Myanmar general arrives in India Wednesday

March 31st, 2008 - 7:13 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) A week after the Indian cabinet approved the Kaladan transport corridor linking India’s northeast to Myanmar’s port of Sittwe, Myanmar’s second highest ranking general arrives here to ink the strategically important project.
Senior Gen Maung Aye will reach Delhi Wednesday, leading an official delegation, and meet the top Indian leadership, including Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Last week, the union cabinet approved for signing an accord with Myanmar for constructing a multi-modal Kaladan transport corridor, which will allow sea access to the northeastern states, bypassing Bangladesh. The project is expected to be the highlight of Gen. Maung’s visit.

The Kaladan project includes upgrading the Sittwe port and Kaladan waterway and construction of a road from Setpyitpyin (Kaletwa) to the India-Myanmar border at a cost of Rs.5.3 billion.

The last high-level visit from Myanmar was that of Foreign Minister Nyan Win, who came early January to hold foreign office consultations with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

India and Myanmar share a border of over 1,600 km and bilateral trade has been steadily increasing to nearly $1 billion.

Despite Western human rights groups’ criticism of Myanmar’s handling of pro-democracy demonstrations six months back, India has maintained contacts with the ruling military junta. India’s intensification of ties has been partly a result of the military junta cosying up to China, which had rung alarm bells in New Delhi.

India has opposed imposition of sanctions on Myanmar by United States and the European Union, and 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 Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar plays a key role in India’s energy security road map as it has several oil and gas fields that are being eyed by both India and China. Last September, union Petroleum Minister Murli Deora visited the country and signed agreements with the junta just when pro-democracy protests started.

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