Myan­mar and In­dia strengthen ties in key state visit

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

In­dia inked science and tech deals with Myan­mar on Tues­day, as well as pledg­ing to train judges and build houses in cri­sis-hit Rakhine state, as Delhi cosies up to the strate­gi­cally im­por­tant South­east Asian coun­try.

Both China and In­dia covet Myan­mar's grow­ing do­mes­tic mar­ket, nat­u­ral re­sources as well as ac­cess to key ports.

Delhi has helped fi­nance a deep­wa­ter port in Rakhine's cap­i­tal Sit­twe, as money flows in from part­ners across the re­gion ea­ger to gain a foothold in Myan­mar's poor west­ern state, which has a long coast­line fac­ing the Bay of Ben­gal.

Last week, In­dia's Pres­i­dent Shri Ram Nath Kovind was greeted with the full pomp and cir­cum­stance of a guard of hon­our be­fore meet­ing Myan­mar's civil­ian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Pres­i­dent Win Myint.

The two coun­tries dis­cussed how In­dia would help with the re­turn of Ro­hingya refugees, af­ter a bru­tal mil­i­tary crack­down last year forced some 720,000 over the bor­der from Rakhine state into Bangladesh.

"In­dia is build­ing 250 houses in Myan­mar's Rakhine province as part of a de­vel­op­men­tal project," In­dia's pres­i­dent tweeted, adding that 50 houses were for­mally handed over.

The repa­tri­a­tion process for refugees was sup­posed to start last month but the Ro­hingya are re­fus­ing to come back un­til their safety and rights are guar­an­teed.

In Novem­ber, Myan­mar and China signed off on a deal for an­other Rakhine port off Kyauk­phyu town, at the scaled-down cost of $1.3 bil­lion.

Myan­mar plays a piv­otal role in China's One Belt One Road ini­tia­tive, a project to de­velop Chi­nese in­vest­ments across Europe, Asia and Africa.

But the coun­try is also of key strate­gic in­ter­est to its west­ern neigh­bour In­dia.

With a 1,600 kilo­me­tre-long (1,000 miles) land bor­der and a maritime bor­der in the Bay of Ben­gal, Myan­mar is In­dia's only ad­join­ing mem­ber of ASEAN -- a bloc of South­east Asian na­tions.

The two coun­tries have been work­ing to­gether for a decade on a $484 mil­lion project to link In­dia's east­ern sea­port Kolkata with Myan­mar's Chin and Rakhine states.

Two fur­ther deals were inked Tues­day, one fo­cus­ing on the train­ing of Myan­mar judges and the other in the science and tech­nol­ogy sec­tor, both pres­i­dents an­nounced.

Myan­mar's ju­di­cial sys­tem came un­der heavy global crit­i­cism dur­ing the trial of two Reuters jour­nal­ists and their sen­tenc­ing to seven years in jail for re­port­ing on the Ro­hingya cri­sis.

The pres­i­dents also dis­cussed se­cu­rity, visa on ar­rival for Indian cit­i­zens and other in­vest­ments, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment by the Myan­mar pres­i­dent's of­fice.

Myan­mar State Coun­sel­lor Aung San Suu Kyi and Indian Pres­i­dent Shri Ram Nath Kovind of­fer a toast in Nay Pyi Taw. Photo: EPA

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