State counsellor meets Indian PM, other leaders at India forums
STATE Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi returns to Yangon today after a three-day trip to India, where she attended meetings of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the economic grouping of five nations known as BRICS.
According to the State Counsellor’s Office website, the BRICS and BIMSTEC leaders’ Outreach Summit was the first-ever meeting of its kind. BRICS is an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, a grouping of five large and emerging national economies that was formed in 2009 as BRIC, with South Africa joining one year later.
BIMSTEC, meanwhile, was founded as BIST-EC, consisting of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, in June 1997, with Myanmar joining later that year and Bhutan and Nepal also gaining membership in 2004. The seven nations – with a total population of 1.5 billion – formed BIMSTEC to “create an enabling environment for rapid economic development through identification and implementation of specific cooperation projects in the sectors of trade, investment and industry, technology, human recourse development, tourism, agriculture, energy, and infrastructure and transportation”, according to its website.
In addition to the region forums, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi travelled to India at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, her first trip to the neighbouring nation since her government took power earlier this year.
“Officially, she went to India to attend the BIMSTEC and BRICS meetings. But this is also her first trip to India as a state visit for [promoting] the bilateral friendship,” said Daw Aye Aye Soe, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry.
The state counsellor, who also serves as foreign minister, was received by an honour guard yesterday in New Delhi at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential residence, where she met with Mr Modi and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee.
The state counsellor met with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena as well, in the Indian coastal state of Goa on October 16, when opportunities for bilateral cooperation were discussed, according to the State Counsellor’s Office website.
This week also offered Daw Aung San Suu Kyi another opportunity to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose country was the first major power the state counsellor visited since she assumed power. According to state media, the two leaders discussed advancing agreements made on her August trip to China, as well as security along the two countries’ shared border and recent upheaval in northern Rakhine State, where an armed assault on border guard posts and an ongoing manhunt for the militants is proving a major early challenge to her government.
“In answer to the clarification of the peace process and the latest events in the northern part of Rakhine State by the State Counsellor, President Xi replied that he was well convinced of the matters and would provide constructive help,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported of their October 17 meeting.
The report made no mention of the Chinese-backed Myitsone mega-dam, a project in Kachin State that remains suspended and the fate of which could set the tone for bilateral relations with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the helm.
Though Myanmar shares a border – and cultural and historical links – with both India and China, geopolitical analysts have long noted Beijing’s far more extensive economic ties to the Southeast Asian nation. Pledges by New Delhi in recent years to “look east” in a concerted push to deepen engagement with fast-growing Southeast Asia have at times been criticised as more talk than action.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as the country’s de facto leader chose first to travel to Beijing, but she dispatched President U Htin Kyaw to India that same month.
The state counsellor’s ties to India date back to her childhood, when her mother, Daw Khin Kyi, served as Myanmar’s ambassador in New Delhi.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) greets State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in New Delhi yesterday.