From Pyongyang to Khartoum, rogue regimes can usually find friends in Beijing—naturally. China is no democracy, so why would it worry about human rights where it can sell arms or drill for oil? This week, however, it’s not China but proudly democratic India that’s rolling out the red carpet for one of the planet’s most repressive dictators. Than Shwe, leader of Burma’s military junta, is paying his second state visit to New Delhi, and his hosts are determined to sell his government weapons and secure new energy deals.
The two countries weren’t always so chummy. India used to welcome Burmese refugees and praise Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel-winning opposition leader who has spent much of the past two decades under house arrest. But India needs energy to maintain its economic growth, and Burma has massive natural-gas reserves. New Delhi is scrambling for its share before China snaps up everything. The United States and the European Union have long pressured Burma with unilateral economic sanctions. Now, however, India’s embrace of the junta, not to mention China’s ongoing support for the regime, is making that policy toothless. Unless the West can persuade Burma’s neighbors to join the protest, the junta will find that the world is not such a lonely place after all.