State counsellor to meet with India on sidelines of ASEAN summit
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.
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.