Prime Min­is­ter's Myan­mar visit

In­dia and Myan­mar have a cru­cial role to play in strength­en­ing ASEAN and both coun­tries are cru­cial to push­ing through vi­tal con­nec­tiv­ity is­sues af­fect­ing the whole re­gion and In­dia’s North East.


Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s visit to Myan­mar was yet another hall­mark con­vert­ing In­dia’s ‘Look East Pol­icy’ to that of ‘Act East’. His first stop in his 10-day trip to Myan­mar, Aus­tralia and Fiji be­gan with his ar­riv­ing in Myan­mar’s cap­i­tal Naypy­daw where he also at­tended the ASEAN-In­dia Sum­mit and the East Asia Sum­mit, be­sides meet­ing the po­lit­i­cal hi­er­ar­chy in­clud­ing meet­ing Pres­i­dent U Thein Sein as well as op­po­si­tion leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and meet­ing the In­dia di­as­pora.

In­dia and Myan­mar cul­tural and civil­i­sa­tional re­la­tions are an­cient par­tic­u­larly with bonds of Bud­dhism. Myan­mar is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant in strate­gic terms with its lo­ca­tion in the arch of Bay of Ben­gal and the en­hanced geopo­lit­i­cal fo­cus on the In­dian Ocean re­gion (IOR) in this 21st cen­tury. It was for­mer Myan­mar Pres­i­dent U Win who had first talked of In­dia and Burma (now Myan­mar) to­gether form­ing the ‘Arch of Bay of Ben­gal’.

Myan­mar is also part of the strate­gic out­reach of China to the IOR through land with road and water­way con­nec­tiv­ity, de­vel­op­ment of deep sea port at Kyauk­phyu and gas-oil pipe­lines con­nect­ing Yun­nan-Kun­ming with Myan­mar to ob­vi­ate the choke point of Malacca Strait, not that Myan­mar would ever be a client state of another na­tion. In his meet­ing with Myan­mar Pres­i­dent U Thein Sein, Prime Min­is­ter Modi had com­pre­hen­sive dis­cus­sions re­view­ing all as­pects of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions in­clud­ing con­nec­tiv­ity, com­mer­cial ties and cul­tural bonds since In­dia seeks deeper eco­nomic en­gage­ment with the South East Asian Na­tions.

On ar­rival in Myan­mar, Prime Min­is­ter Modi had said, “Our ties with South East Asia are deep rooted. Strength­en­ing re­la­tions with ASEAN na­tions is an im­por­tant part of our ‘Act East’ pol­icy.” Pres­i­dent Thein Sein con­veyed to Prime Min­is­ter Modi that In­dia’s growth story as en­vis­aged by him will im­mensely ben­e­fit Myan­mar and have a salu­tary ef­fect. In his speech at the ASEAN-In­dia Sum­mit, Modi spoke of his gov­ern­ment’s re­solve to trans­late the ‘Look East’ pol­icy into an ‘Act­ing East’ one and that he would push through with con­nec­tiv­ity cor­ri­dors with the 10-mem­ber ASEAN bloc.

In­dia and Myan­mar have a cru­cial role to play in strength­en­ing ASEAN and both coun­tries are cru­cial to push­ing through vi­tal con­nec­tiv­ity is­sues af­fect­ing the whole re­gion and In­dia’s North East. There al­ready are plans to de­velop in­dus­trial hubs along the pro­posed tri­lat­eral 3,200-km high­way link­ing In­dia, Myan­mar and Thai­land con­nect­ing Moreh in In­dia to Mae Sot in Thai­land via Myan­mar that is ex­pected to be com­pleted by 2018, con­nect­ing In­dia and the South East Asian coun­tries.

At the East Asia Sum­mit, Prime Min­is­ter Modi said that this Sum­mit is an im­por­tant pil­lar of his gov­ern­ment’s ‘Act East’ pol­icy. He praised the ini­tia­tives taken by the East Asia Sum­mit in dis­as­ter preparedness and re­sponse, adding that no other fo­rum brings to­gether such large col­lec­tive weight of global pop­u­la­tion, youth, econ­omy and mil­i­tary strength, and no other fo­rum is so crit­i­cal for peace, sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity in Asia-Pa­cific and the world. He as­serted that the world com­mu­nity must re­ject any link­age be­tween re­li­gion and ter­ror­ism while for­mu­lat­ing a gen­uinely in­ter­na­tional part­ner­ship to counter all forms of ter­ror acts.

Prime Min­is­ter Modi met a whole range of world lead­ers at­tend­ing the ASEAN-In­dia Sum­mit and East Asia Sum­mit. Amongst the var­i­ous meet­ings, Modi spoke to the In­dia di­as­pora in the same vein as at Madi­son Square in New York. While Pres­i­dent de­scribed Prime Min­is­ter Modi as a ‘man of ac­tion, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping told Modi that Beijing is look­ing for­ward to his visit. Pres­i­dent Park Geun Hye in­vited Modi to South Korea. In his char­ac­ter­is­tic style, Modi praised the Malaysian model of per­for­mance as­sess­ment while speak­ing to Premier Na­jib Razak.

Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s visit to Myan­mar and ad­dresses at ASEAN-In­dia Sum­mit and East Asia Sum­mit breathes fresh re­align­ment to In­dia’s ‘Act East’ pol­icy, also strength­en­ing th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions. It is ap­par­ent that Modi has been able to not only ce­ment phys­i­cal con­nec­tiv­ity but in­sti­tu­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal con­nec­tiv­ity; a char­ac­ter­is­tic that has ush­ered a new dy­namism in In­dia’s for­eign pol­icy. This visit is the in­au­gu­ra­tion of an in­tense and more ac­tive en­gage­ment with Myan­mar, driv­ing the fo­cus on the need for In­dia to have a larger eco­nomic role in the re­gion that com­prises ASEAN and East Asia mem­ber na­tions.

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