As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh India visits Myanmar next week with security and energy cooperation in focus, India on Friday said the new political environment in that country moving fast on the path to democracy will help to take bilateral ties to a "new level".
Cooperation in security, energy, connectivity and agriculture will top Singh's agenda of talks with Myanmar's quasi-civilian government headed by President U Thein Sein in Nay Pyi Taw on Monday and the two countries are expected to sign a number of agreements in these areas during the visit, the first by an Indian premier in quarter of a century.
Briefing media persons on Dr Singh's 3-day State visit beginning Sunday to Myanmar where he will also meet democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said on the issue of security cooperation, India will seek to emphasize that "it is in our interest to maintain peace at the 1460km border between the two countries and that insurgents who take shelter there are not encouraged to do that".
One of the key reasons for India remaining engaged with Myanmar is its security concern as militants of several North Eastern Indian groups, including ULFA, have taken shelter in that country.
Mathai said "our aim during the visit of the Prime Minister will be to strengthen the existing mechanisms for security cooperation at the level of Home Secretaries and the Army".
He said the two sides discussed the coordinated patrolling of the border and the issue is once again expected to come up at talks during the Prime Minister's visit.
The high-points among the slew of agreements will be the ones relating to an offshore gas block awarded to private Indian company Jubilant Energy in global competition and a passenger bus service between Imphal and Mandalay in western Myanmar.
Mathai admitted that the delay in execution of the multimodal transport project India is constructing on Irrawaddy river in south western Myanmar and said while work on the water transport component of the project is progressing, the road part was held up largely due
A Detailed Project Report on the road construction part would be ready in six months and work will start soon after that, he said.
Mathai said the water component of the Kaladan project is expected to be over by June next year.
The connectivity between India and Myanmar is expected to get a further boost as the two sides and exploring the possibility of extending the present road link between Moreh in Manipur and Kalewa across the border to Thailand.
India views Myanmar as the gateway to South East Asia and central to its Look East policy.
The Foreign Secretary said India is planning to develop Myanmar's Institute of Information Technology and set up a bio-park in that country besides providing assistance to upgrade its agriculture sector through supply of agricultural equipment like tractors and pumps for irrigation. Myanmar is main supplier of pulses to India.
Mathai identified information technology, agro-based industries, hydrocarbon, transport as areas where India can help Myanmar saying as the country walks the path of democracy, it opens up a vast area for India's role in its development encompassing all sectors.
Manmohan Singh, who will be accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and senior officials, will be the first by an Indian Prime Minister to visit Myanmar in 25 years after Rajiv Gandhi who had travelled to that country in December, 1987.
Mathai noted that Singh's visit comes at a time when Myanmar is undergoing rapid transformation as the government of President Thein Sein introduced remarkable political changes to move towards democracy by freeing political prisoners, easing media censorship, allowing labour unions to strike and Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy to contest and win parliamentary elections.