State coun­sel­lor meets In­dian PM, other lead­ers at In­dia fo­rums

The Myanmar Times - - News - SHOON NAING shoonnaing@mm­times.com

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.

Photo: AFP

In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi (right) greets State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in New Delhi yes­ter­day.

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