After a Myanmar court handed life sentences to 150 Chinese nationals for illegal logging, the government resisted pressure from China to return the men to the country. 

China called the mass sentencing of its nationals as 'abnormal', with an editorial in the state-run Xinhua stating that the people 'might have been duped and misled into the country for illegal logging'. 

The loggers had been arrested in January this year in the Kachin state close to the Chinese border, despite anger in Myanmar for years over China's alleged plunder of its neighbour's raw materials. 

China's foreign ministry asked Myanmar to "deal with this case in a lawful, reasonable and justified manner... and return those people to China as soon as possible", after a district court in Myanmar's Myitkyina city sentenced 150 Chinese loggers to life, which is typically 20 years in jail.

Two minors were also handed 10-year jail terms, while another Chinese national was sentenced to 35 years on drug charges. 

But Myanmar has stood its ground to China's ire.

"When our citizens break the law in other countries, [they] face sentence by those countries' laws. We cannot use diplomacy to intervene. I think China will understand," government spokesman Ye Htut said, according to AFP.

The latest diplomatic skirmish seems to have further strained ties between the former allies, coming months after border tensions heightened between the neighbour when a Myanmar warplane dropped a bomb on a Chinese border town in China's Yunnan province, killing four civilians. 

After the military-ruled country opened up to Western relations, Chinese influence decreased, and the heavy reliance of Myanmar on China eased, giving room for other nations, particularly neighbour India to engage in diplomatic and economic relations.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Myanmar last year, where he pushed his 'Act East' policy at the ASEAN-India summit and the East Asia Summit.

Modi also engaged with Myanmar's President Thein Sein, and he had tweeted about their discussion on 'strengthening ties in the fields of culture, commerce & enhancing connectivity'. 

In fact, Thein Sein had even gone on to say that he 'sees India and Myanmar as brothers', according to then Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.

While a recent border incident, wherein Indian troops reportedly entered into Myanmar to take down rebels responsible for a deadly attack on the Indian Army in Manipur, led to some diplomatic discomfort, relations between the neighbours, who share a 1600-km-long land border, have remained stable.

Thus, as China-Myanmar relations deteriorate, it is a cue for India to ramp up its presence in Myanmar, especially in the Chinese-dominated infrastructure sector.  

Only last December, China had seemed to reach out to Myanmar, among other neighbours such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand by offering more than $3 billion in loans and aid to improve infrastructure and production in these nations. 

With the Myanmar elections around the corner, which will be held in November, it may be time for India to push its  'Act East' policy with more vigour. 

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