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India cannot take a backseat on Myanmar: Khurshid

December 14, 2012 18:16 IST

India on Friday extended to Myanmar a grant of $ 1 million for building infrastructure, including schools, in the violence-hit Rakhine State and signed two key MoUs as New Delhi pitched for deeper bilateral ties making it clear that it cannot 'take a back seat'.

Myanmar is emerging as a major focal point of interest for the world because it is the latest among countries of the world that are transiting from one form of the government to another.

"As a neighbour that is significantly involved for our common concerns, we cannot take a backseat when the world engages with Myanmar," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said.

Describing his meeting with the Myanmar leadership as 'full of warmth and appreciation', Khurshid, who is on his first bilateral visit since assuming office, said the   two sides discussed a host of issues including security cooperation, economic ties and upgradation of infrastructure.

After his meeting with President Thein Sein and his counterpart U Wunna Maung Lwin, Khurshid said he had raised India's security concerns and Myanmar said it was 'more  than willing' to help with 'complete openness'.

Eyeing deeper ties with people of Myanmar, India extended a grant of $ 1million for development in the Rakhine state that recently saw decades-old tension between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims explode.

The tension erupted with new ferocity in June leaving at least 180 dead and more than 1,10,000 displaced. India and Myanmar also signed two MoUs for building a Rhitiddim Road connecting the two countries and for setting up of a new consulate in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State.

The Rhi-Tiddim road will connect Manipur directly to Tiddim and would act as a major boost for border trade.

Stressing that India and Myanmar share important ties, Khurshid said a series of high-level bilateral visits are planned including Defence Minister A K Antony's in January.

Asked about United Liberation Front of Asom chief Paresh Baruah's reported presence in Myanmar, Khurshid said Myanmar has repli ed that "if we have specific info, we can share it with them".

During his three-day visit to Myanmar, Khurshid will also hold meeting with pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. His visit is also a precursor to the discussions which will take place during Myanmar President's India trip for ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit from December 20.

Khurshid, who assumed charge over two months ago, is travelling to Myanmar on his first bilateral visit. He had travelled to Laos last month for 9th ASEM conference.

A number of new initiatives related to enhancing connectivity through land, sea and air, promoting bilateral cooperation and exchanges in the areas of security, border cooperation, trade and commerce, banking, agriculture among others are under joint implementation.

The minister would inaugurate the International Conference on Buddhist Cultural Heritage that is being jointly organised by the governments of the two countries in Yangon on December 15.

He is also scheduled to unveil the 15-foot replica of the statue of Gautama Buddha in the precincts of the famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.

The Buddha statue had been gifted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to Myanmar in May this year.
Priyanka Tikoo in Nay Pyi Taw