India to help Myanmar in rice cultivation | delhi | Hindustan Times
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India to help Myanmar in rice cultivation

Myanmar president Thein Sein on Saturday said he looked to India for his country’s food security, a comment that signals a big opening for India in a neighbour that has long relied on Beijing.

delhi Updated: Oct 16, 2011 01:07 IST
Zia Haq

Myanmar president Thein Sein on Saturday said he looked to India for his country’s food security, a comment that signals a big opening for India in a neighbour that has long relied on Beijing.

Myanmar’s civilian government, to which the powerful junta handed charge after elections in February, is gingerly walking down a road of political reform to help end the nation’s pariah status. Balancing relations with India is inevitably a part of this course correction.

In the past, Myanmar has offered China a direct path to the Indian Ocean, apart from a steady source of raw materials for its voracious economy.

The visit of Sein, a retired general, comes barely two weeks after he stunned Beijing by cancelling a $3.6-billion (Rs 20,000 crore) dam project that would have almost entirely served China. India has reciprocated the warmth generously, from a $500 million (Rs 2,500 crore) credit line to border-trade pacts. But the way to Myanmar’s heart is through its stomach.

“With growing population, we can no longer rely on traditional farming,” Sein told HT, as he toured the farms of Pusa on Saturday.

India will set up an Advanced Centre for Agriculture and Research in Myanmar’s Yezin to help improve rice-eating Myanmar’s paddy yields. The job has been outsourced to the premier Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), whose director HS Gupta made a closed-door presentation before the visiting president.

IARI’s scientists will also help Myanmar grow basmati. Myanmar’s national planning minister U Tin Naing Thein asked IARI chief Gupta to brief him on per hectare production costs. But before it can suit the Burmese palate, basmati has to be acceptable to Myanmar’s climate. That will take a little genetic tweaking by IARI scientists.

The two countries have set a target of $3 billion in trade by 2015.