Amid China tension, India, Myanmar to expand ties

October 12th, 2011 - 10:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Bodh Gaya New Delhi/Gaya, Oct 12 (IANS) Myanmar President U. Thein Sein Wednesday began his maiden visit to India that is expected to scale up political and economic cooperation between the two countries amid Yangon’s tension with Beijing over a mega dam.

Thein Sein began his visit to India, the first since he became president last year, from Bodh Gaya and will also be going to neighbouring Buddhist pilgrimage destinations, including Kushinagar, before touching down in New Delhi Thursday evening.

He will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday that will focus on intensifying economic, energy and strategic ties between the two countries. Counter-terror and security cooperation will figure prominently in the discussions.

A clutch of agreements are also expected to be signed.

The discussions will also focus on key transport projects that will accelerate connectivity between Myanmar and India’s northeast states.

Besides oil and gas, the two sides are also expected to explore greater cooperation in agriculture as Myanmar possess vast tracts of arable land. Thein Sein will visit the Indian Agriculture Research Institute Saturday morning before heading back to Yangon.

Thein Shein, a former general in Myanmar’s Army, touched down on a day when the government in Yangon released several political prisoners as part of a general amnesty, bolstering the new regime’s reformist credentials.

In fact, ever since he assumed power, Thein Shein has taken a slew of steps, including the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, that has struck a chord both domestically and internationally.

These reformist steps are set to make it easier for India, which has earlier been defensive about deepening ties with the military establishment, to develop stronger economic and energy ties with Myanmar.

Significantly, Myanmar’s president, like his Vietnamese counterpart, is in India at the same time when both countries are having their share of trouble with an assertive Beijing. Thein Shein surprised many when he last month “postponed” a decision on the $3.6 billion Chinese-financed Myitsone hydro-electric power project, sparking speculation about a growing rift between Beijing and Yangon.

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