NayPyidaw: India on Monday announced that it will provide a $500 million line of credit to Myanmar as the two countries signed agreements on a range of sectors, including air services, beginning a “new journey” of bilateral cooperation.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held “broad-ranging” discussions with Myanmar President Thein Sein on a road map for bilateral cooperation and said New Delhi is committed to Myanmar’s economic development.
Reaching out: Manmohan Singh (left) meets Thein Sein at the President’s house in Naypyidaw on Monday. By AFP
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) for India’s $500 million credit line was signed between Export-Import Bank of India and Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank. The line of credit was agreed upon in October last year when the Myanmar president had visited New Delhi.
The two countries also signed an air services agreement and an MoU on establishment of a joint trade and investment forum and setting up of border trade centres across the border of India and Myanmar.
Singh told Sein that connectivity remains a major thrust area in India-Myanmar relations while capacity-building in Myanmar is a major priority for India’s development assistance. India pledged to double the training slots for Myanmarese personnel in India.
“We have embarked on a new journey of bilateral cooperation,” Singh told Thein Sein, adding, “we are committed to strengthening our economic and development partnership.”
Singh told Sein that India is ready to share with Myanmar its experience of parliamentary democracy and “we wish you all the success in your nation-building efforts and the changes you are bringing about”, according to ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.
The MoU relating to the India-Myanmar Border Area Development envisages Indian assistance to set up schools, community areas and health centres across the border. India has successfully tried this model of development in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and is going to replicate it for Myanmar, Indian officials said.
The agreement on border area development has important implications for security concerns of India as economic prosperity in those areas is expected to address the issue of insurgency.
Myanmar shares a 1,640km border with four north-eastern Indian states—Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh—whose insurgents often take shelter across the border.
The agreement on the much-talked-about passenger bus service between Imphal and Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, could not be signed as Myanmar’s cabinet is yet to clear it, people close to the development said.
Among the 12 agreements signed on Monday were those between University of Calcutta and Dagon University in Yangon on cooperation in research, an MoU on setting up Myanmar Institute of Information Technology, establishment of Advance Centre for Agriculture Research and Education in Naypyidaw, setting up border haats and a bio-park in Naypyidaw, on cooperation between Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses and Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS and between Indian Council of World Affairs and MISIS.
The signing of the agreements cap wide ranging and extensive talks between the Singh and Sein on the second day of the Indian Prime Minister’s visit.
Singh, who is accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur and external affairs minister S.M. Krishna, was given a ceremonial reception at the Presidential Palace.
Ahead of the talks, Krishna suggested that India and Myanmar should work out a joint strategy to tackle terrorism and insurgency as both the countries were facing the problem.
“Also, there are insurgents on both sides. So, I think we have to work out an understanding to tackle it. We have an understanding with Myanmar, we have been cooperating with them and it is necessary to deepen this cooperation,” he said. Krishna stressed on the economic content of India’s relationship with Myanmar saying “this too is equally important”.
“Myanmar is a developing country like India. They have come out of some problems internally and seem to be settling down now. It is about time that they launch a developmental agenda. I think people of Myanmar need India’s assistance and we would be willing to assist them,” he said.