State coun­sel­lor to meet with In­dia on side­lines of ASEAN sum­mit

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - PHOTO: AFP

In an­other move to strengthen long-ne­glected bi­lat­eral ties, In­dia and Myan­mar are sched­uled to meet to­mor­row in Laos where Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is lead­ing her coun­try’s del­e­ga­tion.

THE Myan­mar del­e­ga­tion has sched­uled a bi­lat­eral meet­ing with In­dia on the side­lines of this week’s ASEAN sum­mits. Es­tab­lish­ing closer ties be­tween the neigh­bour­ing coun­tries will be on the agenda as a fol­low-up to Pres­i­dent U Htin Kyaw’s trip to New Delhi last month, ac­cord­ing to U Kyaw Zayra, di­rec­tor gen­eral of Myan­mar’s ASEAN Af­fairs Depart­ment.

He said In­dia had in­vited the bi­lat­eral talks, sched­uled for to­mor­row, with both sides ea­ger to strengthen a re­la­tion­ship that an­a­lysts say has long played sec­ond fid­dle to Myan­mar’s other gi­ant neigh­bour, China.

“Dur­ing the bi­lat­eral meet­ing, the dis­cus­sion will be about mak­ing greater friend­ship be­tween In­dia and Myan­mar,” said U Kyaw Zayra.

U Htin Kyaw vis­ited In­dia from Au­gust 17 to 20, “seek­ing sup­port in the on­go­ing re­build­ing ef­forts in Myan­mar”, Myan­mar state me­dia re­ported.

Though the pres­i­dent did come away with a hand­ful of con­crete de­liv­er­ables – sign­ing four mem­o­randa of un­der­stand­ing on in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and other mat­ters – a more sub­stan­tive dis­cus­sion be­tween the two coun­tries could well play out at the bi­lat­eral meet­ing, given that U Htin Kyaw is un­der­stood to hold a largely tit­u­lar lead­er­ship role.

By con­trast, the talks on the ASEAN sum­mit side­lines will bring Myan­mar’s de facto leader, State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, face to face with In­dian of­fi­cials.

U Min Lwin, Myan­mar’s top ASEAN diplo­mat at the re­gional bloc’s sec­re­tar­iat in Jakarta, de­clined to spec­u­late on specifics of the bi­lat­eral meet­ing’s agenda.

Fol­low­ing U Htin Kyaw’s In­dia trip, his­to­rian U Thant Myint-U said, “Few re­la­tion­ships are as im­por­tant for Myan­mar as with In­dia. Myan­mar-In­dia re­la­tions hold tremen­dous po­ten­tial in prac­ti­cally all fields, from se­cu­rity to trade to ed­u­ca­tion to cul­ture.”

The 28th and 29th ASEAN sum­mits and re­lated meet­ings be­gan yes­ter­day in Vientiane, Laos, with US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama also vis­it­ing the coun­try, for the first time.

Re­ports ahead of his trip sug­gested that the US pres­i­dent was con­sid­er­ing fur­ther eas­ing sanc­tions against Myan­mar, pos­si­bly as soon as later this month, when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will visit Wash­ing­ton.

U Min Lwin said the Myan­mar del­e­ga­tion had no plans for sideline meet­ings with the United States this week.

“We have no other sideline meet­ings ex­cept for with four coun­tries, in­clud­ing In­dia,” he told The Myan­mar Times, adding that nei­ther the US nor Chi­nese ASEAN del­e­ga­tions were slated for bi­lat­er­als.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi vis­ited China last month, her first visit to a ma­jor for­eign power since in­stalling her­self as the na­tion’s de facto leader ear­lier this year. In ad­di­tion to her up­com­ing visit to the United States, she plans later this year to at­tend a re­gional sum­mit for BIMSTEC, the Bay of Ben­gal Ini­tia­tive for Mul­tiSec­toral Tech­ni­cal and Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion.

U Kyaw Zayra said this week’s side­lines talks might be to lay the ground­work for en­hanced re­la­tions be­tween In­dia and Myan­mar, pos­si­bly to be ce­mented at the BIMSTEC fo­rum.

Tridi­vesh Singh Maini, an In­dian po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst, said the bi­lat­eral meet­ing would likely fo­cus on con­nec­tiv­ity on mul­ti­ple fronts.

“Both in terms of phys­i­cal con­nec­tiv­ity and eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion is the larger fo­cus. In the In­dia-Myan­mar con­text, it’s also about greater se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion on the bor­ders,” he said.

A Myan­mar del­e­ga­tion of­fi­cial said the other three coun­tries slated for bi­lat­eral meet­ings this week are Viet­nam, New Zealand and Morocco.

Photo: AFP

State Coun­sel­lor and For­eign Min­is­ter Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is head­ing the Myan­mar del­e­ga­tion at the 28th and 29th As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions Sum­mits in Vientiane this week.

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