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Broadbase Myanmar reforms: PM

Manmohan kicks-off his two-day visit with a meeting with the Myanmar PM, reports Aloke Tikku.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2007 02:39 IST
Aloke Tikku

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh kicked-off his two-day visit here to participate in the India-Asean Summit with a meeting with the Myanmar Prime Minister General Thein Sein and asked Yangon to broadbase the reforms process being carried out and carry it forward expeditiously.

Myanmar — that has been under pressure from the international community for brutally crushing the pro-democracy movement — has been the focus of the meeting of the South-East Asian leaders that set out to adopt a charter to create a bloc on the lines of the European Union.

The landmark charter — approved by Asean leaders on Tuesday — aims to turn Southeast Asia into a single market and a production base with a free flow of goods, services, investment and capital.

It also commits the bloc to promoting democracy and human rights. Questions about its credibility have been raised in view of the military junta that is in power in Yangon. Faced with the risk of a division within the regional block, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for efforts to prevent the Myanmar issue "from obstructing efforts to deepen integration and build an Asean Community. Accordingly, the regional bloc had on Monday withdrawn an invitation to UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari to address Asian leaders at Myanmar's instance.

The day after, New Delhi praised the UN special envoy's efforts to engage the government of Myanmar on behalf of the international community to facilitate the process of reconciliation.

At his 30-odd minute meeting with Manmohan Singh on Tuesday evening, General Thein Sein briefed Singh on the internal developments in Myanmar and the efforts of his government at political reforms and national reconciliation, external affairs spokesman Navtej Sarna said.

Manmohan Singh conveyed India's position at the meeting that the reforms process should be broad-based including various ethnic nationalities and that "it should be carried forward expeditiously towards a satisfactory conclusion."

The Prime Minister had earlier in the day spoken of India's strong interest in a stable, prosperous and peaceful Myanmar. Singh, who has a series of bilateral meetings lined up with premiers of China, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore sandwiched between the East Asian Summit and the India-Asean Summit on Wednesday, explained the difficulties in finalising the India-Asean free trade pact. The PM said there were demands being made on India that could adversely affect “our subsistence farmers and certain crops”. "We are trying to persuade our Asean friends. I am hopeful that the process will reach a satisfactory outcome," he said.

He refused to comment on the situation in Pakistan, saying it was Islamabad's internal affair. "I have said on more than one occasion that the destinies of our two countries are interlinked. A prosperous, stable, peaceful and democratic Pakistan is in our interest. I sincerely hope the difficulties through which Pakistan is passing are resolved and they find pragmatic, practical and effective means of solving their problems," he said.