India welcomes militant groups joining Myanmar peace process
New Delhi: India welcomed two more ethnic militant groups joining the Myanmar peace process on Tuesday stating that the “comprehensive peace and national reconciliation process” in its eastern neighbour will be conducive for peace and prosperity in India’s restive northeast.
The presence of India’s representative at the signing ceremony “demonstrates India’s continued support to the peace process in Myanmar,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, the New Mon State Party and the Lahu Democratic Union signed the national ceasefire agreement in a ceremony in the capital Naypyidaw. This was witnessed by Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi who said that armed conflicts have hampered Myanmar’s development, news reports from Myanmar said.
This brings to 10 the number of militant ethnic groups who have signed peace deals with the Myanmar government since 2015 with news reports saying that another eight are holdouts.
Three years ago, Myanmar’s government and eight armed ethnic groups had signed a ceasefire agreement, that was seen as the culmination of more than two years of negotiations aimed at bringing an end to the majority of the country’s long-running conflicts. Among the groups that signed the pact in 2015 were the Karen National Union (KNU), Myanmar’s oldest armed group.
“Given the positive bilateral relationship between India and Myanmar and the significance for India of the Myanmar peace process, Myanmar had earlier invited India (together with China, Japan, Thailand, UN and EU) to sign the NCA (National Ceasefire Agreement) as international witnesses in October 2015,” the Indian statement said.
Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had represented India on that occasion, it said, adding Tuesday’s event was “another step in the process with two more parties agreeing to sign the NCA. The presence of our representative demonstrates India’s continued support to the peace process in Myanmar.”
India believes that many of the separatist groups operating in its northeast with demands ranging from more autonomy to secession have links with others operating in the region. India and Myanmar have conducted coordinated operations against such groups in the past.
New Delhi is looking at its “Act East” policy—linking its northeast with the economically vibrant Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—as an instrument to bring development to its northeast region
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