SM Krishna arrives in Myanmar

SM Krishna arrives in Myanmar

Yangon: The foreign minister of India SM Krishna arrived in Myanmar on Monday for first the high-level contact with the new government in a country where it is keen to counter China’s growing influence.

Once a staunch supporter of Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, India began engaging with the ruling junta in the mid-1990s over security and energy issues.

Underscoring the close ties, Foreign Minister SM Krishna will be received by new President Thein Sein in the capital Naypyidaw on Wednesday, a day after talks with counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin, a Myanmar government official said.

But he is not the first visiting dignitary to meet the new president.

A group of Communist Party officials from India’s regional economic rival China received an audience in April, just days after the handover of power from the junta to a nominally civilian government.

Krishna made no comment on whether he would meet with Suu Kyi during his two-day visit, but Indian sources said no talks had been scheduled with the Nobel peace laureate.

The foreign minister is the highest-ranking Indian official to visit Myanmar since elections in November - the first in 20 years - resulted in the new army-backed government.

Suu Kyi, who was freed from long-term house arrest shortly after the elections, had refused, along with her National League for Democracy party, to participate in the polls, saying the rules were unfair.

In a statement on his departure from India, Krishna said talks would focus on ‘enhancing security cooperation’ and collaboration in fields such as energy and infrastructure.

As well as needing the Myanmar military’s help to counter Indian separatists along their common border, India is eyeing oil and gas fields and hydroelectric projects in the country.

It is also keeping a wary eye on China. Beijing, a long-time ally of the Myanmar junta, has shielded the country from UN sanctions over rights abuses as a veto-wielding, permanent member of the Security Council.

“India has come to realise that China has been showing more than the normal interest in the Indian Ocean affairs," Krishna told parliament after two Chinese warships docked for a rare visit to Yangon last August.