New Delhi, May 28 (Hindustan Times): New Delhi has no objections with Myanmar holding separate negotiations with Naga insurgents, said official sources. India has cooperated for many years, including coordinating joint military exercises, against Naga separatists. India would have been “happy” if there had been simultaneous pacts, but understands the Myanmar military plans a three-stage peace process of its own.
India has negotiated a ceasefire that should come into effect May 9. “We believe we have made progress,” said sources and indicated that further good news on this front would be expected next month. India’s view is that the more Myanmar is able to bring its insurgents into the political fold, the better it is for India.
Myanmar’s military cooperation against the Naga insurgents has played a crucial role in bringing the insurgents to the negotiations table and has been a key reason behind New Delhi’s decision to oppose sanctions against the Yangon military regime. Restoring physical and civil society linkages with Myanmar was stressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his departure statement before leaving for Myanmar. “Stronger trade and investment links, development of border areas, improving connectivity … and building capacity and human resources are areas that I hope to focus on during my visit’” he said.
Meanwhile India and Myanmar Monday decided to expand trade, have better connectivity and bring peace in border areas and emphasised closer ties to boost energy security following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wide-ranging talks with President Thein Sein here. The two countries inked a dozen agreements, including a $500 million credit line, border area development and air services.
Manmohan Singh held restricted talks with Thein Sein on tackling terrorism and expanding trade on the second day of his three-day visit – the first by an Indian prime minister in a quarter century. A joint statement issued after their meeting said both leaders agreed on fighting “the scourge of terrorism and insurgent activity in all its forms and manifestations”, a reference to the festering issue of Indian rebels operating from inside Myanmar.
The leaders reviewed the progress on the Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project that connects Myanmar to Mizoram and the finalisation of the site of the Land Customs Station at Zorinpui (Mizoram).
India announced it would undertake the task of repair/upgradation of 71 bridges on the Tamu-Kalewa friendship Road.
It would also upgrade the Kalewa-Yargyi road segment to highway class while Myanmar would upgrade the Yargyi-Monywa stretch by 2016. This would help set up connectivity from Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar.
The two sides agreed to launch a bus service from Imphal to Mandalay. The new Air Service agreement would enhance direct air connectivity. The two countries would also explore rail and shipping links. Both leaders emphasized there was considerable untapped potential for greater trade.
“Investments by Indian companies in areas like ports, highways, oil and gas, plantation, manufacturing, hospitality and ICT would be specifically encouraged.” Also, the Reserve Bank of India would sign an MoU with the Central Bank of Myanmar on currency arrangements.
India-Myanmar trade is currently pegged at just $1.2 billion. New Delhi is looking at doubling it by 2015. On Tuesday, Manmohan Singh goes to Yangon where he meets Suu Kyi.
(With input from IANS)
Myanmar President Thein Sein: Tough army man turned reformist
Nay Pyi Taw, May 28 (IANS): Myanmar President Thein Sein, who met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday, is a former general turned reformist whose hands world leaders are rushing to clasp as his once pariah nation gingerly treads the democratic path. He is the man responsible for carrying out dramatic reforms after nearly five decades of repressive military rule. The world took notice of him after he allowed democracy to germinate in the country, which saw India-educated Aung San Suu Kyi going on to become a parliamentarian after years of house arrest at her lakeside villa in Yangon.
After the bespectacled Thein Sein shed his uniform, he became an integral part of the United Solidarity and Development Party, which dominated elections and now has sweeping control of the new parliament, where 25% of its members are from the army.
A graduate of the elite Defence Services Academy, Thein Sein has held key positions in the powerful army. Western media reports cite his being untainted by corruption allegations as a reason for his becoming the prime minister in 2007 and ultimately the president. Foreign Policy magazine quoted a former army officer as saying that Thein Sein is “polite and likes to keep a low profile”.
“He’s not after personal popularity. He’s a bit media-shy and not really suited for the life of a populist politician. But his honesty and sincerity could attract public sympathy,” the former army officer said. Polite he may be, but he knows when to wield the stick and he doesn’t hesitate to show who is the boss, a trait that could not be missed when he halted work last year on an ambitious $3.2 billion Chinese-backed dam.
He stunned China, the country’s main benefactor for years, by halting work in 2011 at the Myitsone dam. The project had fuelled fighting between the army and ethnic Kachin rebels. The dam was being developed at the head of the Irrawaddy river. Now in his mid-60s, the Thein Sein reportedly suffers from a heart condition that requires him to have a pacemaker.