Opening the frontier with Burma
The London Telegraph reports:
Manmohan Singh, the first Indian premier to visit Burma in a quarter of a century, was greeted with a guard of honour as he met President Thein Sein in the capital Naypyidaw.
Energy-hungry India is eyeing a raft of agreements with its neighbour after dramatic reforms in Burma ended its international isolation.
Singh will travel to the main city of Yangon for talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, in a move seen as a sign that India also wants to repair links with the veteran activist.
New Delhi was once a staunch supporter of the democracy icon, but changed tack in the mid-1990s as it sought closer ties with Burma, and drew international criticism for its engagement with the former junta.
India has since pointed to recent dramatic reforms under a new quasi-civilian regime, including Suu Kyi’s election to parliament in April by-elections, as a validation of its stance.
Singh is the latest in a series of top-level visitors to Burma as the international community begins easing sanctions, raising hopes that the impoverished nation could be the next big frontier market.
Before leaving, Mr. Manmohan Singh delivered a speech detailing his intentions:
India attaches the highest importance to its relations with Myanmar, which is a close friend and neighbour. Recent years have witnessed significant strengthening and expansion of our bilateral relations. My visit to Myanmar will provide an opportunity to review the progress in the implementation of decisions taken during the highly successful State Visit of the President of Myanmar to India in October last year. We will also consider new initiatives and define a roadmap for the further development of our cooperation in the years ahead.
Stronger trade and investment links, development of border areas, improving connectivity between our two countries and building capacity and human resources are areas that I hope to focus on during my visit. We also hope to sign a number of Agreements/MOUs to further strengthen our bilateral cooperation in these areas, besides promoting people-to-people contacts.
India welcomes Myanmar’s transition to democratic governance and the steps taken by the Government of Myanmar towards a more broad based and inclusive reconciliation process. We stand ready to share our democratic experiences with Myanmar.
In Yangon, I will have an opportunity to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. I also look forward to addressing a cross-section of Myanmar society and interact with the Indian and Indian-origin community.
Our shared history and culture provides a strong basis for the enhancement of contacts between the people of our two countries. I look forward to visiting the historic Shwedagon Pagoda, a testament to 2600 years of Buddhist heritage, and the Mazar of the last Emperor of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar, in Yangon.
The governments of India and Burma signed twelve treaties. These included two memoranda of understanding in the field of education, one each on border security and defence, and the rest on economic ties. TOI reported:
A Memorandum of Understanding for India’s 500 million dollar credit line was signed between Export-Import Bank of India and Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank. The line of credit was agreed upon in October last year when the Myanmar President had visited New Delhi.
The two countries also signed an air services agreement and an MoU on establishment of a joint trade and investment forum and setting up of border trade centres across the border of India and Myanmar.
29 May, 2012
Deccan Herald reports the icing on the cake:
Manmohan Singh met Suu Kyi here on the third and final day of his official visit to oil-rich Myanmar with whom a dozen agreements were inked Monday. “India and Burma have been particularly close over the years,” Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi told reporters after their over 45-minute meeting.
“The struggle for India’s independence took place at the same time as the struggle for Burma’s independence,” said a smiling Suu Kyi, who leaves Tuesday night for Thailand on her first overseas trip in nearly a quarter century.
Wearing a purple dress embellished with flowers, the National League for Democracy leader said she was “happy at the prospect of closer ties with India”. “Our democratic goal is on the basis of peace and stability,” she said as Manmohan Singh looked on.
She added that she was willing to take up the invitation to deliver the Jawaharlal Nehru memorial lecture in India. Manmohan Singh said it had been a privilege to have met Suu Kyi, who studied in New Delhi’s Lady Sri Ram College before pursuing higher studies in Oxford.