Similitude

For all its overtures in respect to the Myanmar crisis, your celebrated Leader of the Ummah — the pious nation of legend — has much in common with that indicted State.

In the 1980s and 1990s, its military rulers also brutalised its citizens, to international acclaim. Full page adverts would often be placed in the broadsheets by Human Rights organisations in respect of both countries, while activists would protest arms sales to their ruthless regimes. Their treatment of particular ethnic minorities came in for particular censure, with worldwide solidarity movements established to campaign on their behalf.

Over the past decade, like Myanmar, it too has tried its best to send the army back to the barracks and institute constitutional reforms to revert to civilian rule. In this, the Leader of the Ummah has made more progress than Myanmar, where the civilian government remains subservient to military power. Both countries have popular and long-serving leaders with an authoritarian streak, who were once Political Prisoners, barred from office by constitutional rules drafted precisely for that purpose.

Again like Myanmar, it too has a large ethnic constituent seeking greater autonomy, amongst whom are separatist militants engaged in open armed conflict with the State. Luckily, the Leader of the Ummah is fairly fortunate in having just one major ethnic conflict; Myanmar, by contrast, has numerous separatist insurgencies in several diverse states. In both countries, separatist militants frequently target police and military posts. It too calls them terrorists.

The Leader of the Ummah has also been accused of targeting civilians in its battle with the separatists, a charge which it too vehemently denies. It too prevents journalists and aid workers from reporting from areas of conflict, and frequently accuses those that do of supporting terrorism.

And despite its condemnation of others, it too has at times closed its border to refugees fleeing violence in neighbouring States on the rationale that it could not differentiate between genuine refugees and militants.

Like Myanmar, it too commissioned an unpopular peace process with separatist rebels which it eventually abandoned, leading to worse conflict than ever before. Its citizens in the main remain unmoved by the plight of this large ethnic minority, and Muslim Nationalists in the country advocate the use of merciless violence against them and their supporters. Like the civilian government of Myanmar, its leaders have refused to condemn allegations of war crimes, stating instead that the claims are misinformation and Western propaganda.

It too sees itself a victim of imperialist conspiracies. It too says the armed insurgents are financed and supported by foreign powers, who are working hard to divide the state for their own strategic gains. And its great leader also has a vast contingent of overseas admirers who celebrate his leadership, come what may, championing him as the voice of the voiceless and Leader of the Ummah, irregardless of what his detractors say.

Of course there are clear differences between the two countries: it is not a parallel universe. But the similarities ought to be a salutary reminder to those who advocate saviour politics that the very traits they celebrate in one and condemn in the other, are in fact present in both. It may just be that the Leader of the Ummah has better reputation management, and is better at projecting its self-image out to the world. But read their political landscape, as we read the landscape of the enemy and, well, the Leader of the Ummah just seems as compromised and complex as every other nation on earth.

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