Vice President Ansari to visit Myanmar in February

January 15th, 2009 - 6:47 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 15 (IANS) India’s Look East policy will be in focus next month when Vice President Hamid Ansari goes to the gas-rich Myanmar on a bilateral visit weeks before the ASEAN summit in Thailand. “Ansari will go on a goodwill visit to Myanmar early next month. Preparations are under way,” an official source told IANS.

The trip will focus on consolidating India’s energy interests in Myanmar and coopeation in infrastructure development, the source added.

India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL) has managed to garner three gas exploration blocks in the Rakhine coast of Myanmar.

India’s energy ties with Myanmar, however, goes much beyond hydrocarbons. The two countries recently signed a pact on the development of Tamanthi and Shwezay hydropower projects on the Chindwin River in Myanmar.

In December 2008, during foreign-secretary level talks in New Delhi, the two countries decided to expand security cooperation to combat insurgent groups and arms smuggling.

Ansari’s visit to Myanmar comes at a time when India is under international pressure to use its clout with Yangon to push political reforms in that country, ruled by a military junta for nearly two decades.

Myanmar has been mostly in the news for all the wrong reasons. In the past two years, the land-locked country that acts a bridge to Southeast Asia has been synonymous with two Cs: crackdown and cyclone.

The country’s ruling junta was in the firing line globally when it clamped down brutally on pro-democracy protesters in 2007, killing many activists and Buddhist monks. Tragedy and bad luck stalked ordinary people again when Cyclone Nargis lashed Myanmar in May last year, killing over 100,000 people and displacing thousands.

Ansari’s visit will be followed by Prime Minister Manmohan Signh’s trip to Thailand to attend the 14th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. The first overseas visit by Manmohan Singh in 2009 will mark India’s deepening engagement with the economically vibrant Southeast Asia region.

The summit, which is scheduled to be held towards February end, is expected to focus on the global economic crisis and regional security challenges like terrorism. India is a dialogue partner with the 10-nation ASEAN and is a member of the 16-nation East Asia Summit.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The East Asia summit comprises 10 ASEAN members; three key ASEAN dialogue partners including Japan, South Korea and China; and India, Australia and New Zealand.

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