As Myanmar embarks on a journey of democracy and development, India on Wednesday assured it of unstinted support as the two traditionally close neighbours agreed to enhance ties in a range of areas including security and trade during talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Myanmar’s top leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi.
The two sides signed three agreements to boost cooperation in power, banking and insurance sectors besides deciding to step up ties in areas of oil and gas, agriculture, renewable energy and health care.
It is Suu Kyi’s first visit to India after her National League for Democracy wrested power from the military junta in a landmark election earlier this year. Suu Kyi, who could not become Myanmar’s President due to a constitutional provision but has full control over the government, holds the position of state councillor and foreign minister.
Welcoming Suu Kyi, the prime minister described India as her second home and assured that “India and its friendship will stand with you in full support and solidarity.”
“You are no stranger to the people of India. The sights, the sounds and vibrancy of Delhi are familiar to you. Welcome back, Excellency, to your second home!
“Excellency, you are an iconic leader,” he said in a media statement. Suu Kyi had done her graduation from DelhiUniversity.
In her comments, the Myanmerese leader invoked Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru and said Myanmar drew huge inspiration from the two Indian leaders in its struggle for democracy.
The prime minister said as close and friendly neighbours, the security interests of India and Myanmar are closely aligned.
The two countries agreed that close coordination to ensure security in the areas along border, and sensitivity to each other’s strategic interests, will help both neighbours, he said.
Myanmar, considered one of India’s strategic neighbours, shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states including militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.
Giving details of the talks, Modi said the two countries agreed to enhance engagement in several areas including agriculture, power, renewable energy and power sector.
“Let me assure you, excellency, that as you lead Myanmar to become a modern, secure, economically prosperous and better connected nation, India and its friendship will stand with you in full support and solidarity,” Modi said.
Effusive in his praise, Modi said, “Your clear vision, mature leadership, struggle and eventual success in establishing democracy in Myanmar has inspired people across the world.
“It is indeed an honour for us to receive you in India. We are also grateful for your participation at the BIMSTEC and the BRICS-BIMSTEC outreach Summit in Goa a couple of days ago.”
Modi said Myanmar has commenced a “new journey” under Suu Kyi’s able leadership and India will always extend full support to it. “It is a journey of hope and much promise.”
Talking about importance of connectivity, the Prime Minister said Myanmar’s new government was keen to connect more deeply with South Asia and South East Asia.
Calling the talks “extensive and productive”, Modi said India has a robust development cooperation programme with Myanmar and that India’s nearly $1.75 billion (Rs 11,671 crore) of development assistance is being utilised in line with the priorites of Myanmarese government and its people.
“From the mega connectivity projects like Kaladan and Trilateral Highway, to projects in the fields of human resource development, healthcare, training and capacity building, we are sharing our resources and expertise with Myanmar,” he said.
The PM said India will develop a Varietal Development and Seed Production Centre in Yezin in Myanmar to enhance the quality of seeds.
“We will also work to develop a mutually beneficial arrangement for trade in pulses. We have offered to scale up the power supply from Moreh in Manipur to Tamu in Myanmar. We will also partner in a pilot LED electrification project at a site designated by the government of Myanmar.”
He said the MOU on cooperation in the power sector will help create the framework for advancing linkages in the sector.
The PM said India has also offered assistance in restoring pagodas damaged in the recent earthquake in Myanmar. Both the delegations had a working lunch.
“The Archaeological Survey of India will also soon begin work on restoring two old temples and inscriptions of King Mindon and King Baygyidaw in Bodh Gaya,” he said.
Suu Kyi’s visit came nearly one-and-half months after Myanmerese President U Htin Kyaw visited India.