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Aung San Suu Kyi's visit: Myanmar needs Asian giants India and China for its development

Myanmar needs both Asian giants — India and China’s help for its development and wants to keep an equal distance from both. Aung San Suu Kyi, who calls the shots in the government, is keen to follow the non-aligned path laid out by her freedom fighter father Aung San and Jawaharlal Nehru. The two were fast friends and worked together for the independence of their respective countries. The new democratic regime in Myanmar will not play favourites: It needs India’s institution-building capacity as well as China’s infrastructure projects. So the new regime will strive to have good relations with both Asian powers.

Myanmar, which is taking baby steps towards democracy, naturally wants to learn from India how to reconcile the different elements of a fragmented society. "We as a nation are struggling to make democratic culture take root in our country… We believe that India with its experience so similar to us will help us in our endeavour… We are building a very young democracy and India is helping us, especially with capacity building of our legislators to make sure rule of law is established in our country," State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said, after talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 Aung San Suu Kyis visit: Myanmar needs Asian giants India and China for its development

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in New Delhi. PTI

Terrorism naturally came up during the discussions. Aung Suu Kyi condemned the Uri attack, while PM Modi expressed his sympathy for the policemen killed in attacks in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state. In the joint statement, released after the talks, there were significant paragraphs on terror.

Pakistan was not named, but the statement was obvious. "Both sides condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as well as all acts, methods and practices of terrorism wherever, by whomever, against whomsoever committed and agreed that the fight against terrorism should target terrorists, hold to account terror organisations, networks and also states that encourage, support or finance terrorism in any way. Both sides also agreed that terrorism is first and foremost a violation of human rights and that there can be no justification for extending support, financing, provision of material resources or training to terrorists who destroy innocent lives. Both countries called for the expeditious finalisation of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism presently being negotiated in the United Nations." New Delhi will be happy with this.

In a statement to the media, Prime Minister Modi, welcomed Suu Kyi to Delhi, "her second home". She had spent much of her girlhood here when her mother was the ambassador to this country in the early 60s. She is a product of Jesus and Mary School and Lady Shri Ram College and has a lot of friends and admirers in the Indian capital.

Though Suu Kyi was miffed when India began engaging with the military junta since 1992 on fears of China’s large footprints in that country, much of it is now in the past. Though for strategic reasons, Delhi opened a channel to the military dictatorship, the pro-democracy refugees were also welcomed and hosted by successive governments.

For India, Myanmar is of strategic importance as it borders its sensitive North Eastern states. The two countries share a 1,600 km-long border. "We have agreed that a close coordination to ensure security in the areas along our border, and sensitivity to each other’s strategic interests, will serve the interests of both our countries," Modi said as the two sides decided to ramp up border vigilance.

Myanmar is also India’s bridge to the larger Asean market and an integral part of Prime Minister Modi’s "act east policy". The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, which will open the waterways for transport of goods in the region, forms an important part of Delhi’s connectivity aims. The project had faced long delays but is likely to be completed by the year end. The trilateral Asian highway is also nearing completion.

Aung Suu Kyi condemned the Uri attack, while PM Modi expressed his sympathy for the policemen killed in attacks in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state

Prime Minister Modi said that, "We [India] are sharing our resources and expertise with Myanmar. India’s nearly $1.75 billion of development assistance is centered on people. And is in line with the priorites of Myanmar government and its people."

As in Afghanistan, India wants its projects to touch the lives of ordinary citizens of the country. So agriculture now plays a major role in India’s development plans. The PM said that India will help to develop a Seed Production Centre in Myanmar, which will improve the quality of seeds. Power supply from Moreh to Tamu in Myanmar will be ramped up, the PM said. Renewable energy and power are two other important items on the developmental agenda.

Three MOU’s were signed during the visit: Cooperation on power, help in framing professional and academic programs for insurance, and banking supervision between RBI and Central Bank of Myanmar. In short, India will help in both the banking and insurance sectors.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state counsellor, made China her first destination after taking over as foreign minister. The idea was to repair ties with Beijing and placate Chinese sentiments over the cancellation of a $3.6 Myitsone Dam project in 2011. China was furious over the scrapping. Beijing had been a staunch supporter of the military junta during the period it was under sanctions from the rest of the world. But the Burmese generals were unhappy with the project and there had been many skirmishes between people living in the border areas of the two countries. The scrapping happened at a time when Myanmar was taking tentative steps towards democracy and had freed Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. The generals, feeling the pinch of tough economic sanctions was opening up to the West. A host of Western dignitaries, including US President Barak Obama visited Myanmar.

But the Chinese remained irritated. So ahead of her visit, Aung San Suu Kyi announced a panel of experts to look into the Myitsome dam issue. Clearly the state ends

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Updated Date: Oct 20, 2016 10:50:32 IST

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