Myanmar general arrives on five-day visitApril 2nd, 2008 - 5:56 pm ICT by admin
New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) The second-highest ranking general in Myanmar’s military junta Senior General Maung Aye arrived here Wednesday to start his five-day visit, whose highlight is an agreement to link India’s northeastern states to Myanmar’s port of Sittwe on the Bay of Bengal. Maung held talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday afternoon, followed by meetings with President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Later in the evening, he will hold extensive discussions with Vice President Hamid Ansari at Hyderabad House, following by a ceremony to sign agreements.
Last week, the union cabinet approved for signing an accord with Myanmar for constructing the multi-modal Kaladan transport corridor, which will allow the northeastern states access to the sea, bypassing Bangladesh. The project is expected to be the highlight of Maung’s visit.
The Kaladan project includes upgrading the Sittwe port and Kaladan waterway as well as construction of a road from Setpyitpyin (Kaletwa) to the India-Myanmar border at a cost of Rs.5.3 billion.
Besides signing a framework agreement on the project, India and Myanmar are also expected to ink pacts on a protocol for transit transport, bilateral investment promotion and protection and double taxation avoidance.
The senior general, his wife and the delegation will then travel to the Buddhist sites of Sanchi, Sarnath and Gaya.
Maung will also be going to Bangalore, where he will visit the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and major IT companies. He will also travel to Jamnagar in Gujarat to visit the Reliance Petroleum refinery.
To coincide with the visit, Myanmar’s exiled pro-democracy activists have been on a sit-in here since March 31 to protest the policies of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
“We have been protesting against the SPDC, its new constitution and the upcoming referendum,” said L.R. Sanga, president of Chin Students Association.
He added that 27 pro-democracy associations in India have organised the protest under the banner of Burma Campaign India. Burma is the old name of Myanmar.
“We have not yet made plans for protests in other parts of the country, but we may do that at the last minute,” he said.
Myanmar plays a key role in India’s energy security road map as it has several oil and gas fields. Last September, Union Petroleum Minister Murli Deora visited the country and signed a number of agreements.
India also looks towards Myanmar to control insurgents in the northeast who often slip across the border to set up camps when pursued by Indian security forces.
Despite criticism of Myanmar’s handling of pro-democracy demonstrations six months ago by Western rights groups, India has maintained contacts with the military junta. India’s intensification of ties has been partly a result of the junta getting close to China.
India has opposed the imposition of sanctions on Myanmar by the US and the European Union. It has instead called for a dialogue with the junta to persuade it to take the road to democracy and free pro-democracy leaders, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
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