asia’s global rise. China, however, viewed things differently. Where the West saw a problem and offered mainly platitudes and a little aid, China recognized an opportunity and began changing facts on the ground.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, China began unveiling plans to join its interior to the shores of the Indian Ocean. By the mid-2000s, these plans were being turned into reality. New highways are starting to slice through the highlands of Burma, linking the Chinese hinterland directly to both India and the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal. One highway will lead to a brand-new, multi-billion-dollar port, facilitating the export of manufactured goods from China’s western provinces while bringing in Persian Gulf and African oil, oil that will be transported along a new 1,000-mile-long pipeline to refineries in China’s hitherto landlocked Yunnan province. Another, parallel pipeline will carry Burma’s newfound offshore natural gas to light up the fast-growing cities of Kunming and Chongqing. And more than $20 billion will be invested in a high-speed rail line. Soon, journeys that once took months to make may soon be completed in less than a day. By 2016, Chinese planners have declared, it will be possible to travel by train all the way from Rangoon to Beijing, part of a grand route they say will one day extend to Delhi and from there to Europe.

Burma could become China’s California. Chinese authorities have long been vexed by the soaring gap in income between its prosperous eastern cities and provinces and the many poor and backward areas to the west. What China is lacking is another coast to provide its remote interior with an outlet to the sea and to its growing markets around the world. Chinese academics have written about a “Two Oceans” policy. The first is the Pacific. The second would be the Indian Ocean. In this vision, Burma becomes a new bridge to the Bay of Bengal and the seas beyond.

China’s leadership has also written about its “Malacca dilemma.” China is heavily dependent on foreign oil, and approximately 80 percent of these oil imports currently pass through the Strait of Malacca, near Singapore, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and just 1.7 miles across at its narrowest point. For Chinese strategists, the strait is a natural choke point where future enemies could cut off foreign energy supplies. An alternative route needed to be found. Again, access across Burma would be advantageous, lessening dependence on the strait and at the same time dramatically reducing the distance from China’s factories to markets in Europe and around the Indian Ocean. That Burma itself is rich in the raw materials needed to power industrial development in China’s southwest is an added plus.

[NASA pan photo mosaic of the Himalayas with Makalu and Mount Everest. the photo mosaic uses photos ISS008-E-13302 TO 13307 taken 28 January 2004 taken from the International Space Station, Expedition 8 and added to The Gateway to Astronaut Photography. From The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

“On Top of the World: Everest and Makalu: Astronauts
on board the International Space Station (ISS) have a unique view of the world because of their position in a low orbit (200 nautical miles, 360 km) relative to satellites and their ability to look at any angle out the windows of the spacecraft. ISS crewmembers recently took advantage of their vantage point to photograph a series of oblique views of the Himalayas looking south from over the Tibetan Plateau. At first glance, one might think that the image looks like a picture taken from an airplane, until you remember that the summits of Makalu
[left (8,462 meters; 27,765 feet)] and Everest [right (8,850 meters; 29,035 feet)] are at the heights typically flown by commercial aircraft. The full mosaic covers over 130 kilometers
(80 miles) of the Himalayan front, and could never be seen this way from an airplane. The image is part of a larger panorama mosaic of the Himalayas that can be interactively viewed. The popular Find Mt. Everest feature is used to train astronauts to be able to find the peak in a few seconds as they
pass over the Himalayas.”]

Meanwhile, India has its own ambitions. With the “Look East” policy, successive Indian governments since the 1990s have sought to revive and strengthen age-old ties to the Far East, across the sea and overland across Burma, creating new connections over once impassable mountains and jungle barriers. Just north of where China is building its pipeline, along the Burmese coast, India is starting work to revive another seaport with a special road and waterway to link to Assam and India’s other isolated and conflict-ridden northeastern states. There is even a proposal to reopen the Stilwell Road, built by the Allies at epic cost during World War II and then abandoned, a road that would tie the easternmost reaches of India with China’s Yunnan province. Indian government officials speak of Burma’s importance for the security and future development of their country’s northeast — while also keeping a cautious eye on China’s dynamic push into and across Burma.

Watching these developments, some have warned of a new Great Game, leading to conflict between the world’s largest emerging powers. But others predict instead the making of a new Silk Road, like the one in ancient and medieval times that coupled China to Central Asia and Europe. It’s important to remember that this geographic shift comes at a very special moment in Asia’s history: a moment of growing peace and prosperity at the conclusion of a century of tremendous violence and armed conflict and centuries more of Western colonial domination. The happier scenario is far from impossible.

The generation now coming of age is the first to grow up in an Asia that is both post-colonial and (with a few small exceptions) postwar. New rivalries may yet fuel 21st-century nationalisms and lead to a new Great Game, but there is great optimism nearly everywhere, at least among the middle classes and the elites that drive policy: a sense that history is on Asia’s side and a desire to focus on future wealth, not hark back to the dark times that have only recently been left behind.

1 = Kawng Lan Hpu
2 = Nong Mong
3 = Ma Chan Baw
4 = Putao (airport)
5 = Pang Saung (Sagaing division)
6 = Nan Yun (Sagaing division)
7 = Ta Nine
8 = Sumprabum
9 = Hpi Maw
10 = Chipwe
11 = Waing Maw
12 = Myitkyina (capital of Kachin state) – airport, train station
13 = Kamti or Hkamti (Sagaing division)
14 = Hpa Kan (mines)
15 = Mo Gaung
16 = Ho Pin
17 = Mo-Nyin
18 = Bhamo (Bhamaw)
19 = Katha (Sagaing

R1 = May-Kha river
R2 = Mali Kha river (Nam Kyu)
R3 = Ayeyarwaddy river
R4 = Tanai Kha river (headwater of Chindwin river) in Hu
Gaung Valley
R5 = Thanlwin river
R6 = Mekong river

M = Khaka-bo-razi peak (5882 meters) – Khaka-bo-razi national park
L = Indawgyi Lake (wildlife sanctuary) – largest fresh water lake in Myanmar
N = Pi-Taung wildlife reserve

A = To Nam Khan, Muse, Lashio (northern Shan state)
B = To Moe Meik (Shan state), Mogok (Mandalay division)
C = To Shwe Bo, Monywa, Sagaing, ]

And a crossroads through Burma would not be a simple joining up of countries. The parts of China and India that are being drawn together over Burma are among the most far-flung parts of the two giant states, regions of unparalleled ethnic and linguistic diversity where people speak literally hundreds of mutually unintelligible languages, of forgotten kingdoms like Manipur and Dali, and of isolated upland societies that were, until recently, beyond the control of Delhi or Beijing. They are also places where ballooning populations have only now filled out a once very sparsely peopled and densely forested landscape. New countries are finding new neighbors. Whereas the fall of the Berlin Wall reopened contacts that had only temporarily been suspended, the transformations under way are enabling entirely new encounters. There is the possibility of a cosmopolitan nexus at the heart of Asia.

There was a mile sign at the start of the Ledo Road with the following information:

Ledo Assam 0
Shingbwiyang 103
Warazup 189
Myitkyina 268
Bhamo 372
Wanting 507
Lunfling 560
Paoshan 652
Yungping 755
Yunnanyi 876
Tsuyung 959
Kunming 1079

When flying over the Hukawng Valley during the monsoon, Mountbatten
asked his staff the name of the river below them. An American officer replied, “That’s not a river, it’s the Ledo Road.” (Wikipedia)

But is a modern-day Silk Road really in the making? Until earlier this year, it was difficult to be optimistic, with Burma at the heart of the transformations and the news from Burma remaining so bad. Ordinary people were as poor as ever, political repression was the order of the day, and the Chinese projects under way seemed to be doing more to fuel corruption and devastate the environment than anything else. Fresh elections were held late last year, but they were widely condemnedas fraudulent.

Over the past several months, however, there have been increasing signs that better days might lie ahead.

This March, the junta was formally dissolved and power handed over to a quasi-civilian government headed by a retired general, U Thein Sein. President Thein Sein quickly began to exceed (admittedly low) expectations, speaking out against graft, stressing the need for political reconciliation, appointing technocrats and businessmen to key positions, inviting exiles to return home, announcing fresh peace talks with rebel groups, and even reaching out to Aung San Suu Kyi, not long before released from house arrest. Poverty reduction strategies have been formulated, taxes lowered, trade liberalized, and a slew of new laws on everything from banking reform to environmental regulation prepared for legislative approval. Parliament, after a shaky start, began to take on a life of its own. Media censorship has been significantly relaxed, and opposition parties and Burma’s burgeoning NGO community have been allowed a degree of freedom not seen in half a century.

It’s a fragile opening. The president seems determined to push ahead, but his is not the only voice. There are other powerful ex-generals in parliament and in the cabinet, and the structures of repression remain intact. Burma is at a critical turning point.

And now, for the first time, Burma’s politics matter beyond its immediate borders. If this opportunity for positive change is lost, Burma may remain a miserably run place — but it will no longer be an isolated backwater. The great infrastructure projects under way will continue, as will the much longer-term processes of change. Asia’s frontier will close and a new but dangerous crossroads will be the result.

But if Burma indeed takes a turn for the better and we see an end to decades of armed conflict, a lifting of Western sanctions, democratic government, and broad-based economic growth, the impact could be dramatic. China’s hinterland will suddenly border a vibrant and young democracy, and India’s northeast will be transformed from a dead end into its bridge to the Far East. What happens next in Burma could be a game-changer for all Asia.

Above is taken from FP Foreign Policy  article:Asia’s New Great Game by BY THANT MYINT-U and below is Wikipedia’s Migration period of ancient Burma.

Through China

Evidence indicates that the ancestors of the Austronesians’ spread from the South Chinese mainland to Taiwan at some time around 8,000 years ago. Evidence from historical linguistics suggests that it is from this island that seafaring peoples migrated, perhaps in distinct waves separated by millennia, to the entire region encompassed by the Austronesian
. It is believed that this migration began around 6,000 years

The prehistory of Taiwan includes the late Paleolithic era. During that time, roughly 50,000 BC to 10,000 BC, people were already living in Taiwan.[6][7] The Pacific islands of Polynesia began to be colonized around 1300 BC, and completely colonized by around 900 AD.
The descendants of Polynesians left Taiwan around 5200 years ago. Salones and Pashu (Malays of Burma) arrived southern Burma through this sea route.

Taiwan is the urheimat of the Austronesian languages. Archaeological
evidence (e.g., Bellwood 1997) suggests that speakers of pre-Proto-Austronesian spread from the South Chinese mainland to Taiwan at some time around 8,000 years ago. Evidence from historical linguistics
suggests that it is from this island that seafaring peoples migrated, perhaps in distinct waves separated by millennia, to the entire region encompassed by the Austronesian languages (Diamond 2000). It is believed that this migration began around 6,000 years ago (Blust 1999).

When Han Chinese invaded Taiwan, the ethnic minorities (including
Tibeto-Burmans, Shans and Mons of future Burma) shifted to the mainland China.
Some historians believe that those ethnic minorities first came to settle north
of the Yellow (Huang Ho) river, occupying the region known as Hebei and Shanxi round about 2515 BC. The Chinese annals also mention about their settlements in the middle basin of the Yellow River in 850 BC. But new emigrants coming from Central Asia later impelled those ethnic groups to move southwards to new fertile areas between the Yellow and Yangtze (Chang Jiang) rivers and then migrated down through the present day Yunnan and descended further down into Burma.

Sixteen kingdoms were a plethora of short-lived non-Chinese dynasties that came to rule the whole or parts of northern China in the 4th and 5th centuries. Many ethnic groups were involved, including ancestors of the Turks, Mongolians, and Tibetans.

Chinese history is that of a dynasty alternating between periods of political unity and disunity and occasionally becoming dominated by foreign Asian peoples, most of whom were assimilated into the Han Chinese population.
Cultural and political influences from many parts of Asia, carried by successive waves of immigration, expansion, and assimilation, merged to create modern Chinese culture.

The History of Yunnan is related to Burma, can date back to Yuanmou Man, a Homo erectus fossil, the oldest known hominid fossil in China. By the Neolithic period, there were human settlements in the area of Lake Dian. These people used stone tools and constructed simple wooden structures. Yunnan’s location in the southwesternmost corner of China and its
peoples hae the strong ethnic identities are due to cultural and political
influences from Burma. In 109 BC, Emperor Wu sent General Guo Chang (郭昌)
south to Yunnan, establishing Yizhou commandery and 24 subordinate counties. The commandery seat was at Dianchi county (present day Jinning 晋宁). Another county was called “Yunnan”, probably the first use of the name. To expand the burgeoning trade with Burma and India. Anthropologists have determined that these people were related to the people now known as the Tai. They lived in tribal congregations, sometimes
led by exile Chinese. In the Records of the Grand Historian, Zhang Qian
(d. 113 BC) and Sima Qian
(145-90 BC) make references to “Shendu”, which may have been referring to the Indus Valley (the Sindh province in modern Pakistan), originally known as “Sindhu” in Sanskrit. When Yunnan was annexed by the Han Dynasty, Chinese authorities also reported a Shendu” (Indian) community living in the area.[8] The Mongols established regular and tight administrative
control over Yunnan. In 1253 Mongke Khan of the Mongol Empire dispathced the prince Kublai to take Yunnan.
The Mongols swept away numerous native regimes, including the leading Dali kingdom. Later Yunnan became one of the ten provinces set up by Kubilai Khan.
Kublai Khan appointed Turkmen Sayyid Ajjal Shams al-Din Omar governor in Yunnan in 1273.[9]

History of Tibet
is also related to prehistoric Burma. It is situated between the two ancient civilizations of China and India, separated from the former by the mountain ranges to the east of the Tibetan Plateau and from the latter by the
towering Himalayas. Tibet is nicknamed “the roof of the world” or “the land of snows”. The Tibetan language and its dialects are classified as members of the Tibeto-Burman language family. Humans inhabited the Tibetan Plateau at least twenty one thousand years ago.[10] This population was largely replaced around 3,000 BP by Neolithic immigrants from northern China. However there is a “partial genetic continuity between the Paleolithic inhabitants and the contemporary Tibetan populations”.[10] Some
archaeological data suggests humans may have passed through Tibet at the time India was first inhabited, half a million years ago.[11]
The first documented contact between the Tibetans and the Mongols occurred when Genghis Khan met Tsangpa Dunkhurwa (Gtsang pa Dung khur ba) and six of his disciples, probably in the Tangut empire, in 1215.[

Through India

Paleolithic sites have been discovered in Pothohar near Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, with the stone tools of the Soan Culture. In ancient Gandhara, near Islamabad, evidence of cave dwellers dated 15,000 years ago has been discovered at Mardan.

The major cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, such as Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, date back to around 3300 BC, and represent some of the largest human habitations of the ancient world. It is believed that the migration in and out of India began around 6,000 years ago.[5] Indo-Aryan
to and within Northern India is consequently presumed to have
taken place in the Middle to Late Bronze Age, contemporary to the Late Harappan phase in India (c. 1700 to 1300 BC). From 180 BC, a series of invasions from Central Asia followed, including those led by the Indo-Greeks, Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthians and Kushans in the north-western Indian subcontinent.[13][14][15] The word “India” is derived from the Indus River. In
ancient times, “India” initially referred to the region of modern-day Pakistan along the Indus river, but by 300 BC, Greek writers like Megasthenes applied the term to the entire subcontinent.[16] 🙂
History of South India especially Chola Empire is related to prehistoric Burma. One of the most powerful rulers of the Chola kingdom was Raja Raja Chola. He ruled from 985 – 1014 CE.
His army conquered the Navy of the Cheras at Thiruvananthapuram, and annexed Anuradhapura and the northern province of Ceylon. Rajendra Chola I completed the conquest of Sri Lanka, invaded Bengal, and undertook
a great naval campaign that occupied parts of Malaya, Burma, and Sumatra.

Since 500 BC Buddhist Orrisa colonists had migrated towards Southeast and settled in future Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta and built pagodas.[17]

In 180 BC migrants from the Hindu colonists, of Andhra Dynasty, from middle India settled in lower part of future Burma and established Hanthawaddy (Mon town) and Syriam (Ta Nyin or Than Lyin) in Burma.[17]

Indian Dravidian tribe in Panthwa In Chinese Chronicles Chen Yi-Sein instead gives an Indian derivation for Panthwa village, as the name of a Dravidian tribe settled in Mon’s areas around the Gulf of Martaban.
This group was later one of the pioneers in a ‘Monized’ occupation of Beikthano village, which also led to the village/city being called Ramanna-pura, linked to Mon areas of southern Burma (1999:77).[18]

The Tagaung dynasty is explicitly incorporated into the story of Duttabaung’s mother and father; the lineage of the Queen of Beikthano is less consistent, but always intertwined with that of the Sri Kestra village rulers. In all of these, links are made between territorial control, royal patronage of Hindu or Buddhist sects and supernatural events.[18]

Little is known about life in early Burma but there is evidence that land and sea traders from China and India[19][20] passed by and left their mark on the region and the local people traded ivory, precious stones, gold and silver, rhinoceros horns, and horses with these traders. Roman envoys from
Alexandria also passed through the Irrawaddy valley in 79 CE en-route to China. 2nd century Burmese sea-farers, trading with Southern India across the Bay of Bengal, are thought to have brought Buddhism to Burma in the 2nd century CE. and by the 4th century, much of the Irrawaddy Valley was Buddhist including the then dominant city-state, Prome (modern Pyay).[2] Mizos were part of a great wave of migration from China and later moved out to India to their present habitat. It is possible that the Mizos came from Sinlung or Chhinlungsan located on the banks of the Yalung River in China, first settled in the Shan State and moved on to the Kabaw Valley. The Naga were originally referred to as
Naka in Burmese languages, which means ‘people with pierced ears’. The
Naga tribes had socio-economic and political links with tribes in Assam and Burma
(Myanmar); even today a large population of Naga inhabits Assam. Following an
invasion in 1816, the area, along with Assam, came under direct rule of Burma up
to the time British East India Company took
control of Assam in 1826 following the Treaty of Yandaboo of 1826. The history of Assam is the history of a confluence of peoples from
the east, west and the north; the confluence of the Indo-Aryan, Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman cultures. The Late neolithic
cultures have affinities with the spread of the Mon Khmer speaking people from Malaysia and the Ayeyarwady valley and
late neolithic developments in South China. Since these cultures
have been dated to 4500-4000 BCE, the Assam sites are dated to approximate that

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One Response to “Myanmar land-bridge between civilizations of India and China”

  1. US Military Security Paper On China – Analysis | MaritimeSecurity.Asia Says:

    South China Sea: Détente vs. DeterrenceThe eastern Indian rapid expansion has to extend to the tentacles fleet in the south China seaVietnam Locks horns with China over South China SeaContinuing growth of Indian and Chinese navies continue to create frictionChina Issues White Paper on Peaceful DevelopmentOn Missile DefenceThe Innocents AbroadMyanmar land-bridge between civilizations of India and China

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