India urges Myanmar to accept global aid, junta agrees (Lead)

May 13th, 2008 - 1:11 am ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) Myanmar Monday told India that it was ready to accept international aid for cyclone victims after External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee requested his counterpart U Nyan Win to open the doors for global aid that was earlier viewed with suspicion by the junta. Mukherjee, who is currently in Abu Dhabi on a two-day visit, spoke to Win and expressed the Indian people’s “deep sorrow at the tragic loss of lives” and damage to property from the cyclone and underlined India’s “empathy and solidarity” with the government and people of Myanmar.

This was the first official conversation between the two foreign ministers after Cyclone Nargis May 2 devastated the Southeast Asian country, killing many people and rendering tens of thousands homeless.

Mukherjee reiterated “India’s readiness to assist Myanmar in whatever way we can in both relief and rehabilitation efforts,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna told reporters here.

“He also urged Myanmar to accept international relief supplies to supplement their efforts,” Sarna added.

The foreign minister of Myanmar “expressed gratitude for the prompt and generous assistance by India.”

“Myanmar also conveyed readiness to accept international relief and medical supplies,” the spokesperson said.

Giving an update on India’s assistance, Sarna stressed the “spontaneous and immediate” help India provided.

“This was keeping in mind our close and friendly neighbourly relations with Myanmar,” he observed.

The junta’s decision to accept international relief aid comes after mounting pressure from the UN, leading human rights organisations and countries like the US, which have been asking India and China to use their influence to persuade the generals in Myanmar to accept global assistance.

Significantly, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to Mukherjee Friday and discussed the situation in Myanmar in detail.

The spokesperson, however, did not comment when asked whether India requested Myanmar to accept American aid.

Governments and aid agencies around the world have pledged over $60 million of relief supplies and support. The reclusive junta, which resents attempts by Western governments to influence it, resisted taking aid from these countries, sparking anxieties among relief agencies.

However, with the junta giving the green light, the US military C-130 cargo plane, packed with 28,000 pounds of supplies, flew out of the Thai air force base of Utapao and landed in Yangon Monday.

Two Indian Navy ships - INS Rana and INS Kirpan - carrying relief and medical supplies, and five Indian aircraft carrying tents, medicines, roofing material and other relief items have already reached Myanmar. These include an IL-76 aircraft which landed in Yangon Monday, carrying ready-to-eat meals.

India was one of the first few countries to dispatch relief and medical supplies last week after reports trickled in about a massive cyclone killing over 30,000 people in the military-ruled country.

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