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President concludes historic visit to Myanmar

March 11, 2006 10:10 IST

President APJ Abdul Kalam, on Saturday, concluded his three-day historic visit to Myanmar, with the two countries drawing up 'systematic and synergetic' policies to achieve $2 billion trade in the next three years. Yangon has also promised to help India's growing energy needs.

Dr Kalam became the first Indian President to visit Myanmar, whose leadership has been shunned by the international community for suppression of democracy and an allegedly dismal human rights record.

Barely days before Dr Kalam had embarked on his visit, United States President George W Bush, during his trip to India, had blasted the military junta for its 'dismal' human rights record.

However, the visit had to be seen against the backdrop of Myanmar being considered by India as 'the gateway to Association of South East Asian Nations'.

Dr Kalam, who is accompanied by Minister of State Kumari Selja and Foreign Secretary Shayam Saran, left for Mauritius on a three-day state visit, where he will be the chief guest of that country's national day functions on Sunday.

He was seen off at the airport by State Development and Peace Council chairman Senior General Than Shwe and other top leaders.

Before his departure, he had described Myanmar as 'a key element in India's Look East Policy and a trusted partner in our vision for a dynamic and vibrant pan-Asian community of peace and prosperity'.

The high point of the President's visit was the signing of three important agreements in natural gas, satellite-based remote sensing and promotion of Buddhist studies.

India also offered $35 million as financial assistance to Myanmar for its various development projects, including purchase of heavy duty water pumps for agricultural activities and a multi-modal transport system, which would connect Myanmar with India's north-east region.

Dr Kalam's visit has opened new vistas of cooperation, with relations not only confined to energy sector but also in IT, automobile, textiles, agro-based industries and river and land-based transportation system.

An important fall-out of Dr Kalam's visit is the impetus provided to the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, which is likely to commence soon.

"We are also working towards the development of a hydro-electric power project at Tamanthi, which has the potential of generating nearly 1000 MW of power," said Dr Kalam in his address to Myanmar's Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

India also promised all help to Myanmar in restoring the democratic system, the 'institution building process' as well as its all round development.

"I visualise a great future for Myanmar towards development and economic prosperity. India will be very happy to be a partner in the development of agriculture, manufacturing and services sector of Myanmar," said Dr Kalam.

During his visit, he interacted with students, professors and intelligentsia and paid tributes to the last Mughal King Bahadur Shah Zafar by visiting his mazar. 

Dr Kalam also visited Mandalay, the second biggest city after Yangon, where he interacted with monks and the faculty members of the School of Traditional Medicines.