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'Myanmar policy dictated by strategy'

AFP  New Delhi, November 09, 2010
First Published: 19:50 IST(9/11/2010) | Last Updated: 19:59 IST(9/11/2010)

India's hands-off policy toward Myanmar's military junta is governed by "strategic interest," an official source said on Tuesday, a day after US President Barack Obama criticised New Delhi's stance.

The comments came a day after US President Barack Obama, in a ceremonial address to the Indian parliament, rebuked New Delhi for failing to condemn alleged right abuses in neighbouring Myanmar.

"We share a long border with them and have strategic interests," the official source said on condition of anonymity.

"Our view is propelled by political compulsions," said the official, who could not be identified.

"We all want peace in Myanmar," the official added.

On Monday, Obama in an address to the Parliament said democracies with global aspirations could not ignore "gross violations" in other countries.

Obama also made clear that a place at the the top table of international decision-making would require India to promote and defend its democratic values abroad as well as at home.

Once a staunch supporter of Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, India began engaging the junta in the mid-1990s as security, energy and strategic priorities came to the fore.

As well as needing the military regime's help to counter the separatists along their common border, India is eyeing oil and gas fields in Myanmar and is eager to counter China's growing influence there.

India in July welcomed Myanmar's reclusive military leader Than Shwe for a state visit, outraging human rights groups who said it was reneging on its principles due to competition with China.

Obama devoted a section of his parliamentary address Monday to rights abuses in Myanmar, and accused its military rulers of stealing Sunday's election there -- the first in the Southeast Asian nation for 20 years.

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