UN chief wants India to spur democracy in Myanmar

October 31st, 2008 - 8:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) With the Myanmar junta showing little signs of relaxing its control, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Friday expressed hope that India will help in spurring the process of democratic transition in the military-ruled southeastern country. “I hope that the Indian government as a neighbouring country will help facilitate the democratic transition in Myanmar,” Ban told reporters at the end of his two-day visit to India.

The situation in Myanmar and the continuing suppression of pro-democracy protesters figured prominently in discussions between Ban and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday.

“The Indian government has assured that it will help Myanmar in the process of democratic transition in Myanamar in close coordination with the UN,” Ban said after the talks.

“India has been very constructive. Discussion with the Indian leadership (on this issue) was very encouraging,” he said, alluding to the participation of Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon in a high-level meeting convened by the UN on the situation in Myanmar last month.

India assured the UN chief that it was trying to persuade the leaders of the junta to implement planned democratic reforms, Indian official sources said.

Asking Myanmar to accelerate the process of democratic transition, the UN chief also appealed for the release of dissident icon and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

Ban said he will visit Myanamar when there is “appropriate political atmosphere.” Ban played a key role in persuading the junta to allow international humanitarian aid to the victims struck by Cyclone Nargis in that country.

Since the massive crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Myanmar last year, the European Union and other Western nations have been asking for greater involvement of India and China, two key partners in the oil sector, in promoting reforms in that country.

India has walked a diplomatic tightrope since then, saying that it will continue to seek better relations regardless of the ‘colour of the government’, even as it condemns suppression of human rights in the neighbouring country.

According to human rights groups, there are more than 2,100 people in various prisons in Myanmar on account of their political or religious beliefs.

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