New Delhi conveyed India’s willingness to prioritise Myanmar in sharing vaccines as and when they become available
New Delhi: In a major move, it is reliably learnt that India has also proposed to construct a petroleum refinery in the Thanlyn region of Myanmar near Yangon city to boost energy security, with the likely investment expected to be about US$ 6 billion.
India on Monday expressed its appreciation to Myanmar for handing over 22 insurgents to India, with the two sides also “discussing maintenance of security and stability in their border areas and reiterated their mutual commitment not to allow their respective territories to be used for activities inimical to each other”. The discussions happened during the two-day joint visit of Army chief Gen. M.M. Naravane and Foreign Secretary (FS) Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Myanmar that culminated on Monday. As a mark of India’s solidarity with Myanmar in fighting the Covid pandemic, both also presented 3000 vials of Remdesivir—used in anti-Covid treatment—to the Myanmar side. New Delhi conveyed India’s willingness to prioritise Myanmar in sharing vaccines as and when these become available. The Rohingya issue and India’s assistance to development programmes in Myanmar’s Rakhine province was also discussed, with India conveying its “support for ensuring safe, sustainable and speedy return of displaced persons to the Rakhine State”.
Gen. Naravane and FS Mr. Shringla called on Myanmar’s State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Commander in Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Gen. Naravane also met Vice Senior General Soe Win, Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Myanmar Armed Services while the FS also met U Soe Han, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar.
India also announced a grant of US$ 2 million for the construction of the border haat bridge at Byanyu/Sarsichauk in Chin State that will provide increased economic connectivity between Mizoram and Myanmar. Both sides “also discussed progress in the ongoing Indian-assisted infrastructure projects such as the Trilateral Highway and the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project”.
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said “both sides agreed to further strengthen their partnership in connectivity projects, capacity building, power and energy, deepen economic and trade ties, further facilitate people to people and cultural exchanges, and broad-base their defence exchanges across all the three services”.
The visit is in accordance with India’s “neighbourhood first” policy. Myanmar is also a member of south-east Asian grouping ASEAN. The visit comes at a time of Sino-Indian military tensions in the Ladakh sector. Myanmar has enjoyed extremely close ties with China in the past and still retains strong ties with Beijing although it has gradually strengthened ties with India too significantly in the past 15 years.
“A quota of 1.5 lakh tonnes of Urad (Vigna mungo) for import from Myanmar till 31 March 2021 was also announced. The Centre of Excellence in Software Development and Training in Myitkyina, was virtually inaugurated. FS also inaugurated the Embassy Liaison Office in (Myanmar’s Capital) Nay Pyi Taw along with U Soe Han, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, during the visit,” the MEA said.
Myanmar meanwhile “appreciated India’s decision to provide debt service relief under the G-20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative, for the period up to December 31, 2020”.
The MEA also noted, “Both sides noted the considerable progress made under the Rakhine State Development Programme (RSDP) and proposed finalising projects under Phase - III of the Programme, including setting up of a skills training center. During the visit, the Project Agreement on the upgrading of agricultural mechanization under the RSDP was also signed. FS conveyed India’s support for ensuring safe, sustainable and speedy return of displaced persons to the Rakhine State.”
The two neighbours also “exchanged views on an early initiation of work on fresh initiatives such as the upgradation of Yamethin Women's Police Academy, Basic Technical Training School and measures to provide long term sustainability to projects such as the Myanmar Institute of Information Technology. They agreed to work towards operationalisation of Sittwe Port in the Rakhine State in the first quarter of 2021”.
The Myanmar side expressed appreciation for Indian assistance in the preservation of cultural heritage, including the repair and conservation of Bagan pagodas that had been damaged in the 2016 earthquake. The two sides discussed plans to install a bust of Lokmanya Tilak in Mandalay to commemorate his 100th death anniversary as it was during his incarceration in Mandalay jail that Lokmanya Tilak wrote Gita Rahasya, an exposition of the Bhagavad Gita. Other areas of cooperation in culture discussed included translation of Indian epics into the Burmese language”, the MEA said.
“Both sides have been in discussion to establish a High Capacity High Voltage Grid Interconnection between the Indian power grid and the Myanmar grid. Discussions on the low voltage radial interconnections between North-Eastern states and Myanmar have also progressed. ... Initiatives like the successful implementation of the Land Border Crossing Agreement and ongoing discussions at the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Motor Vehicles Agreement, have been moving forward,” the MEA added.