When arguing for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council or assuring the Bush administration that India can be trusted with American nuclear technology — even though it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — Indian officials recite the mantra that India is the world’s biggest democracy. But India’s collaboration with the military junta in Myanmar that has been arresting and killing Buddhist monks and civilian protesters raises a serious question: Is India betraying its democratic values for the sake of its great-power ambitions?

There is no mystery about the reasons for India’s complicity with Myanmar’s generals. There are purely commercial motives, a thirst for access to Myanmar’s oil and natural gas reserves. There’s a desire to gain the junta’s cooperation in crushing insurgent groups that have been crossing from Myanmar into India to mount guerrilla operations.

When Human Rights Watch called last week for a Security Council arms embargo on the junta, it named India along with China and Russia as “nations supplying Burma with weapons that the military uses to commit human rights abuses.” In other words, India sells some of the world’s most vicious dictators weapons to kill people in Myanmar who are yearning for democracy. This is not behaviour of a true democracy.