Sunday, February 25, 2024

India looks to Myanmar to evict N-E rebels

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Our Spl Correspondent

 New Delhi: India looks forward to elicit cooperation from neighbouring Myanmar in evicting Northeast rebel groups besides improving bilateral trade ties and gaining access to Southeast Asian nations through the country during the engagement with the high-level Myanmar delegation led by President U Thein Sein that has arrived in New Delhi.

After tasting success in getting Northeast militants evicted first from Bhutan and then from Bangladesh, India is now turning its attention to rebel’s bases in Myanmar to give the final blow to insurgents in the sensitive region.

Co-operation on fighting the rebel groups, cross border infrastructure projects,

Improvement of border connectivity between Myanmar and Northeastern states, development of border trade and bilateral trade ties would figure in the talks with Myanmar delegation, according to an official spokesperson.

The Myanmar delegation comprises of at least 13 senior ministers including the minister of border affairs, foreign minister besides senior officials and the Army Chief. A number of agreements on various areas are likely to be signed when the two sides meet on Friday.

Talking to newspersons, the official spokesman said that the four NE states — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram share more than 1,600 km long border with Myanmar which has already assured not to allow its soil to be used by the forces inimical to interest of India.

But to a question if India would be pressing for hand-over of the fugitive ULFA ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Barua, the spokesman declined any comment. Barua is suspected to be hiding somewhere along Myanmar-China border.

During the delegation level talks India is likely to press for persistent operations against the extremist outfits operating out of the border areas inside the neighbouring country.

Several militant outfits including NSCN, ULFA, and NDFB, besides PLA, UNLF, and PREPAK among others maintain bases in the country taking advantage of the dense forest and similar looking local population in those areas.

Joint Secretary, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, Harsha Singla said that Sittwe Port is likely to become operational by middle of 2013. The Port is being developed by India as a gateway to landlocked Mizoram.

It is the first visit by such a high-level Myanmar delegation since the incumbent President of Myanmar assumed office on March 30 this year after general elections and the new civilian government was formed. The President along with his spouse and delegates paid a visit to holy Buddhist sites at Gaya, Khushinagar and Sarnath.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna will call on the Myanmar President on Friday followed by delegation-level talks at with the Prime Minister and signing of some agreements.

The Myanmar president is slated to visit to Akshardham Temple after the meeting and in the evening will meet his counterpart President Pratibha Devisingh Patil who hosts a banquet in the honour of the visiting dignitary.

“Given our geographical proximity, India and Myanmar have enjoyed a longstanding relationship underpinned by ethnic, cultural and linguistic proximities, affinities. A large section of the Myanmar population is Buddhist and naturally sees India as their spiritual home. By various counts, something like a million people in Myanmar is of Indian origin,” the spokesman said.

“Myanmar is the only Southeast Asian State with which India has a land boundary, and as such it is a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia, and also a gateway to the ASEAN region. Naturally connectivity through Myanmar can be instrumental in spurring economic development in our northeastern region,” he said.

Myanmar is also an integral part in India’s Look East Policy. India and Myanmar are members of a number of regional fora including BIMSTEC, the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Plus Six, as well as other international fora. In 2008, Myanmar became an Observer at the SAARC.

The volume of India — Myanmar bilateral trade for 2010-11 was 1.28 billion dollars which is much below the potential, the spokesman said. Myanmar is also emerging as an important partner in India’s quest for energy security. Indian companies like ONGC Videsh Limited, GAIL, Essar Group already have a presence in the country.

The spokesman however, dismissed growing Chinese interest in Myanmar at the cost of India. “Our bilateral relationship is not targeted in favour or against any third country,” he said.

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