Myanmar graciously welcomed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in its highest honor of dignities and India affirmed Myanmar as an apex place of spiritual practice and gateway to southeast Asia. Traditionally, Myanmar had been very close to the heart of India’s greatest leaders who had visited before embarking their journey towards highest order of achievement. The intertwined religious and cultural relationships between both the countries are age old, which binds together with a unique thread of cohesiveness of Hinduism, Buddhism, Spirituality and Yoga. India, an altruistic neighbor to Myanmar, has not only stands with Myanmar in the odd times but also partnered in its complete and sustainable nation building as the importance of good neighborly relations between the two countries.
While many countries have invested in Myanmar for their strategic and economic interest, India has assumed brotherhood responsibility by investing in much needed areas for all around development of Myanmar. Modi took historic steps during his visit to Myanmar on September 6 to share Myanmar’s concern on extremist violence and to stand by Myanmar amid the challenges including terrorist attacks in northern Rakhine State. Peace and stability in Myanmar are the highest priority to India and India will continue to extend support to the government of Myanmar in consolidating democratic institutions. Both countries jointly called for the international community to end the selective and partial approaches to combating terrorism in order to eliminate the current security and development issues.
Myanmar thanked India for the extended period of support to the Myanmar Institute of Information Technology (MIIT) and India-Myanmar Centre for enhancement of Information Technology (IT) skill. India’s offer to enroll two Myanmar diplomats annually for training at the Kendriya Hindi Sansthan while 150 Myanmar civil servants would undergo training in English language at Indian training institutes every year for a period of five year. India is also expected to provide both technical and financial assistance for Women’s Police Training Centre at Yamethin in Myanmar.
T h e y a g r e e d t o f o s t e r d e e p e r cooperation on national security though continued exchange of high level visits to strengthen bilateral ties and expressed great satisfaction on the recent successful visit of Commanderin-Chief of Defense Forces of Myanmar to India. Both agreed to focus on coordinated patrolling initiatives, bilateral maritime cooperation in nontraditional security domain such as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief. Both the countries reiterated they will stand by each other as good and trustworthy neighbors in years to come. Myanmar has expressed its heartfelt appreciation to government of India on socio economic development for all the assistance rendered to Myanmar in support of its endeavor for socio economic development. India will provide not only financial assistance for setting up Industrial Training Centres in Pokokku, Myingyun, Monywa and Thaton but also assistance for a five year comprehensive maintenance plan for International Trade Centre (ITC) in Myingyan. Myanmar and India agreed to continue discussion towards the establishment of a Planetarium at a suitable location in Myanmar, recognizing that this would be a valuable institution that would nurture a scientific temper amongst the Myanmar’s youth.
Bilateral Trade to Lead to Healthy Economy
The two sides noted with satisfaction the cooperation in the field of agricultural research and education, especially through the rapid progress in operationalizing the Advanced Centre for Agricultural Research and Education set up at the Yezin Agricultural University and the Rice Bio Park set up at the Department of Agricultural Research. It also appreciated India’s assistance for facilitating post-graduation and doctoral education in agricultural sciences for candidates from Myanmar. Both the sides also reviewed projects in the field of health and noted with satisfaction that work on the upgradation of Yangon Childrens’ Hospital and Sittwe General Hospital and on construction of Monywa General Hospital.
Myanmar and India agreed to start consultations to establish and operate an advanced hospital in Nay Pyi Taw (the capital city) in association with one of the leading Indian hospital groups and deliberated on the progress made in utilization of $500 million concessional Line of Credit extended by India to Myanmar in 2012. Myanmar thanked India for supporting various projects on infrastructure and connectivity in Myanmar that enhance bilateral as well as regional connectivity like the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport
Project and other road and bridge construction projects as fully funded grant-in-aid projects. Both the side agreed to enter in to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on appointing a port operator that may include both the sides to be responsible for the operation and maintenance that will promote development of surrounding areas.
Both sides noted with satisfaction that work on the road was already underway and agreed to facilitate movement of project personnel, construction material and equipment across the border through Zorinpui and Paletwa. They also noted that construction work would shortly begin on reconstruction of bridges on the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa Road and on the Kalewa-Yargyi sector of the Trilateral Highway. In response to Myanmar’s request, India agreed to undertake preparation of Detailed Project Reports for the RihkhawdarZowkhathar Bridge and the Bwaynu Bridge.
Power and Energy Sector
Myanmar welcomed India’s participation in its energy sector both in exploration and production and invited Indian companies to participate in tenders for petrochemicals and petroleum products, marketing infrastructure and setting up of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) terminals. India informed that leading Indian oil and gas companies are in the process of opening their offices in Myanmar. The two sides applauded the agreement reached by Numaligarh Refinery of India and Parami Energy Group of Myanmar on supply of diesel to Myanmar across the land border, noting that this will give the people of north Myanmar cheaper and more reliable access to petroleum products, and also encouraged both sides to collaborate in storage and retail marketing of petroleum products in Myanmar. The first consignment of the high speed diesel reached Myanmar on September 4, 2017. India also expressed its readiness to extend technical as well as project-specific assistance to conventional as well as renewable energy-based power development projects identified by Government of Myanmar. Myanmar thanked India for the technology demonstration projects being undertaken through Energy Efficiency Services Company of India to introduce Light-Emitting Diode (LED)- based energy efficient lighting in key townships and buildings identified by Myanmar in Nay Pyi Taw, Bago region and Rakhine State.
The two sides acknowledged the importance of pulses in the bilateral trade basket, and the implications this trade has for the Myanmar farmers and Indian consumers. Both the parties to work out long term arrangements whereby the interests of both the peoples could be safeguarded in future. Leaders of both countries agreed to negotiate and swiftly conclude an agreement on commencing a coordinated bus service between the two countries from Imphal (the capital city of the Indian state of Manipur) to Mandalay in Myanmar. The leaders directed their respective officials to also explore the feasibility of construction of a rail link between Tamu town and Mandalay in Myanmar. India will provide technical and financial assistance development of Pakokku Airport or Kalay Airport.
The two leaders emphasized the centrality of culture in further deepening the close bonds between the peoples of India and Myanmar and expressed satisfaction with the signature of the Cultural Exchange Program (CEP). Two slots would be made available annually for Myanmar archaeologists for advanced studies at the Indian Institute of Archaeology, New Delhi. The Indian side conveyed that the project being undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India to preserve and conserve stone inscriptions and temples of King Mindon and King Bagyidaw of Myanmar in Bodhgaya is at an advanced stage and would be completed by December 2017. Myanmar welcomed India’s assistance in the socio-economic development of Bagan while preserving and conserving its heritage. Prime amongst these is the project to restore and conserve 92 ancient pagodas and structures in Bagan through the Archaeological Survey of India. India-Myanmar cooperation projects are those of setting up of “Bagan Haat” as a hub of Myanmar craft, food and cultural activities, LED-based street lighting, rain water harvesting for sustainable water management, training for alternative income generation for Bagan residents and the upgradation of identified schools. Myanmar expressed deep appreciation to India for the decision taken by the Government of India to give Myanmar nationals gratis visa in all categories, except e-visa. Government of Myanmar thanked India for its decision to grant special pardon to 40 Myanmar nationals who are currently undergoing imprisonment in India for various crimes.
Current Myanmar-India Relationship
India and Myanmar signed 11 agreements in a range of sectors, including one on maritime security cooperation, not only to further strengthen their multifaceted partnership but also to build up maritime security cooperation. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed after Modi held wide-ranging talks with Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. The two sides also signed an agreement for sharing white shipping information to improve data sharing on non-classified merchant navy ships or cargo ships.
The 11 MoUs also include one between the Election Commission and Union Election of Myanmar, the national level electoral commission of Myanmar. A MoU was also signed to organize cultural exchange program for the period 2017- 2020, according to a statement issued by Ministry of External Affairs. Both of the countries also signed agreements on cooperation between Myanmar Press Council and Press Council of India, extension of agreement on the establishment of India-Myanmar Centre for Enhancement of IT skill. They also signed agreements to cooperate in ‘Medical Products Regulation’ and in the field of health and medicine. They also signed a MoU on enhancing the cooperation on the upgradation of the women’s police training center at Yamethin in Myanmar.
Modi arrived Myanmar on the second leg of his two-nation trip during which he travelled to southeastern Chinese city Xiamen where he attended the annual Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) summit and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders. This is Modi’s first visit to Myanmar. He had visited the country in 2014 to attend the ASEAN-India Summit. Myanmar is one of India’s strategic neighbors and shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states including militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.
Counterterrorism Action Plan
India and Myanmar agreed that terrorism remains one of the most significant threats to peace and stability in the region and the fight against the menace should also include strong measures against countries and entities that finance and provide sanctuary to terrorists. In a joint statement issued after Modi’s talks with Suu Kyi, the two sides called on the international community to end selective and partial approaches to combating terrorism. The two leaders discussed the security situation prevailing along their borders and expressed concern at various incidents of terrorism and extremistinspired violence that have taken place in their countries. The two sides agreed that the fight against terrorism should target not only terrorists, terror organizations and networks, but also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against States and entities that encourage, support or finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, the statement said. Not only Myanmar condemned the recent terror attacks but also India condemned the recent terrorist attacks in northern Rakhine State, wherein several members of the Myanmar security forces lost their lives. “Both sides agreed that terrorism violates human rights and there should, therefore, be no glorification of terrorists as martyrs,” according to the joint statement. They jointly called for the expeditious finalization and adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism by the United Nations General Assembly, it added. Recognizing that maintenance of security and stability along the common border is essential for the socio-economic development of the peoples of the border areas, Myanmar reaffirmed its respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India. Myanmar also vowed not to allow any insurgent group to utilize its soil to undertake hostile acts against India, the statement said. Modi appreciated the measures taken by Myanmar towards peace and national reconciliation and commended the on-going peace process in the country. He noted that peace and stability in Myanmar are of the highest priority to India and reiterated India’s continued support to Myanmar in consolidating democratic institutions in the country and for the emergence of a democratic Federal Republic, it added.
Noting that the situation in the troubled northern Rakhine State had a developmental as well as a security dimension, the two sides agreed to bring about overall socio-economic development there by undertaking both infrastructure and socio-economic projects, particularly in the spheres of education, health, agriculture and allied activities. Myanmar welcomed India’s offer of assistance under Rakhine State Development Program and the two sides agreed to finalize the implementation modalities within the next few months, the statement added. Modi justified on September 6 the demonetization exercise that has come in for criticism, asserting that his government was not afraid of taking “big” and “tough” decisions in the interest of the country. Not only Modi’s three-day-visit to Myanmar will make history but also Myanmar-India relations will strengthen in the near future more than now.